The freezing night air blasted through the open gates of Shibuya Station. The weather had been sour through our whole day jaunt at Hakone and it remained the same when we returned to Tokyo. The rest of the guys wanted nothing but a bowl of ramen and the comfort of their soft hotel bed afterwards, but I was thinking of other things.
My mind is flashing images of multi-colored skyscrapers, swarms of chic Japanese citizens walking across a vast crossing and Blade Runner-esque neon Japanese billboards. I’m thinking of Tokyo’s famous Shibuya Crossing.
Finding myself a buddy, we fumbled our way through Tokyo’s confusing subway system and found the famous crossing through guesswork. I was supposed to meet a friend in the area, someone who can at least guide us, but the torrential rain made her back out. We were on our own.
The first thing that greeted us upon arriving at Shibuya was the sculpture of the equally famous Japanese dog, Hachiko. I haven’t really seen the movie yet, but they said that this was where the faithful dog has supposedly waited for his departed master until his own demise.
It felt giddy the first time the traffic lights turned green and we walked with the multitudes of clear umbrella-toting Japanese. Finally I’m seeing The Japan that I have in my mind. This is it! This is Japan! It can’t get more Japanese than this.
My mind flashed a scene from one of my favorite movies of all time, Lost In Translation, and how one of the character felt overwhelmed by Shibuya’s Crossing. I was having the same elated feeling but it also got me thinking where they set their camera for the overhead shot.
My eyes scanned the area and found a Starbucks Coffee on the second storey of one of the buildings directly over the crossing. Jackpot. We immediately headed over to the café and surprisingly found it to be not-so-packed. Must be the dismal weather and the lateness of the hour.
We didn’t order any coffee, afraid of wasting time. We only have an excess of two hours before the last train leaves Shibuya to our hotel. I normally have no problem walking, I even computed the time it would take me to reach our hotel by foot, but an hour under a single-degree temperature on a rainy night with wet, soggy socks does not spell fun for me.
Overhead shots done, we hunted for dinner. It has been hours since our last meal in Hakone and our stomach’s protests can no longer be ignored. Ramen was priority but we were having a hard time locating a not-so-expensive one with seats available. Plan B then; anything that looks delicious, is cheap and has free seats.
Roaming the glitzy side streets of Shibuya, stopping and taking photos as we went along, we eventually found our query. There were only a few diners in the restaurant and the fares look interesting enough. More importantly, their prices looked reasonable too.
Again, with guesswork, we ordered through the machine located near the diner’s door, punching our orders and slipping in our Yens through a coin slot in exchange for a food stub. Success! We entered and presented our coupon for dinner.
There were no English translations on their menu so we based our orders through pictures. It was rice topped with eggs and beef complimented by some sort of salad and a miso soup. Serving size was pretty huge and for ¥480.00, it wasn’t bad at all. In fact it was quite excellent!
With our tummies satiated, we headed back to the crossing. We planned to zigzag and cross the road with the Japanese people to our hearts delight. We’re touristy like that. Waiting in queue for the lights to turn green, I parted with my companion and let myself get lost with the crowd. Walking and stopping right in the middle of the road, soaking in Japan.
I wish though that I have a transparent umbrella with me. My mind was whizzing away the whole time why umbrellas like those are a hit in Japan. The revelation came as I started walking through Shibuya. I kept looking up to see all the neon lights and all I kept seeing was the top of my blue umbrella. Then it hit me why, and I had since been muttering to myself why I didn’t get one too.
Crossing a road is hardly any fun at all if you really think about it. Heck, I even know some people who dread it. But in Shibuya, when the lights turn green and the cars from all sides of the road stop. The most mundane thing in the world, crossing a street, becomes something special.
Forgetting that I’m wet, tired and cold; I braced myself for the nth time, the lights were about to turn green again. And like a kid playing in the rain, my heart started pumping as I walked towards the heart of Shibuya one more time.
Address: Near Shibuya Station, Hachiko Exit, Tokyo, Japan
GPS Coordinates: 35.65952,139.70051
View Location on Google Maps: Click Here