Shibuya is a fun and diverse area of Tokyo. It’s centrally located, a great base for your travels and an essential part of the city to spend some time in. We highlight the best things to do in Shibuya together with our top picks on where to eat, play and stay.
Shibuya is one of the 23 special wards that make up Tokyo city. It’s around 15 square kilometres in size and one of the most popular places for locals to spend their spare time and for tourists to visit. It includes some fun and fabulous destinations including Harajuku, Omotesando, Aoyama and the immediate area around Shibuya station often also referred to as Shibuya just to make things a little more confusing.
We are often asked where to stay in Tokyo and this series of articles is intended to help you make the best choice for your personal preferences and requirements. We look at the attractions, foodie highlights and advantages of each to help you make the most of your time in the area and decide whether to base yourself here or just include it as a stop in your Tokyo itinerary.
Read More: Tokyo district guides for Asakusa and Odaiba
Just exploring the highlights would take many days, possibly months but we’ve created a pick list of some of the best things to do in Shibuya, these will help you put together your own itinerary for the area focusing in on what interests you most. To help you use it in creating your own cohesive and efficient plan to see as much as possible in the available time I’ve grouped the suggestions broadly by area including, Shinjuku, Omotesando, Aoyama and Shibuya Station.
Table of Contents
- The best things to do in Shibuya
- Shibuya Crossing
- Yoyogi park
- Meiji Shrine
- Kawaii Monster Cafe
- Nezu museum
- Takeshita Street
- A fabulous little sushi bar
- Hachiko statue
- Get up above the city
- The happy pancake
- Winter illuminations
- Food tour
- Indulge in a cup of latte art at Reissue
- Explore cat street
- Shibuya Kagoshima Ohara Matsuri Parade
- Blooming good morning tea
- Where better to celebrate Halloween
- Shop Shibuya 109
- Grab your fave Starbucks drink and relax on the roof garden
- Where to stay in Shibuya
- Map of our top Shibuya attractions
- Final thoughts on things to do in Shibuya
- More essential Tokyo information
The best things to do in Shibuya
While Shibuya station isn’t Tokyo’s busiest railway station, this multi-directional crossing located right outside it is so intensely busy it’s become an experience you need to have when visiting the city. For someone like me who really isn’t a big city person, it really is quite crazy but I have to admit I enjoyed watching it swarm more from an upstairs window seat at Starbucks in Tsutaya or Hoshino Coffee in Shibuya 109 than being in the heart of it.
There are a variety of lookout points in the surrounding shopping centres and the new Shibuya Sky outdoor viewing deck that opened in late 2019 is now possibly the best view at 229 metres above the street although you have to buy an entry ticket, some of the other options are free, or the price of a coffee.
It all happens in Yoyogi Park. From Elvis impersonating rock and roll dancers to rabbits out walking on leads in their Sunday best, skateboarding dogs, live music and massive Hanami parties in cherry blossom season.
It is one of Tokyo’s biggest parks with expansive lawn areas, huge old shade trees, ponds and forested areas. Although it doesn’t have massive plantings of cherry trees or the autumn colour it does have a dramatic display of both in the right season and is a popular place to visit.
A visit to Harajuku isn’t complete without a stroll through the parks many walking paths enjoying the people watching or relaxing for a while under the trees.
Meiji Shrine is a massive shrine here in central Tokyo. It is named for and honours Emperor Meiji who unified Japan, ended the period of feudal rule and brought Japan into the modern world.
It’s scale and beauty reflect the way the Japanese feel about the Emperor and his consort, Empress Shoken. If you are only going to visit one shrine in Tokyo this is a great choice. It’s a haven in the midst of a chaotic city, the forest of
Read More: Take a look at Meiji Shrine in more detail and we explain some of the customs and etiquette for visiting a shrine
If the kawaii (cute) culture is something you associate with Japan then you will find its home and many of its followers in Harajuku. Although associated strongly with Japan internationally you really only see cosplay to any degree in a small section of Tokyo most notably here in Shibuya.
