shibuya

How to Spend an Evening in Shibuya beyond Shopping

The early settlement in Shibuya began when Shibuya family built a castle in the area during the Edo Period in the 11th century. Its transformation from a wealthy family residential site to the busiest railway station was marked by the establishment of JR (Japan Railway) Yamanote Line, previously known as Shinagawa Line, in 1885. Nowadays, Shibuya Station consists of over 8 lines and to be honest, it is more than easy to get lost in between.

Fear not, though. What you need to remember when you get off in Shibuya Station is to find the most notable exit of the station, which is exit no. 8 called Hachiko Exit, to reach the city center. My friend and I did that the whole time and it worked.

shibuya
Shibuya in spring

Known as one of the most hectic districts in Tokyo with skyscrapers and their flashing advertisement and video screens, Shibuya is a melting pot of shops, cafes, restaurants, bars and nightclubs. And don’t forget about the crowds too, it’s incredibly insane!

Nonetheless, if you’re not so much into shopping, taking some booze and clubbing (I purposely exclude the “dining” thing because you may some fuel to explore the city although you’re not a foodie), what other things you can do in Shibuya?

TAKE A PICTURE WITH HACHIKO STATUE

Suppose you have watched Hachi: A Dog’s Tale, played by Richard Gere, you should know what’s the story is all about.

hachiko
Hachiko statue

Indeed, the movie is inspired by an Akita dog named Hachiko, owned by Professor Ueno in 1920s. The dog always followed him every time he came to Shibuya Station to commute to his workplace, as well as waited for him there until he returned before heading home. One day, the professor passed away because he suffered from brain hemorrhage and did not return. But, Hachiko’s loyalty to his master didn’t stop there. Instead, he kept waiting for him at the same spot, same time every day for the next 9 years. The story became viral after a professor’s former student told about it to the public, then Hachiko statue was erected in 1934 exactly on the spot where he always waited for the professor. One year after later, Hachiko died from cancer at the age of 11.

Once you leave the station through Hachiko Exit, you’ll find a bunch of crowds on your left side waiting for their turn to pose with the bronze dog statue of Hachiko. The line is always long, especially in high season, yet fortunately the queue usually runs smoothly as they don’t cut each other’s line.

We both are dog lovers, so taking a picture with the legendary dog is a must despite the long queue.

CROSS THE STREET THROUGH SHIBUYA CROSSING

I love the vibrant atmosphere in Shibuya, especially in the evening when all interchanging advertisement images and videos decorating the skyscrapers brightening the entire district, as if they wanted to replace the role of sunlight after it goes down. Both local and international brands are competing each other to get the most attention from the crowds below them.

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evening in Shibuya

Guess what, the ones that got mine are those with anime characters regardless what the inscriptions say. It’s all written in Japanese and I understand none of it.

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When the traffic lights from all directions turn red, that’s when a magical moment actually happens. In locals’ and expatriates’ perspective, crossing the street in Shibuya Crossing is just a small part of a daily routine. But for us, being around those pedestrians from various nationalities and races, apart from Japanese, feels like getting lost in translation. We could be either part of the famous movie scene or nothing more than just isolated strangers.

shibuya crossing
men’s turn

Anyways, we really enjoyed mingling with other strangers crossing the busiest pedestrian lanes in the world. Blushing one’s shoulder is inevitable, but cases of pickpocket hardly happen despite the packed situation on street. And hell yes, Japanese people are used to walking straight, fast and being alone among the crowds.

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cars’ turn

WATCH PEOPLE CROSSING SHIBUYA CROSSING FROM STARBUCKS COFFEE

One of the best places to get bird’s eye view of the crowds in Shibuya Crossing is Starbucks Coffee Shibuya Tsutaya, which is probably the highest traffic Starbucks branch I’ve ever seen in my life. I only can imagine how much they earn per day only from selling coffee. There are other options, too, where L’Occitane Cafe across the street could be your choice, yet Starbucks was the first thing to cross our minds.

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Starbucks Coffee Shibuya

If you only want to get some coffee to go, you can get it from the counter situated outside the outlet. But, if viewing Shibuya and its surroundings from the upper floor is your number one priority, you should be willing to be in line with the rest inside the outlet on ground floor, so-called first floor in Japan.

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shiny happy people

Coffee, tea and snacks are treated as entrance tickets to the upper floor to get great spots for photos and video recording. We found our favourite dish, which is not available in our hometown Jakarta: spring vegetables with sour cream sauce. The best thing about it that it’s healthy and suitable for vegetarians.

starbucks
delicious vegetarian food

Once we reached the second floor, all the seats facing the window were full for the reason everybody knows. In fact, about 50 percent of visitors were actually standing, just like us, behind those “lucky” people sitting by the window, pointing their smartphones and cameras attentively to the busiest pedestrian lanes in the world right before their eyes. It doesn’t mean that other seats not facing the window were less preferred, though, as they were completely full as well.

