11 things you can only do in Shibuya
Shibuya’s appeal for many ends a couple hundred feet out of the JR station--see the dog statue, the Moai and gawk at the billboards and giant LED ads wooing your attention as you approach the iconic Scramble crossing--then hop on the Yamanote train for the next adventure. But the area is host to some of the most vibrant nightlife and unique attractions, many off the major streets.
Here are 11 selected by resident foodies, partygoers and socialites who call Shibuya their playground, including bars, clubs, and sightseeing spots.
1. Sound Museum Vision (nightclub)
Photo: Sound Museum Vision
Sound Museum Vision at the heart of Shibuya throbs to the beat of your choice. Walk down the stairs of the nondescript entrance and the place expands to a cavernous, 1500-person capacity venue with four different floors: the largest Gaia dance floor makes the walls shudder with everything from EDM to mainstream hip-hop; Deep Space features more obscure artists for an underground vibe; White and D Lounge are more for relaxing with sofas and bar counters.
It’s an unpredictable chemical reaction combining the world’s leading artists, DJs and VJs.
Address: B1F Shin-Taisou Building, 2-10-7 Dogenzaka, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Phone number: 03-5728-2824
Credit Cards: VISA, Master, AMEX, Diners
2. Far Yeast Tokyo (craftbeer bar)
For craftbeers in Shibuya, there are three main spots: Mikkeller in hipster Dogenzaka, ØL Tokyo in the northern "Okushibu" neighborhood, and Far Yeast Tokyo in the east side. While the former see lots of traffic from overseas visitors, Far Yeast Tokyo is more chillaxed with appetizing food entries like Bao, which is like a pork bun, but filled to the brim with ingredients like crunchy tempura.
Brews variants aren't as overwhelming but still include a nice range of beers, from the light and fruity Tokyo White to my favorite, Kagua Rouge--a deep, full-bodied amber ale with a balanced, roasted flavor.
Address: 2 Chome-6-8 Shibuya, Shibuya-ku, Tōkyō-to 150-0002
Budget: ¥ - ¥¥ (From ¥ - ¥¥¥¥)
3. RAW Tokyo (farmer’s market)
Photo: RAW TOKYO
While Harajuku and Shibuya are known for street fashion, it’s hard to find or hit all the small boutiques that pepper the neighborhood. RAW Tokyo, held on the first weekend of the month at UN University, is a colorful flea market showcasing indie fashion labels, mom-and-pop shops with wares ranging from urban to bohemian style clothing, shoes and accessories. Whimsical food trucks serve oven-baked foods, or coffee out of an old VW bus.
Address: 53–70, Jingumae 5-chome, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-8925
First weekend of the month
4. Jinnan Ken (restaurant/rooftop bar)
Rooftop bars seem surprisingly elusive in an area full of highrises, and Jinnan Ken offers one of the most elegant ambiance to pair with delicious food that’s a step up from your average izakaya. Even inside it’s a sedate yet refined space, ideal for both larger groups and for intimate dates. Menu options vary from western to wafu-inspired, with some vegetarian options as well. Note that the rooftop is closed during the winter season, and you’ll need to call to reserve and specify the roof/terrace.
Address: Navi Shibuya 9F 1-20-5, Jinnan, Shibuya, Tokyo 150-0041
Phone number: 03-5784-4455
Hours: 11:30am - 3pm; 5:30pm - 11pm (Mon - Sun)
5. Shibuya Club Ball (club and bar)
For those wanting to groove without getting mashed with hundreds of other sweltering, gyrating bodies, Shibuya Club Ball offers a more chilled out space for those who’ve outgrown fog machines and strobe lights. Hand-painted Motown icons adorn the walls in a warm, friendly if smokey atmosphere, and the bar/club peaks in the waning hours, when partygoers want a place to hang out until the trains restart in the morning.
