Shibuya Crossing - An Incredible Intersection

Those who have been around the world bring home tales of experiences they’ve had and places they’ve seen. As people continue to share information about what fascinates them about every country, you start to notice a trend – some areas have a magnetic, almost magical appeal to them. Though it may be just another day in the life to locals who live in that area, to tourists, it’s a spectacle to observe. Those areas then become tourist hotspots.

Japan has recently risen to popularity in terms of being a great spot to travel to. When you take off to a place far away from home, you’d surely want to make the most out of your trip, and visit the most iconic spots that are likely to take your breath away. So, what’s a great place to check out if you have a few days to spend in Tokyo?

Shibuya Crossing: One Of The Most Iconic Places to Visit in Japan

Tokyo, the busy capital city of Japan, is home to many iconic tourist spots. Examples of these locations are the Imperial Palace, Mount Fuji, the Tokyo National Museum, the Meiji Shrine, and the Tokyo Skytree - just to name a few. However, there is one landmark that stands out in conversations among many travelers as being an absolute must-see while visiting the country, and that is Shibuya Crossing.

Also called a “scramble”, this intersection in the middle of towering buildings filled with shops, businesses, and establishments has represented Tokyo innumerable times. It is located right outside the Hachiko exit of the Shibuya station and is rarely ever without crowds. With its busy bustle of people crossing and bright advertisements on giant billboards and screens, it’s a modern-day marvel to see and watch crowds move at a hypnotic, awe striking rhythm. It magnifies the idea that a person is merely but a speck in the universe.

Located Beside the Hachiko Exit

It does help increase this spot’s popularity that Shibuya Crossing is right outside a place where the most famous and heart-wrenching story about a dog occurred. Hachiko exit was named after a dog who waited patiently for his owner in a subway for years, not understanding that his owner had died a sudden death. People in the station started to notice the dog’s constant presence at the exact same time, every single day – and thus became endeared to the Hachiko’s undying loyalty.

Hachiko was later turned into a Hollywood movie starring Richard Gere, giving his story an even wider, global reach. Now, it is a popular place for people to meet in Shibuya, and also pay respects to Hachiko, and keep his memory in their hearts.

How Does Shibuya Crossing Work?

While other cities have crossings whose stop-and-go sequences of their junctions are staggered, Shibuya takes the cake by making the pedestrians cross all at once, every two minutes. This is done by the stoplights of all the five junctions being programmed to turn red at the same time, stopping the all vehicular traffic, all at once. This lets the people flow out from all directions into the intersections and head across to their destinations in a very organized, swift, and deliberate fashion. At the same time, the members of this crowd successfully dodge one another, forming a perfect flow of a massive amount of moving people.

The History of Shibuya Crossing

The changes in Japan's transportation history can be found in tidbits around Shibuya, and Shibuya Crossing – and after all this crossing been through, it is as busy as it is because it’s beside one of the busiest stations (and wards) in Japan. Shibuya Station is currently a major railway and subway hub, but it emerged from humble beginnings; once being a small station and tower made from brick inside Shibuya district.

It all began during March 1, 1885, when the Nippon Railway Akabane-Shinagawa Line opened an official stop which they named “Shibuya Station”. The Akabane-Shinagawa Line is now known as the Yamanote Line, which still has connections all throughout Tokyo. During this period, Shibuya wasn’t nearly as popular as it would soon grow to be – but it was getting there. Four years later, Shibuya would turn itself into a village, and in 1909, become known as a town, as this station slowly grew to accommodate an expanding area.

Rising To Serve A Booming Site

Throughout the years, Shibuya station would steadily create services to connect more locations to Shibuya, the earlier ones being to Futakotamagawa in 1907 (by the Tamagawa Electric Railway), and Yokohama in 1927. The Tamagawa Electric Railway company soon lagged, and was replaced by the emerging transport group Tokyu, which renamed the line “Den-en Toshi Line”. This line still stands as a heavily-used transportation path 31 kilometers long, going west of Tokyo. Japanese National Railways would give the responsibility of the Yamanote Line to JR East.

Aside from trains, Shibuya’s station would receive an even larger influx of people because of the subway service - Shibuya Station was connected to the Ginza Line as early as 1939. Shibuya Crossing has been a busy place even as far back as the 1950’s – minus the tall buildings. As the years would go by, Tokyo would continue mapping out excellent railway and subway networks. Because of this, you could call Tokyo a metropolis that’s incredibly easy to get around in. The Shibuya Crossing proves this, with hundreds of thousands of people freely accessing this area with ease.

A Guide to Visiting Shibuya Crossing in Japan Yourself

So, you’ve finally made it to Shibuya Crossing, and you’re wondering how to make the most out of being there. Here’s a guide to help you get your bearings while you’re there, you’re going to want to do the following things: visit the Hachiko statue, cross the intersection as many times as you like, take proper pictures along this intersection (and of the intersection), take a window view of the crossing, and enjoy the different attractions that adorn the street sides.