The question when you’ll have your turn truly depends on how much time and patience you have. There are many places of interest in Tokyo and a lot of things you can do in Shibuya, so there’s no way that tourists only spend their time during the stay just to stare pedestrians from above. In other words, they will leave their strategic spot, eventually.

About 20 minutes later, the couple in front of us left. We hurriedly occupied the empty seats and became the “lucky” ones. I was so glad that I could make a video recording of those crowds below me. It surprises me somehow when I watched it back home, I just realized that the Japanese walked so fast, even faster than I felt when I crossed the street together with them, that I thought I edited this video. But I didn’t.

 

WATCH STREET PERFORMANCES

Performances are held best in places where crowds becoming potential spectators are around, and Shibuya totally fulfills the requirement. Street artists makes Shibuya a stepping stone to fame, hoping that one day they will be on air on famous TV stations. Somehow it’s entertaining to watch them after reaching the other end of the street.

shibuya
let me entertain you

Shibuya is also a popular place for TV show or movie shooting location, like the goat man for example. I’m not sure what the show is all about, apart from the man behind the goat mask showed off his muscular body while walking on the street and later on did some silly dancing moves. All the pedestrians around him smiled and cheered him up, anyways. If attention is the main goal of the show, he got it already.

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goat man on the street

If crowds and flashy ads on skyscrapers are not your thing but you don’t wanna go too far, probably isolating yourself to Meiji Shrine could be a great choice. Other than that, try to go outside those gigantic department stores and mingle with people from all over the world. It truly feels like being in a big party without the need to have an invitation and to pay some amount of money for cover charge! The only building you should get in is the one with a strategic location for a fantastic bird’s eye view of the legendary Shibuya Crossing.

So, how about you? Do you have some other great advise about what to do in Shibuya besides shopping? Let me know, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 

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meiji jingu shrine

Meiji Shrine: Serene Spot in Shibuya

Now you can download this article through the following link: https://www.gpsmycity.com/gps-tour-guides/tokyo-405.html

TRANQUILITY IN DOWNTOWN TOKYO

Being one of the most crowded areas in Tokyo, Shibuya is mostly known for its legendary Shibuya Crossing (that reminds me of Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift), Hachiko statue outside Hachiko exit of Shibuya Station and tall buildings with flashy LED lighting.

Nonetheless, despite the crowds, finding tranquility and peace of mind in Shibuya area is much easier than you thought. Meiji Shrine is the closest getaway to stay away from crowds a little while. From Shibuya Station, take a JR Yamanote Line to Harajuku Station, which is only 1 stop, and walk a few minutes from Harajuku Station.

Meiji Shrine is a Shinto shrine built in 1920 as a dedication to Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken, located in the inner side of Yoyogi Park near the iris garden that the they loved to visit during their lives.

The shrine was destroyed in 1945 during the World War II and rebuilt with donations from various sources all over the country in 1958.

meiji jingu shrine

Once we found the Torii gates made of 1500-year-old cypress wood among the greens, I knew I was in the right place. Hustling and bustling in the city seemed to be a distant memory, replaced by the 247-acre garden offering tranquility and some fresh air.

Bear in mind that tranquility doesn’t make Meiji Shrine off-the-beaten path place at all, since it holds many religious ceremonies and festivals. Also, there are many traditional Shinto wedding ceremonies taking place at the memorial hall.

Unless you come in the morning, it will be hard to take pictures without crowds passing by, although it’s not as packed as Sensoji Temple in Asakusa and Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto.

EMPEROR MEIJI AND EMPRESS SHOKEN: HIGHLY RESPECTED ROYAL COUPLES

Emperor Meiji was known for Meiji Restoration (1867 – 1912), when Japan transformed into a modern country, opening itself to the outside world, catching up with the western knowledge and technology, and industrial period started to rise. It also marked the end of feudalism by Tokugawa Shogunate after 250 years of ruling.

On the other hand, Empress Shoken involved in numerous royal visits, meetings and was active in charity funds, including the Japanese Red Cross society. She donated ¥100,000 (now worth ¥3.5 billion) to International Red Cross in Geneva in 1912, inspiring the establishment of Empress Shoken Fund in the same year. The fund supports disaster preparedness, healthcare, sanitation, and social welfare activities in developing countries.

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More than 100 years after the royal couple’s passing, they are still highly respected nationwide. Every year, the ceremony of Emperor Meiji’s birthday is held on November 3. The commemoration of Empress Shoken is on April 11, which is the anniversary of her death, to remember her virtues.

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sake barrels wrapped in straw

Before passing the 12-meter Otorii or Grand Shrine Gate, the largest gate at Meiji Shrine, there’s a giant rack stacked with sake barrels that are probably the only colourful property on site.

