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.
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.
Now let’s head out to the shops! First, let’s walk along Takeshita Street, which became known as the two-block boutique bonanza for fashion cults. From Lolita to Goth, this used to be the place to be, but sadly, most of the boutiques have closed and are now feature Japanese pop fashion instead.
There are still a few reasons to brave the crowd, though…
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.
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.
Before we get to the end, don’t miss the boutique selling hilarious dog clothing on the left.
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…
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.)
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.
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.
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
Jonelle Patrick writes novels set in Japan, produces the monthly e-magazine Japanagram, and blogs at Only In Japan and The Tokyo Guide I Wish I’d Had