Things to Do: Shibuya

Shibuya Crossing Shibuya's the place that most quickly comes to mind when people think of Tokyo.  Shibuya Crossing is often considered Tokyo's Times Square, with its throngs of pedestrians and stacks of large advertisement screens.  It's also home to a lot of Tokyo's youth culture, with tons of entertainment and fashion crammed into a pretty small space.  

 

With that in mind, here are the five essential activities for Shibuya, which could easily take care of an entire day of your vacation:

 

1. Hachiko
When you arrive at Shibuya Station, make sure you take the Hachiko exit.  This will put you in the famous spot pictured here.  The Hachiko area is a popular meeting spot, so you'll see lots of people standing around waiting.  By the way, Hachiko's a dog with a fantastic story – make sure you find his statue!

2. Music shopping
Shibuya's the hub for Japanese pop and hip-hop, and there's no better place to explore those sounds than the numerous record stores in the area.  Start at one of the big stores like Tower Records or HMV, and take advantage of the listening kiosks!  CDs are expensive here, but this may be your only chance to pick up a Japanese album, so don't be afraid to splurge on a CD or two.  Take your time in the store – there's no rush.
Also, make sure you grab some live show flyers from the store – these are your best indicator of what's going on later tonight.
If you find there's an underground scene you like, such as electronic or hip-hop, keep looking around Shibuya for smaller record stores for those scenes.  They're usually hidden in some pretty obscure places, but they're always worth the work to find them.  My personal favorite is Tribe.

 

01 department store in Shibuya. Image courtesy tokyoarchitecture.info 3. Fashion shopping
Just like music, Shibuya is huge for Tokyo's fashion scene.  As soon as you cross the street from Hachiko Square, you'll come across plenty of department stores, including the teeny-bopping 109 and 01 (which are pronounced "Tokyu" and "Marui," imagine that).  Floors and floors of amazingly cool and expensive stuff await from countless big-name designers.  Head a bit further into the big complex of shops and you'll find Parco, another big department store with multiple buildings.
If you want to do some more Western shopping, you'll find lots of brands including Nike, Adidas, Gap and Apple all within a short walk.  

 

Of course, between all these shops are tons of smaller places offering everything from Italian leather to Hawaiian surf gear.  If you're a heavy-duty shopper, this place may be paradise (until you hit Ginza, anyway).

 

Need shopping advice? Check out the must-hit list of shops from a member of Morning Musume, one of Japan's most popular girl groups.

 

4. Dinner + drinks
Sure, dinner and drinks may be a regular occurrence during your travels, but how often can you do enjoy them with a fantastic view of Shibuya Crossing?  A building across the street from Hachiko Square has a whole host of restaurants, all with a view. Shibuya also has some of Tokyo's Michelin Star restaurants, for those in the mood for some haute cuisine.

 

If you don't know where to eat, the Konnichiwhoa Guide has tips on finding restaurants, reading menus, and ordering.

5. Nightlife
Shibuya's most readily apparent music community is the one for hip-hop, and fans of all races converge on the district.  But beyond that there's a huge club scene propped up on the pillars of spots like Womb, Atom, and La Fabrique.  There's a wide variety of bars that start the party as soon as the sun goes down, but the real action begins at midnight and goes until the early hours of the morning.

Not in the mood for an all-nighter?  There's often live music around 7:00PM at Club Quattro, just around the corner from Parco.  
If you are out all night, make sure you're prepared for the trains that stop running at midnight!

6. Go with the flow!
This list isn't made to be a "check it off and move on" affair, but rather a loose guideline for a good day in Shibuya.  The area is crammed full of tiny shops, restaurants, bars, clubs, and little treasures, and it's in places like those where you can really spend your day.  It's an incredibly chaotic place, but that's why you came to Japan, right?