Guide to Shibuya, Ginza, Shinjuku and Harajuku
Tokyo offers visitors a seemingly unlimited choice of shopping, entertainment, culture and dining. Shibuya, Ginza, Shinjuku and Harajuku are regarded as Tokyo’s best neighborhoods, and it is hard to tell whether one is better than another.
Shibuya is known as an area for young people, while Ginza has no shortage of top-class sushi. Watch beautiful sunsets and spot Mt Fuji from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building in Shinjuku, or buy a lovely souvenir for friends at Takeshita Dori in Harajuku.
If you are not sure where to go, read on for some useful information about these suburbs.
- Shop till you drop at Tokyo’s biggest downtown shopping areas like Shibuya and Shinjuku.
- Shibuya is one of the main areas in Tokyo you need to visit.
- Stroll around Ginza's main thoroughfare on weekends, as it has become a “pedestrian paradise”.
- West of the station is Shinjuku's skyscraper district, home to many of Tokyo's tallest buildings.
- Takeshita Dori is an icon of Harajuku and the birthplace of many of Japan's fashion trends.
Shibuya, Ginza, Shinjuku and Harajuku
Shibuya usually refers to the busy commercial area around Shibuya Station. The most popular part of it for youth is Center Gai Street, directly across from the Hachiko Exit of Shibuya Station and the famous Shibuya Crossing.
Center Gai and the surrounding area is very explorable, full of street-style clothing shops and youth entertainment spots.
Ginza is an area steeped in history with an air of self-assured elegance. Its main street houses some of Tokyo's original department stores, and many still flock there for peerless service that matches the high-class products on offer.
Ginza's backstreets are primed for adventure in boutique shopping and tiny yet exquisite bistros. Rather than resting on its reputational laurels, Ginza constantly evolves with the times, providing cultured modernity and energy along with old-Tokyo charm.
Shinjuku is one of the most vibrant "nodes" in Tokyo. It is useful to think of two different Shinjuku: East Shinjuku and West Shinjuku. On the east side of Shinjuku Station, you will find all the neon lights, crowds, restaurants and bars that you associate with modern Tokyo.
On the west side are some of the city's tallest high-rise buildings, government offices and hotels. It is a lot of fun to check out both.
Harajuku is home to much of Japan’s youth sub-culture. It is a magnet for cosplayers (costumed role-players) and merchants of cool stuff. It is also home to Tokyo’s best street food, with everything from gourmet popcorn and crepes to burgers and noodles, and a bunch of convenience stores too.
Still confused about where to go? Read on for more useful and interesting information.
|Area||Location (Station)||Shopping and Entertainment||Nearby Attractions|
|Shibuya||Shibuya Station||Fashion, food, music, gadgets, boutiques, department stores.||Hachiko statue, Shibuya Crossing.|
|Ginza||Southeast of JR Yurakucho Station||High-end goods, food, galleries.||Kabukiza Theatre, Ginza Place.|
|Shinjuku||Shinjuku Station||Japanese souvenirs, high-end fashion, izakayas (informal Japanese pubs) and cafes.||Skyscraper District, Shinjuku Gyoen.|
|Harajuku||Harajuku Station||Unique fashion, street food, interesting alleyways.||¥100 shop, Meiji Shrine, Yoyogi Park.|
Shibuya is Tokyo’s most colorful neighborhood, and you will definitely know it from its insanely busy pedestrian crossing, which you just have to cross while you are here. Shibuya is also known for shopping, dining and its many nighttime activities, so it might come as no surprise that this area is quite touristy.
The landmark intersection
The Shibuya Crossing is famous among foreign tourists for being so crowded. Often thousands of people cross at the same time, and half a million people a day cross the intersection. The crossing is just in front of a famous meeting spot Hachiko (a dog statue) outside Shibuya station.
Streets and districts
There are many famous streets and districts in Shibuya such as Center Gai, Koen-dori, and Dogenzaka.
Center Gai, or Sentagai, is a short pedestrian street famous throughout Japan. It tends to attract various subcultures such as gyaru (trend seeking young people, ‘gals’) who view the street as the center of their scene. Center Gai is lined with shops, fast food, izakaya, cafes and other typical Japanese urban attractions such as pachinko (Japanese arcade-style slot machines).
