Shibuya is located in the western part of the city, just south of trendy Harajuku. This area has grown in size and commercial importance since the central Yamanote Line was built in 1885, connecting it to the rest of the city’s subways and trains. The station is one of the busiest in all of Japan, and its Shibuya Intersection (or Crossing) is said to be the busiest in the world, with the same kind of frantic hustle and bustle you would find in Times Square in New York City. A great deal of this is due to commuter traffic, but it is also the famous Shibuya shopping that draws millions of local residents and tourists every year.
One of the most fascinating things to do in Shibuya involves the busy intersection and is part of Tokyo history. At one of the station’s exits is the Hachiko Statue, a small bronze statue of the faithful Akita dog who waited at the station for his master every day for ten years after the master died in 1925. This unconditional loyalty has become part of the city’s heritage, and many local people who come here for Shibuya shopping will go out of their way to pay their respects to statue of the faithful dog Hachiko, while many others use it as a meeting place.
During the 1964 Summer Olympic, a Shibuya nightlife culture began to emerge, and it has grown in popularity ever since. In addition to numerous bars, clubs, and dining spots, there are many Shibuya shopping venues including large department stores, shopping centers, and the store (Tokyu) credited with originating the “kogal” fashion culture. This is the schoolgirl uniform fashion look, with short skirts, baggy knee socks, oddly colored dyed hair, and often a Burberry scarf. This innocent schoolgirl look has morphed in to the Harajuku Girls style that has recently been further popularized by pop icon Gwen Stefani. The district that is the center of the offbeat fashion is just a short walk up Takeshita Dori (avenue). This is one of the best places to stay while on vacation, and there are many Shibuya hotels in the area.
Other things to do in Shibuya include visiting two rather unusual museums. The Tobacco and Salt Museum highlights the cultural and commercial history of these two products, and includes a rare and extensive collection of ukiyo-e (woodblock) prints, tobacco pipes, bags, and trays. The TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company) Electric Energy Museum has free admission and many fascinating hands-on displays and activities that will delight children who won’t care that the museum is actually full of propaganda promoting the electric company.
If you have time, you can visit nearby Yoyogi Park, the largest open space in Tokyo. While there are no formal gardens as there are in many other parks, this is a great spot for one of the most popular things to do in Shibuya—people watching. In addition to the hundreds of people who spend time here strolling and picnicking, there are many street musicians and performers. You will also find many of the Harajuku fashion advocates here; they congregate on and around the Jingu Bridge which connects the district to the park. Shibuya also boasts one of the most important shrines and temples in the city, the Meiji Jingu Shrine, which is located in the northern part of the park.