Where better place to take a toddler than the world’s busiest intersection? Welcome to Shibuya, the western gateway from Tokyo’s suburbs to the city.
The Scramble Intersection – Shibuya
The “Scramble Intersection” is the number one reason that tourists travel to Shibuya. That may seem like a strange reason to travel somewhere, but the crossing event that happens every few minutes is a sight to behold!
We arrived at about 9.30. Normally I would be thrilled to arrive at a tourist attraction and find it less busy than expected, but when the whole point of the attraction is to see how busy it is, arriving at a quiet time is a little disappointing.
Then again, when one has a particularly active toddler in tow, one is never too disappointed by a lack of crowds. Emma was also thankful, she didn’t really understand why I had dragged her to such a spot, especially when I had dragged her there four years earlier.
I went and took some photos while Emma gave Hannah a snack in the comfort of her RECARO stroller. There’s no doubt that the food tray has been well-used on our Japan adventures!
As I watched the movement of people across the intersection, it occurred to me that about half of them were Japanese people, living their daily life. The other half were tourists like me, who had come to the crossing for the purpose of photographing people crossing the crossing.
I wondered briefly when the last time was that a single phase of the lights went un-photographed… then the lights changed and I too did my bit to record another mundane moment at a photogenic crossing.
The Statue of Hachiko – Shibuya
The crossing isn’t the only interesting part of Shibuya. There are a few other curiosities around to make the trip worthwhile. One of these is the statue of Hachiko.
This is a statue of a dog. The story goes that some old bloke used to walk to Shibuya station with his dog every morning. The Dog would then return to the station in the evening to greet his master (what the dog did during the day is anyone’s guess). When old mate died, the dog continued to return to the station every night for the next seven years. There it would wait patiently until the last train had gone.
When the dog died, the locals set up wherever the pre-war equivalent of a Go Fund Me page was, and raised enough money to make the statue.
It’s worth noting that the statue that stands there today is not the original one. That was melted down for its metal during the war. I wonder how those locals would have felt about their precious dog statue being used to make kamikaze aircraft…
Today, the statue serves the dual purposes of resting place for pigeons and mildly interesting background for selfies.
Myth of Tomorrow – Shibuya
Inside the Shibuya station complex is a huge artwork titled Myth of Tomorrow. The work of art has an interesting back story that you can find out about here.
The artwork is impressive. It dominates a huge wall on a concourse between the main part of the station and a neighbouring department store.
Myth of Tomorrow depicts a nuclear explosion. It draws you in with vivid colours, and almost cartoon-like pictures. Yet, as you study the details, you quickly realise how harrowing the scene is.
I stood and admired the stunning artwork for several minutes. Eventually I turned my attention to the hundreds of people walking past. I noted that not one of them looked up to the masterpiece hanging above them.
I wondered if it was because the Japanese experience of nuclear weapons is still to fresh and raw (even after all these years), or perhaps because of the new threat presented by an unstable neighbour. Perhaps it was simply because they were commuters on their way to work and they pass it so often that it doesn’t even register anymore.
The Best Indian Restaurant in Japan – Shibuya
This comes with a disclaimer – I have only ever eaten at one Indian restaurant in Japan. Emma and I discovered it when we were last in Shibuya, four years ago. But we had such good memories of it from that time, that we decided we must go back and see if we could find it again.
I’m pleased to say that we found it first go, without a single wrong turn. I’m also thrilled to say that it was just as tasty as the last time we visited.
The curries they we ordered were spicy and full of flavour, without being “blow your head off” hot. The variety on offer was fairly limited, but there was still enough choice to cater for both Emma and my tastes.
The real hero of the restaurant, however, was not the curry. It was the naan bread. The huge slab on naan was the main event for Hannah, who had already eaten a full lunch. Even with an avocado sandwich under her belt, she still managed to quietly sit and eat half the naan off my plate.
Shibuya has a wealth of shops, entertainment, eateries and Pachinko parlours. Some of it is high-class, other parts look sleazy and run down. We went in neither, as Hannah had been fully worn out by running around the station and eating two lunches.
Hannah was comfortably fast asleep in her stroller, so we set off for a short hike to Yoyogi Park. She even slept solidly as we walked past the Disney store, which was belting out hits from classic Disney films.
Shibuya was well worth the visit. It doesn’t offer a lot that is of interest to small toddlers, but it is an integral cultural destination for anyone who wants to visit the things that make Tokyo… Tokyo.