SHIBUYA 渋谷 (a dog at a crossroad)

Watching the famous Shibuya Crossing from the the 2nd floor of the Shibuya rail station, the feeling was overwhelming, and at the same time, surreal. The four-way intersection was like a vivid and gigantic display of our lives of many choices; some chose the nearest horizontal path to reach the street at the exact opposite within easy view; some chose the diagonal route risking colliding with the pedestrians from multiple directions when heading towards the far-off destinations. The spectacular scene of bustling pedestrians rushing towards their pre-targeted directions to the beat of the street lights, though not an uncommon view in many major cities in the world, is somehow oddly and inexplicably unique to Shibuya, and is definitely a sight not to be missed.

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Located right in front of the Hachiko Exit of Shibuya Station, this prominent landmark, well known for its highest concentration of human traffic in the world, is heavily decorated by active giant television screens and colourful advertisement boards.

Shibuya is located in Shibuya Ward, one of the 23 designated special wards of Tokyo that encompasses a vast area of modern Tokyo. The Shibuya ward covers many of Tokyo’s trademark tourist attractions, including Meiji Shrine, Yoyogi Park, Omotesando and Takeshita Dori. The name “Shibuya”, however, is usually refers specifically to the area around Shibuya Station, the significant commercial hub with the convergence of 8 different rail lines.

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(Some stutues of young boys at the plaza of Shibuya station. At the background is probably an aspiring politician shouting into his loudspeaker advocating for the abolishment of consumer tax.)

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Shibuya is undoubtedly one of the hippiest and the best shopping paradise for the feverish fashionistas. Packed with a plethora of clothing boutiques, Shibuya offers a wide spectrum of selections, from everything outrageous, eccentric, vintage or rocker edged to satisfy the whims and fancies of every youngster. Shibuya is also home to Tokyu and Seibu, two of Tokyo’s largest department stores. Various immensely popular and trendy shops blossom everywhere, from Centre Gai, Koen Dori (Park Street), Spain Slope (a 100 metres long pedestrian street), Shibuya Hikarie to Shibuya 109 (a 8 storeyed unit holding some 100 specialty shops for young women and teens).

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(A Hello kitty store at Shibuya 109)

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An introduction to Shibuya will not be complete without a mention of Hachiko, the dog well-known for his legendary faithfulness. Situated right in front of the impressive Shibuya Crossing at the Shibuya Station’s plaza, the bronze statue of Hachiko the Akita dog is the ultimate testament to the beautiful love and devotion of Hachiko to his master.

The dog’s master was Hidesaburo Ueno, a professor from the University of Tokyo’s Department of Agriculture who lived in the neighbourhood in the 1920s. Hachiko accompanied his master to the train station every day, and waited for his master’s return from work at the Shibuya station by the end of each day.

The professor suffered from a cerebral hemorrhage and died suddenly in 1925 at work. Hachiko, not realizing the death of his master, continued to show up in front of Shibuya Station and waited each day for the next 10 years, seeking for the missing master. Hachiko passed away in year 1935.

The commuters and local residents of Shibuya was so captivated and moved by the dog’s remarkable loyalty to his master that they erected a statue in 1934 in honour of Hachiko and put it by the station where Hachiko waited everyday. Hachiko was apparently physically present during the unveiling of this first statue of himself. The original statue however was melted for the war effort during World War II. This present statue is a replacement built in year 1948 by the son of the original artist of the first Hachiko statue. Hachiko’s body was preserved by taxidermy and is kept at the Natural Science Museum of Japan in Ueno, Tokyo.

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