Koen-dori is 450 meters long and stretches from the Marui City Department Store to the Shibuya City offices. The street has many major department stores and fashion boutiques. The NHK or Japanese Broadcasting Corporation and the Yoyogi Park Stadium are here.
Besides having many interesting shops, Koen-dori is also a place where street music and dance performers entertain local and foreign visitors.
Dogenzaka is a famous street in Shibuya lined with restaurants, izakaya, karaoke bars and shops. The street is a reasonably good place to go if you're looking for food and nightlife. It leads to an area known as Love Hotel Hill, with several large nightclubs and concert venues.
Tourists who visit Shibuya almost invariably include shopping on their itinerary. If you have no idea where to go on your first visit to Shibuya’s shopping district, here is a guide for you.
Shibuya 109 is a 10-floor fashion shopping mall loaded with mini-shops where you can buy trendy clothes, extravagant accessories, branded make-up and beauty paraphernalia, and the latest in stylish shoes and boots which are otherwise hard to find in Tokyo.
Shibuya Hikarie is one of the newest shopping malls in Shibuya, famous for its uniquely-themed floors, fashion boutiques, and house-ware outlets. The mall also hosts a variety of restaurants.
Seibu is a 10-floor ladies’ and men’s fashion department store, divided into two adjacent buildings. Wing A concentrates on ladies’ fashion and accessories, while Wing B sells men’s and children’s fashion and accessories.
Within the perimeter of Shibuya Koen-doori is the famous Disney Store, based on a Disney Fantasy Gate concept design. The Disney-themed shop sells original Disney merchandise of well-known characters from series such as Mickey and Friends, Pooh and Friends, Disney Princesses, and Disney-Pixar animated films.
Don Quijote, popularly known as “Donki,” is a one-stop miscellaneous shopping mall dedicated to selling anything eccentric and unique. It is one of Japan’s largest discount stores and offers items at reasonable prices.
Points of interest
There are many places of interest in Shibuya beyond the famous Shibuya Crossing, such as the Hachiko Statue, Bunkamura, sushi bars and Sakuragaika-Cho.
The statue of Hachiko is a popular meeting place, right in front of the Shibuya train station. For those who are aware of Hachiko's story, this is a great place to take a photo and celebrate man's best friend.
Bunkamura is one of the largest cultural hubs in the city, in the fashionable district of Shibuya. First opened in 1989, the entertainment complex boasts a creative space, a theater, a museum, a concert hall, and numerous shops and restaurants.
No trip to Shibuya, where there are lots of good sushi bars, should be made without enjoying the classic sushi. Head over to a posh sushi place and feel free to interact with the itamae (sushi chef); or if you are in a hurry, go instead to a sushi-take away.
Once you have had enough of Shibuya's fast-paced life, it may be time to chill out in Sakuragaoka-cho, a quiet street dotted with cherry trees, eateries and cafes. The street tends to get very busy during the sakura (cherry-blossom) season. Why not go there for an afternoon to people-watch, while enjoying matcha drinks and desserts?
Getting to Shibuya is pretty simple and easy. Tokyo Station may be a starting point for many travelers. Travel the JR Yamamote line bound for Shinagawa/Shibuya. It takes around 24 minutes.
Ginza is one of the oldest downtown areas in Tokyo, with famous department stores, many brand-name stores, various restaurants and cafes. You can also find many galleries there.
Upmarket shopping and entertainment
Ginza’s main street, “Chuo Dori”, is approximately 1 km long and is lined with massive department stores, boutiques, and souvenir stores. It’s the best place to shop for both Japanese and international brands. Below are some of the most popular and famous department stores in Ginza.
Tokyu Plaza Ginza opened in March 2016. It sells products from some of the world’s leading brands, as well as the best-known Japanese brands. It is a superb place for shopping but also for entertainment. You will love the 6th floor and the rooftop, where entertainment is provided.
