Shibuya is one of Japan’s top tourist destinations. What pops into mind when you think of Shibuya? Do you picture a bustling city with people coming and going, or do you think of shiny neon buildings and signboards?
Many people consider Shibuya to be Tokyo’s trendsetting neighborhood, but, once you step into the back alleys and walk around for a bit, you’ll realize that Shibuya has much more to offer. It may be flashy, but behind that is a long history, and the locals continue to preserve the area’s rich culture.
Join us as we stroll around Shibuya, a place where old meets new.
Tokyo from an International Perspective: Taiwanese Editor Mentaiko’s Shibuya Itinerary
Originally from Taiwan, Mentaiko has spent eight years in Japan. Before she became a freelance writer, she was working as a magazine editor. She arrived in Japan with camera and notebook in hand, and started her new life after signing up for a Japanese language school located in Shibuya. She has columns called Life in Tokyo for the magazine CROWN and Mentaiko’s Tokyo Diary for the Chinese edition of the magazine mina. Mentaiko has also published two books: Mentaiko’s Tokyo Notebook and Mentaiko’s Chaotic Childcare Diary.
Shibuya: A Fusion of New and Old
My first impression of Shibuya goes back 20 years to when I was in university. I wanted to visit Shibuya for the sole reason of checking out the fashion store Shibuya 109. Seeing hordes of people in the famous Shibuya scramble crossing and the fashionistas in Shibuya 109 left a deep impact on me. I would often visit Shibuya for inspiration even after becoming an editor. It has always been a glimpse into upcoming Asian trends.
When I started living in Tokyo, it was a great chance to get to know the place even better. I realized that Shibuya was able to stay so vibrant and fascinating because a subtle balance between the old and the new is constantly maintained. Although new buildings with cutting-edge designs keep popping up, retro cafés and small eateries remain as busy as ever. Here, you can have the best of both worlds as you feast your eyes on the latest technology while experiencing the homely vibes of tiny, old-fashioned shops. It’s the rich fusion of the old and the new that makes people adore Shibuya.
Old Shibuya: A Peek into Nostalgic Places
Shibuya Station’s Hachiko Statue and Retro Train Carriage
When you come out of Shibuya Station’s Exit 8, you’ll find yourself in Hachiko Square. Here you’ll see the iconic bronze statue of the faithful dog Hachiko and a retro green train carriage. Whether you’re a local or a tourist, this place serves as a popular meet-up spot. Hachiko’s story goes all the way back to 1923, while the train carriage was in use from 1954 to 1970. It was the first of the Tokyu Toyoko Line’s ultra-light 5000 series. The distinctive green color gives it the nickname “Green Frog.” You’ll find seats inside if you’re looking to take a break, as well as a tourist information center where all your Shibuya-related questions can be answered.
Shibuya Station’s Hachiko Statue渋谷駅ハチ公像
- Address Hachiko Square, 2-1 Dogenzaka, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo / 東京都渋谷区道玄坂2-1
Closed: December 28–January 3
Aoyama Ichibankan: Travel Back to 1973
The streets get quieter when you walk towards Aoyama from Shibuya. There you’ll find Aoyama Ichibankan, an old-fashioned café. It was founded in 1973, right around the time when cafés were gaining popularity in Japan.
You’ll feel like you’ve traveled back in time once you step into this classic café nestled in a corner of the bustling city. Having coffee as the sunlight streams in through the wood-framed windows is a great way to relax.
The signature set comprises a cup of blended coffee with a sandwich. You can choose from ham, cheese, or tuna. The coffee here has a rich fragrance because it’s always ground fresh on order, and the cakes are all homemade.
The interior, menu, and tableware have not changed since the café was founded. Make sure you pay a visit if you’re in the neighborhood!
People from Taiwan often associate retro cafés such as Aoyama Ichibankan with animé and TV shows. I’m sure Taiwanese tourists would enjoy coming here to take pictures and enjoy a cup of coffee.
