Shibuya Crossing (Tokyo, Japan)

Shibuya Crossing: A Must Do for first time visitors to Tokyo

Fashionable  Shibuya , a major commercial and business center and a special ward in Tokyo, is famous for its famous, unique and extremely busy Shibuya Crossing  located in front of the popular Hachikō exit of Shibuya Station, one of the busiest stations in Tokyo.

Bryan, Kyle, Cheska, Jandy, Grace and the author at Shibuya Crossing

One of the icons of Tokyo, here vehicles stop in all directions to allow large crowds of pedestrians, who walk between the various stores and shopping centers near the crossing, to inundate the entire intersection, making for an impressive sight in a confined space. Here, five roads meet in one of the busiest parts of the most populous city in the world.

View of Shibuya Crossing from Shibuya Station

Here are some of the interesting trivia regarding this famous Tokyo attraction:

  • It is the busiest pedestrian crossing in the world.
  • The iconic crossing scene is frequently used to depict how busy Tokyo
  • Per green cycle, up to 3,000 pedestrians use this crossing.
  • Also referred to as the Shibuya Scramble Crossing, the Shibuya Crossing allow pedestrians to walk in all directions (scramble) through the intersection as the traffic is stopped in all directions. Additional terms for this style of pedestrian cross are diagonal crossing or exclusive pedestrian crossings.
  • Three large TV screens, mounted on nearby buildings overlooking the crossing, as well as many advertising signs, can be seen from the crossing.
  • The iconic video screen, featured in the movie Lost in Translation (with its ‘walking dinosaur’ scene) as well as other movies, was taken down for a period of time and replaced with static advertising. It resumed operation in July 2013.
  • The Starbucks store at the Q Front Bldg., overlooking the crossing, is the busiest in Japan and one of the busiest in the world. It is also one of several publicly accessible raised vantage points where you can obtain an overview of the crossing. However, the much sought after prime position at the second floor window, looking out the crossing, can be challenge as the wait can be very long, especially at peak times.
  • Hachiko Statue, a very popular meeting place next to the crossing, commemorates Japan’s most famous dog who used to visit Shibuya Station every day for over ten years to wait for his master to return from work.  A station exit was also named after him.
  • Shibuya Crossing is often featured in Hollywood movies (Lost in TranslationThe Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, Resident Evil: Afterlife and Retribution), music videos and  television shows, which take place in Tokyo, as well as on domestic and international news broadcasts.
  • Carl Randall, a contemporary British painter  who spent 10 years living in Tokyo as an artist, depicted the area in his large artwork ‘Shibuya’ which was exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery in London in 2013.
  • During the 2016 Summer Olympics closing ceremony, the crossing was featured to promote the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
  • Its heavy traffic and inundation of advertising have led to it being compared to the Times Square intersection in New York City and Dundas Square intersection in Toronto.
  • Julian Worrall, a Tokyo-based architecture professor, has said Shibuya Crossing is “a great example of what Tokyo does best when it’s not trying.”

Check out “Hachiko Memorial Statue

For first time visitors to Japan like us, it is an excellent place for travelers who want an introduction to Tokyo’s more energetic side as well as see what an organized mega city looks like.

A rite of passage begins for the author as he makes the crossing …..

We arrived at the crossing by late afternoon when the crowds were at their maximum.  When we made our first crossing, we well expected chaos, with the thousands of people walking in different directions.

Jandy, Grace and Kyle follow suit …….

However, we realized how cool it really was as the pedestrian flow was surprisingly generally smooth as Tokyo residents are used to walking in crowded places (crossing a road with hundreds of other people seems to be just part of their daily routine) and they were very polite and efficient.

Bryan. Kyle and Cheska join in …..

The traffic lights at the crossing have a 2-min. cycle and, during that short waiting time, each little corner of the intersection steadily fills up and, just as the people begin to spill out into the street, the crosswalk lights turn green again and the crossing starts all over again.

Shibuya Crossing at night……

Photographers and videographers were everywhere, constantly searching for the best vantage point to take the best shots.

It was less hectic than we expected as everyone stuck to their own path. We did the crossing, not just once, but several times as we finally were able to really experience the Shibuya Crossing vibe and feel the Tokyo spirit, all in one single square.

Come evening, the crossing came alive with all the color and light coming from the massive advertising, neon signs and jumbo screens. After midnight, the crowds finally thin out when the Shibuya stations closes.


Hachiko Memorial Statue (Tokyo, Japan)

Hachiko Memorial Statue

It was now late in the day when we finished our late lunch inside our airconditioned hotel room and, as many museums close by 5 PM, we decided to just visit Shibuya Crossing and the nearby famous Hachiko Statue.  From the Akasaka Station, it was just a short 10-min. train ride to Shibuya Station.

The bronze memorial statue of the loyal dog Hachikō, between the train station and the intersection, is a common meeting place and, thus, was crowded. Hachikō, was, during his lifetime, held up in Japanese culture as an example of loyalty and fidelity.

This Akita Inu (a Japanese breed from the mountains of northern Japan) dog was born on November 10, 1923 in a farm near the city of ŌdateAkita Prefecture. In 1924, Hachikō was taken as a pet by Hidesaburō Ueno, a professor in the agriculture department at the Tokyo Imperial University, who brought him to live in ShibuyaTokyo. Professor Ueno would commute daily to work, and Hachikō, at the end of each day, would leave the house to greet him at the nearby Shibuya Station.

