I’ve heard that if a foreigner visiting Japan asks you, “There are still Ninja, right?” you ought to reply, “Well, it seems their numbers have decreased recently.” Nobody actually knows for sure whether or not there are any, so you might as well not ruin the dreams of people who are interested in this Far East island country. I think it is a very thoughtful answer. By the way, there is a place that makes me think, “The people walking here have probably received Ninja training”; the Shibuya scramble crossing.
1. What is the Shibuya scramble crossing?
2. Shibuya Scramble Crossing appeared in Lost in Translation
3. When is a good time to go?
4. What days should you avoid?
5. Let’s actually walk there
6. From where is a good location to look down on the crossing?
7. If you want to eat nearby
Japan Railway lines, private railway lines, and subway lines all stop at Shibuya Station, which is a huge station that serves the second largest number of riders in Japan. When sallying forth from the plaza in front of the station into the bustling Shibuya district, the first crossing you cross is the Shibuya scramble crossing.
See the live video here
This traffic signal alternates between allowing vehicles and pedestrians to cross. During the pedestrian crossing time, the people can freely cross the crossing in any direction, forward, crosswise, or diagonally. At peak times 3,000 people will try to cross during one walk signal. When the pedestrian crossing time is over, it is time for the vehicles to cross. The cars are never blocked by people who do not obey the rules. The people crossing the crossing do not bump into each other. The people very skillfully pass through the wave of humanity while heading in the direction of their destination. They seem just like Ninja.
This crossing probably became famous when it was featured in a scene in the Hollywood movie Lost in Translation. There is probably no area as iconic as this one for experiencing the foreign land of “Tokyo.”
Other famous movies in which it appeared are The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift and both Resident Evil movies Afterlife and Retribution. The scene at the beginning of Afterlife where people are holding umbrellas in the rain while crossing the scramble crossing was very memorable.
If you are a person who wants to enjoy the atmosphere of a crowded crossing and neon signs, then I recommend you go there about 6:00 in the evening on a weekday. If you want to enjoy an even more crowded scene, then Friday or Saturday night is good. The area is bustling with young people and company employees headed to the drinking establishments. Weekday afternoons are somewhat crowded. If you want to enjoy the daytime hustle and bustle, then Saturday and Sunday afternoons are good. The crossing will be fairly crowded with people going shopping. Conversely, the crossing is probably the quietest on weekday mornings.
The crossing is extremely crowded on the days there are national events, like the World Soccer Cup, so going on such days is not recommended. On Halloween night and New Year’s Eve masses of young people gather there and cause quite a ruckus; even requiring the police to be called out. Some people get too wild and it is too crowded to move around easily, so avoid going to the crossing on such days.
First, let’s cross diagonally from the plaza in front of the station over to the Center-gai shopping district. People come at you from in front and from the sides, but if you look a little ahead as you walk, you won’t bump into anybody. If it looks like you might bump into somebody, change your angle a little bit to avoid them. You just keep doing that. It is important to go with the flow. If you do that, you too will be able to nimbly cross the scramble crossing like a Ninja.
The view from Starbucks Coffee on the 2nd floor of TSUTAYA music and book store facing the crossing is good. You can enjoy the view for just the price of a coffee, but the shop is always crowded, so be careful if you are short on time. Another location that is a well-kept secret is the access walk-through that connects the 2nd floor of Shibuya Mark City with the JR Shibuya Station. The access walk-through is over a road that crosses the crossing, so you can get a good view of the people crossing. And it’s free.
There are many B class restaurants like conveyor belt sushi and ramen in the Center-gai shopping district. There are also many fast-food restaurants like McDonald’s, and in the evening many drinking establishments open and there are karaoke spots as well. (Many of the karaoke spots have simple food menus, so you can enjoy eating while singing karaoke.) In addition, the basement food departments of the department stores in front of the station have many bento selections, sandwiches, bakery items, and other foods, so you can buy a bento to take back with you.
Shibuya is a pop culture Mecca. There are many stores for young people while luxury brand stores are relatively few (if you want to buy luxury brand items, you should go to Ginza). There are many department stores in front of the station as well as ZARA, H&M, Don Quixote, and Matsumoto Kiyoshi. A short walk away is Spain-zaka, which has many fashionable cafes. You can find anything you want at Shibuya and even window shopping is plenty of fun. Also, in the plaza in front of the station is a famous bronze statue of a dog called “Hachiko”, which is well-known as a place for people to wait for each other.
Immediately after exiting the JR Shibuya Station Hachiko Exit or subway A8 exit.
Note: You need to be careful because Shibuya is undergoing a large-scale redevelopment and the station is always under construction, so it is easy to lose your way.
Written By Emi Sotome