Shibuya's new underground station garners negative reviews


Buried deep in the bowels of Shibuya is Tokyo's newest rail station, which began service on Saturday, March 16. A weekend was intentionally picked for first two days of operation, so that any bugs could be worked out before the new station had to handle rush hour traffic.

With the new station up and running, passengers on the Fukutoshin subway line coming via Ikebukuro -- aboard two lines serving cities as far away as Tokorozawa or Kawagoe in Saitama Prefecture -- will be able to pass through Shibuya without changing trains and continue all the way to Motomachi-Chukagai station in Yokohama via the Toyoko Line.

But progress, at least in this case, also has some downsides.

The magazine had already warned in an article published in February that the new station did not appear to give sufficient consideration to crowd flow during busy periods.

And sure enough, right from the get-go, complaints quickly arose. Burying the station at the fifth subterranean level makes for congestion during rush hour, adding to commuters' transfer times to the JR Yamanote and Inokashira lines, situated on the 2nd level above ground, and the Ginza subway line, which is on the 3rd level. Getting there means passengers will have to, climb, or descend, six or seven flights from or to the new station.

Under the headlines "'Panku' (collapse) and 'Panikku'" (panic), Weekly Playboy (April 8) reviewed the new station from day one.

At 8 a.m., for example, the reporter tried moving from the new station to another subway, serving the Hanzomon and Denentoshi lines.

"It was extremely congested," he wrote. "I tried to walk to the other end of the platform on the 109 Building exit, but I couldn't get through the crowds."

And whatever you do, he warns, if you're changing to JR or Inokashira Lines from the basement, you should use exit No. 9 on the distant Miyamasuzaka side. "Even though there's no cover and you'll get rained on, it's still faster. And it's got an escalator too." Unless you're transferring to the JR Saikyo or Shonan Shinjuku lines, he warns, be sure and avoid the "demonically congested" exit No. 14.

"Tokyu passengers have a reputation for being well mannered as far as Tokyo rail lines go," Weekly Playboy's reporter writes. "With the start of the new fiscal year (from April 1), and resultant increase in new commuters headed for their jobs and to school, I wonder if they will maintain those good manners. Or will they lose their patience and run amok? Can the problems be solved by constructing more exits at the street level?"

Shibuya's popular reputation hangs in the balance.

Sunday Mainichi (April 7) cited a survey by Rakuten Research asking commuters on the new line what stations they were likely to utilize more frequently with the completion of the new rail connections. The top two replies were Shinjuku, with 35% followed by Ikebukuro with 20%.

The station named most likely to be used less frequently was Shibuya, named by 6.8%.

"Shibuya's appeal has been declining," says Asato Izumi, a columnist who is familiar with Tokyo locales. "It's lost its distinctive flavor, and with direct connections on the Fukutoshin Line more people are likely to go to Shinjuku 3-chome."

Previously it took only two minutes to transfer between the Toyoko and Yamanote Line platforms. Now, commuters must walk along a corridor and take an escalator, and the elapsed time takes approximately seven minutes. To make matters worse, the corridors are narrow and jammed with people. Transfer to the Ginza and Inokashira Lines also now involve longer walks. And getting to the isolated JR Saikyo Line platform in Shibuya now involves a 15-minute walk -- nearly as long as walking to the next station.

"Even before, people who used Shibuya station for the first time regarded its complicated structure as something of a maze," remarks writer Masayuki Kanai, a railway enthusiast. "If people plan to change to the Toyoko line, they should avoid Shibuya altogether and try to get aboard the Fukutoshin line from some other station."

Tokyu Corp, meanwhile, will demolish the old station and by 2017 plans to complete a 33-story commercial building that it hopes will enhance Shibuya's appeal and "win back" fans. Sunday Mainichi says it will reserve its judgment until then.

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I recall similar complaints about the deeply buried Oedo Line. It's nice to have more convenience, but these deep lines need a wide battery of numerous escalators, as in the London Underground, not just a single narrow escalator. Massive elevators is another answer.

The narrow access points on the Oedo always seem clogged. I often walk up the steps, about 100-200 of them. Keeps me in shape at least, but still it's not a real solution.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

With its Ginza line subway terminal on the 3rd floor, I've always regarded Shibuya as representative of the work of Tokyo's village idiot. Never thought they could actually make it worse than it already was. Just goes to show you can never underestimate people. Above ground, the station is hemmed in by an expressway on the south side, and major thoroughfares everywhere else. It has no room to grow. That's why the Mita and Namboku Lines were extended through Meguro and run parallel to Toyoko. The problem is, it doesn't really relieve the pressure on Shibuya, which has become a good place to avoid.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Took my young sons on a ride the first day the connected line opened as we live on the Toyoko-sen. Perplexing when we got off to walk around a bit and then very glad I don't work or transfer in Shibuya. Will avoid it or allow myself extra time if I have to go. It almost seems like they are pushing you to shop at Hikarie. I also avoid the Oedo (unless missiles are being launched from Best Korea).