It was where we went on our very first day in Tokyo, almost 10 years ago. Back then the cuteness (kawaii), Decora and Lolita culture was even more prevalent but there is still plenty of colour, unique fashion and arty colourful food.
The overpass headed towards Meiji Shrine and the station is a popular gathering point if you need to meet anyone but it is also a top spot for Lolita and Goth fashion as is Yoyogi Park a little further on.
Kawaii Monster Cafe
My own style might be minimalist and monochromatic but that doesn’t stop me loving the fun kawaii (cute) culture. The Kawaii Monster Cafe wraps it all up in a dose of energy, sound, colour and lights that must make it impossible for anyone not to have a good time.
There are various sections to sit decorated in fabulous fun colours and designs. We had a booth in front of the stage so had a great view of the show from our table but at other times the ‘monsters’ wander around entertaining and engaging with the audience.
There are a variety of shows and ticket types. In the daytime it’s very family-friendly and operates as a cafe and show, I think maybe it’s more usual for families and groups of friends to go in the daytime but we went as a couple and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Then in the evening, it’s dinner and a show and these sessions are adult-themed.
While I would have loved to go to the Oiran night or cabaret on balance I was happy with our decision to go in the daytime. The food and drinks are as colourful and pretty as you imagine they would be. You definitely want to try them and although they must be full of colouring they tasted pretty good as a snack but I wouldn’t choose it for a full meal.
Check ticket options and prices for Kawaii Monster Cafe
For a complete change of pace head out to Nezu Museum, it’s one of our favourite places in Tokyo and one I could return to over and over again. There are 3 attractions to visit here and it’s hard to pick which I enjoy most.
The curation of the art gallery is next level, it’s absolutely amazing and the exhibitions change regularly. When we were there the special exhibition rooms had Japanese screens painted in intricate detail from the book, The Tale of Genji, the world’s oldest novel. it was particularly timely as we headed to Uji in Kyoto later in that trip, a destination with strong ties to the book.
The second part is the garden. The lush urban garden is created on land purchased by Nezu Kaichirō in 1906, he loved its undulating contours and saw the potential for creating the many natural scenes that exist in it today and unfold with the seasons. Scattered through the garden are some impressive art pieces, many are Buddhist art from across Asia dating back through the centuries. We visited in May when the blue irises were in flower around the ponds which is stunning but this garden has something for every season.
The third highlight is the teahouse, Nezu cafe stands above the garden with glass on three sides allowing great garden views. Their own brand of organic coffee is very popular but I love their tea. There is also a selection of lite meals, cakes and desserts on the menu, it gets especially busy at lunchtime and we had to queue for about 20-minutes for a table but the outlook and service is hard to beat.
Make sure to check the calendar on the official Nezu Museum site when planning as they have irregular days when they don’t open and they close for a week about once a month to switch out major exhibitions.
You’ll find Nezu Museum at 6 Chome-5-1 Minamiaoyama, Minato City, Tokyo
This popular shopping street in Harajuku tends to be crazy busy at any time of day now but it is one of those experiences in Tokyo that most people will want to include. You can get an idea of an average crowd in the photo below, this wasn’t a holiday or anything special.
You might feel that this is a crowd that you’ll only tackle once so you’ve had the experience. I do say ‘never again’ after each visit when we’ve been washed along on the wave of shoppers but I invariably return the next time I’m in Harajuku.
The shopping street is best known for pretty colourful food like the giant rainbow candyfloss, sweet fully loaded waffles and crepes, the Totti candy factory and unicorn gelato.
Not as worthy of the gram but a personal favourite is Zaku Zaku with their elongated choux pastry, it has a crispy texture which is itself unusual but they attribute their difference to the smooth as silk custard filling made of milk from free-range Hokkaido cattle.
A fabulous little sushi bar
Not far from Harajuku station is one of my favourite little modern sushi bars. Gonpachi Nori Temaki. It’s all clean lines, wood and moody lighting. The ingredients are of excellent quality, with deliciously balanced flavour combinations. It’s particularly hard to make your choice but it’s equally difficult to make a bad one.
