Shibuya is often considered the centre of Japanese fashion and entertainment and one of those places you think of when you picture Tokyo in your mind. Here you will find the famous crossing, a overwhelmingly amount of stores and brands, the cute Hachico statue and a ot of neon, restaurants and bars. You can spend days in Shibuya and still feel like there are tons to see and experience, but what if you don’t have unlimited amounts of time? How about cramming your Shibuya visit in to only one day? Here are my tips and recommendations for getting the essence of Shibuya in just one day:
SIGHTSEEING AND SHOPPING
Depending on where you spend your nights while in Tokyo (my usual neighborhood of choice being Shinjuku), you might arrive by train or subway at Shibuya station. This is a very busy train station and some areas are being under construction which can make it a bit hard to navigate. Our first stop is Hachiko statue and Shibuya crossing, so try to exit the station through the Hachiko exit at the northwest side of the station (or underground exit no. 8) .
I am sure that you have heard, or maybe seen a movie, about the faithful akita dog Hachiko who waited for his owner at Shibuya station every day even after the owner tragically passed away at work. Hachiko statue is one of the most popular and famous meeting spots in Shibuya. (If you happen to visit at March 8, there is a annual ceremony honoring Hachiko where a lot of dog owners brings their beloved pets to Shibuya station). Take a picture with Hachiko, or take one of all the people who line up to do just that, or spot the Hachiko bus driving through Shibuya and snap a photo of the cute depiction of the dog on the back of the bus.
Just to the right of that little dog statue is our next stop.
One of the most famous street crossing in the world, Shibuya crossing is aslo said to be the worlds busiest. At least it is the busiest intersections in Japan, with up to 1000 people crossing the street at each green light. Take a moment to stand on the side and watch as Japanese and tourist pour out into the street from all directions, then cross at the next green light and climb up the stairs to Starbucks on the second floor of the Tsutaya book store. Here you will get a great overview of the crossing, and can take a picture or two.
The Shibuya crossing Starbucks is however extremely popular, so expect to stand in line for a while if you wish to sit down and drink a cup of coffee or matcha while watching the busy street. I usually just take a quick peek at the crossing from the second floor, to avoid the queues.
After having crossed over from the station side, take a stroll through Shibuya Center Gai a pedestrian street lined with fashion stores and small food establishments. Here you can do your clothing and shoe shopping, if you wish, since most big Japanese and western brands have stories on or close to center gai. This is the place to visit on Halloween night, since up to 100 000 people in costumes hang out here on October 31st.
We are heading just a few hundred meters north, behind the big Forever 21 store located on center gai.
This is the one-stop shop to get all your souvenirs and whatever you need or want from amazing Japanese stationary to beauty products and beautiful homeware and kitchen supplies. Loft in Shibuya is a 7 floor shop where you could spend the better of a whole day if you wanted, so keep track of the time. On the bottom floor there are usually pop up stores and themed store displays. Sometimes there are also events and artists showcasing and selling their art here. I personally spend way to much time on the bottom flors here, looking at and purchasing cute stickers, papers and planners, and on the variety and kitchenware floors browsing for gifts and things to bring home.
Located next to Loft (and with access through on some floors) is MUJI or Mujirushi Ryōhin, translating to No Brand Quality Goods. This well known ”no brand-store” sells high quality clothes and homeware, all with a simple and serene design. Since moving to Japan I buy most of my clothes here since the quality and design are great, and it is a really nice place to get plates and cups, diffusers and simply packaged food and snacks. You can also buy bikes, furnitures and those really convenient packing cubes here.
There is also a café on the second floor serving tea, coffee and cakes as well as balanced lunches.
Not to far from the Loft and Muji stores you will find Tower Records, located on one of the large roads in Shibuya. Music CD’s and albums are still a big business in Japan, with bands and idols selling their music and merchandise at a lot of book and musik shops. Tower Records in Shibuya is considered the biggest CD retail outlet store in the world and there is often events, performances and signings here. It is worth a visit, especially if you are into Japanese music or pop culture.
If you want more shopping or something completely different, head over to Shibuya Hikarie on the east side of Shibuya station for a bit pricier but interesting shops selling great souvenirs, fashion and homeware and the Tokyo Theatre Orb, where you can enjoy theater or musical performances.
Of course there are a wealth of places to visit and see in Shibuya, especially if you are into shopping and fashion. Other places of interests include the Shibuya 109 department store filled with young fashion, accessories and beauty and Don Quijote (Donki) where you can find everything and anything you have ever wanted to buy, including novelty socks, toys, beauty product and a nice variety of matcha (green tea) snacks and sweets.