This daily routine continued until May 21, 1925 when, while he was giving a lecture,  the professor suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and died without ever returning to the train station in which Hachikō waited. Still, each day for the next nine years, nine months and fifteen days, Hachikō would still await Ueno’s return, appearing precisely when the train was due at the station and thus attracting the attention of other commuters, many of whom frequented the Shibuya train station and had seen Hachikō and Professor Ueno together each day.

Hirokichi Saito, one of Ueno’s students who developed expertise on the Akita breed, also saw Hachiko at the station and followed him to the home of Kuzaboro Kobayashi, Ueno’s former gardener, where he learned the history of Hachikō’s life. He returned frequently to visit Hachikō and, over the years, published several articles about the dog’s remarkable loyalty. On October 4, 1932, an article about him in Asahi Shimbun (Asahi News), placed Hachikō in the national spotlight, making the dog a national sensation. People started to bring Hachikō treats and food to nourish him during his wait.

His faithfulness to his master Ueno’s memory impressed Japanese people as a spirit of family loyalty to which all should strive to achieve and teachers and parents also used Hachikō’s vigil as an example for children to follow. Throughout the country, a new awareness of the Akita breed grew. Eventually, Hachikō’s legendary faithfulness became a national symbol of loyalty, particularly to the person and institution of Emperors.

Hachikō died on March 8, 1935, at the age of 11, from both terminalcancer and a filaria infection, and his remains were cremated and his ashes were buried in Aoyama CemeteryMinato, Tokyo, resting beside those of Professor Ueno, Hachikō’s beloved master. His fur, preserved after his death, was stuffed and mounted and is currently on permanent display at the National Science Museum of Japan in Ueno, Tokyo.

A statue based Hachiko’s likeness was first sculpted by well-known Japanese artist Teru Ando and erected at Shibuya Station (35°39′32.6″N 139°42′2.1″E) in April 1934, with Hachikō himself present at its unveiling. During World War II, the statue was recycled for the war effort.

L-R: the author, Kyle, Grace and Jandy

In 1948, Takeshi Ando, son of the original artist, was commissioned by the Society for Recreating the Hachikō Statue to make a new second statue which was erected in August 1948.  It still stands and is a popular meeting spot. The station entrance near this statue, one of Shibuya Station’s five exits, is named the Hachikō Entrance/Exit (Hachikō-guchi).

L-R: Cheska, Kyle and Bryan

Hachikō’s devotion is honored on March 8, each year, with a solemn ceremony of remembrance at the Shibuya railroad station, attended by hundreds of dog lovers who want to honor his memory and loyalty. Well after Hachiko’s death, the dog continues to be remembered in worldwide popular culture, with statues, movies, books, and appearances in various media.  In 1987, the story of Hachiko was depicted in the Japanese film,  Hachikō Monogatari (ハチ公物語,The Tale of Hachiko). The 2009 British American drama film Hachi: A Dog’s Tale,  which starred Richard Gere, Joan Allen and Sarah Roemer, is a remake of the Japanese film. 

Plaque of statue

Hachiko Memorial Statue: 1 Chome-2 Dōgenzaka, Shibuya-ku, Tōkyō-to 150-0043, Japan.  Tel:  +81 3-3463-1762.

Tokyo Here We Come!!!

Our first clear view of the Japanese countryside from our plane window

Our direct Cebu Pacific (5J-5054) flight to Tokyo left Manila’s NAIA Terminal 3 by 6:15 AM and our flight took us nearly four-and-a-half hours.  We had a pre-ordered breakfast on board our plane.  Our plane landed at Narita International Airport by 11:30 AM (Tokyo time which is one hour ahead of Manila).

Narita International Airport

Grace, Bryan and Cheska exiting the plane

Kyle, Jandy, Cheska and Bryan now inside Narita International Airport

After gathering our luggage and passing through Airport Immigration, Cheska booked all of us on an Airport Limousine Bus that would bring us, from the airport, to Akasaka Excel Hotel Tokyu which was near the hotel we were to stay in for four nights – Centurion Classic Akasaka.

Check out “Hotel and Inn Review: Centurion Classic Akasaka

Airport Limousine bus

Fare was ¥3,100 per adult (¥15,500 total for me, Grace, Jandy, Cheska and Bryan) and ¥1,550 for my 6 year old grandson Kyle.  We could have taken the Metro and save more than half what we paid, but we decided against it as we were traveling with heavy and bulky luggage. Taking the taxi or Uber would have been more expensive as we would have to board two vehicles.

On board…..

Our airconditioned limousine bus soon arrived and, after our luggage was loaded, we took our seats inside the bus which left promptly at 1:30 PM. Normally, travel time from Narita International Airport to Asakasa (59.7 kms. away) takes just a little over an hour but our bus trip took 30 mins. longer as the bus made a number of stops to drop off passengers at different hotels.  We arrived at the Akasaka Excel Hotel by 3 PM and made the short 5-min. walk to our hotel.

Alighting from the bus at Excel Hotel Akasaka Tokyu

Walking towards our hotel

After checking in at our 5th floor room (Room 509) and freshening up abit, we again went down to the hotel lobby and walked to a nearby 7-11 convenient store where we bought packed lunches, sandwiches and 1-liter bottled water.  That done, we gain walked back to our hotel and had our first meal in Tokyo in the airconditioned comfort of our room.

Centurion Hotel Classic Akasuka

Centurion Classic Asakasa: 107-0052 Tokyo Prefecture, Minato-ku Akasaka 3-11-8, Japan.  Tel: 1-866-599-6674.