As the name implies they specialise here in hand-rolled (temaki) sushi. The counter seating faces in towards the chefs in the centre who compile and present your order piece by piece.
The nori (seaweed sheet) is an excellent quality from Maruyama and toasted extra crispy. I love sushi but was surprised at how much of a difference you can taste. Ingredients are then placed on top strategically to prevent softening the seaweed, for visual impact and flavour balance.
This is the only sushi bar I have seen that offers options in the rice used including cauliflower ‘rice’. Together with the ingredients of each being fully detailed on the menu, it makes it ideal for anyone who has dietary limitations.
The menu features traditional flavours, modern adaptations and more western styles but levelled up. For example, the salmon and avocado, something you’ll rarely see in a sushi bar in Japan, was an immaculately cut rectangle of fatty salmon that melted in the mouth paired with creamy smooth avocado.
Read customer reviews of Gonpachi Shibuya on Trip Advisor
“I’ll meet you by Hachiko” is something you’ll hear a lot from people heading out in the Shibuya area. They are referring to a small statue outside exit 8 from Shibuya subway station near Shibuya 109. The statue has more recently been joined by a Hachiko wall that is also pretty cute and a popular selfie spot.
The story of Hachiko is one of loyalty and love. He was an Akita dog and almost 100 years ago now he would walk to the station each day with his owner, a professor, and would be waiting outside when he returned in the afternoon.
In 1925 the professor died while at work and didn’t return to collect Hachiko. Each day Hachiko would return to the station exit to see if his owner was there, he continued to do it every day for almost 10 years until his own death.
Get up above the city
The newest observation deck in the city is Shibuya Sky which opened in November 2019. The skyscraper has an open-air observation deck at the top and a fabulous perspective on the famous crossing below.
From the top you’ll also spot landmarks such as Tokyo Tower, the SkyTree and even Mt Fuji if you are really lucky with a clear day.
It’s open from 9 am until 11 pm on the 46th floor of the Shibuya Sky Building. Entry is via level 14 and tickets cost Y2000 when purchased at the venue or they can be purchased slightly cheaper online.
The happy pancake
Pancakes became popular in Tokyo a few years ago and Japan has created a unique twist on them with the jiggly pancake. These fluffy souffle-like versions are light and airy, they are usually sweet and served with fruit, chocolate sauce and cream but savoury options are available to.
The best ones we found are at a restaurant called The Happy Pancake in Omotesando. Watch out for the sign as it’s located downstairs below street level making it a bit more difficult to spot. We choose to arrive at opening time to fuel us for a day of exploring in Shibuya and they have a sign-up sheet on a stand to write your name. When they open they call people in order down the narrow stairs and to their seats, there is no waiting space inside and it’s very popular so they have a ‘one table out – one table in’ policy from there.
We had a nice table by the window looking out on the greenery, not what we had expected as we headed down below street level. It’s light and bright inside, very comfortable and nice sized tables. As you are shown to your table you can see the thick jiggly pancakes cooking on the grill behind the glass window.
During winter, and particularly around the Christmas and New Year holidays, Tokyo has many illumination events around the city that make exploring the city streets in the evening even more fun.
In Shibuya the light-ups focus on the Zelkova trees that line the city streets. Near the NHK Headquarters (Japan Broadcasting) adjacent to Yoyogi Park is known as Shibuya Ao no Dokutsu or ‘the blue cave’ where the 250-metre long pedestrian street is lit by so many blue LED lights above a reflective path and it gives the impression of being immersed in the lights.
Along the Omotesando shopping street between Omotesando station and Harajuku, there are more Zelkova trees and (literally) a million more blue LED lights. This is where many of the prestige branded shops are located and the lights set off the impeccably curated shop windows beautifully.
We love foodie tours in Tokyo, especially those run by Arigato Japan. We had so much fun on the ones we did in both Asakusa and Ginza recently but I have a very special Shibuya one next on my wish list.
