Harajuku Area

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.

First let’s stop at the Meiji Shrine, which is right next to Harajuku Station.

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, gorgeous kimonos on Coming-of-Age Day and the pageantry of all the traditional festivals.
Don’t miss taking a stroll through the Nai-en Garden while you’re there, especially if it’s iris season.
It’s a nice walk in any season, but the best thing is that once I saw a real live tanuki there!


And right next to the Meiji Shrine is 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.


Now let’s head out to the shops! First, let’s walk along Takeshita Street, that used to be a two-block boutique bonanza for fashion cult, but once this “underground” mecca became known, they disappeared elsewhere. It still has some entertaining stuff to see, though!

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. Good place to find unusual little gifts to bring home.

Shops like Bodyline sell Lolita and Gothic Lolita fashions. You’re unlikely to see any cosplayers on Takeshita Street anymore, but if you’re interested in the clothing, this is where to see it.

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.

If you ever wondered what a freshly-fried potato chip sundae would look like, this is it

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

Your eyes do not deceive you. Afro wigs with horns. For dogs.
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 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…

You want one. Admit it.

Let’s eat our crepes here in the alley, then meander through the Laforet boutiques. When we’re done, let’s go back outside to that big intersection. We’ll 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

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 an excellent source of 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 pour 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 (across 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.

Click here to explore more

Jonelle Patrick is the author of five novels set in Japan

For three hundred years, a missing tea bowl passes from one fortune-seeker to the next, changing the lives of all who possess it…read more

The Last Tea Bowl Thief was chosen as an Editor’s Pick for Best Mystery, Thriller & Suspense on Amazon

“A fascinating mix of history and mystery.” —Booklist

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