Vibrant, lively, fun, faddish, crowded, cramped, and busy, and the streetwise love it! Shibuya is another shopping and entertainment district situated in the west of Tokyo. It’s newer than its rival Shinjuku and has a cleaner, safer reputation. Alongside its huge department stores it’s also famous for the studios of NHK, the Olympic gymnasium, “Love Hotel Hill” and “Hachiko” – the tear-jerking statue of a dog.
First take the Hachiko Exit of Shibuya Station. Once out, bring out the tissues, prepare for crowds, for what you need to look for is the small statue of Hachiko, the legendary dog. It’s a terrible tale – his master had long-time passed away, but year after year, night after night, by the station Hachiko faithfully waited. Finally, when he himself died on March 8th 1935, many a heart was touched. He was given a huge send off and his body now rests in the National Science Museum.
1964 – not only the year of the Olympics, but also the year that department store war broke out in Shibuya. Up until then, the stores that belonged to the Tokyu Railway Company dominated Shibuya. However after the Olympics, the Seibu Railway Company began to invest too. Not to be defeated, Tokyu retaliated and slammed up even more. “Shibuya 109”, just over the road from Hachiko, is one such slammed up store. The “109” name is clever. The Japanese word for 10 (ten) is “to”. The Japanese word for 9 (nine) is “kyu”. Join the two words together and you get “Tokyu”, the name of the Railway Company.
The “109” building marks a fork in the road. Central Inn Shibuya, a capsule hotel is a five-minute walk up the road on the left. Unfortunately for women, everything but the outside is pretty much out of bounds, but if you’re a man, you may be allowed in to have a look.
“Love hotels” on the other hand, are where everyday couples, go for a “rest” or “short stay”. With nothing too seedy, just astonishingly tacky, to find “Love Hotel Hill” first head up to the capsule hotel, then cross on to the other side of the road and retrace your steps for a short distance. When you get to the side street paved with concrete circles, turn left. Keep walking, and with their mock, romantic, Italiano facades, and Verona style balconies, you really won’t mistake them. Inside, the rooms are equally themed. You’ll get the idea by looking at the display boards outside.
Taking in the side roads as you go, keep going in the direction of the main street, carry on past the concert venue “On Air East and West” and then, once at Shibuya City Hotel, turn right. Continue, and then at the next crossroads, turn left. You should now be close to the Tokyu Department Store. Walk along the front of Tokyu until you see Wendy’s Fastfood, then cross over, and walk down the side street next to Wendys. At the end of this street, if you look up, you should be able to see the famous arts, crafts and DIY store, Tokyu Hands. This was another store put up by the Tokyu Railway Company in response to competition. In terms of hobbies, there’s nothing much it doesn’t sell!
Leaving Tokyu Hands via the doors on Floor 1A, turn right and head towards Parco Department Store. This is owned by the Seibu Railway Company. The Italian word for “park” was its chosen name because the front entrance is on Koen Dori Avenue – in English, “Park Avenue”
Cross over the road at the top of Koen Dori and you’ll find the NHK Broadcasting Plaza. “Studio Park” is an interactive exhibition and tour of the studios. It’s 200 yen for adults but the under 12’s are free. (Open 10:00 am to 6:00pm; closed every fourth Monday of the month or Tuesday if Monday is a public holiday). There are also days when the park is free fo all. For more information: http://www.nhk.or.jp/studiopark/
Opposite NHK is the Olympic Gymnasium. It was built for the 1964 games. By carrying on over the NHK Broadcasting Plaza you’ll get to Yoyogi Park and then, by turning right, Harajuku.
To get back to Shibuya Station, first retrace your steps to Parco. Then from Parco, either carry straight on and where the roads meet veer right, or for a more interesting route, turn right between Parco and the Gap and then turn left into “Spain Dori” – the narrow, little, quirky street, lined with shops. At the bottom of Spain Dori continue in the same direction over the crossroads to eventually turn left into the street littered with fast food chains. Walk to the end and you should find the station opposite.
How to get to Shibuya
Shibuya Station is on the Ginza Subway line, the Hanzomon Subway line, the JR Yamanote Line, the JR Saikyo line and the Keio Inokashira line.