The Arigato Japan Kawaii Food Tour is an immersion in the back streets of Omotesando and Harajuku with someone that knows every detail of them and their cute culinary treats.
The tour includes plenty of cultural highlights, great information, tastings of the cutest sweet treats along the way and lunch at a very special okonomiyaki restaurant.
Indulge in a cup of latte art at Reissue
Watch for the small doorway and head up the stairs to the cafe. The relaxed mismatched fit-out is a great spot to chill for a while and the coffee is great but it’s their cute latte art that they are known for.
You choose your coffee and then your art design from their books of 2-dimensional and 3-dimensional designs. If you have a particular favourite, whether that’s Pikachu or Betty Boop they can do it. In fact if you have a photo of your favourite pet they’ll even recreate that on your drink, I just couldn’t cope with
Also want to fit in Reissue for the latte art, both 2D and 3D. They are at Address: 3 Chome-25-7 Jingumae, Shibuya, Tokyo 150-0001 and it is a small doorway and you go upstairs. Reviews say coffee is good, a bit pricey and a longer wait than usual coffee of course but run – open 10 am until 6 pm (could do one evening then on to dinner)
3 Chome-25-7 Jingumae, Shibuya, Tokyo 150-0001
Explore cat street
Ok a bit of a spoiler here, there were no cats. Well, there was one adorable and slightly pampered one in a quilted silver-grey purpose-designed backpack pod but no wanderers as you might be expecting from the name.
It’s a pedestrian street that runs from Harajuku to Shibuya. It’s less busy and intense than the more familiar Takeshita street. Trendy, often expensive boutique stores and some international name brands line the street. You’ll also find plenty of interesting bars, cafes and food stalls along the way.
The shoppers in the family might spend the day here, for others it’s a good alternative walking route from Harajuku through to the Shibuya station area without walking along the main roads.
If you’re trying to find it on the map try “Kyu-Shibuya-gawa Yuhodoro”. It translates to something like ‘the old Shibuya River Pedestrian lane’ as it was created before the 1964 Olympics when the creek was diverted below ground. If you watch out the Ralph Lauren flagship store on the Omotesando it starts virtually opposite there.
Shibuya Kagoshima Ohara Matsuri Parade
Local festivals or matsuri are so much fun in Japan and while this isn’t a small community event like the ones we’ve enjoyed in Nagahama and Kyoto I would always recommend adding a festival to your list if you are in the right place at the right time.
The Shibuya Kagoshima Ohara Matsuri takes place in May and is inspired by the event in Kagoshima that attracts 20,000 dancers into the streets. The parade is a type of folk dancing with some skilled Taiko drumming involved. The Shibuya event involves around 60 dance troupes with several of them making the trip from Kagoshima to join in.
These young Taiko drummers were at the Ume festival at Yoshino Tenjin Shrine (near Ueno) not in Shibuya.
The festival base is at Shibuya Square near the Hachiko statue and travels through local streets in the afternoon.
Blooming good morning tea
You’ll pass the Aoyama Flower Market Tea House as you make your way from Harajuku / Omotesando to the Nezu Museum, the area is called Aoyama or blue mountain.
From the outside, the shop is a beautiful flower shop with bunches and arrangements crowding the entrance and luring you in with their heady bouquet. It’s a popular franchised flower shop in Japan but at this one and 2 others in Tokyo its photogenic entry and floral displays are matched by an equally Insta-worthy tea shop.
The one in Aoyama is upstairs and is built to relax and stay for a while so at times it can be difficult to get a seat. The wooden tables and surrounding cut flowers make it feel as if you are in a greenhouse at the peak of the season.
They have a variety of specialty teas that are attractively presented, many loaded with fresh herbs and florals. There’s a small and appealing menu of light dishes and sweets. Some seem to be targeted directly to the Instagram crowd such as the French Toast with seasonal edible fresh flowers.
From Omotesando station, it’s less than a 5-minute walk from exit A4. The address is 5 Chome-1-2 Minamiaoyama, Minato City.
