A Guide to Tokyo’s Shibuya Neighborhood
There are still small pockets of calm to be found in the middle of this high-intensity hustle and bustle.
When speaking of Tokyo, the image of high-rises covered with bright neon signs, crowded streets, karaoke bars and narrow side-streets lined with small bars will probably pop into mind. Nothing quite embodies this image like Shibuya, a fast-paced hub of fashion and exciting nightlife.
The area closest to Shibuya station is notoriously crowded, and home to some major tourist attractions: The Hachiko statue, the Shibuya crossing, and the Shibuya 109 fashion tower. Famous for shopping and clubbing, Shibuya might seem like a city that never sleeps, but in the middle of this sort of high intensity hustle and bustle there are still small pockets of calm to be found
Shibuya station is the second busiest station in the world, connecting 10 different train and subway lines. It is located on the west side of Tokyo along the JR Yamanote Loop Line, just a 7 minute train ride from Shinjuku, or 25 minutes ride from Tokyo station.
The Shibuya Neighborhood
- JR: Yamanote Line, Saikyo Line, Shonan-Shinjuku Line, Narita Express.
- Private Railways: Fukutoshin Line, Hanzomon Line, Ginza Line, Tokyu Toyoko Line.
- Tokyu Den-en-toshi Line, Keio Inokashira Line.
Straight up north from Shibuya station lies Yoyogi park, one of the most popular parks in Tokyo. It is a welcome breath of fresh air in the middle of the big city and popular destination for tourists and locals alike, always full of people enjoying a lazy day in the park.
During spring the park is crowded with people enjoying hanami (cherry blossom viewing parties) and in summer the south area of the park hosts festivals celebrating different cultures, drawing big crowds of people to the area every weekend.
Yoyogi Park (Credit: ajari)
The entrance of the park is always alive with the sound of laughter and music, and in summer the area around the fountain becomes a popular site for drum circles and street performers, giving a whole new life to the park after the cold season.
Past the pond there is a big open field, and beyond that lies a big Dog Run, an enclosed area where dog owners take their fur babies to socialize. This is also a very popular spot for dog lovers and families since you can sit down for a while and watch the puppies play. There are also plenty of fitness groups that get together in Yoyogi park to get their sweat on. A good example of this is the SOGO Run Club. SOGO is an international fitness community that hold different lessons all over Tokyo.
Located north west of Shibuya station is Kamiyamacho and Yoyogi-Hachiman. Following the small streets up from Shibuya station towards Yoyogi-Hachiman Station and beyond, the streets are lined with small bars, izakayas, funky coffee shops and restaurants.
Tourist usually don’t venture up here so English menus might be few and far between, but just a few words of Japanese and a good attitude usually goes a long way in these kinds of places. To ask for the osusume (the recommendation) is usually a pretty good strategy for the adventourous.
Many of the small bars and restaurants are quite newly opened so the area has a very young and relaxed vibe. The area around Yoyogi-Hachiman station is a bustling small neighborhood, and it’s hard to believe that Shibuya station is just a 20 minute walk away.
Besides restaurants and bars, Yoyogi-Hachiman is a must go place for coffee lovers. There are some really great smaller Coffee Stands as well as more spacious Cafes in this area, making it a place that you can come back to explore again and again, always finding something new.
A local favorite is Little Nap Coffee Stand, located in a seemingly impossibly thin building right by the Odakyu train line leading down from Shinjuku. Their main location, the Little Nap Coffee Roastery, is just south of Yoyogi-Hachiman station, on the main road leading towards Yoyogi-Uehara. They offer the same great coffee and sweet treats, but with more spaces to sit down and relax for a while.
On the main street leading up from Shibuya station up towards Yoyogi-Hachiman is ØL Tokyo (ØL literally meaning “beer” in Norwegian), a stylish Scandinavian Beer bar with a nice and relaxed atmosphere. In the evenings there is often a food truck set up right next to the bar, so that you can enjoy some amazing street food together with your drink. Their Instagram page is always updated with information of upcoming events and what food truck is currently setting up shop next to the bar, so that you never miss the amazing tacos of La Cabina.
To the west of Shibuya station lies Dogenzaka, home of some of Tokyo's best nightlife. Izakayas and Karaoke bars line the main street leading to the club district in Maruyamacho, and in the evenings this area is packed full of people looking for a good time. If you know where you are going however, you can find some great quiet areas away from the crowds.
One place that one might not expect to find great bars in is the so-called “Love Hotel Hill”; an area in Dogenzaka where the streets are lined with the famous Japanese pay-by-the-hour hotels. This area is full of small bars and izakayas, some less savoury than others, but it has a real charm about it and is definitely worth a visit. The area has recently seen some more upscale sake bars opening up as well, giving it a nice mix between modern and old, grunge and sophistication.
Located between a Shinto Shrine and an adult toy store is the Danish brewery Mikeller’s Tokyo location; a two-story yellow building with a great atmosphere and even greater craft beer. The interior is modern, untreated concrete walls and dark wood, and the music just loud enough so that you can feel it in your chest without making conversation impossible.
Shibuya is full of good co-working spaces, and there is something for everyone.
co-ba Shibuya is located by Shibuya station New South Gate, and costs 2000 yen for one day and access between 10am and 7pm, which also includes WiFi and free drinks.
If you are looking for a more permanent office, co-ba Shibuya is also a great option, since memberships are available from 10,000/month. The cheapest option will get you access to the Shibuya office space on weekends and weekday nights. One price class up, 15,000 yen/month, buys you access to all the Co-ba office spaces in Japan with 24h access but like the cheaper option, you will not have your private desk. For 40,000 yen/month you can rent your own office space with free access to conference rooms and entry to any location in Japan.
A very useful website for finding a coworking space of a good café with WIFI is Coworking.Coffee. As well as searching for cafés or coworking spaces, you can add your own spots to share with others. The locations are rated out of five stars for quietness, coziness, kindness, community, and wifi. It’s a very helpful tool for finding a place to work on the fly, or just if you happen to be in a new area in need of a quiet space with WIFI.
Another more unexpected location for a co-working space is the Shibuya Tourist Center. It is located in Shibuya Mark City, and offers access to a quiet space with WIFI and outlets for 100 yen/15 minutes. The tourist center is also a great place to learn about local festivals and events.
Shibuya may be one of Tokyo's liveliest neighrbohoods, but it also offers its share of peace and quiet. You just need to know where to look!