One of Tokyo’s most iconic sights is the famous Shibuya crossing, a pedestrian scramble through a huge neon-lit intersection, where an estimated 3000 people have been known to cross the road at the same time. But as one of Tokyo’s most crowded areas, there’s plenty more to see nearby! Let’s have a closer look…
Crossing the road for no reason
This might be one of the only places in the world where people cross the road just for the experience, and to enjoy the atmosphere.
When the lights turn green and two opposing sides approach each other, it feels like a battle scene from Braveheart is about to take place – but it’s actually a surprisingly organised, silent exchange as people slip past each other.
In a matter of seconds, the cars are passing through again, and the crowd re-forms patiently at the curb all over again, ready to go for the next round.
The best bird’s eye views
There are several great bird’s eye views of Shibuya crossing.
The first is from Shibuya station itself. Just walk halfway up the upper level walkways, and you’ll see great big glass windows to watch the fun. Alternatively, the Starbucks at Shibuya Tsutaya is another wonderful way to watch the crossing, with the added bonus of having a coffee in hand. As one of the main neon signs right in front of the station, it’s impossible to miss.
Shibuya crossing isn’t just a giant crowd magnet for no reason; it is actually a major nightlife and entertainment district in Tokyo. Just outside Shibuya station is the statue of the akita dog, Hachikō. In 1925, when his master died suddenly whilst out at work, loyal Hachikō returned to Shibuya station every single day for almost 10 years to meet him, and waited patiently for his return.
Centre Gai Street
On the other side of the crossing is Centre Gai, the main pedestrian street running up through Shibuya. It’s packed full of fast food, noodle bars, brand-name shopping and a plenty of neon lights. Here you can find the famous capsule hotels, karaoke, and a red light district.
Centre Gai is great for shoppers, and it Tokyo’s most known shopping streets, where you can find big clothing brands, as well as small souvenir and trinket shops.
Vending machine ramen
We ordered our first ‘vending machine ramen’ in Shibuya. It wasn’t a true vending machine (a bowl of hot noodles wasn’t lowered down to the collection tray by a cool robot arm), but rather an automated ordering system, where you choose, pay, and print your ticket.
We took a seat at the long wooden bench and handed the ticket to the chef, who started slicing pork and boiling noodles. The gyoza went into the pan, frying and spitting oil as our stomachs rumbled. A few minutes later, the ramen arrived, piled high with an absurd amount of bean sprouts. Nothing beats a Japanese noodle soup on a cold winter night!
Love hotel hill
Uphill from Shibuya crossing is a collection of love hotels, known as Rabuho; short-stay hotels that are used for what the name implies. These hotels can be rented by the night, or by the hour. The decor is colourful and garish, and usually have such fun features as mirrored ceilings, and jacuzzis.
Big Echo karaoke is one of the big chains of karaoke houses in Tokyo. Some establishments are so big, they have their own multi-story buildings! Rent a karaoke room with a few friends, and sing the night away! Many karaoke packages come with unlimited alcohol for the night, which might be beers, cocktails, or Choya, a kind of plum wine.
Despite what your Japanese friends tell you about not being very good, they’re often dead serious about their performances, and sing with plenty of passion!
Have you been to Shibuya? What was your experience crossing the mighty road?