- Address 1-4-27 Higashi, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo / 東京都渋谷区東1-4-27
- Phone Number 03-3406-3387
Hours: 10:00am–7:00pm (weekdays), 10:00am–6:00pm (Saturday)
Closed: Sunday, public holidays
Homely Nonbei Yokocho
Follow the train tracks from Shibuya Station’s Hachiko Exit and discover yet another side of Shibuya: a 30-meter alley packed with more than 40 tiny shops, each measuring less than 10 square meters. This is the famous Nonbei Yokocho alley. With a history going back more than 60 years, it’s said to have its roots in the post-war black market.
With so many big and fancy restaurants in Shibuya, why would anyone bother to dine in such a cramped space?
A single trip to this spot will have you captivated. No matter how cramped they are, the eateries here all have a warm, homely vibe. Customers are served delicious, homemade delicacies, and the tiny spaces make it easy for conversations to flow between the staff and customers. Before you know it, you’ll find yourself bar-hopping along the street. It’s a great place to kick off your shoes and relax after a hard day’s work. The best thing about Nonbei Yokocho is how it helps forge
Shibuya Nonbei Yokocho渋谷のんべい横丁
- Address 1-25 Shibuya, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo/ 東京都渋谷区渋谷1-25
Hours: Evening (varies by restaurant)
New Shibuya: Shibuya’s Latest Attractions
Shibuya’s newest hot spot, Shibuya Stream, opened just last fall. The complex is directly connected to the station and boasts a hotel, a collection of restaurants, and a promenade called Shibuya River Street. It was built on the former site of the Tokyu Toyoko Line platform. The remains of the former station were incorporated into the unique design and you can even spot the old rail tracks embedded in the floor.
- Address 3-21-3, Shibuya, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo / 東京都渋谷区渋谷3-21-3
- Phone Number 0570-050-428
information center: 10:00am-9:00pm
VR PARK TOKYO: A Taste of Virtual Reality
Virtual reality (VR) technology has evolved a lot in Japan these past few years, and there a plenty of international tourists who come here just to check it out. VR PARK TOKYO has eight kinds of games, and you can buy a 120-minute all-you-can-play ticket that lets you ride all of them. Once you put on the VR goggles and take a seat, you can try all kinds of adventures, ranging from bungee jumping in the jungle and flying magic carpets to searching for aliens and riding trolley coasters. They’re all super realistic and blur the lines between reality and imagination. This is definitely a spot you shouldn’t miss if you’re into VR. Don’t forget to make a reservation on the official website!
VR PARK TOKYOVR PARK TOKYO
- Address 4F KN Building, 13-11 Udagawacho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo / 東京都渋谷区宇田川町13−11 KN渋谷1ビル4F
- Phone Number 03-3461-1311
Closed: Open throughout the year
Enter Cheers for Tokyo! in Shibuya and Win Local Souvenirs!
There’s going to be an event happening October 14-27, 2019, at Shibuya Chikamichi’s event space. Snap a picture of your favorite spot in Tokyo and post it on your social media page with the hashtag #TokyoTokyo. You’ll be in the running to win some ultra-popular Tokyo souvenirs. There will also be games with prizes. Check the link below for details.
Rediscover Shibuya: A Blend of the Old and New
If you’re in Shibuya, don’t just take a picture at the Scramble Crossing and leave! The place is packed with so much history and a bunch of cute, fun, and surprising things to do.
Kick off your day with breakfast at the retro café Aoyama Ichibankan, then have some thrills at VR PARK TOKYO. Afterwards, enjoy the riverside breeze while you have lunch at Shibuya Stream. Don’t forget to take some pictures for the Cheers for Tokyo! in Shibuya event and buy some unique Tokyo souvenirs. When it gets dark, drop by the tiny bars in Shibuya Nonbei Yokocho to grab some delicious food and chat with locals. Even if you’ve visited Tokyo many times, come discover the fusion of Shibuya’s old and new. It might just turn out to be a place you’ll cherish for years to come!
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.
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