This morning at work, I was greeted with "Oh, good! You're all right!"--exactly like the day after the stabbings in Akihabara (some Sundays I visit Akihabara in early afternoon before heading on to class in Roppongi). Turns out Big Sight's huge escalator from the first to fourth floors of the West Hall had a fairly frightening breakdown as the opening crowd was pouring into Wonder Festival.
This is the best footage I've seen of it:
Among the first folks in, these are part of the tetsuya crowd--no relation to the pilot of Great Mazinger, but "iron night" survivors who spent much of the night in line outside to be able to get in so soon after Wonder Festival's 10am opening (the line was ultimately more than 2 km long, or nearly 1 1/4 miles).
As they piled on to head up to the commercial booths on the 4th floor, a huge "BOOM!" came from inside the escalator, and its right-hand half, which should be going up, switched into reverse. Some 60 people fell. 21 were injured. 10 would be hospitalized. Although it was coming back down slowly, you can see the problem at the bottom, with staff trying to get fallen people out of the path of that flow coming down. (A staffer was finally able to reach an emergency button to completely stop the thing.)
The escalator passed inspection on July 29, but it's designed to have at most two people on a step; there were reportedly three to four piled onto each step when the escalator's brakeline broke.
Comiket is less than two weeks away now, set for August 15-17 at its usual home of Big Sight. Had this happened in a typical Comiket crowd, far more packed than WonFes and toting books to boot, someone probably would have died...if not several someones. (Comiket commonly posts staff at escalators to announce that only two people should be on a step, though. They can't afford to have any disasters; the event is so ginormous, it barely squeezes into both East and West halls of Big Sight each of its two or three days [while one-day Wonder Festival fits neatly into half of East Hall or all of West Hall]--and there's no place larger to go.)
I'm not usually crowd-phobic--but seeing what happened at WonFes, and having a vivid idea of what it would have caused at Comiket, am reminded that when it comes to events in Japan, there is nothing worse than the summer Comiket. No, really. More than 100,000 people pack the place each day. The air conditioning is usually turned off, with the mondo shutter doors lining the outside hall walls rolled up in the hopes a breeze might make it in. Halfway through the long, low-ceilinged, glass-walled walkaway leading from East Hall to the central area, the oxygen runs out. There's plenty of air outside, but usually plenty of sun too, and heaven help you if you're in the crunch of the crowd inching along the roof, beneath the reflective mirrors of West Hall's eaves...
But then, the last few years, there's been the reward for surviving: each afternoon's Anime Japan Fes concerts at Zepp Tokyo, just a 15-minute walk or single train stop away.
And after that, totter to your place of refuge for the night, plop down with a cool drink in front of a fan or air conditioner, and then fish out your Comiket bag for a leisurely look at those treasures you tracked down through the oven heat and the turbulent crowds...
*sigh* The things we do for comic books. ;^)
Those tetsuya troopers on the escalator probably aren't much different. The resulting enjoyment of the-thing-you're-after will last so much longer than the rough patch you had to go through to get it...so just get through that rough patch, gruelling though it may be, so you can commence with the enjoyin'.
Just, uh, keep two to a step along the way!