Tokyo won’t give you a permit to film on the Scramble Crossing? Don’t worry, because now there’s an alternate site!

It took a while, but it’s pretty safe to say that Tokyo’s Scramble Crossing has become movies’ and TV shows’ favorite visual shorthand for the city, and arguably for modern Japan itself. It’s not a bad choice, either. Located right outside Shibuya Station, the Scramble’s five crosswalks flood with people as soon as the walk light turns on, giving an instant sense of Tokyo’s urban density and energy. It’s also surrounded by towering skyscrapers with gigantic video screens that bathe the intersection in sound and, after sundown, atmospheric light.

But while every director crafting a story set in Tokyo wants that dramatic shot of their characters at the Shibuya Scramble, there’s a huge drawback to the location, because large cities in Japan, and especially Tokyo, don’t really give out filming permits for such prominent landmarks. There are just too many people who use the Scramble in their daily life to get to their offices and/or Shibuya’s numerous shops, restaurants, and entertainment centers, so shutting down the street for hours so someone can use it as a closed film set is simply out of the question.

That’s why a new Shibuya Scramble Crossing recently opened, one that’s much friendlier to filmmakers…and also almost 90 kilometers (56 miles) away from Shibuya.

Ashikaga Scramble City Studio is a large-scale replica of the Shibuya Scramble that’s two whole prefectures north of Tokyo, in the city of Ashikaga, Tochigi Prefecture. Though it’s about a two-hour drive from Tokyo (assuming you don’t run into traffic), Ashikaga Scramble City Studio offers the ability to film in a completely controlled environment, something you’d never get permission to do in the actual Shibuya.

As a much smaller town than Tokyo, Ashikaga obviously doesn’t boast as many skyscrapers, especially since Ashikaga Scramble City Studio is built on the site of a former riverside horse racing track. Instead, strategically placed backdrops hide the sub-metropolis levels of development, and allow for Shibuya’s urban architecture to be added digitally above the heads of the actors and action.

It’s not just the streets that have been recreated, either. The 6,600-square meter (71,042-square foot) facility has also rebuilt a portion of the Shibuya Station facilities, like ticket gates and restrooms, and also local Shibuya landmarks such as the koban (police box) and various plazas where friends and lovers meet up before hitting the town.

▼ There are even faux staircases replicating the ones that connect to the underground tunnel network in the actual Shibuya.

All of this should give filmmakers a lot more flexibility in the sort of Shibuya-set scenes they can create. While filming at the actual intersection isn’t unheard of, it’s usually little more than a simple shot of a character crossing the street. Bulky lighting equipment and microphones are too invasive to use when filming on streets being used by the general public, so dialogue and multi-cut conversations are out, and stunts are way too dangerous to attempt (that famous Shibuya Scramble car chase scene in The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift was actually shot in Los Angeles).

▼ The full map of Ashikaga Scramble City Studio

In addition to movie and TV filming, the facility can also be rented out for still photography shoots and general events, which would make for an extra-unique cosplay or barbecue venue. The studio’s website even has an English-language overview and price list, showing that they’re open to international clients too and are happy to help make their Shibuya Scramble creative dreams come true even if Shibuya isn’t.

Related: Ashikaga Scramble City Studio
Sources: Kyodo via Jin, PR Times, Ashikaga Scramble City Studio
Top image: Ashikaga Scramble City Studio
Insert images: Ashikaga Scramble City Studio, PR Times, Ashikaga Scramble City Studio (2)
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