A Vibrant City
Shibuya is actually one of the 23 wards of Tokyo, but often refers to the city and area around Shibuya station. Largely a commercial and entertainment district, Shibuya is a vibrant, trendsetting place that is constantly in motion. Over the last 30 years, it has grown to become the center of Japan’s popular youth culture. It is no surprise that in a town where department stores, record shops, discount stores, restaurants and bars abound the pursuit of shopping is like an Olympic sport.
Shibuya is also famous for one the of the world’s busiest intersections – Hachiko Square which is directly in front of Shibuya Station. It uses a four-way stop to allow pedestrians to inundate the entire intersection while watching J-pop videos on 3 giant TV screens which practically cover the buildings facing the crossing. Surprisingly, in a town this busy, one can still find some quiet, upmarket neighborhoods like Shoto and Yoyogi.
A Brief History
Yoyogi and Shoto
The area of Yoyogi and Shoto grew prosperous as a garden suburb in the 1920s and 30s after new rail lines were built out from central Tokyo. It was the Japanese families of Uehara who kept and preserved it as an area of residential greenery. The area became popular among foreign residents in 1978, after the Chiyoda subway line was completed connecting Yoyogi Uehara to Tokyo making it possible to commute to Otemachi, one of Tokyo’s major financial centers, in under 20 minutes.
The year 1964 was not only the year of the Olympics in Tokyo, but also the year that a fierce department store war broke out in Shibuya. Thus began the development of one of Tokyo’s most famous and active shopping districts. This area, previously monopolized by the Tokyu Railway Company, saw new competitors move in forcing Tokyu to quickly respond by further investing and building even more department stores like the legendary “Shibuya 109″ just up the street from Hachiko.
Hachiko Square, next to Shibuya station, got its name from a faithful dog that once waited by the station. As the legend goes, Hachiko would wait everyday in the same spot for his master to return home from work. Hachiko faithfully waited by the station year after year, and night after night. Even years after his master had long passed away he faithfully waited. When Hachiko died on March 8th 1935, many hearts were touched. Today a statue of Hachiko resides in the square named after him and it has become the most famous meeting place in the city.
The Residential Neighborhoods
Yoyogi Uehara, Tomigaya, Oyamacho, Nishihara
These quiet residential neighborhoods offer apartments and spacious single-family homes with gardens along wide tree-lined streets – all this just a short distance from Yoyogi park and Meiji Shrine. These neighborhoods are ideal for families and individuals looking for gracious suburban living mixed with the charm of small, quaint shopping streets. Commuting to the business district of Otemachi and other parts of Tokyo is ideal via the Chiyoda and Odakyu Lines. Yoyogi Uehara is popular with families who have children attending the American School in Japan (ASIJ). It offers the shortest bus ride on the ASIJ bus route being the last stop in the morning and the first stop at night.
Certainly one of the best parts of living in Shoto is the easy access to Yoyogi Park – western Tokyo’s version of “Central Park”, which is a great place to enjoy the outdoors. Shoto is a small exclusive neighborhood very close to Shibuya Station. Expect very high rents in this area, for Shoto has historically been the prestigious address with many exceptional Japanese and western style residences. The area, of course, is great for shopping and dining being minutes from Shibuya, or a short taxi ride away from neighboring Daikanyama. Shoto offers easy access to the rest of the city through the major hub of Shibuya Station, (JR Yamanote line, Ginza, Hanzomon Subway lines). It is also on the bus route for ASIJ and very close to the British School.
Shopping & Recreation
The defining characteristic of this area is clearly Yoyogi Park, the largest park and green space in Tokyo, which is also surrounds Tokyo’s famous Meiji Shrine. On warm weekends, the paths and sidewalks of the park and shrine are packed with tourists and residents. It is a place to enjoy jogging, sunbathing, picnics and watching live musicians. Residents is the area can easily enjoy some of the city’s best shopping and dining in Shibuya or Shinjuku. The popular weekend destinations of Daikanyama, Omotesando, and Harajuku are only a short taxi ride, walk, or train ride away.