The Ginza Wako is a Tokyo landmark and luxury department store with a quiet library-like atmosphere. It is best known for watches, clocks and jewelry. The store also sells men's and women's fashion, house-ware, and tea in a popular tea salon. The top floor of the building is an exhibition space used for art exhibitions and cultural events.
Ginza’s brand-new complex, Ginza Six, is the biggest shopping complex in the district today, offering over 240 fashionable and trendy stores. On its six floors you will find global fashion leaders, including luxury-brand stores.
Points of interest
Ginza is highly-esteemed by everyone in Japan. It is a place where you can find some of the best fashion, gourmet, and beauty goods, and special luxurious ways to spend your time. Following are some of special points of interest in Ginza.
Kabukiza Theatre is one place in Ginza you must visit. It stages regular performances of kabuki, the classical Japanese dance-drama art-form. The theater is directly connected to Higashi-Ginza Station, so you can reach it easily.
Ginza Place opened at the end of September 2016. Located at the main crossroads in Ginza, on one of the most important corners in Tokyo, if not the whole of Japan, Ginza Place has become a new landmark and gateway for the rejuvenation of Ginza.
The Ginza Wako is a department store at Ginza Crossing. Its clock tower is iconic in the neighborhood. It was constructed in 1932 in neo-renaissance style, and is the oldest building in the area.
Ginza is a grid of streets and avenues southeast of JR Yurakucho station. It is about 1.2 km long from northeast to southwest and 0.7 km wide. The center of Ginza is the intersection of Ginza Street and Harumi Avenue, often called "Ginza 4-chome intersection".
A visit to Shinjuku means shopping, eating, and nightlife. Shinjuku has several huge department stores, music stores, and electronics stores, along with hundreds of bars and restaurants catering to every taste imaginable.
There are several districts in Shinjuku worth a visit.
Make your way towards the west of Shinjuku Station and enter the Skyscraper District, home to Tokyo's tallest buildings. If you haven't visited the Tokyo Sky Deck at the Roppongi Hills or the Tokyo Skytree, this is your perfect chance to photograph the mega-metropolis from above.
Kabukicho, a wild place featuring countless bars, nightclubs, love hotels and pachinko parlours, is a mecca for adult entertainment. Many places in Kabukicho are run by Yakuza (gangsters). We would recommend you always check reviews of a place before popping in, just to be on the safe side.
Omoide Yokocho, known as Memory Lane per its literal translation, or Piss Alley per its less conventional nickname, consists of several small alleyways around Shinjuku Station. It is a great place for a quick snack of ramen, sushi or soba.
Attractions and parks
You will never get bored in Shinjuku. Here are some of the main attractions and parks in the neighborhood.
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building in Shinjuku is often visited by tourists for its free observation decks, which provide good panoramic views of Tokyo and beyond. With favorable weather conditions, famous landmarks such as Mount Fuji, the Tokyo Skytree, Tokyo Tower, Meiji Shrine and the Tokyo Dome can be seen from the observatories.
Shinjuku Gyoen is one of Tokyo's largest and most popular parks. Just a short walk from Shinjuku Station, the paid park's spacious lawns, meandering footpaths and tranquil scenery provide a relaxing escape from the busy urban streets around. In spring Shinjuku Gyoen is one of the best places in the city for seeing cherry blossoms.
Shinjuku is home to many themed izakayas and cafes, including Christon Cafe fashioned after a European church of olden times, the Alice in Wonderland Cafe, and many more! If there is a particular anime or style you admire, be sure not to miss it during your stay.
A visit to Shinjuku can seem like a one-stop shopping spree of department stores and megastores, without the high prices of Ginza or the rough and ready areas of Shibuya. If you need souvenirs, tomorrow’s lunch, or just want to go window shopping, Shinjuku is a fantastic place to start. Here are some of the malls.
Isetan department store is easily spotted for its grandeur both inside and out. Here you can find vast arrays of high-end items, from perfume, shoes, suits, and dresses to bags and much more, since this is the flagship store for the brand!
Takashimaya is a great place to go if you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for and just want to wander round, with 15 floors and popular names like Tokyu Hands, Disney and Kinokuniya Books. It has many branches around Japan, but the one in Shinjuku is considered the biggest and most foreigner-friendly.
