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Best Things to Do in Shibuya (Approximately Top 10)

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Greetings Internet Stranger and welcome to the best things to do in Shibuya! I’m excited to take you on a tour of the best things to do in Shibuya, which is a large area of Tokyo featuring the Harajuku neighborhood.

Like most women my age, I learned about Harajuku in Tokyo as a young lady from watching Gwen Stefani’s Harajuku Girls sing backup for her. This is unfortunate because the Harajuku fashion subculture is so much bigger than one, admittedly tres cool, former lead singer of a ska band.

Shibuya, the neighborhood in Tokyo, is even much bigger than Harajuku, the fashion subculture. Join me for a day of the best things to do in Shibuya with fruit sandwiches, extreme eating challenges, horrifying mannequins, and sacred bottles of wine. Also we might get pooped on. You’ve been warned.

best things to do in shibuya
24 Hour Tip

Once I arrived in Japan, I used the train to go from travel around Japan and then get back to Tokyo. It was easy because I used the Japan Rail Pass. This pass, which is available for visitors to Japan only, lets you pay one price and then you can get an unlimited number of tickets in a specified time period. The pass works on some buses and ferries too!

Just be sure to get your JR Train Pass before you actually enter Japan. I think it’s easiest to buy it online here.

best things to do in shibuya

Best Things to Do in Shibuya

Where to Stay?

Tokyo is one of the biggest cities in the world. I’m from New York City, and I sometimes feel like a small-town girl in Tokyo. That’s why it’s important to choose the neighborhood for your base for exploring the best things to do in Shibuya carefully.

My favorite neighborhood in Tokyo is Asakusa because it’s quieter than some. Also it has a lot of historical significance. If you’re looking for some place affordable, convenient, and comfortable, you can’t do better than the Hotel Monday Asakusa.

It was so easy to get to every single neighborhood in Tokyo here, and I think Asakusa is the prettiest, most interesting part of the city. The staff is also very friendly and speaks excellent English.

If you want a great deal on this hotel click here. And if you want to explore thousands of other great hotels in Tokyo, just click here. This search engine will help you find the perfect place to stay during your day of the best things to do in Shibuya. With plenty of options to choose from, I’m sure you’ll find something for your schedule and budget.

best things to do in shibuya

Best Things to Do in Shibuya

Morning: Meiji Shrine

We’ll start our tour of the best things to do in Shibuya at one of the most important places in the city. The Meiji shrine is dedicated to the Emperor Meiji who presided over the Meiji Restoration. (That is the most times I’ve ever used the word Meiji in one sentence.)

This period of Japanese history featured a “restoration” of the power of the emperor over the shogun, as well as a supersonic period of economic and technological growth and expansion for the Japanese. On top of that, there was the abolition of the samurai. 

After Emperor Meiji died, the Japanese Parliament dedicated the shrine to him and his wife, making them Shinto deities. The shrine itself was destroyed during WWII and rebuilt later. Like most Shinto shrines, the entrance is marked by a giant gate, or torii, that marks the entrance into the sacred space. You are supposed to bow when entering and when exiting, to be polite to the gate.

best things to do in shibuya

Even though it is just to the side of Tokyo’s major shopping district, the shrine lies in the middle of a beautiful evergreen forest. I was touched to learn that the thousands of trees that make up the forest were not indigenous to the area.

The trees were donated by the Japanese people and planted by hand. This is just one of the many reasons monarchy is so fabulous. Do you think the American people would do something like that to honor some old President? Doubtful.

24 Hour Tip

I think it’s more fun and informative to see the shrine on a guided tour, and this is the one I recommend. You can book it by clicking here.

best things to do in shibuya
24 Hour Tip

Don’t miss the Azalea Garden hidden inside the Meiji Shrine. It’s an extra 500 Yen to enter, but since you paid nothing to enter the shrine itself, I think that price is more than reasonable to find one of the prettiest and best things to do in Shibuya. Also, there’s a sacred well at the end!

best things to do in shibuya

I have to admit that visiting this well made me feel like a terrible tourist because you have to stand on a (short) line to get up close to the well, a well which, as I am not a practitioner of Shinto, is not sacred to me. But if you practice Shinto, you would see a place of religious importance. I don’t know how I feel about religious sites being tourist attractions. If you have any deep thoughts on the subject, please leave them below. Just don’t write them in all caps.

best things to do in shibuya

If you do not want to visit the sacred well, stop at this not-sacred lake in the Azalea Garden. It’s a charming place to sit, read a book, and look for ducks so you can run at them really fast while screaming and scare them into flying away so you can take a really pretty picture of ducks in flight for your Instagram account.

