It’s easy to think of Shibuya as the center of Tokyo. It’s on the Yamanote Line squashed between Harajuku, Ebisu and Daikanyama and has everything you’ll ever need from garish karaoke rooms and subversive fashion boutiques to top-class restaurants and cool record stores. It’s the Tokyo you’ve dreamed of and the Tokyo you most probably desire.
Shopping in Shibuya
Shibuya has everything you need. Department stores such as Seibu and the superb newly refurbished Parco which hosts some of the country’s best fashion brands including gems such as Kolor and Undercover. Elsewhere in the district you’ll stumble across fast fashion empires like H&M and Uniqlo as well as a hugely popular Apple Store. It’s a hub for other brand flagships in addition to underground and hip boutiques such as Candy, Sister and Neighborhood.
Once the lauded center of youth culture in Japan, Shibuya has matured in recent years due to the country’s much-publicized aging society. This has been reflected, recently, by completion of the huge Hikarie complex which is situated next to Shibuya Station and is targeted at the slightly more mature women. The area has seen a recent spate of other retail havens such as Shibuya Stream and Shibuya Scramble Square, which both offer a fine array of retail and dining options.
For only-in-Japan goods and stationery try the mammoth Tokyu Hands and for a touch of refinery and the chance to hobnob with Tokyo’s more sophisticated denizens then head to the newly opened boutique hotel koe which is spearheading the curated and upscale hotel scene in Tokyo.
Sure, Shibuya still has backstreet B-boys, dolly-kei (doll-inspired style) and gyaru (gals) and even the odd ganguro ( super-tanned 90s subculture) girl but it’s mainly a perfect fruit salad of young and old, salarymen, tourists and natives as well as both high end and affordable stores and restaurants.
Known for its insanely busy Shibuya Crossing where millions of people cross every day illuminated by neon and giant TV screens, it’s the area which partly inspired Blade Runner and has been filmed a multitude of times over the years.
Shibuya is a shopper’s paradise but it also serves as a cultural hub with galleries and museums such as Bunkamura and the Toguri Museum of Art, independent cinemas such as Uplink, small pocket parks and also plays host to some great craft beer pubs such as Good Beer Faucets, Mikkeller Tokyo and The Aldgate. There’s no natural order to Shibuya – it’s beautiful chaos, so it’s best just to lose yourself in the backstreets and succumb to the area’s multitude of charms.
Shibuya comes alive at night and has some of the capital’s biggest and most respected clubs and music venues such as Contact, Womb, WWW and Sound Museum Vision as well as plenty of late night dive bars and ramen restaurants to satisfy your post-drink hunger. Slurp away with the locals at places such as Ichiran and don’t be shy to ask for recommendations and favorites. Other notable eateries are Gonpachi (sister spot to the legendary eatery in Azabu-Juban that inspired Kill Bill), Pizza Slice for some proper New York-style pie and Kaikaya for some amazing seafood and authentic Shibuya vibes.
Shibuya is a city that never sleeps. Noisy, brash and chaotic it’s not the place for you if looking for some solitude or a quiet moment. Similarly if you don’t like crowds and cramped back alleys and boisterous locals then maybe best to head to nearby Daikanyama which has a more laid-back and sophisticated atmosphere.
There are plenty of top rate record stores such as Hi-Fi Record Store and Diskunion in addition to the mammoth Tower Records which also holds gigs and events. Added to this the more discreet Tomigaya area of Shibuya has recently transformed into a hipster playground with the opening of Scandinavian cocktail bar Fuglen and the Monocle magazine store and HQ. If you’re looking for a classy evening with a spectacular view then head to established Cafe Legato, which sits at the top of Dogenzaka. It’s the perfect spot for evening drinks with a view.
The moment you step outside the Hachiko Exit of Shibuya Station, and as you are birthed in neon, the multitude of cacophonous commercials and traffic will make you feel absolutely elated. It’s a funny place, Shibuya, but it always makes us come back for more.
Explore the back streets of Shibuya with the Tokyo Weekender area guide.
Feature image of Shibuya Crossing by f11photo / Shutterstock.com