Where better to celebrate Halloween
The streets of Shibuya around the station have become the hub of Halloween in Tokyo since 2014. Hoards of costumed revellers pour through the station and across the Shibuya scramble turning out for the open-air festival.
The celebrations ramp up during the week with the biggest night taking place on Halloween itself between the hours of 6 pm and 11 pm. The standard is high with some really impressive outfits and makeup. Want to join in? Don Quixote stores have some great options but if you just want a few accessories to fit in on the night a Daiso (dollar store) and a bit of creativity will get you sorted.
Shop Shibuya 109
A popular shopping complex located near the Shibuya Scramble. Featuring Japanese fashion, beauty products and accessories it’s especially popular with teenagers and 20-somethings.
It’s clean, bright and modern and if you’re after kawaii Japanese outfits then it could be your one-stop-shop. For others, just stop by for a look, the overall vibe is worth a few minutes invested.
Grab your fave Starbucks drink and relax on the roof garden
In Tokyu Plaza in Omotesando head up to the Starbucks and you’ll get far more than you expect. While there is the usual array of comfortable seating and share tables indoors, you can also head out onto the roof garden.
Amid the fairy lights and plants, there are lots of spaces to sit and quiet corners plus a look down from above on all the activity below.
Even if you aren’t a big Starbucks fan it’s a great place to take a break in the unexpected oasis above the city or stop by for a quiet cuppa after dinner.
Where to stay in Shibuya
There’s a fabulous range of restaurants, bars and coffee shops across the Shibuya area making it ideal to walk out for a meal or drink in the evening. Take a slow start over breakfast, or shop until you drop and drag it back to the hotel.
Our picks in this area are the Shibuya Hotel En and Shibuya Stream Excel Hotel Tokyu.
The Shibuya Hotel En is located about 7 minutes on foot from the station, 5 minutes from Shibuya Crossing and Shibuya 109 and about 15 minutes from Yoyogi Park. The location really is excellent for bars, restaurants and getting around.
The hotel is clean and the rooms are all slightly different and have a bit of character in their design. Rooms at the entry price-point are on the smaller side although this isn’t really unusual in Tokyo.
Find pricing and availability for Shibuya Hotel En or read TripAdvisor reviews.
Our other pick is the Shibuya Stream Excel Hotel Tokyu which is also an excellent location for access to the station, central locations like Shibuya Square and Shibuya 109. There are also many bars and restaurants nearby.
This one is a little more expensive but the rooms are a good size, clean, comfortable and modern. There is free wifi and a coin laundry which can be a good saving over laundry services if you travelling light or away for a longer trip.
Find prices and availability for the Shibuya Stream Excel or read TripAdvisor reviews.
Map of our top Shibuya attractions
We’ve put together this interactive map to help you find your way around Shibuya and plan out which activities and sights to group together. Click on the map to zoom in and explore the functionality.
Final thoughts on things to do in Shibuya
Whether you have a day or a week to spend in the city, Shibuya is likely to make your list of must-see attractions in Tokyo.
If you are including it on your itinerary it’s really easy to access by JR train on the Yamanote loop line through Harajuku or Shinjuku stations. The subway offers even more options with stations at Shibuya, Omotesando, Meiji Jingu Mae, Yoyogi Koen and Aoyama Itchome.
With so much to see and do, and so many great options to try for food and drink Shibuya is a great place to stay. When based in other parts of Tokyo we also like it’s a short trip on the subway to come in the evening for dinner after a day out exploring the city or further afield.
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Saturday 7th of March 2020
Back in 2016, I spent my birthday walking around Shibuya and Harajuku area, and your photos made me miss Japan a lot! You've been to places I wasn't able to visit, so I'll definitely come back to Japan for those!
I haven't been to Osaka but I love your food articles about it! :D
Saturday 7th of March 2020
Thanks Sher. When I planned our original trip back in 2010 I didn't expect it to become such an obsession but we continue to return year after year, there's so much to see and it's such a contrast to home in many ways.