Many towns feature renowned landmarks, such as New York’s Statue of Liberty, Paris’ Eiffel Tower, and Beijing’s Great Wall. Of course, Tokyo has some distinctive characteristics, such as the Tokyo Tower and the Skytree, but Shibuya Crossing will always be the city’s most recognisable icon.
Shibuya Station in the neighbourhood, like Shinjuku Station, is one of the busiest train stations in the world. This crossroads, which is billed as the busiest in the world, is also known as ‘The Scramble.’ It’s worth standing and watching one of the world’s largest pedestrian crossings a few times; it’s so gorgeous and picture-perfect that you can’t help but stare at the spectacular sight of gigantic video displays and elaborately adorned neon ads. Shibuya, which connects to prominent districts like Shinjuku, Harajuku, and Roppongi, is nearly hard to miss on a vacation to Tokyo or even a walk across town. In any case, you wouldn’t want to.
People are constantly flooding across the street from all directions, some of them are going in the opposite direction. They all meet in the middle in a frenzy, banging, sidestepping, and swerving around each other as they attempt to cross. Then it comes to a halt for a few moments. While the traffic waits for its turn, each little corner of the junction gradually fills up, and just as the pedestrians are ready to stream out onto the street, the crossing lights turn green, and the mayhem resumes.
The crossroads is a popular filming and media location in Tokyo. It has appeared in the films Lost in Translation and The Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift, as well as various music videos, newscasts, and cartoon programmes. Photographers and filmmakers are continuously circling the intersection, climbing on guard rails and perching on subway entrances to get the greatest viewpoint as a famous depiction of modern Japan.
A Little History
Shibuya Station’s history dates back more than a century, to 1885, when operations began. It was a stop on the Shinagawa Line back then, which has subsequently expanded and is now known as the JR Yamanote Line. Shibuya Station now serves over eight different lines and is shared by the JR East, Keio, Tokyu, and Tokyo Metro subway companies. Tokyu Corporation, one of Shibuya Station’s primary operators, is planning a 47-story commercial skyscraper that will be finished in 2019. This new skyscraper will be Shibuya’s tallest, providing even another reason to visit Shibuya Crossing, Tokyo’s busiest pedestrian street.
The Legend of Hachiko
Shibuya Station Exit 8 is known as the Hachiko Exit, after the bronze monument of the famous dog in the plaza outside. Hachiko was a dog who lived in the 1920s and would return to Shibuya Station every day to wait for his owner, Professor Ueno, to return home from work. Hachiko became a familiar sight, and the two continued in this manner for nearly a year, until the professor did not return one day. He’d had a brain bleed at work and died unexpectedly without saying goodbye.
Surprisingly, Hachiko could be found waiting for his owner in the same position, at the same time, every day for the next nine years. When one of the professor’s former students commented on his story, Hachiko became famous. Hachiko died from cancer one year later, at the age of 11, after the statue was constructed in 1934.
Moviegoers will enjoy the fact that “The Fast and the Furious” memorably slid through the technicolor crossing in the third edition of the film series, “Tokyo Drift”.
Fans of Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray may recall a moment from the film “Lost in Translation” in which a sea of clear umbrellas overtook the junction. The crossing also appeared as a futuristic cityscape in the Japanese cult classic “Battle Royale”.
Models and would-be models parade through the bridge as though on a personal catwalk. It’s not uncommon to see a mascot shimmying across, and there’s always a swarm of MariCar racers zooming by. It’s a location to both see and be seen.
Even during huge celebrations like Halloween, the street remains operational, with administrators forcing people into the sidewalks using retractable ropeways. Regardless of how busy it gets, traffic at this vast crossroads is rarely jammed. Even during rush hour, emergency vehicles can easily navigate busy intersections.
In addition, the neighbourhood has seen tremendous development and an ever-expanding skyline in the run-up to the 2020 Olympics. The crossing itself is upgraded on a nearly daily basis, with newer and more attractive video boards continually competing for the attention of onlookers.