24 Hour Treasure

My favorite feature of Meiji Jingu is the racks of consecrated alcohol. There are barrels of sake that have been donated to the shrine from sake brewers all over the country. Apparently the sake is used in festivals at the shrine as wine might be used in Western religious rituals.

best things to do in shibuya

Speaking of wine, our French friends have not been neglected. To symbolize the friendship between Japan and France, there are barrels of wine from the famous French wine-producing region of Bourgogne here, and the Burgundy has been blessed as well. I wonder if they use this wine in festivals too. It seems like a shame to let it go to waste.

24 Hour Tip

Those are all the secrets of the tour that I can share with you for now. You’ll have to book the tour for yourself by clicking here to find out more.

best things to do in shibuya

Best Things to Do in Shibuya

Afternoon: Omotesando

Now’s the time in our Tokyo in a day tour to go shopping! Omotesando is Tokyo’s high-fashion street, and a number of the buildings there are destinations in and of themselves because of their unusual appearances. You can’t say you’ve tried the best things to do in Shibuya without coming here.

There are so many fun high-end brand palaces to explore, and so many odd ball buildings to see, but I’ll get you start with…

Approximately Top 5: Omotesando Edition

best things to do in shibuya
1) Lunch at Kyobashi Sembikiya

Before we get to the shopping portion of our tour of the best things to do in Shibuya, it’s time for lunch! I recommend the Japanese specialty, a fruit sandwich. A fruit sandwich is a kind of tasty snack that exists mostly in Japan. It consists of two pieces of light sandwich bread with whipped cream and sliced fresh fruit in the middle.

I got mine at a fruit café. Yes, Japanese businesses can be so specialized that there are even restaurants that focus mainly on serving fruit. I chose one called Nihombashi Sembikiya that, according to Time Out Tokyo, has existed for over a hundred years.

The restaurant certainly does not look this old, mostly because it has beautiful large glass walls to better provide an excellent view of the ultra-modern Omotosando street. It also has numerous chrome and glass cases filled with fruit pastries. Though there was nothing stereotypically feminine about the décor, the place seemed almost entirely frequented by women, much like tea shops in the United States.

I don’t really understand why tea shops and fruit cafes wouldn’t appeal to a dude. Gentleman readers, do you not enjoy yummy pastries and fine, warm brewed beverages? I’ve heard that Charles de Gaulle enjoyed a pain au chocolat and Winston Churchill partook of a nice cuppa when they weren’t busy taking down Hitler. Did this make them less manly?

Maybe this is one of those hopelessly retro notions about gender that we need to take down, like the idea that women aren’t smart enough to be doctors or something. Think about it. Macho tea. I think it could be pretty awesome.

best things to do in shibuya
24 hour treat: fruit sandwich

I ordered a lunch set that came with fruit tea, one fruit sandwich, one chicken sandwich, and one dessert. I don’t know that anyone needs a fruit sandwich AND a dessert for lunch, but I certainly wasn’t going to complain.

