Shibuya is one of the most vibrant, if not central, city neighbourhoods to visit as part of one’s Tokyo travels. From high-end fashion boutiques to cheap-sale vintage clothing stores, elegant restaurants to cheap eateries and hidden cafes, resplendent glass-fronted buildings to small branching streets, Shibuya is a paradise for adventurous young Tokyoites in search of variety and excitement. In addition to the five common haunts of Shibuya, we will introduce to you three new spots that are gaining popularity recently. Read on for a complete guide to the hot spots of Shibuya, where the young and old come together.
1. Common meeting spot and symbol of Shibuya: The Loyal Statue of Hachiko
Just outside of JR station exit stands the copper statue of Hachiko, the dog who waited loyally for nine long years for his master to return home. Although the current statue is a second version of the original (which was built before World War II), it has been around for a good 70 years and continues to hold the hearts of Japanese civilians. Today, the statue is a famous meeting spot for locals and tourists alike, which is why the area is always thickly thronged with people. You can even take a picture with the famous statue with family and friends. Don’t forget to check out the green “Aogaeru” (green frog) train just across! This train was the first car of the Tokyu train that ran along the Tokyu-toyoko line until 1970. Currently used as a sightseeing guide area, it also provides seats and air-conditioning, making it just as popular a meeting spot.
Address: 2-1, Dogenzaka, Shibuya Ward, Tokyo
Access: Exit Hachiko guchi from JR Shibuya station
2. The object of art and photography: The Scramble Crossing
Thousands of foreigners are fascinated by the famous Shibuya landmark, the Scramble Crossing, the object of photography artworks. Although it is just an ordinary crossing, the sheer volume of pedestrians that pass there by the hour is simply astounding. In fact, the maximum number of pedestrians who may pass at any one time exceeds well beyond 3000 people, making it an approximate total of 500,000 people crossing each day. Foreigners are particularly astonished by the fact that no problems or crime occur with such a large wave of pedestrians crossing at any one time, noting with respect the marvelous discipline and etiquette that Japanese people uphold in their day-to-day lives. Just in front of the crossing is the QFront building with a Starbucks Coffee café occupying its lower floors. You can gaze at the madness and complexity of the people crossing the street as you enjoy your scrumptious beverage.
Access: Exit from Hachiko guchi or Miyamasu-zaka guchi of JR Shibuya station
3. The fashion tower built to capture young Tokyoites' hearts: Shibuya 109
A cylindrical building that sits majestically in the throne and centre of Shibuya, the Shibuya 109 attracts many young female Tokyoites within its premises. Built in 1979 by the Tokyu Group, multiple floors are dedicated to various clothing lines as it caters mainly to a consumer group of females in their 20’s and 30’s. It is the birthplace of a diverse range of fashion trends, including “kogyaru,” “yamanba,” and “amura,” all of which witnessed a boom in the 1990 – 2000 era. It also hosts many events featuring popular fashion collections and new brands. The building’s name originates from a play with words, where the company name “To-kyu” was merely converted to the Japanese numeric reading “10-9.” Another, doubly implied, meaning is same to that of the convenience store Seven Eleven: the store opens at 10 am and closes at 9 pm. Shibuya 109 also has many trendy little cafes - why not get together with some of your friends and have a nice shopping spree?
Address: 2 -29-1 Dogenzaka, Shibuya Ward, Tokyo
Access: 2 minutes’ walk from JR Shibuya station
Opening Hours: 10am - 9pm.
Contact: +81 3-3477-5111
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4. Blended into the daily life of Shibuya Station: The art of Taro Okamoto
The artist Taro Okamoto, most well known for his famed words, “art is an explosion!”, Has an enormous impact on his viewers. During a transfer between lines in Shibuya station, you may have well come across a huge mural that spans the length of a long passageway. This mural is in fact entitled “Myth of Tomorrow” and is very much a familiar object for locals who live or work in Tokyo and consequently pass by it on a daily basis. It spans a height of 5.5 metres and extends a length of 30 metres in total. Created with the intention of decorating a Mexican hotel, it instead ended up on the wall of Shibuya station. The mural depicts the moment of an atomic bomb’s explosion and even elicits fear in some Japanese viewers. However, as indicated by the title, it does not only end with the tragedy of the event. It also sends a message of hope and expectation for a brighter future, tomorrow. If you find yourself in Shibuya station, try to stop and marvel at this wild menagerie of bright, bold colours and a beacon-like message.
Myth of Tomorrow by Taro Okamoto
Access: Walk towards Inokashira line Shibuya station via skybridge from JR Shibuya station
5. Crossing the station passageway to the shopping complex: “Shibuya Hikarie”
First opened in 2012, the 34-floors-high, 4-basement-floors-deep complex of Hikarie is still a relatively new landmark of Shibuya. With its shining, glass-fronted façade and beautiful modern interior, it radiates an atmosphere of metropolitan chic. Inside, one can find a diversity of shops, restaurants, cafes, and other facilities that number approximately 200. Over 40% of these are the world’s first or Japan’s first stores. We particularly recommend the sweets factory, which is positively teeming with the most scrumptious sweet shops, bakeries and cafes one can find, located on the basement second-level floor. Hikarie is truly a building whose every floor and nook and corner can never be thoroughly explored in a single day. A lot of events, such as picture exhibitions and television game attractions, are also held depending on the time of the year, some of which are viewable for free. The 11th floor Sky Lobby in particular is the entrance to the Tokyu Theatre Orb, which hosts many wonderful performances, as well as the world-famous Broadway musical shows. The lobby also looks out on the endlessly flowing crowds and vehicles of the JR Shibuya station east exit cityscape. One can even see far until the buildings of Shinjuku. It commands an especially breathtaking view of the Shibuya cityscape at night. Due to its direct connection and proximity to the Shibuya station, even on rainy days you can get there easily without even pulling out an umbrella.