There are five big screens, each with video and audio that is brilliantly timed to each crossing, displaying information such as the weather forecast during red “no walk” signs and often cartoons when the green “walk” signal lights up.
Let’s take a look at some secrets of Shibuya Crossing:
Things you should know about the Scramble Intersections:
The larger scramble crossroads, such as the one in front of Tokyo and Shibuya Station, may come to mind first when discussing scramble junctions. However, these are only the most visible examples of a type of intersection; there are many other examples of similar crossings with heavy foot traffic. You used to have to cross twice to get to a diagonally opposite corner. However, by simply stopping all cars at the crossroads at the same moment, pedestrians can cross securely and efficiently regardless of which way they want to go. According to legend, the first appearance of such a junction occurred in Canada and the United States in the 1940s. The first scramble in Japan was developed in Kumamoto Prefecture in 1968. Aside from the Shibuya Scramble, there are claimed to be up to 300 such junctions in Japan at the moment.
How is it that people don’t clash at the Scrambles?
How can all of these people cross from all directions at the same time without colliding? Even those who have never been to Japan and have only seen The Scramble on TV may find this fascinating. The answer could simply be that individuals who are familiar with the city are acclimated to it. The idea is to walk at the pace of the person in front of you while keeping track of the individuals on either side of you.
Because you are aware of this, you may modify your own pace to effectively weave around people as you cross. If you really want to feel how difficult this is, try going out into the intersection first, with no one in front of you. Walking blindly can cause uncertainty, therefore people who aren’t confident enough to cross securely may be better off following someone else.
Number of people crossing the Scrambles daily:
This congested Shibuya Scramble crossing becomes much busier as dusk approaches, but how many people cross here in a single day? According to a commercial news outlet, “Shibuya Center-gai,” up to 3,000 people can cross the scramble at one time. So, how much does that amount to over the course of a day? Although reliable data is difficult to come by, according to the average number of passengers that use the Shibuya Station daily as measured in 2016, roughly 370,000 people use the JR Shibuya Station.
Tokyo Shibuya Station, which connects Shibuya to West Tokyo, has over 1.15 million passengers, whereas the Keio Inokashira Line Shibuya Station, which connects the same area, has approximately 360,000. Finally, the Tokyo Metro Shibuya Station serves around 220,000 passengers every day. By analogy, the least number of persons passing on any given day might be 220,000, with a maximum of roughly 500,000 on busy days, so you can see how many people use this crossing.
Time when the Scrambles is at its busiest:
If you truly want to get a spectacular shot or video of The Scramble in action, it is best to attend during a less crowded period. On weekdays, the busiest time is between 3:00 and 6:00 p.m. This is due to the fact that students are out shopping and office professionals are returning home via Shibuya Station. This is the perfect time to see folks from all walks of life. During holidays, the peak hour is usually about 4:00 PM, when those who do go out are on their way home.
As you can see, the flow of people varies according on the time of day. On weekday mornings, it is normal to witness a large crowd leaving Shibuya Station and travelling to downtown districts such as the center of town and shopping streets. However, between 8:00 and 9:30 a.m. on weekday mornings, which is the normal commute rush hour, there are surprisingly few people to be seen.
New things according to the time:
Many people find it exciting to observe the flow of people crossing The Scramble, but there are several ways to enjoy this view. Of course, the simplest solution is to simply cross! Simply crossing the street will give you a different impression depending on the day and hour. As a result, it is advised to visit and cross the intersection at various times and under different situations. If you’re feeling daring, you may even try crossing the street at rush hour.
Top recommended spots to watch the Scrambles from above:
Another approach to appreciate the scramble is to simply observe it without participating in it. Depending on where you are, you can have a nice perspective of the flow of people and witness how they skillfully weave through each other. L’Occitane Cafe is intended for viewing in a relaxed environment while enjoying a meal. Through a wide window on the 2nd and 3rd floors of the Shibuya Ekimae Building on the west side, you can observe people arrive and leave from above.
