Shibuya: Getting lost in the nightlife

On a rainy October day I went to Shibuya with my friend Indy who was supposed to take me to UN University for a talk on nuclear weapons. However, he got us lost so instead we walked around Shibuya trying to get him to remember how to get to the university. Ultimately we failed but we were able to enjoy some of what Shibuya has to offer.

The most recognized icon of Shibuya is the large Shibuya crossing, known as the largest crossing in the world because traffic halts in  all directions. As many as 3000 people can cross the intersection at one time, making for a claustrophobic and confusing crossing during peak hours. From atop it is impressive to see the mass of humanity crossing at the same time.

If one arrives to Shibuya by train then the stop of destination will likely be Shibuya Station. As soon as you get off the train, you will notice the immensity of the station and its long passages filled with moving walkways thereby making it reminiscent of airport terminals. Despite the stations enormous size, since 2012 there have been renovation and expansions that are scheduled to finish by 2027 which would further add to the size and expansiveness of the station.

Crowded Shibuya alleys

However Shibuya offers much more than just a street crossing and train station, after all the ward is known for its nightlife, fashion and an inundation of advertising screens that rivals that of Times Square. By walking around the many alleys that emanate from the station it is easy to get lost in the sea of people and stores of Shibuya. One can find a multitude of items from clothes, to food, bars, magazines and even love hotels.

Nonbei Yokocho (Drunkard’s Alley) truly lives up to its name due to it being a narrow street filled with tiny bars. This area is important in particular to salarymen that spend their time relaxing and getting drunk in these bars after a long day of work before sleeping for a few hours, going to work and doing it all again the next day. The result of high real-estate prices and lack of space in the crowded Tokyo metropolis, the tiny bars of Drunkard’s Alley have become intertwined with legacy of Shibuya. In effect most of these “bars” are really more of very small living rooms, only big enough to fit 5-6 people and the small bartender area.

Narrow passage of Nonbei Yokocho

Our final highlight of Shibuya is called Love Hotel Hill which, as the name indicates, has a large amount of “love hotels” where couples can go to enjoy “each other’s company” for a certain period of time.  The uniqueness of love hotels is an attraction all its own for many tourists who go with their love buddies to play Scrabble and whatnot or “rest”. Me and my friends accidentally stumbled upon this area while trying to find food in Shibuya’s complicated array of alleys. It wasn’t really our thing so we left but we saw quite a few people coming and going from the area.

To conclude, Shibuya is a giant area filled with weird and interesting things to check out. Only visiting once is absurd and it takes a lot of visits to get to experience even a small percentage of everything that Shibuya has to offer.


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