Shibuya offers a mystical mixture of old and new. Modern versus traditional, all cramped into a compact space, somehow coexisting in a strange symbiosis. Although gradually the “old” is unfortunately disappearing, there is still plenty of it remaining. Even around the station, in the midst of all the flashy developments, some of the old still manages to survive. It’s amazing how close to each other the two different “worlds” exist!
Nonbei Yokocho – a treasure from the past
A great example is Nonbei Yokocho, or “drunkard’s alley”. This cluster of old two-story buildings packed with restaurants and bars still stands proud and defiant! Many of the shops have seats for no more than a handful of customers. Located along the tracks, the two rows of buildings offer a refreshing contrast to the massive skyscrapers across the street. Nonbei Yokocho was apparently built in the 1950’s, and is still virtually unscathed by the winds of modernization and redevelopment. Had the buildings only been a bit taller, this could have been a perfect cluster of “pencil buildings“!
The golden hour around sunset is the best time to catch Shibuya in all its beauty, or maybe “charm” is a more appropriate description in some cases. The trick is to aim for the hour when building lights and illumination (it helps when it’s Christmas season!) have been switched on, but before it gets too dark to see the actual buildings.
Catching both old and new
I made an attempt at snapping a few shots of different combinations of old and new buildings in Shibuya. Trying to squeeze in the old and the new in the same picture isn’t always easy, I noticed. What I often ended up doing was picking some of the new colossal towers by the station as a backdrop, and then focusing on placing some smaller old buildings in the forefront. I will definitely do this again – it takes time to find all the right angles!
Check out Ginza’s hidden back alleys!