The chicken sandwich was tasty, but the fruit sandwich was the star of the show. You would think that white bread + cream + chopped fruit would be heavy and disgusting but it really wasn’t at all. The bread was light and fluffy, as was the cream, and the fruit was plump and juicy. I definitely think fruit sandwiches should catch on in the US, ASAP.

best things to do in shibuya

The dessert was a smoky yet light caramel-banana-praline-custard. I actually think “fruit restaurant” could be a really good Top Chef challenge. “Cheftestants, create a restaurant menu in which each dish uses at least one FRUIT”. Actually, maybe they have already done that. I’m not up-to-date on Top Chef because it makes me too sad to watch people lose reality competitions.

best things to do in shibuya
2) Check out the insane architecture

Obviously, one of the best things to do in Shibuya is admire the spiffy architecture. Omotesando has the most deranged examples of contemporary architecture I have ever seen. Is this a landfill composed entirely of broken ladders? Why would somebody want to do that?

best things to do in shibuya

Could this be a honeycomb made by glass bees? Can glass bees even make honey? Is the honey made of glass, or just the bees?

best things to do in shibuya

Is this a Louis Vuitton building or a high-tech game of Tetris? And what’s the reward for winning this game of Tetris? I hope it’s a lifetime supply of Nintendo cartridges that you have to blow into when they stop working.

best things to do in shibuya

Is this building finished? That can’t possibly be a complete building. It looks like it’s going to fall over any second. People who live in Tokyo, are you scared to enter this building?

best things to do in shibuya

And this is a building completely made out of bubble wrap, which is pretty cool. But how do they stop people from popping it?

But we are not just here for the fashion! We’re also here for the BIRDS!

best things to do in shibuya
3) Feed the birds, tuppence a bag

At this point in our tour of the best things to do in shibuya, you might want a snack. At the end of Omotesando, on a little side street, is the charming Bird Cafe, aka Kotori Cafe.

PS. This location seems to be closed, so I suggest going to Owl Cafe Harajuku instead if it is. Or you can go to one of the other Kotori Cafe locations, like the one in Ueno.

Pet cafes are huge in Japan right now and you can spend time in a dining establishment featuring anything from normal pets like cats and dogs to freaky-deaky pets like owls and snakes. (PS. No one let the snakes in the bird cafe.) I chose Kotori Cafe because it fit in conveniently with everything else I wanted to do.

There are three easy steps to take if you want to dine with birds.

best things to do in shibuya
Step One

Order a drink. I had a lovely iced latte that came with a side of bird cookie.

Fear not, Internet Stranger! The cookie is merely shaped like a bird. It tastes like a sugar cookie.

best things to do in shibuya
Step Two

Book some bird time. Even though this is a bird cafe, it would not be pleasant or sanitary for either humans or birds for the birds to be flying around all the time. So the birds are kept in a separate room and you pay 500 Yen to spend 5 minutes in the Bird Room.

best things to do in shibuya
Step Three

Chill with the birds. For the sake of the birds’ well-being, you can only spend time with one bird at a time. I chose the lovely yellow cockatiel above as well as the teeny tiny jade sparrow.

I preferred the jade sparrow because he was cuter, but also because the cocktatiel got a little sassy and pooped on my arm. Fortunately he didn’t poop on my clothes, and the attendant wiped it off right away, but still.

best things to do in shibuya

Look at his smug face. You can practically hear him say, “SORRY, NOT SORRY!”

best things to do in shibuya

Best Things to Do in Shibuya

Late Afternoon: Yoyogi Park

Yoyogi Park is lovely any time of year, but you simply cannot miss it if you are seeing Shibuya for cherry blossom season. It is full of Tokyoites with their best buds and their best picnic blankets getting ready to celebrate the power of flower.

best things to do in shibuya

But even if there aren’t cherry blossoms in season, Yoyogi is a beautiful place to stroll and watch the sunset.

best things to do in shibuya

I hope you don’t need me to give you more specific instructions on what to do in Yoyogi Park than that, Internet Stranger. Get off the grid a bit and put the itinerary away. LIVE!

24 Hour Tip

Because we are seeing Tokyo in a day, one of the cleanest cities in the world, there is a very nice free public restroom near the entrance of the park. No need to wander the world searching for one!

best things to do in shibuya

Best Things to Do in Shibuya

Evening: Takeshita-Dori

I say things like this so much that it starts to sound like a cliché, but it truly boggles one’s mind that right next to a sacred shrine to an emperor, in the middle of a forest that exists only because of the devotion of the Japanese people to the ancient imperial institution, is a street devoted to that most ephemeral of things: fashion trends for teenage girls.

