Frozen moments from the infinity that is time

Chaotic Calm at Shibuya Crossing (Tokyo)


Chaotic calm!  Yes, I know it sounds like a contradiction of terms.  Nevertheless, it is how I see Tokyo’s famous Shibuya Crossing.

Shibuya Crossing may very well be Tokyo’s most recognisable place given its inclusion in travel documentaries, photographs and movies such as “Lost in Translation”.  The popular vision of the crossing, where five roads intersect, is of crowds of people crossing in all directions.  All the lights change at once and when the lights change to green it is like observing an old-fashioned infantry charge.  However, rather than clash, the scene becomes one of chaotic calm.  Pedestrians and cyclists plot their course from one side to the other, artfully avoiding each other in a demonstration of humans’ innate ability to move through crowded areas with a minimum of contact.  Watching this human choreography unfold from a vantage point such as the Starbucks (pic 14) overlooking the intersection is wondrous and entertaining.

For those who like statistics, the adjoining Shibuya Station is the third busiest in the Tokyo metropolis, thus ensuring the constant supply of people crossing.  At peak hour it is estimated that approximately 2500 cross at each cycle.

The action is round-the-clock given Shibuya’s popularity as an entertainment and shopping precinct, hence any visit to Tokyo should include at least one walk across this famous crossing.

In this post I have included a few of the traditional wide shots, but have mostly tried to show a sample of the individuals one encounters.  Where have they come from?  Where are they going?  Who are they meeting?  Simple questions underscoring that each person in the frame is an individual story coming randomly together at a point in time.  A random collection that will never again be repeated.

My first photo shows Hachiko’s statue – a famous Shibuya landmark and a popular meeting point.  In brief, the statue commemorates the loyalty of a faithful dog to its owner, very similar to Edinburgh’s Greyfriar’s Bobby.  Each morning, Hachiko would walk his owner (a college professor) to Shibuya Station and return each evening to greet his owner’s return.  One day his owner did not return, which became the start of Hachiko’s long vigil of faithfully waiting for the impossible.  Local traders and family members cared for him as best they could, but eventually he succumbed to age and the elements.  This bittersweet story has been captured in the movie “Hachiko – A Dog’s Story” starring Richard Gere.  Well worth a look!

The remaining photos are a small sample of whom you might see during a visit to Shibuya Crossing.  If you see yourself in any of the pics, please let me know and I hope I caught you from a good angle haha.

(Please click on any of the following images for an enlarged view.)

Author: johnliddlephotography

Photography reflects how I see the world around me. I respond to images that interest me, which can be anything ... people, places, colour, texture ... anything at all. By sharing my photos through this blog I know that viewers will see based on their life experiences. That is the wonder of photography ... one image ... many interpretations.

4 thoughts on “Chaotic Calm at Shibuya Crossing (Tokyo)

  1. Great photos. I also enjoyed my time at Shibuya Crossing. I loved watching the chaos unfold from Starbucks.

  2. Thanks Lee,
    It would be great to see a helicopter view of the chaos. Maybe someone will put a camera on a drone and get the shot.

  3. Enjoyable post, as always♥

    I know this is late, but these words are great inspiration to ensure I catch “Lost in Translation” soon, too. 🙂

    On Hachiko, I remember presuming that “Hachi” (2009) would predictably revolve around the loyal dog-and-master plot after a student recommended me the movie in class (I had been sharing a bit of my starry-eyed wonderment of Kyoto) – only to be totally bowled over by the sheer weight of love in the endearing movie.

    Ended up crying bucketfuls.. Gorgeous story of love that exists across all sentient beings – and the humbling knowledge that humans are always in a position to learn (of selfless love and giving, in this instance) from every other sentient living being that shares this blessed earth with us – without assuming an unquestioned ‘superiority’ over nature that was here before us and will live on long after.

    Thank you for sharing your love and light – and these photographs that make me miss the beautiful land, all the more.
    Do take good care and stay well, too.

  4. Thanks B,
    I hope you enjoy “Lost in Translation” and you have perfectly described the essence of the “Hachiko” story. Today’s Shibuya bears no resemblance to the Shibuya of Hachiko’s time, yet the story and inspiration remains alive. As you say, what was learned “will live on long after”. Take care.

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