An ambitious effort to redevelop Shibuya, one of the highest-profile areas in Tokyo, will reach a milestone next month when Shibuya Scramble Square — the tallest building in the district — opens its door to the public.
Together with a handful of massive projects around Shibuya Station, the unveiling represents the end of the second phase and the beginning of the third in a plan to revitalize and modernize Shibuya by 2027.
On Thursday, members of the press were invited to preview the building before its Nov. 1 opening.
Shibuya Scramble Square is a 230-meter tall structure overlooking the district’s famous scramble crossing intersection. It will feature a rooftop observatory on its 47th floor that will be the largest such facility in the country.
The building will house 213 businesses, of which 49 are opening in the district for the first time, 39 are entirely new businesses and seven are operating in Japan for the first time. With 73,000 square meters of office space on floors 17 to 45, it will be the largest office building in Shibuya. Its 15th floor will house a membership-based facility promoting cross-industry collaborations.
“This isn’t just a ward for young people anymore,” said a spokesman at Tokyu Corp., one of the operators of the new building. “As diversity grows, many of the people who come to this ward represent a wide spectrum of age, gender and nationality, and we hope to create a space for them to shine.”
The expansive complex is the latest effort by stakeholders — namely Tokyu, East Japan Railway Co. and Tokyo Metro Co. — to redevelop Shibuya.
“Shibuya has always been a hub for youth, diversity, technology and culture in Tokyo, but further growth in the district will help it become more recognized around the world,” said Yuki Hashimoto, 26, who earlier this year became the youngest member of the Shibuya Ward Assembly.
Massive construction projects are underway surrounding Shibuya Station, one of the country’s busiest rail terminals. It serves an average of nearly 2.8 million passengers every day.
Shibuya Scramble Square isn’t the only facility being unveiled in November. Two shopping complexes — Shibuya Fukuras and Shibuya Parco — as well as an underground plaza connected to the station’s east exit, will open within the month.
In September 2018, two multipurpose complexes in the district’s south side — Shibuya Stream and Shibuya Bridge — opened to the public. Shibuya Stream, which is connected to the south side of Shibuya Station, is a 180-meter-tall commercial building that contains a hotel, dozens of eateries, and 21 floors of office space occupied entirely by Google Japan. Shibuya Bridge is located further south and features a hotel and office space as well as a nursery school.
While several new buildings in Shibuya will soon open, a familiar one is on the way out. Tokyu Department Co. announced in July that it will close its 85-year-old Toyoko outlet, which is directly connected to the station, in March. In 2027, Shibuya Scramble Square will be expanded by rebuilding on the current Toyoko department store site.
Shibuya has numerous claims to fame, including the world-famous scramble crossing near the northern exit of JR Shibuya Station — where as many as 3,000 pedestrians cross at every green light and around 500,000 people pass every day. Nearby is a statue of Hachiko, the likeness of a faithful dog praised for loyalty to its master, that now serves as a useful meeting place for friends before a night out.
The district is also famous as a hub for internet startups. Hashimoto, the Shibuya assembly member, stressed that this reputation needs to be bolstered in the course of the redevelopment.
“The most important thing we can do is build an environment conducive to young startups and foster collaboration between bigger businesses, so the local economy can grow alongside its infrastructure,” Hashimoto said.
Shibuya literally means “Shibu valley,” a nod to its geography. The landscape has changed dramatically since the district’s postwar development began, when Tokyu railway opened a department store and other large facilities in the 1950s, and then continued with the construction of the Seibu railway in the 1970s.
Shibuya Station, for example, now stands where the Shibuya and Uda rivers once converged. Decades of development and redevelopment have resulted in the thriving cultural hub that exists today.