Azabu Juban - For the Japanophiles among you

Series: Exploring Tokyo Redevelopment Part 2 : The area around Shibuya station
Giving a full picture of the “once in 100 years” redevelopment

Shibuya, a land from which young fashions emanate. There are 9 lines serviced by 4 companies (JR, Tokyu Corporation, Keio Electric Railway Company and Tokyo Metro)* with the average number of passengers alighting at the station each day reaching a total of 2.8 million (figure obtained by totaling the passenger numbers for each company), making it a mammoth station.

Shibuya station first opened 132 years ago in 1885. It was born from the need to transport silk produced in Gunma’s Maebashi area to its point of export in Yokohama. The name "Shibuya" comes from the "Shibuya river", which flowed at the bottom of the valley (the "ya" character meaning "valley"). Even now, there are several slopes such as Miyamasuzaka and Dogenzaka around the station area which show its past (Shibuya river flows under the station to this day).

As mentioned above, there are currently nine train lines running through Shibuya, making the station rather peculiar and complicated. Even the locals, as well as foreign tourists, often find themselves at a loss. The reason for this perhaps overcomplicated design, is that each of the four companies aims not to interfere with the other three, and have repeatedly remodeled and renewed parts separately. However, recently the Tokyu Group which has been the leader in terms of regional development since even before the war has put extra effort into this, and the area surrounding Shibuya station is set for drastic changes by the year 2027.

In fact, around the year 2000 Shibuya saw a temporary uptick in redevelopment. This was around the peak of the IT bubble. Opening in April of 2000, Shibuya Mark City saw IT company Cyberagent move in, with the Cerulean Tower which opened in May 2001 welcoming GMO Internet, among other new arrivals. This "Bit Valley Initiative" was likened to the US's Silicon Valley, with many IT venture companies setting up shop in Shibuya.

However, the IT bubble soon collapsed. In 2003 Roppongi hills opened, and IT companies flooded out of Shibuya. The Bit Valley Initiative was stalled, and the momentum of the redevelopment disappeared. Naturally issues regarding ageing buildings and inconveniences around the station area remained.

The trigger of the full scale redevelopment is that in December of 2005 the government named the area around Shibuya station as a "Government Designated Urgent Urban Renewal Area". In response, Shibuya ward established the "Shibuya station area block development policy" in 2008. Since then, Tokyu, JR, and Tokyo Metro have joined together to create what is being called the "once in 100 years" redevelopment.

The vanguard of this movement was the Shibuya Hikarie building (opened in 2012), a 183m 34 story (in addition to four basement floors) building constructed on the site of the Tokyu Cultural Center, and the 2013 underground installation of Tokyu Railway's platforms.

Even with only these changes, the east side of Shibuya station was radically altered, but this is only the beginning. There are now plans and construction underway with emphasis on the Shibuya station block, Shibuya station south block, Dogenzaka block, Sakuragaoka area, and Miyashita-cho.

First in the Shibuya station block, three high-rise buildings are being planned almost directly over the station in the form of the East building, Central Building and West building. The east building will be 230m high, dwarfing the Cerulean tower that has so far been the tallest in Shibuya at approximately 184m, and will include an observation deck on the roof. A pre-Olympic opening is planned in 2019, and it seems set to become a new Shibuya landmark. Further, the west tower will have five basement floors along with its 13 floors above ground, standing at 76m, with the central tower having 10 floors above ground, 2 basement floors, and a height of 61m, both planned to open in 2027.

As for the Shibuya station south block, construction of the "Shibuya Stream" is under way, with 35 floors, 4 basement floors, a height of 180m and opening set for Autumn of 2018. For Dogenzaka block there are plans for the first floor of one building to include a bus terminal with a limousine bus to the airport. The Sakuragaoka area is home to plans for a large roughly 2.6 hectare site which will hold 2 high-rise buildings scheduled to be completed in 2020.

There are also plans for these areas aside from the construction of new buildings. For example, a sky-deck and underground passage connecting the buildings and station. With this, the area will become much more convenient. Further, there are plans for an underground square, and relation of the Saikyo line platforms (for which the Shibuya river will need to be diverted to the east side), and even large reservoirs to counter sudden rain storms, among others which are planned for completion around 2020. Looking at this lineup, it seems that this really will be a once in a hundred year's event. If you have the chance, it might be best to take a look at Shibuya now, before it changes for good.

* - The 9 lines are 3 JR lines (Yamanote, Saikyo line, Shonan Shinjuku line, 3 Tokyo Metro lines (Ginza line, Hanzomon line, Fukutoshin line), 2 Tokyu lines (Toyoko line, Denentoshi line), and the Keio Inokashira line.

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