2-1 Yoyogikamizonocho, Shibuya
Yoyogi is Tokyo’s Central Park. Go here on a sunny Sunday and you will see the city on full display: musicians, actors, dancers, parties, weddings, etc. In the spring, the park explodes with cherry blossoms; in fall, it radiates the warm yellow glow of its gingko trees. Ethnic festivals run throughout the year, and a flea market is held in the summer. The park is adjacent to Meiji Shrine, itself a grand public space that contains a forest in the middle of the city and a shrine to Emperor Meiji, the great-grandfather of the country’s current emperor.Images courtesy of tokyo-park.or.jp.
You’ve seen this. It’s that crazy four-way intersection that people all cross at one time. Shibuya is a little like Times Square—not a place to spend a ton of time in, but everyone should see it at least once. Said to be the busiest intersection in the world, as many as 1,000 people will cross at the same time. For an aerial view, go to the second floor of the Shibuya train station, find the Myth of Tomorrow mural, and look out at the intersection from there. Best time to go: evening, when Shibuya’s neon is at full blast.
Kyu Asakura House
29-20 Sarugakucho, Shibuya
Nearly one hundred years old, the Asakura house is like a time machine in the otherwise modern and luxurious Daikanyama neighborhood where it resides. Built for a local politician, the home survived earthquakes and Allied bombing to remain a singular example of Taisho-era architecture. Equal to the eleven rooms spread out over two floors are the gardens behind the residence, with stone paths, bonsai trees, and the best of Japanese garden design.
1-1 Yoyogikamizonocho, Shibuya
A quick cab ride brings you to the top of the winding avenue leading up to the Meiji Shrine gate, or torii (passing through the gate marks the transition from the ordinary to the sacred). Dedicated to the spirit of the first emperor of modern Japan, Meiji, and his empress consort, Shoken, the shrine is set in a forest of 10,000 evergreens. Take part in the Shinto ritual of writing your wishes and prayers on one of the ema plaques hanging on the walls, where it is believed the gods of the shrine will receive them. (Though we can’t promise that they’ll listen.)