Shibuya Scramble Crosswalk: A guide to spending an entire day here

By Misha Janette


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New York may have it’s one “Times Square”,  an intersection where commerce, art, tourism and wonderment thrives, but Tokyo arguably has *several*  “Times Squares” to boast of. Ginza, Shinjuku, Harajuku, Marunouchi all have their own… but the most famous one being, of course, is the “scramble” crosswalk right outside Shibuya station.

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View from L’Occitane Cafe

It’s one of the most famous intersections in the the entire world. You may find yourself feeling “in the center of the earth” as thousands of people fade in and out of your eyesight in seconds. But once you’ve crossed it, then what? Don’t wander away, because you can get a FULL Tokyo experience from gourmet Japanese coffee and monjayaki pancakes to the infamous $50 melons without even leaving the intersection! Also, you may be tempted to squish into Starbucks and wait an hour for a window view, but learn about other places where you can marvel at the intersection. Whether you have an entire day or just an hour to spend in Shibuya, make sure you do it here. Read on!

IMG_9265Entrance to Center-gai street on the other side. But don’t leave the crosswalk yet!

Shibuya Scramble 101:

 The crossing as we know it today was established in the mid-1970s when the Shibuya neighborhood became a hangout for stylish teens who came to shop at 109 Mall and Parco. On a typical day during peak times, at least 3,000 people will be crossing the intersection for *each* green light! While you wait from the train station side, you will be entertained by 5 jumbo vision screens, with one on the far left being the newest (they seem to be targeting the vantage point of shoppers in Hikarie on the other side of the station).  The jumbo screen to the right of the Starbucks/Tsutaya often plays music countdowns so it often keeps the crowd abreast of who’s who in Jpop.

reIMG_9349The “million-dollar” view from Starbucks

Where to get coffee or tea at the Scramble?

Starbucks– Right across the way, staring you in the face is one of the highest grossing Starbucks locations in the world. It’s so crowded that to make the line move faster, they only offer tall-size drinks. Upstairs is a sitting space, but it can take a while to get a seat and it is typically full of tourists. Still, the straight-on view of the intersection is worth it.

IS THERE A VIEW? Yes
21-6 Udagawa-cho, Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan

IMG_9332L’Occitane Cafe

L’Occitane Cafe– if you’re looking to relax a little more, or want some high-quality French dessert and tea, then go to the L’Occitane cafe on the far right side of the Scramble. It covers two floors so there’s more of a chance to get a window seat. It’s typically patronized by local Japanese women and you know they have the patience of a Monk so you could be waiting a while for that window seat, however. The cake and tea sets typically run about ¥1,600+

each but you definitely get what you pay for.

IS THERE A VIEW? Yes
2-3-1 Dogenzaka, Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan

reIMG_9279Hoshino Coffee

Hoshino Coffee. Bringing up the left side of the intersection is this old-school coffeehouse inside the 109 Mens Mall (it’s written in Japanese so you might not see it right away). Thanks to its excellent coffee and a resurgent boom in pancakes (their thick, griddle pancakes are stuff of legend) it’s far harder to wander in and get a seat right away but worth it if you can.

IS THERE A VIEW? Yes, but they often have the blinds pulled
1-23-10 Jinnan, Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan

reIMG_9259 Monja-yaki Masuda-tei

Food. Need something more substantial?

Monja-yaki Masuda– Right when you cross directly from the station is this restaurant which specializes in a  dish called Monja-yaki. It’s a specialty originating in the Kanto (Tokyo) region, and is grilled batter filled with veggies or meat as you choose. It’s sister pancake dish Okonomiyaki is far more famous, but Tokyo-ites will defend monja-yaki as the best until they die.

IS THERE A VIEW? No, it is underground
22-1 Udagawa-cho, Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan

IMG_9317Great view from Gusto

Gusto– Did you know there was a Gusto diner right on the crosswalk?! I sure didn’t until last week! On the left side above the L’Occitane on the 7th floor is this Japanese “Family Diner” restaurant with low prices and a huge menu. During the afternoon on a weekday, it took two seconds to get a seat at the window with a great view. It’s open 24 hours so also a great place to be close to the station when you miss your last train for the night.

IS THERE A VIEW? Oh, yeah
2-3-1 Dogenzaka, Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan

IMG_9286Scramble Cafe

Scramble Cafe– Underneath the tracks is a number of easy, fast-food joints frequented by locals such as curry and ramen (3 different ramen stores, in fact). But if you want an easy time ordering, try the Scramble Cafe which sells westernized fare such as egg and meat dishes. It becomes extremely crowded at night when it turns into a bar, often with standing room only.

