• Shona McCarthy

To Virtually Revisit Shibuya 渋谷グーグルマップ

Wanting to relive some of the powerful emotions I felt on my last trip, I decided to use Google Maps to view the Shibuya Scramble. Since travel is currently restricted under Covid-19. Google Maps can be used to take virtual tours in the comfort of your own home.

(Screencapped from Google Maps, 2020.) However, upon studying the map, I was amazed to find that I was extremely close to some very interesting landmarks without knowing it. I even passed right by the statue of Hachiko, the Japanese dog of loyalty. The exit of Shibuya station I used was even named after the dog! But I didn't realise it at the time!

(Screencapped from Google Maps, 2020.)

For those unaware of the significance of Hachiko, there was even a movie starring Richard Gere based on the story of Hachiko. You can see it on Google Play for $3.99 right now! There's something very touching about knowing that people loved this dog so much that they immortalised him this way. But according to legend, the dog waited by his owner's grave for over nine years after he passed away! I used to think Tokyo must be a hard, cold place. But if such great love of a dog is there, then there must be heart as well.

(Screencapped from Google Maps, 2020.)

There was a Gusto right across the way. Krispy Kreme, Yoyogi Park and Heian Jingu were also in the vicinity. I had visited a Steak Gusto in Ikoma some years ago and loved it. As you might guess, it's a steak restaurant franchise, but I will discuss how steak restaurants differ in Japan from other places in another blog post.

(Screencapped from the Gusto website, 2020. Gosh I miss eating this kind of stuff in Japan.)

You might say, "Why would you want to visit Krispy Kreme in Tokyo? You can visit Krispy Kreme almost anywhere!" But it wouldn't be the same as Japan Krispy Kreme. Just take a look at their website! You can get a matcha donut there, among other Japan-specific donuts!

(Screencapped from Krispy Kreme Japan's Website, 2020.) I got all excited when I saw that something called "Bunkamura" was nearby. I wondered if it was like TOEI Eigamura or The Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts. But looking on their website, it seems they are more like an Art Centre, so I am less curious.

(Screencapped from the Shibuya Bunkamura website, 2020.)

When I explored Shibuya on foot in 2019, I did so late at night, so it was alive with the bright lights and nightlife particular to the area. But on Google Maps, the streets were photographed in the day. It felt odd to retrace my steps a little and see how different the place looked during the day.

(Screencapped from Google Maps, 2020.)

It isn't as though this virtual tourism could completely replace going to the region. The experience of travel engages all five if not six senses. And as it is, Google was unable to record some of the smaller lane ways.

Something I realised looking at the map was that I had only explored one little quadrant of the sights around the Shibuya Scramble. The one containing ABC Mart and Don Quijote and I wondered why I had done this. But then I realised, of all the areas around the Shibuya Scramble, it was the most brightly lit, the most pedestrian friendly, and the most densely populated with shops. So then I tried to see why people made such a big deal about Yoyogi Park. And right away I understood. It seems like one of the best places to visit during Cherry Blossom season. And it's pretty remarkable that Google Maps managed to record Yoyogi Park exactly at the right time for the Cherry Blossoms. It was April 2014. So, that's another great virtual tour to go on if you want to simulate a very special walk in the park.

(Screencapped from Google Maps, 2020.)

Finally, I decided to check out NHK Studio Park. It was hard to find much information on their website, since, much like most places, they are currently closed down right now. Looking at it on Trip Advisor, it seems to be a good location for people who want to get to know more about Japanese TV history and to play with TV equipment.

(Images screencapped from the NHK Studio Park Website, 2020.) I tried to find examples of traditional Japanese culture in the photos, and it seems that while it exists, there isn't very much of it. So I'm not sure if I would want to go there myself, even if only to see the things they have about Yae No Sakura (2013), a live drama based on the life of Yamamoto Yae, a lady samurai of the late Edo period. But there seem to be days where you can visit for free, and interactive children's displays, so it seems like a good family location.

It seems to be hard to find examples of traditional Japanese culture in Shibuya, so I may not return, preferring to spend my time in and around the Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum. So, perhaps that is something to blog about in future. In any case, I found my little virtual foray around Tokyo quite refreshing and I will likely do more in the future.

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