Shibuya bears a remarkable resemblance to East Shinjuku in many respects, a preponderance of high end shopping, hordes of humanity crossing at the intersections, seedy districts like Kabukicho and yes unfortunately even the drug scene (for which is a growing problem in Shibuya and Shinjuku).
If you just think of Shibuya as a bigger East Shinjuku you'd be on the right track, but instead of The Kabukicho Red Light District, an entire hill and network of love hotels. So as you can see even the seedy factor is present (but slightly hidden).
Although similar to Shinjuku that doesn't mean that Shibuya doesn't have its own thing going on. Take note of Shibuya's key points:
- Hachiko Statue
- Center Gai
- Love Hotel Hill
- Shibuya Station Intersection Hordes of Humanity
- Electric Energy Museum
- Shibuya 109
Japan's most famous, lovable and loyal dog was immortalized in 1936 with this statue. The tale goes that loyal Hachiko (or Hachi, as the natives call him) waited for his owner every day in that spot at Shibuya station, and one day his owner never came, for he had died. But not knowing this, Hachiko waited loyally until his death of old age.
Since then it has become a common landmark used for meeting up with friends, as everyone knows where it is. However on the downside with so many crowds of people surrounding the statue that it has almost out-worn its usefulness in that respect.
Running behind and parallel to Bunkamura dori is the narrow and oh-so-trendy street (for teenagers), Center Gai. Its distinguishing feature is the glowing neon "HMV" sign (For HMV Record Store). A stroll down the Center Gai and you will bear witness to the latest fashion trends and the 'coolest people', (You'll know them when you see them, they dress so loudly that it’s impossible not to notice them). You'll also find of course, the trendiest stores. Including an ultra trendy McDonalds (Although ‘trendy’ and McDonalds in the same sentence is a complete paradox), where the staff wear vibrant French berets and scarves.
A fifteen minute walk up Bunkamura dori from Shibuya Station, and to your right, you're at Love Hotel Hill, a fairly large network of narrow backstreets with an unimaginable amount of Love Hotels.
Every 60 seconds seemingly from nowhere the masses of humanity gather and swell up into enormous crowds and wait at the five corners of the intersection. Of course it is most crowded at commuter hours, and during mid day much less. When the lights turn red and the cars stop, gradually a wave of people move towards the center from all sides, and then collide seamlessly. It’s plain to say that it is the world’s biggest intersection.
A perfect place to leave the kids if you should so happen to be touring Tokyo with little ones. But yet if you're not you still may want to check out the Museum as it is quite interesting and has several exciting features, even if a few floors are obviously dedicated to children (the mini chairs and tables give it away).
Some of the more interesting displays are the third floor and seventh floor. The third being a model of an all electric house and all the amenities: kitchen, bathroom, living room, etc. The seventh has displays of various kinds including:
- Real but decommissioned nuclear reactor (reaching two stories in height)
- Turbine from a Thermal Power station
- Turbine from a Hydro Station
- Transmission/Transformation of Electricity
The Museum is typically empty and quiet, save for a few middle school children.
The landmark tower, Shibuya 109 is instantly recognizable once exiting Shibuya Station. The building houses scores of trendy shops for women's fashions. But more precisely 'young womens' fashions as the 109 (or the ichi maru kyu as the natives refer to it) is mostly frequented by the teens and women in their twenties (where shopping at the 109 is absolutely vital in maintaining their image).
Shibuya Tsutaya is the ultimate Tsutaya experience. Other branches such as Ueno, Otsuka are utterly pale in comparison (but still serve their purpose). Step into the Shibuya Tsutaya and grab a coffee and snack at the floor level's Starbucks or and the second floor's cafe. The second floor cafe offers a front row view of the Shibuya intersection, from this vantage point you can see the entire scope and gain a better perspective of the magnitude.
The store itself is vast, with over five floors of movies, music, books and games, as well as a cafe and a restaurant.
Adding excitement and flair to Shibuya's one track mind of shops, shops, shops and shopping, shopping, shopping are a continuous stream of usually entertaining street performers. You will encounter things such as: an individual drummer playing on a makeshift drum set, made of containers and home made drums, local bands singing 'un plugged' versions of their songs, and other solo acts.
It usually goes down right in front of Tsutaya, where there is a pocket of space next to the metro exit.
JR Yamanote Line - Shibuya Station, West Exit.