The distinct feeling of Shibuya’s Center Gai is a highlight of touring Tokyo
Going from the plaza where the statue of Hachiko stands in front of JR Shibuya Station and across the scramble intersection, you will find the gateway to Center Gai in the corner. Right at the front of the crossing, there is a huge display screen showing electronic advertising. To the left side of this, there is a road extending off to the west which happens to be Center Gai. You will find it easily since there is an arch at the entrance.
Long ago, there used to be a river flowing on that site where construction proceeded, and in the 1930s, it became a commercial area with dining and drinking establishments. In the 1950s, it was further developed as an area to rival Shinjuku, and before long, young people started coming in and out of the area in large numbers, and currently, there are restaurants, karaoke boxes, fast food joints and other places crowded in there where the young generation including junior high and high school students amass.
There is a motley mix of diverse shops in great numbers which have their signboards along the narrow street creating a distinct atmosphere. Since this is an area of not high-brand stores but of entertainment facilities and stores for clothing, shoes, and food that are within financial reach of young people, there are massive crowds of folks like high school students on holidays. And for popular stores, there are also scenes of long lines snaking along the street. All of this make up the unique space of Shibuya Center Gai, and it is this atmosphere which makes it one of the highlights of touring Tokyo.
However, there were problems as the street became known for a while as an area of high crime. With fears for the existence of this sort of area, in 2011, there was a change in the name for Center Gai to wipe away the negative image of the area attracting teenage delinquents. The new name of Basketball Street was given from the world of sports which was popular among the young as a way to create a clean image, and the efforts are continuing to clean up the area and provide a safe environment so that tourists and residents can visit in security.