Getting That Perfect Shot

When you go to Shibuya to crossing to seize a picture, plan what kind of lens you’re going to bring, where you’ll be taking the shot from, which time of the year you’re going to go, and whether you want to go during the day or night.

All About Proper Timing

The time influences so much of what your picture is going to look like, as the day shows the detail of the massive flow of people and cars and people beginning their day. The night, however, shows the different dazzling sights, lights, and signs that are hung on the tall buildings, with Shibuya crossing being cloaked in its nightlife, presenting itself in a very different, mysterious adventurous perspective.

Golden hour is a favorite of photographers, as the sun shines directly on the faces of people in the crowd, giving the picture a warm, orange glow compared to the morning’s upright and harsh light. For those who want that quirky, uniformed look that comes with everyone gearing for the rain, June prods everyone to whip out their umbrellas, causing quite a scene when thousands of people holding umbrellas cross the street. Weekdays are when the men in suits come out, as they go about their jobs, and make for an interesting crowd of uniformed men.

Where To Shoot Shibuya Crossing

You can take shots of Shibuya crossing either while you’re crossing several of its junctions, or from an aerial point of view. Best take both while you’re there – and get creative with it. You can climb up to the third floor of the surrounding buildings and look for a window for a decent shot. One of these locations is the Shibuya Station connection to Shibuya Mark City. Another place to go to get a nice shot is in Starbucks – which is coincidentally one of its biggest branches in the world. You can also take it from a lower perspective by shooting from the ground to magnify the towering infrastructures and the advertisements strewn on them.

What’s most important is to be spontaneous, and ready to grab a good shot when it comes. It doesn’t matter if you have an expensive camera or a smartphone, what’s important is that you know how to use it when to use it, and what to add to make it a little more interesting – be it planning a shot, or editing the picture.

What Else To Do Around The Shibuya Area

The very reason there are so many people crossing this intersection is that of all shopping outlets, restaurants, and establishments that people visit there in the first place. There are so many great establishments near the Shibuya Crossing because it’s considered one of Tokyo’s best entertainment districts. You can check out the Kill Bill themed restaurant called “Gonpachi”, eat great Japanese food at Isari Juhachiban, Ebisu Garden Palace for a full course meal, or go to Genki Sushi for some awesome and fresh sushi served using a conveyor belt.

Aside from eating, you can go on a shopping spree in Shibuya 109 – a department mall filled with the latest trends in Japan. There are many other places to shop besides this mall, and it all depends on your taste, budget, and time to go to every single store. If you’re done buying all your necessary clothes and souvenirs, Yoyogi park is very near and worth paying a visit - but so are the nightclubs that pepper the area. Don’t worry – for those who like peace and quiet, they have a library too.

You can also check out Sendagaya, which holds the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo. Shibuya is also a great place to pick a hotel to stay, as it’s in the heart of the city, and has transportation roots to every nook and cranny of Tokyo. Hotels like APA Hotel Shibuya-Dogenzaka-Ue, and also Hotel Suave Shibuya are great and affordable options if you don’t want to try Airbnb – which, in Shibuya, can be a very interesting, unique, and fun experience.

How Shibuya Crossing Compares to Times Square in New York

Shibuya Crossing is so vibrant and full of life, just as its neighboring area Shinjuku is, it is often compared to Times Square in New York City. They are alike in the sense that both are famous for their commercial intersections, brightly lit billboards, and advertisements. These two locations are also tourist hangouts that blend with the local life, thus producing busy pedestrians that total in the tens of thousands, visiting every day.

Shibuya Crossing Versus Times Square: Which Is More Preferred?

When asked which busy area tourists favor in general between the two, surveyors picked Times Square for the simple reason that it has more people from all levels of society. Shibuya is less culturally dynamic; however, it is still an amazing experience to have

Surveyors mentioned that Times Square is also much more alive, and boasts of with brighter lights than Shibuya Crossing. The catch in the preference of Shibuya, though, is found in the discipline. Shibuya wins when it comes to properly crossing the street and following the rules, as Japanese citizens (and obligingly orderly tourists) all cross and move among each other with such amazing discipline and respect for each other.

Shibuya also wins with their exceptional cuteness from having the statue of the loyal Akita, Hachiko who, as aforementioned, was famous for relentlessly waiting for his owner who had long passed on. The statue of Hachiko was erected in memory of this persevering dog. A statue is also a place where many people gather to meet.

Just How Many People Cross These Intersections Daily?

Times Square can handle 460,000 people passing through it on its busiest day, attracting around 50 million people annually. Shibuya Crossing, on the other hand, can have around 2,500-3000 pedestrians crossing at one time. It’s safe to say that Shibuya is much busier, as its cross count can reach to be about 1 to 2 million people every day.

Though Shibuya is home to the bustling businessmen, university students, and hip kids who are into fashion, it really is a mecca for shopping, entertainment, and transportation for locals and tourists alike. It really doesn’t matter what month you visit – June, or February, the crossing is a symbol of the advancement and evolving life of people, technology, and Japan.