IS THERE A VIEW? No
1-27-1 Shibuya, Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan

reIMG_9246Nishimura Fruit Parlor

Legend of the Fruit

Nishimura Fruit Parlor– You have probably heard of the infamous $100 melons and $50 pack of apples from Japan. They are no myth, and you can find them at Takano, right across the crosswalk. These fruits are beauties, and many people come to revel in their perfection. You can pick up a pack of their famous jellie packs as a souvenir, or stick around for their food. This brand is the last word in fruit excellence in Japan, and their mixed fruit parfaits are sent from heaven. The special strawberry sundae will set you back ¥2,100.

IS THERE A VIEW? Yes
22-2 Udagawa-cho, Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan

IMG_9347Entrance to the underground

Go Underground

Depa-chika- Undereath the crosswalk is a mini-mall itself called “Depa-chika”. This is where everyday items such as socks, accessories, and other cheap trinkets are sold from stalls that harken back to old-school markets. If you need to find something in a hurry, you might find it here. There is also a massive floor which is the Tokyu Department Store Food Show floor, which sells everything from fresh food to other gourmet dishes from every global cuisine imaginable. Try buying something here and taking it with you to Yoyogi Park. To get under the crosswalk, take the stairs down toward the Subway entrance.

IMG_9270Sweet chestnuts

And more… 

In between the eating and caffeine imbibing, take a break to read some of the latest manga at Taisei bookstore, or listen to the newest J-pop at Tsutaya. If you (men) have an urge to shop and only the closest place will do, then go into 109 Mens Mall. Although it specializes in Shibuya “gyaru-o” fashion, it also sells more contemporary styles (it might be fun to peruse through). For a snack, go under the Glico jumbo vision for some traditional sweet chestnuts, considered the best in Japan. For Wi-fi, go to Starbucks or Wired Cafe on the 6th floors of the same building for food and internet. Finally, if you just want a bathroom break, your best bet is Tsutaya, just be willing to wait a bit.

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View from the 2nd floor skywalk

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Wedding planning company at the crosswalk.Yes, there were many wedding photos being taken while I was doing my research here.

Did you know?

Before Shibuya, Shinjuku was the place trends were born. Not until PARCO opened in 1973 did Shibuya become the de facto cool place to be.

The oldest stores standing at the scramble are Hoshino Coffee, the chestnut stand and especially the drugstore under the Glico jumbo screen. You can see it in this photo from 1952 (on the right side)

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Photo of the scramble in 1952. The drug store in on the far right, with Tsutaya being above it today. The upper middle “Y” is where 109 Mall is. Photo: Wikipedia Commons

The famous little dog statue, “Hachiko” comes with an endearing story you can read here

The green bus in the square outside the station is an information station and can help you with where you need to go. It’s entrance is often crowded with locals waiting for people.

The best place to get a shot of the intersection might be the walkway above the street, at the 2nd floor entrance to the Keio train line.

Finally, see if you can find the “secret” soccer field on the roof of Shibuya Station.

A streaming live cam of Shibuya crosswalk can be found here

IMG_9360Hachiko Dog statue is the most famous meeting spot in Shibuya. In Oct and Mar for fashion week, the dog gets a stylish outfit to wear.

reIMG_9359Information bus outside of Shibuya Station at Hachiko Exit

IMG_9275L’Occitane and Gusto

IMG_9268109 Mens, the chestnuts stand, and the drug store

*Due to Japanese privacy laws, public photography is often frowned upon, even when photographing scenery. So please remember to be polite and unobtrusive, and don’t be surprised if you’re asked to kindly not take photos.

I challenge you to try as many scramble hot spots as you can, just so you can say you spent a day at a crosswalk (Just add it to your bucket list). Go forth, my friends!

 


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FOOD SHOPPING SIGHTSEEING TOKYO YAKUSHIMA

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About Columnist

Misha Janette
Fashion stylist-journalist-editor

Tokyo-based fashion creator-stylist-journalist-editor. Ms. Janette handled tour costumes for Nicki Minaj and collaborated in Kansai Yamamoto 2014 sales success at Isetan.She writes for media in and outside Japan and launched “Tokyo Fashion Diary” to introduce the Japan scene to the world.