Meiji Jingu Nationwide Sake Brewers Association and other sake brewers from different parts of Japan make sake offerings to honor the soul of the royal couple, as well as a gratitude to Emperor Meiji who encouraged the growth of industrialization during Meiji Period.

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French wine barrel

Another dedication to Emperor Meiji is French wine barrels situated across the sake barrels, donated by notable wineries of Bourgogne in France initiated by Yasuhiko Sata, the House of Burgundy Representative in Tokyo. Drinking wine was part of the Emperor’s ways to embrace and promote western culture, although he didn’t leave traditional values and spirit behind.

WHAT TO SEE AND DO AT THE MAIN SHRINE

Forget about red, gold and other vibrant colours like any other temples once you arrived at the main shrine. In fact, it tends to have a “low profile” look with earth colour domination, mostly dark chestnut brown. Having passed all the gates, we dragged ourselves to the most sacred place in Shibuya area.

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the main shrine entrance gate

meiji shrine

Since we only targeted our visit on the main shrine to save our time (and free of charge), let me share what you mainly can do at the main shrine area besides walking along the large square.

1. DOING SHINTO RITUALS

For those who are non-Shinto believers, doing omairi, the basic rituals for entering the shrine, is a stepping stone to feel more “local”. Simultaneously, it’s a sign of respect to a religion you’re probably not familiar with.

Omairi basically includes bowing slightly before passing all the gates, temizu or self-cleansing ritual at the communal basin by washing mouth and hands with a wooden scoop and the prayer to kami (gods) by dropping a coin as an offering, pulling the rope to ring a bell and clapping hands twice.

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communal basin for temizu

I noticed that some visitors are interested in doing temizu, especially the step by step guide is stated very clearly on the board right before the basin itself. Apart from that, they do the prayer part by dropping coins and clapping hands twice mainly for gaining more experience and fun.

2. HUNTING AMULETS AND CHARMS AT THE SOUVENIR SHOP

Suppose souvenir hunting is one of the main goals of your visit, no worries. There are lovely and cute design charms, amulets, key chains at the souvenir shop. The price range starts from ¥ 300 ($ 3) to over ¥ 1000 ($ 9), depending on material, size and design. There are some modest amulets that cost ¥ 100 (S 1), too, but I think I found it not that attractive.

It is tempting to have some of them, but I try not to spend too much on them since we would visit more temples in our next journey and they usually sell similar stuffs.

meiji jingu shrine

3. MAKE A WISH AND A DONATION

There are several ways to make a wish and donation at the temple. One of them is to donate for a roof reparation. Write your name and wishes on a sheet of copper and pay ¥ 3000 ($ 27).

meiji shrine

If ¥ 3000 seems too much, get an ema votive tablet for ¥ 500 and write your prayer, wishes and gratitude on it. After that, hang it on the “tree” that looks more like a hanging rack rather than an actual tree. The priests will present your wishes to the gods in the morning ceremony the day after.

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Ema
meiji jingu shrine
a closer look of Ema

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meiji jingu shrine

Alternatively, you can write your prayer and wishes in a piece of paper and put it in the envelope provided inside the organizer on the table. Then, you can drop it inside wooden container on the left side behind the table. FYI, the paper and the envelope are free of charge.

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a Daruma doll among protections and amulets

4. ATTENDING A SHINTO WEDDING PROCESSION

Meiji Shrine is a popular place for a Shinto traditional wedding ceremony that usually takes place at Meiji Memorial Hall, followed by blessings outside the hall when family members march behind the couple and the priests. It doesn’t happen everyday, though, but if you’re lucky enough, you will find it.

To be honest, it’s the best activity of all because there’s no way that I will have that chance to see that in my hometown. It doesn’t take a genius to love watching happy couple with beautiful traditional costume and head piece (for the bride).

We hunted the couple and their troops with our camera until they returned to their car in the other end of the shrine.

meiji jingu shrine
the bride and her parents

meiji jingu shrine

meiji jingu shrine

meiji jingu shrine

meiji jingu shrine

meiji jingu shrine

meiji jingu shrine

meiji jingu shrine

meiji jingu shrine

OTHER PLACES OF INTEREST OTHER THAN THE SHRINE

If you have all the time in the world, the inner garden of Yoyogi Park has something else to offer apart from the main shrine. Jingū Naien or the iris garden, Treasure House and Treasure Museum Annex entrance fee is ¥ 500 ($ 5) each. When that’s not enough, you may want to visit the outer garden, where Meiji Memorial Art Gallery and Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium are located.

In our case, we skipped those places and headed to Asakusa for our next destination.

Now you can download this article through the following link: https://www.gpsmycity.com/gps-tour-guides/tokyo-405.html