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Technically speaking the station was already built and opened a few years ago only serving the Fukutoshin subway line and thru servies to the Tobu Line, so it isn't exactly a new open, what changed was that the Toyoko line began thru operations which lead to an increasing number of people using that particular station. If one is not careful enough or doesn't know enough in reading the article they would think that the station just opened a few days ago.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

@JeffLee, the Oedo line is going to get worse. When I started using it in 2000, when it opened, during rush hour you could still sit down. How a lot of new residential redevelopments have been opening over the past years along the line, and it is getting really crowded, especially between Shinjuku and Daimon. Well, Shibuya station is not quite as complicated as Shinjuku or Ikebukuro. It is so easy to get disoriented in Ikebukuro Station. At least in Shibuya Station underground, there is one great big hall with lots of branches, so you can stay oriented. Ikebukuro has lots of narrow passages and you can't tell where you are.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Love the narrow passages, the crowds, the chaos, and the mayhem (for Japan anyway) of Shibuya, Shinjuku, and Umeda. If you want smooth flow and efficiency, go live in the burbs in Dallas - boring!

0 ( +5 / -5 )

These deeply-buried stations could at least make it easier on commuters by having multiple ticket gates. Several of the Oedo Line stations that I use have just a single ticket gate right in the middle, so even if you want to get on the train at one end of the platform, you're stuck going from your entrance to the middle of the station, then walking through the gate and retracing your steps one level down until you get to the train.

And the fact that, in real estate listings, distances from apartments to train stations are measured to the nearest entrance to the station and not to the platform means that stations like these really break the system: you have to add up to ten more minutes of walking.

More ticket gates and more elevators! Even a single unmanned wicket near each exit would do the trick.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

My verdict, after using it daily to transfer from Toyoko to Yamanote for three years is, it's a godawful mess! They put in this supposedly amazing connection, (like everyone in Kanagawa has soo been gagging to have a direct ride to deepest Saitama), but they overlooked the minor detailette of how to change trains. Just went through it today and found the Shonan-shinjuku to Yamanote line transfer equally messy. and that's all within JR land. Designed by the village idiot indeed. I think I'm going to reroute my commute to avoid Shibuya altogether, even if it costs me more. I mean, didn't anybody even stop to think about how they would make the transfers worse? And who cares if it's more "popular" or not, FFS? We just want the frickin station to work as a station! Apparently, if we can hang on for four more years, it's all going to be sorted. What kind of A$$ backwards planning is that?

2 ( +4 / -1 )

I'm also considering changing my commute - maybe taking the Meguro-sen into Ebisu and Yamanote from there. After 2 weeks of trying different combinations from the Toyoko to JR, I've actually found the "demonically congested" exit 14 to be the best route as long as one uses the stairs rather than the escalators. Great for exercise, but not promising for the summer heat.

I find all the cattle-herd guards they have around yelling and directing everyone to be especially annoying. I'm wondering how long they can keep that up considering the staffing costs. I guess the thinking is that they will train all the commuters into certain traffic flow patterns. Maybe they will replace them with border collies soon!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Would you check out everyone complaining about the Tokyo subway it's the best damned subway in the world hands down! the Fukutoshin line is fantastic.Linking Shibuya to Sendagaya then Shinjuke San-chome. How you can come up right underneath Isetan is neat too.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Right now this "commuter suffering" is very intellectually stimulating (talk) and people seem to enjoy that. In another month it will be boring/menial and you can watch the visitors struggle with it for your enjoyment and to remember the past. Learning is only hard the first time, but I would expect JR to constantly make small changes for the intellectually inclined commuter.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

The plan I read is that the Shonan-shinjuku line will move into the old Toyoko line station a few years hence, bring it closer to Shibuya than its current position of 'nearly Ebisu'.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Is the bullet train passing through that station? Dr. K. Shankar

-3 ( +0 / -3 )


0 ( +0 / -0 )

man you guys are a bunch of cry babies! I've been having to walk up and down five flights of stairs every day for the past two years up until March 16th because that was my exact commute from Yokohama to Shiki in Saitama. For example those of you transfering to the yamanote line and hate crowds just get off at Harajuku and change there! Or in Shibuya just use the escalators in Hikarie and walk across the bridge. I personally love the "new" station since I'm not trapped behind a wall of slow asses trying to make my way out of one of only 2 exits .

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@gokai_wo_maneku I disagree with you, in Ikebukuro at least all JR lines are lined up,although getting in can be a hassle. Shinjuku has that dual level thing going on that keeps you from several lines at the upper level. Shibuya still is a complete mess since Saikyou line is hidden nearly in Ebisu and a long escalator away. It also forces you to reach said escalators by walking along the ridiculously crowded platforms. I usually take quite long detours to avoid Shibuya altogether, whoever had to draw the Navitime maps of it probably hopped in front of the Chuo express.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Wheelchair bound people like me Shibuya used to be a place to avoid. Now with Kaagoe Saitama hick mamas hauling their over priced buggies and overgrown brats in convoy totally block the elevators and of course the toilet facilities leaving the place dirty. But what to expect of a sewer rat infested ghetto like Shibuya? That place will never change no mater what... Unfortunately I still have to commute four times a week for the next two months. It SUCKS !!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

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