The Starbucks in QFRONT, located to the northwest of the crossroads, is another well-known viewpoint. Place your order on the first floor and proceed to the second-floor seating area, where you may enjoy a coffee while watching The Scramble at any time of day, from early morning to late at night. Go to the roof of Magnet By Shibuya 109, which recently opened this year, to get a birds-eye perspective. From their premium designated photo site, the “CROSSING VIEW,” you can get a really stunning photo.
Secret of Japan! Recommendation for a rainy day:
While visiting the scramble junctions may be enjoyable, what about the unpleasant scenario of rainy days? While you might not be able to take fantastic images or films on a wet day, there are still some things you can do. Consider the varied hues of pedestrian umbrellas. Unlike in Western countries, Japanese people are more prone to use umbrellas even in light rain, so you can see people navigating through the crowd with colourful umbrellas in hand, somehow avoiding collisions.
It is best to go on a rainy day if you want to see the most vibrant display of the rainy day crossroads. When rain is forecasted, everyone pulls out their favourite coloured umbrellas rather than when it showers unexpectedly. It is worth noting that the rainy season in Tokyo lasts from mid-June to mid-July. While it is a challenging time to travel due to the rainy season, it is one option to consider if you want to experience the scramble at least once.
Take photos of and at the Scrambles like a Pro!
When you come to see The Scramble, you will see how many different ways individuals find to shoot their images or movies. Some people will simply wander about and record a video. Simply hold the camera at breast level, record, and start walking in this example. During peak hours, if you go out from the front of the crowd moving towards the station, you can get a really powerful shot.
The next option is to use selfie sticks to create a unique image. From a high vantage point, you may obtain a nice shot of the crossing. And if you keep it at ground level, you can get a very stunning foot photo of everyone’s feet walking in perfect time. You’ll also notice a lot of people trying to capture a shot from the crossing’s central reservation or by hanging about in the middle during peak hours, but please be aware that these are violations of Japanese etiquette and observe the laws when taking photos.
Longest distance at the Scrambles:
The Shibuya Scramble is a junction of roads that run north-south and east-west. The longest walking distance across is around 44 metres, from the northeast corner to the southwest corner. The pedestrian crossing signal time fluctuates and is estimated based on the level of congestion and time of day, however, it is said to average around 40-50 seconds. You will have to cover 44 metres in that time.
At the typical Japanese walking speed of roughly 4 km per hour, it will take about 40 seconds to cross 44 metres, so if you do not start walking immediately when the light turns green, you may not be able to make it there in time. Along with the time constraint, you must also consider the number of people you may have to push through, especially if you are crossing diagonally from the southeast to the northwest. However, because there are no crosswalk patterns written on the ground in this location, it may not be the ideal way to cross in, so please be mindful of this.
Scrambles during events!
During special events, the Shibuya Scramble is also a popular destination for visitors. For example, on October 31, Halloween, people in costume from all over the world love to congregate here in the evening and admire everyone else’s costumes. As a result, it tends to clog traffic, and in some situations, driving may be restricted during this time. The same thing might happen at other events, such as the popular World Cup soccer match, which draws a large Japanese audience, and the New Year’s Countdown. During those events, traffic cops will be on hand to keep order, as well as “DJ Police,” who will utilise a microphone to provide verbal guidance, similar to a DJ’s speaking method. These are just a few of the unique characteristics of this Scramble Intersection.
While there are many of magnificent Shibuya views, the best spot to interact with the essence of the Shibuya Crossing is on the street itself. Shibuya Crossing is a popular gathering place during major seasonal events such as Halloween and the New Year’s Countdown. While Shibuya Crossing may never achieve the international recognition that other cities’ major buildings, towers, and bridges have, it is an irrefutable reflection of Tokyo itself: lots of people, lots of action, and lots of enjoyment.
A spontaneous limbo line, or even a dance-off, may form in the period of just a few crossings. The blazing neon creates a sense of awe, and there is a connection in the energy among the people.
It’s a place to get lost, meet people, and experience Tokyo’s heartbeat.