What to Do in Shibuya During the Day
Move over Ginza! Shibuya is rapidly replacing the glamorous department store district as the new center of Tokyo’s fashion scene. Shibuya’s Harajuku district has already reached international fame. But this area is only the start.
Shibuya’s Omotesando shopping street is known as the “Champs-Élysées” of Tokyo – a tribute not only to the beauty of the tree-lined avenue but also to the high quality of shopping opportunities.
International flagship stores including brands such as Prada and Christian Dior line the street, many of which are located in custom designed buildings, showcasing architectural innovation as well as fashion. The reference to Paris is also apt for another reason. Shibuya is speckled with an amazing selection of restaurants and art museums.
The neighborhood retains a unique culture all of its own, with fashion that tends to the individual. International designers share the space with boutiques selling quirky, youth-centric fashions created by Japanese designers.
Cat- Street is lined with many such stores, making for a fascinating window shopping experience. Even if you’ve got no interest in shopping, Shibuya’s cafes provide an ideal spot for people watching, as does Yoyogi Park. The area is also home to Meiji Jingu (a major Shinto shrine) and Tokyo Cammi,Japan’s biggest mosque. For anyone interested in Japanese culture, Shibuya is a must.
What You Can Do There
Shibuya’s Pedestrian Crossing and Hachiko: Two Tokyo Icons in One
Shibuya’s pedestrian crossing is one of Tokyo’s most iconic sights, having appeared in numerous movies, music videos and documentaries.
Most recently, the crossing is featured in an advertisement for the upcoming Rugby World Cup.
The busy intersection right outside Shibuya Station sees an incredible amount of pedestrian and motor traffic every day. When you’re part of the crowd crossing the street, it feels like bewildering chaos, but when viewed from above, the stream of people and traffic looks like a well-oiled machine.
It’s busiest from 11am onwards when most of the surrounding stores are open for business.
I like to watch the pedestrian crossing from above at the Starbucks in the Tsutaya building, which offers an incredible view from the second floor. Because of its position, this Starbucks is very popular, with seats overlooking the crossing in high demand. Starbucks is open from 6:30am.
My tip is to arrive before most of the surrounding shops open (10:00 am – 11:00 am), park yourself at a table with your drink and watch the crowds grow.
For a view that doesn’t require buying a drink, head to Shibuya Mark City. This shopping mall is linked to Shibuya Station by a walkway with a great view of the crossing.
Shibuya’s pedestrian crossing is also the location of another Tokyo icon: Hachiko.
The dog, whose wait for his beloved owner continued even after his owner’s death, is immortalized in the form of a statue found outside the Hachiko exit. Hachiko has inspired two movies, including one starring Richard Gere. Every year on April 8th, a memorial service for the loyal dog takes place at Shibuya Station.
Omotesando Shopping Street: Harajuku for Grown-Ups
While you don’t need to be a teenager to enjoy Harajuku, Omotesando has all the elements that make Harajuku fun with an added touch of elegance. What is lost in fun and exuberance, is more than made up for in sheer style.
Omotesando is the wide avenue that starts at the entrance to Meiji Jingu Shrine and stretches to Aoyama-Dori. Lined with zelkova trees, sleek storefronts and cutting edge architecture, this street provides the ideal place to indulge in shopping.
You can browse international flagship stores, discover boutiques featuring the works of Japanese designers, and treat yourself to great dining opportunities. Whether you prefer people watching or window-shopping, Omotesando is a rewarding place to wander.
Tokyu Plaza Omotesando
If you’re in Omotesando to shop, Tokyu Plaza Omotesando is a six-floor mall that describes itself as a “shopping fashion theme park.”
This hugely popular mall is famous for its dazzling array of mirrors that greets its customers. It is also home to duty-free shopping and an in-store telephone translation service to help foreign shoppers who don’t speak Japanese.
Recover from your shopping on the 6th floor, where you can enjoy a cup of coffee beneath the trees while admiring the view of the bustling streets down below.
