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Fashionable Shibuya is a magnet for youths

by Satoko Kawasaki

Staff Photographer

Known as the town for young people, Tokyo’s Shibuya district is the capital’s center of youth fashion and culture. It also attracts crowds of tourists from home and abroad.

Shibuya is best known for its “scramble crossing” near the north exit of JR Shibuya Station, where as many as 3,000 pedestrians coming from mainly four different directions calmly dodge each other in the large intersection when the crossing lights turn green. Around 500,000 people cross the intersection every day.

Nearby stands the statue of Hachiko, the faithful dog praised for its loyalty to its master. The plaza around the statue is a popular meeting point and photo spot for tourists.

Last year, a tourist information booth was set up near the statue to dispense information on the area’s shops and restaurants, including the famous Shibuya 109 fashion complex.

Shibuya literally means “Shibu valley,” suggesting it was once low-lying land. Indeed, Shibuya Station stands where the Shibuya and Uda rivers formerly converged. However, due to urban development, the landscape has changed significantly in recent decades.

Tokyu railway led Shibuya’s postwar development, opening Tokyu Department Store and other key facilities in the 1950s. Then, in the 1970s, Seibu railway established a foothold with its own department store and the Parco fashion complex, bringing a fresh vibe to the town.

Those who see Shibuya merely as the center of youth fashion and culture may be surprised if they venture into Nonbei Yokocho, an alley lined with small “izakaya” (pubs) and yakitori eateries beside the JR Yamanote Line.

Most of the bars are so small they only hold four to six people, and the seats are usually taken by those seeking a break from the hustle and bustle of the streets. People visiting the alley often feel nostalgic for the Showa Period.

But the redevelopment of Shibuya never stops.

In 2008, Tokyo Metro’s Fukutoshin Line reached Shibuya, and the 2012 opening of the Shibuya Hikarie commercial complex linked the Tokyu Toyoko Line with the Fukutoshin, making the already busy hub station even larger.

Next on the horizon is the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. A 230-meter-tall hotel is scheduled to open in time for the event, and a major office complex is to be built by 2027.

This section, appearing on the first Monday of each month, offers a snapshot view of areas that may interest tourists.