There is no unifying style in Shibuya, just like the rest of Tokyo. But there is a style that is local only to Shibuya, and to a kind of girl who spends all of her time in Shibuya. That’s her hood, sucka, so don’t act like you know. She is the last relic of the lingering idea of Shibuya-ke, although her style is nothing like the originators.
The style being referred to as “Shibuya-ke” had origins in the early 90’s, during Japan’s era of economic excess, also known as the ‘Bubble Period.’ Music and culture taste turned to America and Europe for inspiration. Culture imported from around the world was bought up with all of the excess income floating around Tokyo. From this spawned Shibuya-ke, originally associated only with a group of musicians, which somehow turned into a fashion mentality and now has perhaps contributed to its current popularity.
There’s the famous Shibuya scramble, an octagonal intersection right out from the Hachiko exit of Shibuya Station, as well as the Hachiko Dog statue and two giant TV’s mounted on skyscrapers that blast music videos and commercials all day and make you feel like you’ve been sucked into a Japanese TV.
Despite being a major node on the JR Yamanote line, it is also a cultural playground for Japanese businessmen, high schoolers, musicians and foreigners alike. It is newer than Shinjuku and yet more confusing to navigate through.
For foreigners, there are places like The Hobgoblin, a British themed pub right around the corner from the My City store and the entrance to Shibuya Keio line.
There are huge arcades which contains a different form of recreational activity on each level: ping pong, bowling, pachinko, karaoke, etc. If you follow the center street outwards from the Hachiko exit, to the right of Starbucks, you will find probably the highest concentration of record stores in the world. Of course there is a huge Tower Records, which with it’s golden lights and size really lives up to it’s name, and HMV. For more eclectic or vintage tastes, there is Recofan, for record fans. These are scattered about Shibuya and separated oftentimes by genre, or each floor carries a certain genre of music, so you don’t have to sort through a bunch of crap to get what you like.
Shibuya is also home to most of the best music clubs you could find in Tokyo. Famous trendy DJ clubs like Air, Womb or Loop, which are well known amongst locals and music fans, but hard to find for foreigners. They deflect the average bar-going crowd by having only an entrance and no name to signify their existence. It is a bit exclusive, but kind of necessary for the dedicated music fans. These clubs are often host to the best, newest musical acts and are for the fans of this music only.
Because it is close to Harajuku, many shops specializing in specific brands and styles bleed into the edges of Shibuya, and for record fans it is a great place to go looking for any record you never thought you could find. With records it is the same as with clothes in Harajuku: you should have some idea of what you are looking for, right down to the label or genre, as many of these stores specialize in just a few styles. Even among the styles, they may list on a sign outside the store, once you go in you will be able to tell that it really is based on the owner’s specific tastes. But this is great, because it means you can find exactly what you like if you just know where to go, and each time you want more of that thing, you just go back to your personal selection of stores.