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You’ve probably heard of ‘Shibuya’ and ‘Harajuku’ but what kind of places are they?
The Shibuya-Harajuku area is the true can’t-miss spot for visitors to Tokyo. Both neighborhoods are within a 25 minute train ride of Tokyo Station and are popular with tourists from both in and out of Japan.
Shibuya is a neighborhood of mysterious contrasts. The streets surrounding the station are home to many buildings, ranging from boutiques to offices and schools. Head a bit deeper, however, and you’ll find a luxury housing district. On weekdays, the streets are filled with office workers and students, while on the weekends you will find many young people and families.Dick Thomas Johnson/Flickr
Harajuku, on the other hand, is the neighborhood that gave birth to Japan’s kawaii (cute) culture. Home to famous shopping avenues like Takeshita Doori and Omotesando, the area’s shops and residents overflow with individuality.
Both Shibuya and Harajuku are perfect places to take a photo that will surely stand out on your social networking feed. Below, we’ll introduce you to some of the best spots to do just that.
1. Scramble Crossing [Shibuya]
For most people, the first thing that comes to mind when they think of Shibuya is the “scramble crossing”. The best place to see and cross this famous intersection is by exiting from the Hachiko exit of Shibuya station. At its peak, the intersection is crossed by as many as 3,000 pedestrians during a single green light. No wonder it’s been called the biggest pedestrian crossing in the world. While you can easily take photos of the crossing from the street, we recommend ascending to the Starbucks on the second floor of the TSUTAYA building, where you can enjoy coffee and pick out the perfect angle.
In recent times, yearly events like Halloween and New Year’s Eve have seen the area around the station become flooded with pedestrians to the point that you can’t even move.
Even during non-event times, you’ll find scores of pedestrians crossing in every direction. The rush can be disconcerting, but if you’re in Shibuya, you should definitely try the crossing at least once! It looks amazing from all photographic angles!
2. Center Gai [Shibuya]
Walk straight after crossing the Shibuya scramble crossing and you’ll find Center Gai, a district that is wall to wall full of restaurants, bars, and apparel shops. With an especially high concentration of ramen shops and izakaya bars, it’s the perfect place to enjoy a meal and get great photos at the same time. The area is full of energy and at night, your camera will love the colorful neon signs extending as far as the eye can see.
3. Hakuri Tabai Hanbey (薄利多賣半兵ヱ)
If you want a deeper Shibuya experience, the kind you won’t find in a guidebook, check out Hakuri Tabai Hanbey, an izakaya which recreates the atmosphere of Japan’s Showa Era (1970-1980). It is a restaurant overflowing with nostalgia where you can sample meals and drinks from the Japan of decades past. Particular care has been paid to the interior, with old-fashioned posters covering the walls and tin-sheet toys laid out as decorations.
Beyond the atmosphere inside, you’ll also get to try popular Japanese finger foods like kushiyaki skewered meat and fish (50 yen~) , oden (60 yen), sashimi (190 yen), and photogenic cocktails complete with floating rubber duckies.
You’ll be pleased to note they have two locations in Shibuya alone.
[About Hakuri Tabai Hanbey (Shibuya Center Gai Udagawacho Koban Tonari Location)]
Opening Hours: 5:00PM~12:00AM (Sunday~Thurs) 5:00PM~3:00AM (Fri, Sat, Days before holidays)
Closed: No regular holidays
Access: Five minute walk from Shibuya Station, Hachiko Exit, accessible by JR, Subway, and private railroad)
Address: Shinoda Building 2nd Flr, 31-4 Utagawacho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo （Google Map）
HP:www.hanbey.com (Japanese only)
4. Harajuku Station [Harajuku]
Now, let’s move on to the Harajuku area. The first place we’d like to introduce is Harajuku Station itself, a wooden building with two stories that possesses more history and character than nearly any other station in the city. The station is also connected to the precincts of Meiji Jingu, a traditional shrine surrounded by beautiful forestry that gives the neighborhood an entirely different atmosphere from Shibuya.
Of course the greenery of the station is extremely photogenic when shot beneath the blue sky, but also try taking a shot in the evening when the crowds die down and the station’s old-fashioned appearance comes to the forefront. It is truly a station that changes faces throughout the day so be sure to turn around and take a look as you exit the train.
5. MOSHI MOSHI BOX [Harajuku]
Believe it or not, this wall-mounted clock stuffed with kawaii items is actually part of the neighborhood’s tourist information center! You can find the facility by taking the Takeshita Doori exit at the Yamanote Line’s JR Harajuku Station, crossing at the Takeshita-guchi intersection, and walking straight down the left-hand side. You’ll enjoy not only the kawaii exterior, but also find information on sights in the Harajuku area, free Wi-Fi, electrical outlets, and services like luggage-forwarding.
[About MOSHI MOSHI BOX]
Opening Hours: 10:00AM~6:00PM
Closed: No regular holidays
Access: Eight minutes from the Takeshita exit of JR Harajuku Station, accessible via the Yamanote Line
Address: 3-23-5 1F Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo （Google Map）
6. Harajuku Art Object [Harajuku]
This art object spells the kanji characters for Harajuku and is found on the wall beside ABC Mart, in turn located on the right hand side of Takeshita Doori. It is a hidden spot unknown even to many Japanese people! As the characters are in kanji, it is a great place for a photo announcing your arrival in Japan.
[About Harajuku Art Object]
Access: Five minute walk from Takeshita Exit of Harajuku Station, accessible via the Yamanote Line
Address: 1-9-18 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo（Google Map）
These spots range from the famous to hidden corners unknown even to locals, providing everything you need to get the perfect shot. All of these locations are within short walking distance of the station and easy to find, so don’t miss your chance! And of course, you should make sure you get shots at the staples of both areas like Shibuya 109, Takeshita Doori, and Omotesando!