Image: Jessica Grant
Rush hour in jam-packed Tokyo means madness, no matter where in Japan’s capital you happen to be wandering but especially so at Shibuya’s landmark scrabble crossing. There, an explosion of commuters, shoppers, families, teens and visitors converge at the beginning and at the end of every work day as well as on weekend afternoons, turning the thriving scene into a veritable blur of humanity as vehicles comes to a dead stop. That is the signal for the masses to collectively scurry as fast as possible, going with the very speedy flow in all directions.
Unfortunately, some pedestrians in this situation move in a much more nimble manner than others.
I figure into the slower category, and because of that I appreciate the fact that a noted bronze of a big dog sits between the Shibuya train station and the famous intersection.
The aforementioned canine statue, named after a loyal Akita named Hachikō, is a famous meeting place, similar in nature to the big clock outside Grand Central Station in New York City and the foot of the Spanish Steps in Rome. And, like these other places, this particular spot works for anyone who wants to make sure he or she is able to find a colleague, a friend or a family member while tangled in the midst of all the chaos.
The concept is sound, but the reality? Not so much. Even though the specifics are there, it is sometimes so crowded around the vicinity of Hachikō that you still can’t find the person you’re there to meet. That happened to me while surveying this fashionable section of Tokyo when rush hour hit late one afternoon on a sweltering summer day in the part of the city referred to as the Times Square of Asia and where more than 3,000 humans cross every which way in one fell swoop once traffic signals turn red.
Back then the sea of humanity that suddenly swarmed everywhere took me unawares, and I was swiftly separated from a faithful colleague. Trying not to panic since he knew where we were scheduled to go next and I did not, I remembered the dog statue and the fact that this particular piece of art would be a safe haven for our reunion.
However, in all honestly, I had no idea where that hound happened to be hanging out. Was he ahead of me or to the left of me? Maybe he was behind me? Who knew? Not me.
Feeling helpless and obviously without any sense of direction, I looked up for an answer and was uniquely rewarded. Appearing on the biggest of three Jumbotrons in the area was Mike. Happily, my mate is a lanky American who towered over nearly all of the rest of the madding crowd there at Shibuya Crossing on that fateful day.
And so I studied that huge video screen for any special features that were near my tall friend, noting a few and then realizing that if I just crossed the paved thoroughfare in front of me I would reach him. So I did, finding my Jumbotron hero without any further anxiety.
All I can say is thank goodness for Tokyo street sign technology, Japanese style.