This street, Takeshita-dori, is right next to Omotesando and though they are both shopping streets dedicated mostly to stores for women, that’s about all they have in common. Omote-sando is the high fashion street, equivalent to Fifth Avenue in New York or Rodeo Drive in LA.

Takeshita-dori is more like if you put Delia’s and Hot Topic in a blender and then flung the remains over several city blocks. I mean, the photo above of the entrance to Takeshita-dori kind of says it all. I don’t think Louis Vuitton is going to have a giant Raggedy Ann doll made of balloons outside of their stores very soon.

Unlike Yoyogi Park, Takeshita-dori is a bit overwhelming and you might need my help to narrow down some of the options, especially since we are only seeing Tokyo in a day. So here are:

APPROXIMATELY TOP FIVE: TAKESHITA-dori

best things to do in shibuya
1) Go Shopping!

As a not-short person, I found that some of the women’s clothing in Japan seemed to be made in US Petite sizes. I couldn’t wear any of the skirts because they didn’t cover enough of my leg to be decent. But that shouldn’t stop you from shopping for makeup!

I really liked Etude House, which is a Korean makeup brand I had never seen before. Their makeup was reasonably priced and their eyeliners are creamy and long-lasting. I wish I had bought about ten.

best things to do in shibuya
2) Take pictures!

Takeshita dori is full of random weirdness to photograph. It could be anything from this adorable mascot…

to Girls! Girls! Girls!

best things to do in shibuya

to this horrifying mannequin that I can only assume was created by murdering Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz and the White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland and then combining them in a cruel effort to terrify children.

best things to do in shibuya

But I’m sure you can find odder photos than this! Feel free to email them to me at [email protected]

best things to do in shibuya
3) Eat a crepe!

Crepes are so popular in this neighborhood that there are three big Crepe Stands on Takeshita, but I chose Marion Crepes because it looked like the most popular. Because I am a sheeple (sheeperson?) I got their most popular flavor, chocolate custard.

best things to do in shibuya

This was a delicious combination of paper-thin crepe, vanilla ice cream, rich vanilla custard, and syrupy chocolate sauce! Who could ask for more?

best things to do in shibuya

Best Things to Do in Shibuya

Tools For Travel

  • A portable cell charger so that your phone won’t die a miserable death during your day of the best things to do in Shibuya
  • The best international travel adapter because if you’re American like I am, you’ll need one to be able to plug in electronics during your day of the best things to do in Shibuya
  • My favorite guide to Japan, including Tokyo
  • The most reliable travel umbrella that is small enough to fit in my purse, but strong enough to stand up to powerful winds.
  • These great TSA approved clear toiletries bags, so I can always keep spare toothpaste and travel sized toiletries in any carry-on.
  • My book Get Lost, that I wrote myself with all my best travel tips. This book will show you how travel can take your life from blah to AMAZING!
best things to do in shibuya

Best Things to Do in Shibuya

How to Get There?

Now, I wish I knew where you lived, Internet Stranger, because I could send you a whole package full of fruit sandwiches. But sadly, I do not, and so I can’t tell you how to get from your home to go find the best things to do in Shibuya.

But I can tell you that I used a lovely airplane to get from my hometown NYC to Japan, and I recommend Expedia for the best way to find the cheapest flight to Tokyo at the best time of day. It’s really easy to see all your options for flights by using their website.

Just click here to start looking for the best possible deals on your flight, so you can head out to your one day in Tokyo itinerary.

best things to do in shibuya

And Those Are the Best Things to Do in Shibuya!

What do you think are the best things to do in Shibuya? Are you ready to start booking your hotel in Tokyo right now? Is eating crepes for dinner acceptable behavior? And does it sound like fun to have a bird poop on you? Please email me at [email protected] and let me know!

If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while this article is about how to spend one day in Tokyo with the best things to do in Shibuya, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY spend one day in Tokyo. If you want to add one day in Tokyo with Shinjuku, click here. And if you’d rather try one day in Tokyo with Asakusa, give this a try. And if you want to add a Japanese Alps itinerary, click here.