Odakyu department store is another of our recommendations for shopping in Shinjuku. Here, you can find a variety of products, from Japanese souvenirs to high-end fashion brands. It is located right next to the west exit of JR Shinjuku Station.
JR, Keio, Odakyu, Toei, Tokyo Metro and Seibu all have stations within the Shinjuku Station complex. Shinjuku can be divided into three: west, south, and east of Shinjuku Station.
West exit Shinjuku: major department stores, electronics shopping, skyscraper-area (home to business, local government, and Shinjuku's major hotels).
South exit Shinjuku: trendy mid-range to high-end shopping, more spaciousness and room to move.
East exit Shinjuku: Shinjuku-dori Street, accessed directly from the east exit of the station: mid-range to high-class shopping.
Harajuku sits sandwiched between the ultra-urban Shibuya and Shinjuku districts. It is a vibrant neighborhood with many faces – the lush green of Yoyogi Park and peaceful, dense woods surrounding the Meiji Jingu shrine complex coexist with the urban chaos of Takeshita-dori Street and less-crowded backstreets, lined with boutiques and trendy eateries.
Sloping streets and alleyways
You can find many interesting streets and alleyways in Harajuku. Here are some of them.
Omotesando is a large road running from Tokyo Metro Omotesando station to Meiji Jingu temple (currently all the surrounding areas are also called Omotesando). When you walk down the alleys of Omotesando, you will find lots of boutiques, department stores, beauty salons and cafes. If you feel tired, take a break at a local cafe.
Calbee chips, candy floss and crepes await you on Harajuku's Takeshita-dori Street, a pedestrian shopping jungle that is quite the sensory overload, with food and fashion popular among Tokyo's trend-setting youth.
Shopping combines with world-class architecture only in Harajuku. Here are three of the most visited shopping malls there.
Omotesando Hills is an upscale shopping center built along a 250-meter stretch of Omotesando, a trendy shopping area filled with high-end shops. Many of the major internationally-recognized brands feature prominently here, with separate stores for women, men, and children. There are also some restaurants and cafes spread throughout the building.
If you are looking for unique products and low-priced souvenirs, you'll be sure to find what you need in the three-floor ¥100 shop, a prominent landmark on Harajuku's Takeshita-dori shopping street. Daiso makes life easier for international shoppers by offering floor guides in English as well as Japanese.
Since it opened in 1950 in Harajuku, Kiddy Land has been an Omotesando landmark loved by many. Each floor from the first to the fourth is full of items and characters popular both in Japan and abroad. This is a toy store where children can always discover something new.
If you are not a shopaholic or have become tired of shopping, head to the following attractions in Harajuku.
Meiji Shrine (Meiji Jingu) is a large Shinto shrine in Tokyo, built in 1920 to venerate Emperor Meiji (1852–1912), under whose reign Japan became a modern state. Surrounded by the huge Yoyogi Park, Meiji Jingu is in a green setting, almost with a rural feel, making it the most visited religious site in Japan.
Yoyogi Park and the grounds of the adjacent Meiji Jingu Shrine form one of the largest and most easily accessible expanses of greenery in Tokyo. Yoyogi Park's 54 hectares (133 acres) contain a variety of landscape, from sunny lawns with ponds and fountains, to flower gardens and shady groves.
Harajuku Station is a railway station operated by East Japan Railway Company (JR East). It has two platforms. One is the Yamanote Line for Shibuya and Shinagawa and the other is the Yamanote Line for Shinjuku and Ikebukuro.
A full-day Tokyo guided tour
See and explore some of the top Tokyo temples, gardens and shopping areas during this one-day tour, perfect for first-time city visitors and those who want to avoid any hassle.
During your Tokyo exploration you’ll marvel at the city’s Meiji Jingu Shrine in Harajuku. Try some unique foods along the way and shop till you drop at one of the biggest shopping malls in Tokyo.
Cross the famous Shibuya intersection and head to the Hachiko statue. Catch a glimpse of Tokyo's rich history on this tour, featuring famous temples, shrines, and areas, and ending in a prime shopping area. As you walk through Ginza district, keep your eyes open for a geisha.
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