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The Sensation of the Shibuya Scramble

September 20, 2019

From 1972-1973, the author lived in Yokohama, Japan and most every workday in the country hopped a neighborhood train, transferred to a high-speed commuter train, disembarked in Shibuya station and grabbed a taxi to the office in Tokyo. Shibuya was just a stop on the way to and from work that did not merit much attention. However, in today’s world, the huge train station has become a tourist highlight that begins and ends with the “Shibuya Scramble.” The Shibuya Tourism Association created a new fad which is to experience the crossing of a multi-directional street crossing. Every time the light changes some 3,000 pedestrians cross the intersection in a reasonably organized manner as shown below. You would have to believe that it could be one of the most famous street crossings in the world on social media.

At ground level, it looks pretty daunting and perhaps even combative but an elevated view is even more impressive.

The fact that 3,000 people are continually crossing an intersection in a district that has a total area of 5.8 square miles is amazing. By way of comparison, King and Kenedy counties in Texas have a combined land mass of over 2.8 thousand square miles and only 713 residents. What would one of those Texans think about life in Shibuya. As Shibuya has very little of cultural interest or historical treasures, the tourist promoters created their own attractions -- one of which is the crossing. Maps highlight points of interest that would appeal to all ages, particularly children.

Originally, underground food shops connected with the terminal so commuters could pick up something to take home. Travelling during rush hour precluded any dining in route as pushers were employed to cram people into what most anyone would think was a packed train car. These days the shops have become far more sophisticated presenting traditional Japanese food as well as many western dishes and providing small dining areas so they can be eaten to build strength for the arduous train ride ahead.

Moreover, shopping has developed to a new level of sophistication with Shibuya now leading the list of tourist spending. It accounts for more than 10% of total expenditures for all other combined domestic municipalities. Shibuya has become a fashion center and home for nightlife. As a large number of tourists transit Shibuya en route to either the Haneda or Narita airport, it does get a lot of traffic.

Shibuya has come a long way since the image was taken below - which even preceded the author’s time of commuting. On the other hand, who is to say what era might have been more interesting-today or 67 years ago? The Texans in King and Kenedy counties would probably say neither one was appealing. In actual fact, the author is more favorably disposed to life in those two counties.

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