Omotesando’s other attractions include one of Tokyo’s three Apple stores and Condomania, a store that specializes in selling condoms.
Tokyu Plaza Omotesando Hours
- Varies by store, but most shops are open: 11:00am – 9:00pm
- Restaurants/cafes: 8:30am – 11:00pm
Cat Street: Cute Shops but No Cats!
Turn off Omotesando and you find that the atmosphere immediately changes. While the glitz and the glamour are gone, the quirky fashions and interesting shopping remain.
Cat Street is a narrow street, stretching from Miyashita Park on Meiji Street to the Shibuya Welfare Facility. The mile-long stretch of road runs parallel to Shibuya’s busy main streets, and during the week it’s a lot less crowded. Cat Street has a range of eclectic boutiques, charming cafes, and some unique shops.
I can never resist Candy Show Time, a candy store specializing in hand-made candy that pops in your mouth. I could spend hours here watching the staff create the candy from scratch!
Luke’s Lobster is another place that’s always popular. You’ll recognize it by the long line of people waiting to buy a lobster sandwich.
Despite the name, you won’t find many cats on Cat Street. Although many locals believe it got its name for its abundance of strays, others maintain it got its name for being as narrow as a cat’s forehead. Cat Street connects Shibuya station with Harajuku’sTakeshita-Dori and walking through the two offers a complete over view of Japanese street fashion.
Meiji Jingu and Yoyogi-Koen: Shinto Shrine Meets Fashionable Playground
Meiji Jingu is one of Japan’s most important Shinto shrines, closely linked to the Imperial family. Surrounded by a beautiful woodland park, with trees donated from all over Japan, the shrine offers a peaceful escape from the crowded shopping streets. During the week, the shrine is peaceful, with observers paying their respects. On the weekend, it’s common to see a traditional wedding taking place here.
Over the New Years period, Meiji Jingu comes alive. The enormous avenue leading up to the shrine is packed with shrine-goers, there to make the customary first shrine visit of the New Year. People stand in line for hours to ring in the New Year as close to midnight as possible.
If you’re brave enough to join the crowds, you’re in for a truly Japanese experience! If not, don’t worry – you can always catch it on TV. Meiji Jingu is usually featured on media coverage of New Years celebrations.
Yoyogi Park has lots to offer, with wide lawns, sports facilities, jogging tracks, rental bikes, and yoga. At the weekend, it’s the place to go for people watching, when you see all the weird and wonderful fashions of Harajuku in person, along with fashions from Omotesando and Cat Street.
Yoyogi Park Flea Market
Many people know about Yoyogi Park itself, but not many people know about the Yoyogi Park Flea Market.
Held intermittently and only open to non-professional vendors, the flea market is a great way to pick up Harajuku and Cat Street fashions at greatly reduced prices.
The flea market is held once a month on a Sunday, 10:00am – 4:00pm. Unfortunately, there’s isn’t a consistent schedule and the dates are no longer displayed on the Yoyogi Park website, so you’ll have to rely on your luck!
Yoyogi Park also hosts frequent festivals, introducing Tokyo’s residents to foreign cultures. The Thai and Vietnamese festivals are especially popular and showcase all kinds of tasty street food.
Nezu Museum and Ota Memorial Museum of Art: From Wearable Art to Fine Art
In addition to world-class shopping, Shibuya has two art museums well worth visiting.
The Nezu Museum, located a short distance from Omotesando, houses the private collection of Nezu Kachiro, the president of the Tobu railway. Built on what was once the Nezu family home, the museum includes paintings, calligraphy, sculpture, and ceramics. Later in life, Nezu became interested in the tea ceremony, which is why the museum includes tea ceremony pieces, as well as a delightful teahouse set in a traditional garden. The museum building itself is a work of art – a harmonious blend of the best of traditional and modern Japanese architecture.
- 10:00am -5:00pm (last entry 4:30pm)
- Closed Mondays and over New Years.
