Jennifer Tijssen has loved Japanese culture for as long as she can remember. It started out with children’s animation shows but soon branched out to include all that this lovely country has to offer. Having studied Japanese language and culture in university, she came to Japan in 2022 fully equipped to experience the country. Her interests include cuisine, design, sociology and flora and fauna.
Shibuya Center-Gai, just across the street from Shibuya Station, is a hub for fashion, music and nightlife entertainment. Upon exiting Shibuya Station you will be met by the hustle and bustle of Shibuya Crossing, and after entering the street just to the left of the Tsutaya and Starbucks signs, you’ll find yourself in Shibuya Center-Gai. In addition to the main street, this extensive area includes a plethora of side alleys and backstreets as well, so make sure to set enough time aside to explore it all!
Shibuya Center-Gai was originally a road built on dikes over the Udagawa River, the name of which is still found in some addresses in the area. Now the river has been replaced with countless stores, restaurants, clubs and attractions, so let’s take a look at 10 of the best things to do when visiting Shibuya Center-Gai.
- 1. Traverse Shibuya Crossing
- 2. Shop for Clothes
- 3. Play at an Arcade
- 4. Chill at a cafe
- 5. Drink at an Izakaya
- 6. Take Some Great Pictures
- 7. Eat Conveyor Belt Sushi
- 8. Shop at Tokyu Hands
- 9. Try Purikura
- 10. Eat Ramen
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1. Traverse Shibuya Crossing
An obvious number one: taking in the famous Shibuya Crossing, known as one of the world’s busiest pedestrian crossings. At its busiest, as many as 3000 people cross this intersection when the light changes from red to green! The crossing has been featured in numerous movies, television shows and video games, and it doesn’t fail to amaze in real life, too. The Starbucks overlooking the crossing is one of the busiest Starbucks stores in the world as it offers great views of the crossing below. Be sure to take in the large TV screens that surround the crossing and promote the newest music, video games and movies.
2. Shop for Clothes
Shopping is one of the main draws of Shibuya Center-Gai, and you’ll find no shortage of clothing stores. Popular chains as well as eccentric and unique shops are located here, and don’t forget to check out the many stores that are hidden in underground venues or in huge multi-story buildings. Tokyo is known as one of the most fashionable cities in the world, and with the options in Shibuya Center-Gai alone, you’ll be spoiled for choice.
3. Play at an Arcade
Arcades are lively and entertaining places to visit for children and adults alike. Inside, you can find a broad collection of arcade games, including crane games, racing games, shooting games, fighting games, retro arcade games, rhythm games and purikura booths (more on those later). Part of the fun is spotting the fans of particular games who have truly perfected the playing skills for their favorite pastime. In the evening, it’s not uncommon to see office workers standing shoulder to shoulder with high school students, all frantically going at the rhythm games, and all being amazingly good at it. In most arcades, you will need 100 yen coins to operate the machines, but there are usually coin exchange terminals available. Try not to get too addicted to the games, there’s many more things to spend your time on in Shibuya!
4. Chill at a cafe
Besides the Starbucks overlooking Shibuya Crossing, there are many more cafes to be found once you enter the area around Shibuya Center-Gai. This includes some rather unusual and unique options such as animal and even maid cafes, but there’s also lots of more traditional places for you to rest and enjoy a nice cup of coffee or tea accompanied by Japanese sweets.
5. Drink at an Izakaya
In Shibuya, there’s no lack of opportunities to have a drink and some delicious bar snacks with it. The concept of an izakaya is ordering drinks and small-sized dishes in a steady stream all night. Going to an izakaya is the Japanese way to meet up with friends or co-workers to eat, drink and have fun. They are a great way to sample some typical Japanese dishes, as well as a good opportunity to mingle with the locals. Japan is very much known to be a polite and buttoned-up country, but at an izakaya the facade crumbles and people tend to loosen up, so make the most of this chance to interact with the Japanese’s true selves!
6. Take Some Great Pictures
There is a reason this area of Tokyo is so frequently featured in movies and other media: it is incredibly photogenic. The neon lights, the vertical sign boards on the buildings, the clean streets, the fashionable people, the red lanterns swinging from the izakaya storefronts – it all adds to the area’s unique atmosphere. On rainy days, Shibuya takes on a whole different look with the city lights prettily reflected in the puddles. Whatever the weather, it is guaranteed that you will be able to take great pictures to share with people back home.
7. Eat Conveyor Belt Sushi
Although Shibuya Center-Gai is known to house a wide variety of international restaurants, you can of course never go wrong with Japanese cuisine. If you’re looking to sample some good-quality sushi at affordable prices, check out the conveyor belt sushi restaurants (kaiten sushi or kaitenzushi). Order from a screen and watch your sushi arrive momentarily on the conveyor belt. This combination of novel technology, affordability and high food quality will never disappoint.
8. Shop at Tokyu Hands
Have you really been to Japan if you haven’t visited a Tokyu Hands shop? If you’re unfamiliar with the brand, Tokyu Hands is a one-stop shop with many unique Japanese products, including homeware and DIY products. You can find plenty of great examples of Japanese design and innovations on the many floors of the popular Tokyu Hands branch in Shibuya. A great place to go shopping for souvenirs or gifts!
9. Try Purikura
We alluded to purikura earlier in this article when we were talking about arcades, but these photo booths deserve an explanation of their own. In a purikura photo booth there is generally room for up to four people, so feel free to bring your travel companions inside the booth with you. Strike some poses as the booth takes your pictures, and then the real fun begins! Purikura is a type of photo editing that will instantly dial up the cuteness of any picture. Eyes are comically enlarged and skin is smoothed and blurred. You can add a bright, colourful background and sparkle effects. Add some cute blush and animal ears while you’re at it. Lastly, cover the picture with stickers and slightly nonsensical English phrases and print out your most unique souvenir yet.
10. Eat Ramen
Shibuya is well known for its fantastic ramen, and there is no shortage of ramen restaurants around here. A great option is the chain store ‘Ichiran Ramen’ – pick your favorite ramen from the terminal at the entrance, tweak it to your liking and pay for your meal ticket. When you sit down and hand over your ticket to the staff, they will prepare your dish right away. The main store in Shibuya is always packed and will have long queues, but the other store in Center-Gai tends to be way quieter without compromising on the famous Ichiran quality, so definitely stop there to get your ramen fix.
With everything above and more to offer, Shibuya Center-Gai could easily become your new favorite spot in Tokyo. What are you looking forward to the most?
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