In spite of the fact there are no obvious sights in Shibuya, the district is one of those quintessential spots that pop into mind of most people when you say Japan, without them even realising the name of the crossing. The home of the iconic Shibuya crossing.
The crossing is the obvious reason why tourists come to Shibuya, and (as much as I’d love to say I have a hack for you) rightly so; the organised madness is mesmerising. Stand here for 15 minutes and you’ll be passed by more people than how many probably live in your home town (the Shibuya district alone is home to a population of over 200,000). It really makes you stop and think about the human race and its rapid expansion, and potentially make you feel dizzy after a little while.
All guide books will send you to the Starbucks by the crossing to observe the masses from above, and rightly so, as getting a good view from any of the surrounding stores is impossible. Do keep in mind that the notoriously known café is quite popular because of this, meaning that you may need to wait for a while to get the hold of a window table. On sunny days, the massive glass windows turn the place into somewhat of a greenhouse, so order a cold drink, watch the masses cross for a couple of minutes and leave your spot for the next person – this is the only way to get through the experience without passing out.
Once you’ve admired the crossing and pondered the sheer number of people in the world and the reason for humanity’s existence, take a walk through the district to avoid those deep thoughts through a splash of consumerism. Shibuya is primarily a shopping district, though not quite as affordable as Harajuku.
Many of the stores are quite upmarket, but this doesn’t make their popularity budge. If you’re on a tight budget, you might want to settle for a bit of window shopping instead and just take in the busy atmosphere.
Several underground lines can get you here: Hanzomon, Fukutoshin or Ginza. Just get off at the Shibuya station and aim for the Hachiko Exit (Exit number 8) to get to the famous crossing – although you’ll probably befine if you just follow the masses; worst case scenario you’ll just wind up participating in the crossing fun, which you’ve probably been planning on doing anyway.