For the United States, and perhaps much of the Western world, Times Square is our central reference point when we refer to a large, busy, crowded intersection. It’s a site that draws people together, whether it be to watch the infamous crystallized ball “drop” on New Year’s Eve or simply to gawk at the larger than life signs that made the otherwise normal street into an animated zone. In reality, however, Japan’s Shibuya Crossing is the “real” Must See that I aspire to visit.
If you think you aren’t already familiar with Shibuya Crossing, you’re almost certainly wrong. The multi-directional crossing is a common go-to in any movie set in Tokyo or Japan. When those traffic lights change, masses of people swarm the streets to cross.
Shibuya is a popular tourist spot in Tokyo, known for its shopping and nightlife. The ward is home to such sites as the Meiji Shrine, and the headquarters of Japanese broadcasting company NHK and it’s where you’ll find Harajuku.
But just outside the Shibuya Station is the infamous crossing. The intersection is said to be the world’s busiest. Visitors flock there to take in the sheer enormousness of the intersection, the lights, the advertisements. It’s also where you can find the Hachiko statue. Hachiko was an Akita dog who would meet his human everyday at the train station. But his human suddenly died. Hachiko is remembered because he returned to the station every day for more than nine years to await his return. A heartbreaking and moving story that attracts many to a statue in his honor.
After joining the crowds to brave the intersection, stop by one of the cafes that overlook the intersection. Sit down with a cup of tea or coffee and just look out the window. Admire the unique intersection from above (and safely removed from the hustle and bustle).
Visitors hoping to take in Shibuya Crossing as it is now might want to prioritize a visit. Architect Hiroshi Naito was recently on NHK’s Design Talks plus to discuss a redevelopment project that will see the crossing, in part, re-imagined as the 2020 Tokyo Olympics approach. The project is set to complete after Olympics.
If only to hustle across that crazy crossing with hundreds of your closest Japanese and foreign tourist friends, Shibuya Crossing is my Must See.
Looking for more Must Sees? Explore previously featured locations!
Top photo by IamHeathSmith (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0). Bottom photo by dneubaue (CC BY-ND 2.0).