- When Monday is a national holiday, the museum will open on Monday and close on the following Tuesday
- Special Exhibition: 1300 yen for adults (1000 yen for students)
- Museum Collection: 1100 for adults (800 yen for students)
For More Information
Ota Memorial Museum of Art
Like the Nezu Museum, the Ota Memorial Museum of Art began as a private collection. Ota Seizo, former president of the Tohu Insurance Company, was passionately interested in art. He collected 12,000 ukiyo-e woodcuts throughout his life, with the intention of preserving this distinctly Japanese art form for future generations. The museum opened in 1980 and has been continuously exhibiting ukiyo-e ever since. Currently including around 14,000 pieces, the museum’s collection explores the development of ukiyo-e as an art form.
- 10:30am – 5:30pm (last entry 5:00pm)
- Closed on Mondays. When Monday is a national holiday, the museum will be open on Monday and close on the following working day
- 700 yen for adults (500 yen for students)
- Special Exhibitions: 1000 yen for adults (700 yen for students)
For More Information
Tokyo Camii and Turkish Cultural Center: Experience Istanbul in Tokyo
Also known as Tokyo Mosque, Tokyo Camii is the biggest mosque in Japan. Although there’s been a mosque on the site since 1938, the current building dates back to just 1998.
It closely resembles Istanbul’s famous Blue Mosque, which is considered to be a masterpiece of Ottoman architecture. A group of 70 Turkish craftsmen was employed in its construction, and the building represents the link between Japan and Turkey. The interior contains some beautiful artwork, including calligraphy and stained glass windows.
The mosque is open to visitors during the five daily prayers. It’s important to remember that it’s a place of worship and to dress appropriately. This means no shorts and shoulders should be covered at all times.
Groups of more than 5 people should contact the mosque in advance.
The adjacent Turkish Cultural Center is open daily 10:00am – 6:00pm.
NHK Studio Park: The Weird and Wonderful World of Japanese TV
If you’re traveling with children, consider a visit to NHK Studio Park. The attraction is geared towards Japanese kids, but there are lots of activities on offer for people from all over the world, such as origami and an indoor playground. Sadly, the studio park’s other attractions, including watching selected NHK shows being recorded, experiencing dubbing or taking part in a news broadcast, can only be enjoyed if you understand Japanese.
- 10:00am – 6:00pm (last entry 5:30pm)
- Closed on the fourth Monday of each month. When this Monday is a national holiday, the museum will open on Monday and close the next day.
200 yen (Free for seniors over 65 and children under 18)
For More Information
Is it Worth Visiting?
Absolutely! Shibuya is fun any time of year. A leisurely day of sightseeing and people watching is a great way to rejuvenate yourself after a busy day of traveling. You may even find a one-of-a-kind souvenir!
How to Get There
As one of Tokyo’s hubs, Shibuya has excellent transport. In fact, Shibuya Station is the fourth busiest commuter station in the world!
The station is currently undergoing major renovations, and while all lines continue to operate, exits may be closed or changed. Give yourself a little more time to get around Shibuya Station.
From Tokyo Station
Take the JR Yamanote line. The 25-minute trip costs just 200 yen and requires no transfers.
Take the Tokyo Marunouchi line for Ogikubo. Change at Akasaka-Mitsuke to the Ginza line for Shibuya. The complete trip takes about 17-minutes and costs 200 yen.
If you’re taking the subway, you have the choice of riding the Ginza line for Omotesando or the Fukutoshin line for Meijijingu-Mae. Both these stations are great starting points to explore Shibuya’s attractions.
Shibuya’s most iconic sight, its famous pedestrian crossing, is right outside Shibuya Station. Other attractions are either a short walk or a single station away.
The JR Yamanote line connects Shibuya with Harajuku Station, which is close to both Omotesando and Meiji Jingu, as well as the surrounding park.
Travel light when going to Shibuya!
Serious shoppers, cosplayers, and fashion girlsusually take all of the available lockers nearby. Trust me when I say that it’s no fun dragging a suitcase through the narrow shopping streets.