Cities > Tokyo > 7 Things Tourists Do in Tokyo That You Should Do Also...

1) Scurry through the Scramble

The Shibuya Scramble Crossing, Center Gai, Koen Dori & Nonbei Yokocho

Shibuya Scramble Crossing, Tokyo, Japan

Technically, Shibuya (渋谷区) is an entire district of Tokyo, but from the perspective of a visitor, Shibuya refers to the city's famous multidirectional "scramble crossing" intersection. Through years of media repetition, this intersection has become one of the most recognizable images of Tokyo internationally much like Picadilly Circus for London or Times Square for New York City.

Tourists, as well as plenty of locals waiting to meet someone from the train, tend to cluster around the Hachiko (ハチ公) statue near the JR station. This small statue is in honor of a dog whose master — or guardian, if you prefer — was a professor at Tokyo University in the 1920s. Each day, the professor and Hachiko would walk together between home and the train station. One day, the professor died while giving a lecture and never returned home, but the dog continued to come to the station each day in sync with the professor's former schedule until Hachiko himself died more than nine years later. Hachiko has become a symbol of loyalty for Japanese people and a well-worn photo op for tourists.

Hachiko is a nice story. However, it is a modest statute, and strongly would encourage you to explore the neighborhood well beyond the famous statute and scramble crossing. In particular, be sure to enjoy the always crowded, people-only walking street of Center-gai (渋谷センター街) and the comparatively leisurely tree-lined streets of Koen-dori (渋谷公園通り) and Dogenzaka (道玄坂).

On these streets — and in the grimy surrounding alleys as well — there are hundreds, if not thousands, of places to browse and shop. Options include tiny indie retailers, the mass market Tokyu and Shibuya Mark City department stores connected to the metro station, and many more. The most famous large shopping malls in the area probably are Shibuya 109 and Magnet By Shibuya 109 (formerly Shibuya 109 Men's) for clothing and accessories geared toward young women and young men, respectively; but there are several other megamalls, too.

In addition to shopping, Shibuya is a great neighborhood for restaurants. Because the area gets so many tourists, eateries tend to welcome foreigners (外人) and have a higher degree of English proficiency than average, also. There literally are hundreds of restaurants in Shibuya — ranging from tiny, local joints to international fast food chains — but three places that we enjoyed at one time or another include Kujiraya (元祖くじら屋) for whale steak and sashimi, Murugi (ムルギー) for Japanese curry, and Dashiya (だしや) for Japanese pub grub (which is a good option for lunch as well as after work drinks).

We've mapped out a representative walk of Shibuya below. It stitches together the aforementioned streets — Center-gai, Koen-dori, and Dogenzaka — and also highlights the gritty alleyway of Nonbei Yokocho (渋谷のんべい横丁), which is well-known for its lively Izakaya (居酒屋) joints (including Dashiya), some of which date back to the 1950s. Other alleys in the area tend to be less charming, but they still can be full of shops to explore. Find what is weird or wonderful to you.

How to Get Here: Take the Hanzomon (Purple), Fukutoshin (Brown), or Ginza Line (Orange) to Shibuya Station (Z01, F16, G01). Any sign pointing you toward the "Hachiko Exits" will get you somewhere near the scramble crossing, but Exit 8 is closest to the statue. Our preferred route, which is a bit tricky, is to take Exit 5 — labeled as a route to the Inokashira Line (井の頭線) — into the underground mall called the Shibuya Chika-Gai Shopping Road (渋谷地下街), and then leave via one of the two staircases both listed as "Entrance 6." Last time we checked, to keep things interesting, these were not labeled underground but are on online maps as 6-1 and 6-2. If you find one of these exits, you will pop up directly next to Center-gai. If you pick an exit from this mall at random, you will end up on one of the four corners of the intersection. Once you get the hang of it, it is much quicker to leave through this mall than directly from the metro station.

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  • Writing & Photos By Brock Kyle. All Rights Reserved. Revision Published 11 January 2019. Feedback.