The scramble crossing at Shibuya is one of the most-recognized images of Tokyo and is often featured in movies, including Lost in Translation. So, after our week in calmer surroundings around the country we decided to dive back into the densest, busiest city in the world and headed to Shibuya Saturday night upon our return to Tokyo. From a pedestrian bridge just south of the main crossing, I was able to take this mesmerizing video of one crossing cycle.
The crossing is officially called Hachiko Square, and is probably the most famous pedestrian scramble in the world (at least according to Wikipedia). There seem to be more of these types of crossing in Japan than anywhere else, although a major one has just been installed at Oxford Circus in the center of the London shopping district. I’d be quite remiss, however, if I didn’t point out that invention of this concept is attributed to one Henry A. Barnes, a mid-20th century traffic commissioner in Denver, Baltimore, and New York City. It was in Denver that Mr. Barnes established this practice (supposedly after watching his daughter almost run over trying to cross the street to go to school), that came to be known as a “Barnes Dance” (see more here from the Federal Highway Administration). No doubt this was featured prominently in Astrid’s school year of Colorado history :)
The area has a bit of a Times Square/Piccadilly Circus feel thanks to the huge neon displays and crowds, but it is actually a vibrant well-rounded commercial area known for fashion shopping, restaurants, and nightlife. This area, along with nearby Harajuku, is very popular with the young and hip crowd – and I think we saw most of them waiting to meet up just outside the station or making the crossing!
In search of cash, we decided to explore the surroundings away from the station and the crossing a bit. We found that the only ATMs that worked for us were in 7-11s (which is a documented phenomenon), and figured that there must be one nearby – in many parts of Japanese cities you can practically see another 7-11 from inside one! Alas, we could not find one; maybe the store rents were too high…but we did get a good tour of this very vibrant district around 9pm on a Saturday night!
Shibuya Station is the anchor of the area (as stations anchor virtually every place in Tokyo!), and anywhere else in the world it would be the biggest station imaginable…here, though, it is only the 3rd or 4th largest. It combines the JR station (serving the Yamanote Line loop plus the Saiko and Shonan-Shinjuku Lines and the Narita Express airport train) with two private railway stations (Tokyu and Keio) and two separate metro stations (one elevated for the Ginza Line and one underground for the Hanzomon and Fukutoshin Lines) – all combined serving well over 2 million average daily passengers!
Overall, a must-see (easy, free, iconic!) Tokyo experience to spend a few minutes watching the crowd at the scramble.