There are so many things to do in Shibuya beyond the famed pedestrian scramble. Having been featured in so many movies, it's only natural that many of us automatically associate Tokyo with Shibuya Crossing. This is exactly why Shibuya is an excellent place for travellers to Japan, who want an introduction to Tokyo's more energetic side.
When I first visited Tokyo, in December 2015, I had two places on the list, I really wanted to visit. One of them was Tsukiji Market, the seafood nirvana, and the Shibuya Crossing. I've marvelled at it in Lost in Translation, Fast and Furious and Resident Evil. When I finally got to cross it (and not just once, but several times) I realised how cool it really is to finally be able to feel the Tokyo spirit in one single square.
Of course, Tokyo is an enormous place and each neighbourhood has a crazy amount of great attractions. Here are the best 15 things to do in Shibuya.
Table of Contents
As I already mentioned, the Shibuya Pedestrian Scramble is the star attraction. You have several options here. You can either visit during night time when there is virtually nobody crossing this road. That's a pretty cool post-apocalyptic feel to Tokyo. Another option is to visit during peak hours, to really experience the Shibuya Crossing vibe. Don't worry, it's less hectic than you would expect as everyone sticks to their own path. The Japanese are known to be efficient and crossing a road with hundreds of other people seems to be just part of their daily routine.
When someone asks me what to do in Shibuya I automatically suggest taking pictures and videos. The best place in Shibuya for this is in one of the nearby hotels (which are very expensive btw) which offer epic views over the Shibuya Crossing. Alternatively, you can hunt for a window seat at the Starbucks located right opposite Shibuya station. Now, remember that this is only available for customers only, so you might want to buy a coffee and then wait for your perfect spot.
With so many malls, shopping streets and department stores, it's no wonder Shibuya really is a shopper's paradise. What I found is that Ginza is for the high-end shopper, Harajuku is the place to go for Takeshita Street with all its latest pop culture crazes, and Shibuya sits somewhere in the middle. You will find expensive items, fun stores and also cheap funky shops. I honestly believe that shopping is one of the best things to do in Shibuya at night because a lot of stores lit up and add to the atmosphere.
Shibuya is vibrant not just because of the countless daily commuters and the sheer amount of shops, but because Tokyo's youth finds it a great place for an epic party. There are tonnes of cool things to do in Shibuya from having a beer in a Japanese pub, through enjoying Karaoke with your friends, to ending up in an explosively awesome club in Tokyo (such as Womb - apparently one of the best Shibuya attractions). The Tokyo kids really know how to party so if you are inexperienced, take it easy until you get used to Japan's spectacular nightlife.
The statue of Hachiko is a popular meeting place in Shibuya, located right in front of the train station. Of course, for those who are aware of Hachiko's sad story, this is a great place to take a photo and commemorate the man's best friend.
I wrote about Hachiko in a previous article, 24 hours in Tokyo. To sum it up, Hachiko used to wait daily for his owner in front of the Shibuya train station, and walk back home together. One day, Hachiko's owner died whilst at university and never made it back to walk home with Hachiko. Every night for the next 7 years, Hachiko would come back to the Shibuya station and wait for his owner. Eventually, other commuters started noticing him. His statue is a reminder of the importance of the relationship between man and dog.
If you enjoyed the Golden Gai in Shinjuku, you are sure to love Nonbei Yokocho as well. This is a small neighbourhood dotted with bars, cafes and restaurants which have a very Japanese atmosphere. It's a brilliant place to grab a bite or to relax with a beer before heading out to a Japanese nightclub.
Are you in search of places to visit in Shibuya? If drinking is not your thing, don't worry, you can find plenty of geeky things to do in Shibuya. In fact, Shibuya has tonnes of manga cafes where you can rent a booth and have access to an entire collection of manga and anime books. Many have memberships here where they can even sleep and shower. Seems like a pretty cool place to spend the night, definitely much cheaper than in a hotel.
Shibuya, just like Shinjuku has plenty of love hotels, especially in a spot called "Love Hotel Hill". A love hotel is a place where you can rent a room for a few hours or a whole night. This is not your ordinary hotel as it's used by men and women who want a bit of privacy for a short period of time. There are strict policies in these hotels and confidentiality is of paramount.
I tried entering a pachinko place whilst in Akihabara and boy, I went back out in a matter of minutes. Why? Because it was louder than a night club and the haze of cigarette smoke was beyond anything I ever experienced. A pachinko is a Japanese arcade where people go to play games and slots. It's definitely an experience hence I recommend you giving it a try, but I totally understand if you need a breath of fresh air after a couple of minutes.
One of the best things in Shibuya? The capsule hotel. After a crazy night out, it's understandable that you might not afford to get a cab back home or you might live too far away to commute. Capsule hotels are a great compromise, as you get a space to shower, chill and get the night sleep you totally deserve. Capsule hotels are a fun experience and I recommend sleeping in one for at least one night, just to do something totally different whilst in Shibuya.
If it happens to visit Tokyo during summer and wondering what to see in Shibuya, then definitely attend the Ohara Matsuri, a dance festival which takes place on June 12. You will be able to enjoy several performances between noon and 4 pm.
Once you had enough of Shibuya's agitation, it's time to chill in Sakuragaoka-cho, a quiet street dotted with cherry trees, eateries and cafes. It tends to get a bit busy during the sakura season. I would recommend going there to people watch for an entire afternoon, whilst enjoying matcha drinks and desserts.
No trip to a Tokyo neighbourhood should be allowed without enjoying the classic: sushi. There are lots of sushi bars in Shibuya but look out for the sushi train restaurants as they are fun, fresh and cheap. For a more intimate experience head over to a posh sushi place and feel free to interact with the itamae (sushi chef).
Pay as you go restaurants
Another brilliant thing I loved about Shibuya, was the sheer amount of vending machine restaurants. At the entrance, there is a vending machine with all items from the menu. You select what you want to eat and drink, and pay for your meal in advance. You get a ticket with the order on it which you need to hand over to the waitress. Take a seat and the food will follow shortly. This is another great example of how efficient the Japanese are. You go in, order, pay, eat and go. No waiting around, no wasting time ordering, paying, asking for dessert menus and so on. Simple and to the point.
The Shibuya Subway
The question really is where to go in Shibuya or where to go from Shibuya? You should enjoy a subway ride from one of the busiest stations in Tokyo. If you are not very good around massive crowds, maybe avoid the rush hour, but it's great fun to navigate by using the Tokyo subway map.
Just hung around
Sometimes it's good to just be in a new place, sit down and observe it. Just chill by the Shibuya crossing and take notes in your journal. Have a wander around the place and walk aimlessly, I find this to be one of the greatest ways to enjoy a new destination. Shibuya really come to life after dark, when you have the chance to see tonnes of neon lights and jumbo lit up adverts.
Shibuya is great fun but it's only one of the best neighbourhoods in Tokyo. What is your favourite thing to do in Shibuya and why? Leave a comment with your answer in the comments section below.