The name "Shibuya" is also used to refer to the shopping district which surrounds
Shibuya Station. This area is known as one of the fashion centers of Japan, particularly for young people, and as a major nightlife area.
Heian to Edo period
Shibuya was historically the site of a castle in which the Shibuya family resided from the 11th century through the
Edo period. Following the opening of the
Yamanote Line in 1885, Shibuya began to emerge as a railway terminal for southwestern Tokyo and eventually as a major commercial and entertainment center.
Tokyu Toyoko Line opened in 1932, making Shibuya a key terminal between Tokyo and
Yokohama, and was joined by the forerunner of the
Keio Inokashira Line in 1933 and the forerunner of the
Tokyo Metro Ginza Line in 1938. One of the best-known stories concerning Shibuya is the story of
Hachikō, a dog who waited on his late master at Shibuya Station every day from 1923 to 1935, eventually becoming a national celebrity for his loyalty. A
statue of Hachikō was built adjacent to the station, and the surrounding Hachikō Square is now the most popular meeting point in the area.
Shibuya in 1959
occupation of Japan,
Yoyogi Park was used as a housing compound for U.S. personnel known as "Washington Heights." The U.S. military left in 1964, and much of the park was repurposed as venues for the
1964 Summer Olympics. The ward itself served as part of the
athletics 50 km walk and marathon course during the 1964 games.
Shibuya has achieved great popularity among young people since the late 70s. There are several famous fashion department stores in Shibuya.
Shibuya 109 is a major shopping center near Shibuya Station, particularly famous as the origin of the kogal subculture. Called "Ichi-Maru-kyū," which translates as 1–0–9 in Japanese, the name is actually a pun on that of the corporation that owns it —
Tōkyū (which sounds like 10–9 in Japanese; this is
numerical substitution, a form of
goroawase wordplay). The contemporary fashion scene in Shibuya extends northward from Shibuya Station to
Harajuku, where youth culture reigns;
zelkova tree- and fashion brand-lined street; and
Sendagaya, Tokyo's apparel design district.
Teamer created a new culture in Shibuya.
During the mid 90s, Shibuya also became known as the center of the
IT industry in Japan. It was often called "Bit Valley" in English, a pun on both "Bitter Valley", the literal translation of "Shibuya", as well as
bit, the computer term for
Shibuya Stream, a skyscraper and retail complex, was completed in 2018.
The East Wing of a mixed-used skyscraper
Shibuya Scramble Square was completed in August 2019. Shibuya's new gateway Shibuya Fukuras was completed in October 2019.
During the early morning of January 1, 2019, a 21-year-old man named Kazuhiro Kusakabe drove his minicar into a crowd of pedestrians celebrating New Year's Day on
Takeshita Street. The man claimed his actions were a terrorist attack, and later stated that his intention was to retaliate against the usage of the
death penalty for
Aum Shinrikyo doomsday cult members. The man attempted to flee but was soon apprehended by authorities in a nearby park.
Miyashita Park has reopened in July 2020 as a shopping complex with a rooftop park.
In 2015, as the council passed "Ordinance for Promoting Respect of Gender Equality and Diversity in the Ward", Shibuya Ward became the first Japanese municipality that issues
same-sex partnership certificates. According to this ordinance, same-sex couples who live in Shibuya are allowed "to rent apartments together, and have gained hospital visitation rights as family members". The ordinance was intended to bring three benefits to same-sex couples: "(1) rental housing within the ward (co-signing of tenancy agreements for municipal/public housing), (2) medical institutions within the ward (hospital visitation and medical decision-making rights as family members), and (3) employment conditions within the ward (e.g. family benefits, congratulations and condolence leave)". In order to apply for the certificate, couples must be 20-years-old or older residents of Shibuya Ward and have to state that "their relationship is based on love and mutual trust" in a notarized document. Koyuki Higashi (a former member of the
Takarazuka Revue) and Hiroko Masuhara (an entrepreneur), a lesbian couple, were the first to receive this certification. Since the Shibuya Ward passed the ordinance, seven other municipalities in Japan have begun offering similar certificates.
BBC notes that the ordinance has little binding
legal force, saying it "amounts to a moral obligation on Shibuya businesses, which will not be penalised if they do not recognise the certificate", though their
names will be posted on the ward's website if they violate the ordinance. Shimizu says the system "is not equivalent to marriage, as it does not accord same-sex couples the same rights as heterosexual couples when it comes to inheritance, joint filing of taxes, or social welfare". As it requires at least a hundred thousand yen to apply for the certificate, it can be restrictive to some couples. Shimizu argues that Shibuya Ward has been criticized for
pinkwashing as "while passing this ordinance, the administration also moved to expel the homeless in
Miyashita Park and other parks in the ward". Pointing out that the mayor of Shibuya Ward in an interview stated that this is not a matter of human rights, but of diversity, Yuri Horie claimed that the term of diversity seems to be used to divide citizens into the good and the bad; it raises only the ones who contribute to the consumeristic society as representer of "diversity of sexuality" while excluding the useless ones. Yuki Tsuchiya, a lesbian activist, also argues that LGBT individuals are used to promote the ward.
Sightseeing and historic sites
Shibuya's scramble crossing from Shibuya Sky observation deck
Shibuya is famous for its
scramble crossing, called
Shibuya Crossing. It is located in front of the
Shibuya Station Hachikō exit and stops vehicles in all directions to allow pedestrians to inundate the entire intersection.
Shibuya Crossing is the "world’s busiest pedestrian crossing", with upwards 3,000 people at a time. The statue of
Hachikō, a dog, between the station and the intersection, is a common meeting place and almost always crowded.
On the southwest side of Shibuya station, there is another popular meeting place with a statue called "Moyai". The statue resembles a
Moai statue, and it was given to Shibuya by the people of
Niijima Island in 1980.
At one time
Smilesoft had its headquarters in the CT Sasazuka Building in Shibuya. In May 1985 the headquarters of
Bandai Visual moved to Shibuya. In March 1990 the headquarters moved to
Shibuya operates several public libraries, including the Central Library, the Nishihara Library, the Shibuya Library, the Tomigaya Library, the Sasazuka Library, the Honmachi Library, and the Rinsen Library. In addition, the Yoyogi Youth Hall houses the Yoyogi Library Room.