Address: 2-21-1 Shibuya, Shibuya Ward, Tokyo
Price: from 5 USD
Opening Hours: 10am - 9pm. Closed on January 1.
Access: Direct access from exit 15 of Shibuya station
Contact: +81 3-5468-5892
In addition to the must-visits of Shibuya, from here we would like to introduce to you the recently trending spots gaining significant attention from locals and tourists.
6. The stage of laughter: Yoshimoto Infinity Hall
Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing
Exit through the Shibuya Hachiko exit, traverse the scramble crossing, and head in the direction of Centre Street. There you will find the Yoshimoto Infinity Hall, where young entertainers perform live shows on a daily basis. In front of the theatre there are bright entertainers trying to grab laughs as they draw crowds in for performances, and the atmosphere is full of life and fun. Weekdays comprise four to five lives in a day, with noontime serving as the centrepiece of these performances. These hour-long performances cost 500 JPY (4.50 USD), a relatively affordable price for the casual stroller who may want to grab an hour of laughs. From evening to night, combinations and group lives, as well as the occasional talk show by veteran performers, are held on stage. The weekends are flocked with fans that come to watch veteran entertainers of special live performances and musical hall events. The performers are in fact split into four classes: “first class,” “second class,” “third class,” and “trial class.” There are regular auditions and battle stages for performers to climb up their class, thereby heightening their skills and experience. Inside the hall is a wide, semi-circular space comprising 218 seats, ensuring that no matter where you are seated, you can see the stage well. There is also an original goods store in the lobby – some souvenirs for friends, maybe?
Yoshimoto Infinity Hall
Address: Shibuya Beam, 31-2, Udagawacho, Shibuya Ward, Tokyo
Access: 7-min walk from Hachiko exit of Shibuya station.
Contact: +81 3-5728-8880
7. The smell of Oslo: FUGLEN Café
Coming up next is the world famous FUGLEN café of Oslo, Norway. Highly rated by the New York Times as serving one of the world’s most top-quality coffee worth flying on a plane for just to taste, it is this very FUGLEN café which currently presides in one of our streets by the name of FUGLEN Tokyo. The modern reproduced interior of 1963 Scandinavian design offers a relaxed respite from the hustle and bustle of daily urban life. As well as selling a variety of baked goods, including the Norwegian local “Skole bole” (literally, “school bun”), a variety of coffee flavours not normally seen in Japan, such as Santa Ines and Rose, can also be ordered here. During the café bar time at nighttime, as long as one purchases a drink, one can also bring in meals and alcohol. It is also a unique café in the sense that one can purchase the furniture on display. Why not take a leisurely stroll down one of Shibuya’s streets and enjoy the old and new in FUGLEN café?
Address: 1-16-11 Tomigaya, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Access: 6 minutes’ walk from Tokyo Metro Yoyogi Koen station or 17 minutes’ walk from JR Shibuya station
Opening Hours: 8am - 10pm
Contact: +81 3-3481-0884
8. Transform into a wartime military commander: Samurai Armor Photo Studio
A ten-minutes’ walk from Shibuya Station, at the Samurai Armor Photo Studio, you can don faithfully reproduced Japanese armour and have photos of yourself taken in this gallant appearance. Just pass fashion building 109, climb up Dogenzaka slope, and to your right you will find an eatery with a large tiger puffer fish embellishing its entrance. The studio awaits you on the seventh floor. The armour that military commanders wore during the era of civil wars in Japan are said to be among the highest quality of Japan’s traditional industrial arts. The idea for the studio was originally inspired by the company president’s experience of shooting at Guam. Samurai and ninja themed entertainments being particularly popular among foreigners, the president wished to bring such an experience to foreigners in Japan. There is also a hall in which the armour of military commanders, whose level of details matches the high quality and craft of those used in historical dramas and movies, are lined up. Across the armours are beautifully coloured battle surcoats and Japanese swords that visitors are allowed to freely hold and touch. The photo shoot itself lasts around 30 minutes, with 10 to 15 cuts each of five possible poses, and the data will be passed to you within the memory of an SD card. You can refer to the studio’s web homepage as well as fans’ SNS images for ideas on what sort of armour you may wish to wear for your unique experience. Although Japanese people may blend naturally into their costumes, foreigners fare just as well! Just like the Tom Cruise movie, “Last Samurai,” the armours fit their wearers very nicely!
Samurai Armor Photo Studio
Address: King Building 7F, 5-6 Maruyamacho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Access: 4 minutes’ walk from JR Shibuya station Hachiko exit
Price: 13,000 JPY (117 USD) per person for studio shooting with costume rental, 30,000 JPY (270 USD) per person for street shooting with costume rental
Opening Hours: 10am - 9pm.
Contact: +81 3-4330-7200
Have fun exploring Shibuya!
That’s all for Shibuya. If you ever find yourself in need of some excitement or change, consider dropping by Shibuya and you will never run short of things to shop, eat, do or see!
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