Shibuya transformed

24 Feb 2020 in Have Fun

Tokyo’s bustling hub is welcoming new skyscrapers, panoramic rooftops and a regenerated river. Discover all!

shibuya

If you’ve ever been to Tokyo, chances are you’ve been to Shibuya. The station is a major transport hub and the area makes for fascinating people-watching thanks to the hordes of shoppers, trendsetters and cosplay aficionados who come here for the nightlife and fashion scene. Filled with flashing neon banners, immense TV screens and booming sound systems, Shibuya is a classic Tokyo experience – capped by the celebrated mayhem of its scramble crossing.

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Head to Shibuya today, though, and you may be in for a few surprises. Over the last few years, the area has undergone a major transformation – and it’s set to change further by 2027. The station has been radically rethought to make life easier for passengers and free up space for new buildings.

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Cutting-edge tech companies have started to move in. An underground river has been reopened. And the square housing the iconic Hachiko statue is due to be significantly expanded.

We take a look at what’s changed – and what you can expect on your next trip to Tokyo.

Ambitious vision

The project to transform Shibuya started over 10 years ago. The aim? First, to improve the flow of people in and around the station, which serves 1 billion passengers annually.

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The other major aim? To make Shibuya a leading centre for international business and technology innovation. That’s why the skyline is currently being filled with new multi-purpose skyscrapers housing shared workspace, offices, shops and restaurants of all descriptions.

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The ultimate objective is “for people to think of Shibuya in the same way they do London, Paris and New York”, according to the mayor of the Shibuya ward, Ken Hasebe.

Underground activity

In the last few years, Shibuya’s subway train lines have been reshuffled and revamped.

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The Ginza Line, Tokyo’s oldest, was recently reopened on a newly-created platform with a designer roof shaped like a wavy “M”. The Tōkyū Tōyoko Line was moved from the second floor to the fifth. The Saikyō Line was relocated 350 metres north, and the Yamanote line is being rebuilt as an island platform.

By resituating platforms and placing pedestrian walkways on multiple levels, the new-look station optimizes space – allowing developers to expand the famously-crowded Hachiko square on the north-west side of the station.

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It is here that you’ll find the statue of Hachiko, a dog who loyally waited here for his owner to arrive home from work in the 1920s and 30s, continuing to wait every day long after his master had died.

Riverside regeneration

The building spree around the station began with Shibuya Hikarie, a 183-metre multi-purpose tower opened in 2012.

Nearby, the 39-storey Shibuya Stream was inaugurated in 2018 alongside the little-known Shibuya River. Back in the 1960s, the city covered over many of its waterways to build roads.

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One victim of this policy was the Shibuya River, which has now been reopened, rejuvenated and lined with a tree-planted pedestrian promenade. Alongside it stands Shibuya Stream, a place to relax, eat, shop and work.

Changing skyline

In 2019, another three skyscrapers joined the party.

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Shibuya Scramble Square is already a major tourist attraction thanks to its 360° open-air observation deck dubbed “Shibuya Sky”. At 230 metres high, it offers unobstructed views of scramble crossing, the Tokyo skyline, and, on a clear day, Mt. Fuji.

On top of the usual mix of shops and restaurants, Shibuya Scramble Square houses more office space than any other building in Tokyo. It’s already sparked a return of major tech companies and incubators to the area, strengthening Shibuya’s claim to be Tokyo’s “bit valley”.

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In November 2019, Shibuya Parco reopened after major reconstruction, a combination of luxury stores, art galleries and a whole floor for fans of gaming and manga. A couple of weeks later, the 18-storey Shibuya Fukuras unveiled its mix of co-working spaces, restaurants, shops – and a hologram version of Hachiko that you can control via a tablet!

Urban vibe

Planning to visit the new-look Shibuya? Hoshino Resorts OMO5 Tokyo Otsuka is direct on the Yamanote Line – and the hotel’s vibe is similarly contemporary, if a little less hectic than Shibuya!

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It’s a great chance to get to know authentic Tokyo thanks to the OMO Rangers, who will take you out to discover local bars and restaurants you may never dare enter on your own. What better way to complete your urban Tokyo experience?

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