Harajuku Area

Cult fashion, the Meiji Shrine & free entertainment in Yoyogi Park

Even the dogs are decked out in fine Lolita style on Takeshita Street!
Even the dogs are decked out in fine Lolita style on Takeshita Street!

Harajuku is home to the beautiful and serene Meiji Shrine, the wacky free entertainment of Yoyogi Park, and more cult fashion shops than you can count.

Right next to Harajuku station is the Meiji Shrine and the entrance to all the craziness of Yoyogi Park, which boasts the best free entertainment in Tokyo every Sunday afternoon.

The famed rockabilly clubs jitterbug away right at the entrance to the park, but there's far more entertainment in store, once you walk through the gate. More about that here.
The famed rockabilly clubs jitterbug away right at the entrance to the park, but there’s far more entertainment in store, once you walk through the gate. More about that here.
The Meiji Shrine is serene and majestic in any season, and is the best place to see Japanese weddings, kimono-clad kids and the pageantry of all the traditional festivals. More here.
The Meiji Shrine is serene and majestic in any season, and is the best place to see Japanese weddings, kimono-clad kids and the pageantry of all the traditional festivals. More here.

Now let’s head out to the shops! First, let’s walk along Takeshita Street, the two-block boutique bonanza for fashion cults. From Lolita to Goth, this is the place to be.

Cosplayers
Most stores open from 10:00 am but the people watching is much better after 4:00 in the afternoon.
TakeshitaSt
Good traveler note: taking pictures is a slightly sensitive issue on this street. Don’t take pictures inside stores and be sure to ask permission before shooting anyone dressed in costume.

As we head down Takeshita Street, you’ll spot those familiar golden arches on the left, but check out the strange seasonal items on this McDonald’s menu.

Next on the left: the Daiso ¥100 store. Every item inside is just ¥100 and there are four floors of merchandise – everything from crazy costumes to kitchen gadgets to hilarious English phrase books. Good place to find unusual little gifts to bring home.

LolitaClothes
Shops like Bodyline sell Lolita and Gothic Lolita fashions. For a complete guide to the Lolita/Goth-Lolita/Punk fashion boutiques in the neighborhood, consult the map on La Carmina’s blog.

Now let’s ogle the high-heeled sneakers at the shoe shop, the massively buckled outfits at the goth/punk store, and the freshly-fried potato chips at the Calbee store.

potatochipsundae
You can even get a freshly-fried potato chip sundae at the Calbee Store!

Before we get to the end, don’t miss the boutique selling hilarious dog clothing on the left.

DogBoutique
Your eyes do not deceive you. Afro wigs with horns. For dogs.
Fukubukuro
Travel planning note: If you go to Japan over New Years, don’t miss the Fukubukuro Sale! On January 2nd, Harajuku is packed with shoppers snapping up fukubukuro “Lucky Bags” from their favorite boutiques. The goods inside are a mystery until you open them, but they’re guaranteed to be worth a lot more than you paid.

Ahead is where Takeshita Street intersects with the wide, busy street beyond, so let’s turn right. Half a block ahead is the giant intersection with Omotesando Blvd., and on our right is the Laforet store. It looks like a department store, but is really a collection of all the famous fashion cult boutiques. Before we get there, though, let’s stop at the original stand selling Harajuku crepes. My favorite is custard, whipped cream & chocolate syrup, but as you can see, that’s one of the more modest offerings…

Crepe
You want one. Admit it.

Let’s eat our crepes here in the alley, then meander through the Laforet boutiques. While we’re here, let’s make an appointment at Maison de Julietta, where we’ll get our pictures taken dressed in the latest Lolita fashions!

This is me and my friend Yuki, all dolled up!
This is me and my friend Yuki, all dolled up!

When we’re done, let’s go back outside to that big intersection. On the corner across Omotesando Blvd is the Condomania store – an entire shop devoted to condoms.

Condomania

Let’s stroll down Omotesando Boulevard and stop at Kiddyland. It used to have a wide selection of toys you couldn’t get outside Japan, but these days Yamashiro-ya in Ueno is a lot better place to check those out. Kiddyland does have special editions of international character goods just for Japan (you haven’t really lived until you’ve seen a video of Pooh and Tigger conversing in Japanese), plus they carry popular Japanese characters (Totoro, anime characters, Pickle Man, cartoon characters, etc.)

You can still get some weird only-in-Japan stuffies at Kiddyland!
You can still get some weird only-in-Japan stuffies at Kiddyland!

Next to Kiddyland is a narrow street called Cat Street. It’s lined with all kinds of trendy boutiques, selling everything from freshly-made caramels to the latest fashions. If we turn left when we see the DKNY store about two blocks down the street, you’ll see a building with Number Sugar on the first floor and a store selling beautiful traditional hand towels (tenugui) upstairs. Both are well worth a look, and a source of excellent under-$10 gifts.

At the Number Sugar store, they make eight unusual flavors of caramels on premesis, and they are all to die for. These make excellent gifts to bring back home.
At the Number Sugar store, they make eight unusual flavors of caramels on premesis, and they are all to die for.

If you’re in need of a pick-me-up after all your walking, Nozy Coffee’s The Roastery is about two blocks down, on your left, and they make one of the best artisanal cups in Tokyo.

Back out on Omotesando Boulevard, let’s continue toward Oriental Bazaar. If you’ve got a limited amount of time for souvenir shopping, this is a good one-stop-shop.

A few blocks further on, we’ll reach a busy street and a big intersection (Aoyama-dori). Here, Omotesando continues in a narrower vein. This section of the street is home to the wild architecture of the Prada building, several Issey Miyake stores (including the 1235 Store where I bought a skirt that folds down into an origami chrysanthemum), the Yoku Moku cookie store and cafe, and 9across from Yoku Moku) a very untraditional concrete structure that houses the Kanze Noh theatre and school. Omotesando dead ends at the bamboo-fronted Nezu Museum, a small museum with a lovely garden and very nicely curated special exhibitions.

DIRECTIONS & MAP

Nearby destinations: Ikebukuro, Japan Traditional Craft Center, Meiji Shrine, Odaiba, Oedo Onsen, Roppongi, Shibuya, Shimo-kitazawa, Shinjuku, Yoyogi Park

Jonelle Patrick writes mysteries set in Tokyo

The #1 hostboy at Club Nova makes a handsome living, whispering sweet nothings in the ears of women who pay him a fortune for the privilege. But the party’s over when Tokyo Detective Kenji Nakamura is assigned to investigate the death of one of Hoshi’s customers…read more

 

 


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