Address: 4-9 Utagawa-cho 4th floor, Shibuya, Tokyo 150-0042
Phone number: 03-3476-6533
6. Harlem (nightclub)
Clubs can be largely divided into two categories--meat markets where you’re on the prowl, and venues where you’re there for the music. Harlem falls into the latter category, and eschews saccharine-laced EDM in favor of rap, R&B and a smidge of reggae, inspired by the club scene in New York City. Popular since the ‘90s with local favorites spinning everything from mainstream artists to underground, it’s even host to old-school rap talent like Dabo or Zeebra, and lives up to its rep as a mecca for Japanese hip-hop.
Address: Dr. Jeekahn’s 2-4, Maruyama-cho, Shibuya, Tokyo 150-0044
Hours: 10pm - 5am (Tue - Sat)
7. Aoyama Tunnel (lounge bar)
Step into what looks like a concrete nuclear bunker and you enter an eclectically styled bar and lounge spinning a variety of genres. Popular amongst Australians but unknown by travelers stateside, it’s a casual yet atmospheric place with inexpensive drinks around 500 yen, and a 500 yen music charge.
Weekdays typically see regulars that unwind after work, and weekends play anything from reggae to jazz to R&B--depending on the patrons and the mood of the DJ.
Address: 4-5-9 Shibuya, Tokyo 150-0002
8. Nabeshima Shoto Park (local park)
Historical and Shibuya are two terms you don’t often hear in conjunction, which makes Nabeshima Shoto Park all the more intriguing. Consisting of a pond, a small old watermill, a zen-esque island in the middle with a bonsai tree, the surprisingly serene yet modest park boasts beautiful cherry blossoms in the spring, and vibrant momiji in the fall. It’s a short walk from Shinsen station, and a pleasant reprieve if you’re wandering the west side of Shibuya station.
Address: 2-10-7 Shoto, Shibuya, Tokyo
9. Hikarie, ninth floor vantage point
Budding photogs frequently converge at Shibuya’s scramble, and selfie sticks poke above the throngs of pedestrians like mechanical dorsal fins to find that Instagrammable shot. But for those with zoom lens or who just want a peaceful (and free) vista, head over to the seventh floor of Hikarie, where people sometimes squat on the carpet to mingle while gazing at the neon-lit skyline. It’s a nice break from the souvenir shopping you can do at the d47 design travel store on the eighth floor.
Address: 2 Chome-21-1 Shibuya, Tokyo 150-8510
Hours: 10am - 9pm
10. Shibuya indoor botanical garden
The obscure Shibuya Ward Fureai Shokubutsu Center is off the beaten path even for Japanese, but the quaint spot that comes to life during summer, when it’s host to a week-long firefly exhibit hosting hundreds of iconic hotaru. Otherwise it serves as a rare respite from the chaos outside; the small garden has over 200 types of plants, costs only 100 yen to enter, and outside food and drinks are allowed so you can have your own intimate picnic since it’s not frequented or well known.
Free barley tea is also a nice touch, especially when it's muggy outside.
Hotaru emit a pale green light, as seen in this shot in a hotaru festival (Photo: Tranpan23 | Flickr)
Address: 2 Chome-25-37 Higashi, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-0011
Hours: 10am - 6pm (Tues - Sun)
11. T4 Tokyo (restaurant, bar, ping pong, mixed reality)
Photo: T4 Tokyo
Recreational table tennis is usually found in amusement megaplexes as an afterthought, but it’s the centerpiece at T4 Table Tennis, complete with a ping-pong-themed bar, restaurant, shop and even a mixed reality game that projects a gaming grid onto the table. You won’t see the usual frayed rackets or sagging tables found divey joints here, and there are even trained professionals to give you guidance, with special cameras to analyze your swing and technique.
Food comes from renowned local venues, like wagyu beef from Tokyo Cowboy and dairy from Shibuya Cheese Stand.
Address: 1 Chome-12-16 Jinnan, Shibuya, Tokyo 150-0041
Hours: 11am - 11:30pm (Mon - Sun)
Budget: ¥ - ¥¥ (From ¥ - ¥¥¥¥)
Lead image by Sound Museum Vision