Shibuya Overview


Famous as the birthplace of some of Tokyo’s great countercultures and underground scenes, Shibuya is one of the truly iconic areas of Tokyo. The crowded 5 way intersection surrounded by video screens and huge billboards gives first timers a full on sensory overload.This legendary crossing has inspired many scenes in film, anime, and music videos and is generally at the top of any tourist’s to do list.

The legendary shopping center Shibuya 109 is one of the main destinations for Japan’s fashion-obsessed girls in their teens and early 20’s. It’s this cylindrical mall and a few boutiques along Center-gai (center street) that were ground zero for the gyaru fashion phenomenon of the mid-90’s and early 2000’s. While the gyaru may be all but gone, 109 is still very much the go to places for young women staying on top of the latest trends. For those looking for unique Japanese “lifestyle goods,” a trip to Tokyu Hands or Loft may be in order. In the summer, Loft is a great place to pick up an authentic yukata and sensu (folding fan).

Of course, it’s not all fashion. With all the subcultures bubbling up in the area, it’s not surprising that Shibuya is a hotbed for all kinds of music scenes. There are plenty of live venues for rock and punk shows, but Japan’s underground house and techno scene has traditionally been centered around Shibuya. The valuable advertising spaces around the big intersection usually tout major J-Pop acts, but occasionally you can see some cutting edge acts get some recognition too. Of course, if you’re interested in putting your finger on the pulse of the mainstream Japanese music scene, Tower Records will give you a pretty good idea of what’s going on. There are sometimes short live performances by up and coming bands to promote their new singles, complete with meet and greet.

Shibuya is a home to all manner of restaurants and bars - quite literally anything you can imagine. From the intimate 6-10 seat izakaya of Nonbei Yokocho to conveyor belt sushi chains to the more exotic shops like the interactive theme restaurant, the Lockup, or the otaku-centric Maidreamin. A typical night out on the town usually starts meeting up at the famous statue of the dog Hachiko in front of the station, dinner, and often karaoke - sometimes all night long until the trains start running again.

Given the neighborhood’s reputation for fashion and nightlife, it often comes as a surprise - even to the Japanese - that from 1092-1524, Shibuya Castle sat upon a hilltop and was just about the only thing here. Of course, nothing remains of the castle, but the shrine built to protect its inhabitants still stands and the finely decorated Edo Period woodwork can be enjoyed today.

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