Shibuya enjoys a reputation as Tokyo’s playground for the young, but the newly-renovated Tokyu Plaza Shibuya looks set to change that image, with a sophisticated shopping experience for adults. I recently took a tour around to check out some of the highlights of this bright addition to the Shibuya scene.
Tokyu Plaza Shibuya has stood on the west side of Shibuya Station since 1968, making it a long-term stalwart of shopping centers in the region. The plaza shut temporarily in 2017 for an extensive makeover and opened again in December 2019, with a brand-new array of stores and restaurants. With the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, however, Japan went into a state of emergency over the Golden Week holidays, putting a halt to plans for special celebratory events.
The Tokyu Plaza Shibuya, however, is now open again for business, and the management and staff are doing their utmost to provide a safe and comfortable shopping experience for visitors. “We understand that people are concerned about going out in the current environment,” says General Manager Yasuhiro Nagao. “We are being scrupulous about cleaning and sanitizing around the entire plaza. We hope this will allow customers to feel comfortable dropping by on their way through Shibuya and fully enjoying their visit.”
One of the concepts behind the new Tokyu Plaza Shibuya is to align the shopping experience with a visit to a hands-on “art museum,” where you can walk around and look at the items, picking them up and asking questions about them, with no time constraint or pressure to buy. Nagao says their goal is to create a long-term relationship with customers, becoming a destination they will want to visit again and again.
Here are some of my picks from among the many exciting stores on offer — each with an appealing and unique “Japanese twist” for international residents.
Building upon the theme of the simple pleasures of a hot bowl of freshly-steamed rice, Akomeya Tokyo, located on the 2nd floor, offers a variety of food items, tableware and cooking utensils, all designed to combine functionality with beauty. The store name is a clever cross-cultural play on words, with “a kome-ya” translating as “a rice store” — but so much more besides. This is a perfect place to find a housewarming or hostess gift for that special friend.
This store on the 3rd floor showcases high-quality, unique wooden products. Phone cases, tie pins, key holders, staplers and tissues boxes are just some of their products, bringing the timeless beauty and warmth of wood into daily life. I found a number of great gift ideas for the men in my life—and let’s face it, they can often be hard to buy for! Hacoa also offers a laser engraving service, so you can personalize any piece with names, dates or a message for the lucky recipient.
For more than 120 years, the city of Imabari in Ehime prefecture has been synonymous with fine towels of enduring quality, made with the softest, most absorbent cotton. You can immediately feel the quality when you pick one of these towels. Along with a wide range of Imabari towels, Iori, on the 3rd floor, offers various cotton items that will add a touch of luxury to daily life, including some gorgeous scarves to complete your outfits.
Bamboo has a long history in Japanese culture, including for use in the production of chopsticks, tea whisks and baskets for flower arrangements. Moreover, it is an environmentally-friendly product, making it perfect for today’s conscious shopper. This fusion of the classic and the modern is manifested in the various products on offer at Kohchosai Kosuga on the 3rd floor, which has been producing bamboo crafts since opening in Kyoto back in 1898. This would be a perfect place to find interior goods that lend Japanese style to your home decor.
Nihondo Kampo Boutique
With roots in ancient China, kampo is a kind of medicine thought to have been introduced into Japan around 1600 years ago. It centers around careful observation of the body’s reaction to various treatments, which are primarily herbal-based. The Nihondo Kampo Boutique on the 4th floor draws on the ancient wisdom of kampo to help clients combat the stress and fatigue of modern life, restoring balance and wellbeing. English consultations are available. If you’re curious to learn more about kampo, why not stop by for a chat?
Recent research has documented the role of scents and fragrances in our mental and physical wellbeing, including lowering stress. @aroma on the 4th floor offers a wide range of 100% pure essential oils, along with a knowledgeable staff who will help you find exactly what you need. There are also many options for diffusers, for the home, office, car or travel purposes. I was particularly interested in the two unique ranges of Japanese essential oils, one based on natural Japanese plants, and the other on quintessential Japanese concepts such as Zen and Iki (style). The store also offers an oil blending service for creating your own signature scent.
Glasses with a twist — literally! Paperglass, also on the 4th floor, offers ultra-thin glasses that are incredibly light and flexible, and which will fold flat to fit into the smallest of bags or into a pocket. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. The frames can be easily adjusted to achieve the perfect angle for each wearer. The company originates from Sabae in Fukui prefecture, one of the world’s top three production sites for glasses. In fact, more than 95% of Japanese eyeglasses are made there, and Paperglass draws on this fine tradition to offer top-quality frames at very reasonable prices. You can bring in your prescription from your local optician.
Tokyo Plaza Shibuya features a wide array of eating options, from fine dining to cheerful Japanese street food, but my new favorite dining spot has to be this café on the 5th floor staffed by robots (with a little help from some humans). The menu features a variety of sweet and savory waffles, along with various side dishes and drinks. The star of the show is Pepper, the cute little white humanoid who takes orders and interacts with customers, but you might also catch his friend Nao, the dancing robot who loves to entertain. While the overall vibe at the Tokyu Plaza Shibuya is one of sophistication, the Pepper Parlor will definitely appeal to your inner child!
Tokyu Plaza Shibuya
Address: 1-2-3 Dogenzaka,Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, 150-0043. Map
Access: 1-min walk from Shibuya Station
Open: 10:00-21:00 (Shops, Cafes, Services)