Since we are only spending one day in Shibuya there are only so many things you can eat, and instead of doing an specific itinerary for lunch and dinner I will give a few ideas of places to go. Feeling like ramen, Japanese curry, tempura or a burger? You can find restaurants and izakaya everywhere in Shibuya! Here are a few of my suggestions in Shibuya:
This ”secret” restaurant is difficult to find and require reservations but I have heard that it is well worth a visit, especially since you do feel like it is a hidden gem and a place not everybody knows about. This izakaya serves small dishes, sashimi and great drinks. (My friends were able to find a table for the next day, so as long as you make the effort to reserve it is usually not to hard to get seats at this place).
A popular kaitenzushi (conveyor belt sushi) restaurant located about 8 minutes to the west of Shibuya station. The sushi is affordable and of good quality and they have menus in English as well as some English speaking staff. During lunch it can be really crowded, probably because of its very affordable sushi and seafood bowls. Don’t expect to stay to long though, the staff can be a bit keen to get you to eat and leave as quick as possible. But it is all part of the charm of a kaitenzushi place.
The Shibuya location of this izakaya chain is really nice. Located in the center gai, offering affordable small dishes and drinks in a bustling setting. Sometimes I get bothered by the smoke (in Japan it is ok to smoke inside most restaurants and bars) but the food is really tasty and the vibe is nice.
Tokyu Food Show
Not a restaurant, but a place to get food and snacks. Located at the bottom floor of the Tokyu department store at Shibuya station, this is the place to go to see, taste and buy Japanese sweets, snacks and prepared food. Great for getting some gifts or picknick supply (though it usually don’t come too cheap) or just to walk around looking at all of the beautiful creations in each counter. A visit to Tokyo is not complete without a tour of a depachika (basement floor of a department store) where the showcase food and sweets.
ENTERTAINMENT AND BARS
Even though Shinjuku might be the number one place to go for entertainment, Shibuya has a lot to offer and you can easily spend an evening and night here.
Head over to Taito station and try to win yourself a souvenir in one of the ufo catcher games. You will also find a lot of different music games (like popin’ music, Taiko no Tatsujin drum game and dance games) for ¥100 yen each. Some of these places also have purikura, the famous Japanese photo booths where you can commemorate your trip with a cutely decorated sticker photo.
For drinks, I recommend to try one of the small bars at Shibuya Nonbei Yokocho (Drunkard Alley) close to Shibuya station. These types of small streets with tiny bars and eateries is found in many locations in Tokyo, with Golden Gai in Shinjuku being the most famous one. Drinks are usually affordable and the atmosphere is great. If you are hungry they also often serve everything from yakitori (chicken skewers) to noodle dishes.
Another tip is to head over to Dogenzaka and Maruyamacho where you can find some nice places. One of my recent finds is the Golden Ball bar where you will find ”one coin” drinks (meaning drinks for ¥500) at a bar that opens up to the street. But in Shibuya you will find bars and small izakaya like this almost everywhere, so just walk around and keep your eyes open for the kind of vibe and style you personally like.
End the night with Karaoke at one of Shibuyas many karaoke places. I have only tried Karaokekan which is really nice but a bit expensive and Utahiroba that is cheaper but often with quite old rooms. At Japanese karaoke you usually decide which "plan" you want, which can include drinks and even food sometimes with all you can drink/eat choices. You select your preferred tunes on a touch screen which usually have English as an option, and start to sing. There are of course a lot of Japanese songs, but also a wide variety of old and new music from in English so don't be intimidated if you can't speak Japanese. Mike wrote a quick guide to karaoke in Tokyo here.
Big Ecco is another big karaoke chain and all three chains have locations in Shibuya center gai. Sing your hart out, and if you are lucky you might stumble upon a street performance on your way back to the station.
Clubs Shibuya is a great place to be if you feel like going clubbing. There are a lot of different types of club and the music scene is quite varied, which means that there are places for all interests and preferences. Many famous and popular clubs are located in the Dogenzaka and Maruyamacho areas of Shibuya so heading over there is a safe bet.
Personally I have only visited VOMB, which I remember as a great night out with a lot of dancing and great music. This club has been around since 2000 and have been very popular. It is also apparently newly renovated which sounds nice.
Something for everyone
If you want something more traditional, visit the Konno Hachimangu shrine a few minutes east of Shibuya station. This is the site where the Shibuya family, who is said to have given the neighborhood its name, had their home.
Not into shopping, or just feeling the urge to climb some walls? A visit to the Peki Peki Bouldering Gym in north Shibuya might be for you.
My final tip is actually a way of transportation. I really like to walk the distance between Harajuku and Shibuya, via the popular and hip Cat street. This takes around 15- 20 minutes, it really isn't a long distance, but since there are a lot of shops on the way it might take you a bit longer.
One last thing : Please note that he trains and subways in Tokyo stop running between midnight and around 5am the following morning, so make sure to catch the last train or take a taxi home if you don’t want to spend all night in Shibuya. But with all the bars, karaoke places and clubs that are offered, you might as well.
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