Shibuya: you are almost certainly not hip enough to be there

If you had to pick one of the places in Tokyo that the beautiful young things hang out, top of the list would be Shibuya:

The first time you arrive in Shibuya at night, you figure that the makers of Blade Runner must have cut them a significant cheque for “inspiration rendered” at some point. The immediate visual assault is an incredible blitz rendered in neon and billboard, towering over from all sides. Seven-story high video screens blasting garish ads squarely targeted at the two-second-sound bite generation. The latest hot J-pop band. Movies about to be released (Ocean’s 13, at the moment). Crazy animations about…. things.

The utter incomprehensibility of it all only adds to the appeal, and heightens the bustling, rapid tempo that dominates. “Bustling” doesn’t even do it justice – for instance, it hosts the busiest pedestrian intersection at the world. Here it is from a safe distance, mid-wave:

And a less safe distance. There’s a road under there somewhere:

Probably as fascinating as the surrounds are the people who meet there.  Dressed up to the nines, or dressed down in an effortlessly casual way that took hours of careful preparation, their thumbs working overtime on their keitais emailing their friends.  You can observe whole cross-sections of Japanese youth culture, all in one convenient place.

There’s a very famous statue of a dog called Hachiko in Shibuya.  It really is quite a touching story, but I’ll let you read it for yourself.  Perversely, everyone who meets anyone else in Shibuya agrees to meet near the Hachiko statue so they can find each other.  I’ll leave it to you to work out the problem there.

Really, it is an incredible place that is among the best examples of modern Japan’s pace and intensity.  Visit at dusk to watch the ongoing competition between the splendor of a lovely sunset and a sizable chunk of Tokyo’s electricity grid.

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5 thoughts on “Shibuya: you are almost certainly not hip enough to be there

  1. So that’s the district that seems to appear in most everything? Night pics would be stunning.

    Thanks for the dog story. Everything was going great till I got to “stuffed and mounted”……

  2. Yes, the Hachiko story is quite the tearjerker, isn’t it? There’s also an episode of Futurama (“Jurassic Bark”) that looks like it was inspired by the Hachiko story. The ending is just about as sad, too.

    And quite right – I need to go back and take some night shots of Shibuya. Righteo, it’s tripod-carting time…

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