Harajuku is a station between Shinjuku and Shibuya on the main circuit line of Tokyo, the Yamanote Line. The Takeshita Dori (Street) in Harajuku is a shopping paradise, from DIY bicycle stores, high-end brands, to 100 yen stores; this is the place where all locals and tourists gather to fulfil their shopping desires. Well known are the famous scenes of Japanese girls swinging their internal Lolita and cosplay, what you may not know is that Harajuku is also home to boys in punk-rock glam and teens dancing to 1950s American rock music. Keep your eyes and mind open when visiting this unique place in Tokyo.
Sight Seeing in Harajuku
So first things first. Upon arriving by JR, step outside the Harajuku Station and make sure your picture is taken with the Harajuku Station. Being the oldest wooden building in Tokyo, it was built in 1924 and is one of the most recognized train stations in the whole of Kanto area.
Meiji Jingu (Shrine)
Next off, head off to the Meiji Jingu (Shrine). It’s just right next to the Harajuku Station and in midst of all the shopping areas, there is actually quite a bit of nature in here. Meiji Jingu’s landmark entrance is the 40-foot tall Meiji Jingu Torii (gate). Torii is a traditional Japanese gate commonly found at the entrance of or within a shrine, where it marks the transition from the profane to the sacred.
During Hatsumode (the first Shrine visit of the new year), it is recorded as the Shrine to have most locals visiting. There are on average about 15 weddings a day held here at Harajuku Meiji Jingu. This usually includes two priests, two shrine maidens, the to-be-married-couple, and a long trail of friends and family. Japanese ceremonies are very beautiful to the extent that it is almost astonishing, given their precision on the ceremony and their passion for beauty. A friend of mine was married in Japan. Her dad was given precise instructions on the angle of holding his daughter’s hand, for how long he should be holding it, and how they both had to look at each other at a specific angle, before they were allowed to move on to the next step. A fun fact: there is a water well called Kiyomasa no Ido sitting in the Harajuku Meiji Jingu. It is believed by the locals that if you take a photo of the well and put it as your background, good luck will come to you.
Yoyogi Park, Harajuku
The Yoyogi Park in Harajuku is a popular place with the locals all year round. Whether it’s Sakura (cherry blossom), greenery, red leaves or snow, Yoyogi Park is a lovely place to sit back with a picnic and enjoy the nature in the middle of the busy area of Harajuku. This is also where locals gather around to showcase their music and cultures.
Shopping in Harajuku
Tokyu Plaza Omotesando, Harajuku
Tokyu Plaza Omotesando Harajuku is named as the fortress of fashion. The castle-like structure was designed by Hiroshi Nakamura, an award-winning architect. Tokyu Plaza Omotesando Harajuku is home base for major fashion retailers like American Eagle and Tommy Hilfiger, and also domestic Japanese brands. Tokyu Plaza Omotesando is a short walk down Meiji Dori from Yoyogi Park. It is yet another multi-story shopping center but this one offers a rooftop terrace overlooking Harajuku. The garden area is called Omohara no Mori, and you’ll be able to find Starbucks on 6/F and Bills on 7/F. Both of them are open from 8:30AM.
Yet another shopping paradise in Harajuku where other than the usual casual stuff, you’ll be able to find Lolita and latest Japanese fashions. Laforet Harajuku offers quite a bit of unique goods (check out the basement), if you are a shopaholic and you’re in Harajuku, definitely head this way.
Sitting at the crossing of Meiji-Jingumae crossing is Condomania, which the name suggests, is a store that sells Japanese condoms, among other stuff. It’s the shop with the giant dancing condom and Japanese high school girls giggling. This shop has pretty neat party stuff and some very interesting condoms. There used to be two shops (the smaller one in Shibyua) but the only one left now is the Harajuku store. Be sure to check it out with your other half *wink.
SOLAKZADE in Harajuku
Solakzade offers vintage and bespoke eyewear for their clients. If you are into vintage stuff, this is the place to go. But don’t forget, vintage stuff are never wallet friendly!
Things to do in Harajuku
Harajuku Purikura – NOA
NOA is the first ever shop in Japan to be known as a purikura-land due to its variety of machines. Currently in the Harajuku NOA, there are 17 of the latest purikura machines and you’re definitely going to want to take purikura at least ONCE since you’re in Harajuku. Make sure you do it all the way, forcing your partner to do the cute poses and then shaping your faces way too slim and pulling your eyes twice as big as they should be. My personal favorite is the part where I get to draw all over and place stickies all over.
Kiddyland in Harajuku
To be honest I wasn’t sure where to categorized this. I’m sure lots of people spend quite a fortune on their beloved Japanese cartoons but this place is more of a to-look place than a to-shop place for myself since there are really way too many varieties here. Kiddyland in Harajuku is filled with Hello Kitty, Be@rbrick, Line and Friends, Blythe, Monchichi, Pompompuirin… you get the picture. My favorite Rilakkuma and Ghibli Studio (Totoro!) is everywhere in Kiddyland too and it gets really hard to control my fingers itching towards my wallet sometimes… Make sure you check out this post on Ghibli Musuem in Toyko! *link*
Harajuku Himitsukichi of Scrap
You know those escape house experiences where you solve puzzles to make it to the end? Harajuku Himitsukichi of Scrap collaborates with popular anime like Detective Conan and Death Note to create original games. A very interesting experience to share with your other half indeed.
Eating in Harajuku
Sakura-tei in Harajuku
Food paradise – this way! Sakura-tei is an all-you-can-eat restaurant where you can make your own okonomiyaki on the teppan (flat grill). Although you may be sceptical that you might be wasting food since you are not expert on cooking, fear not! There are English and Chinese written instructions and waiters to help if needed. I wouldn’t worry though – food cooked yourself always tastes better.
Cat Street, Harajuku
Cat Street in Harajuku (no, not where you buy cats or anything related in that matter) is where fashion and art collide. Both new and old buildings co-exist making it into a very interesting to see culture – the Harajuku culture. There is a DIY bicycle shop here where you can create your bicycle from scratch and pick out every part of your bicycle which is actually, quite interesting.
Hungry from all that shopping? Walk over to Gyoza-rou and have some amazingly thin but scrumptious and crispy skinned, umami and juicy meat pan fried dumplings. The prices are very reasonable, so this is my favorite place to go when my mouth is gets “itchy”. Personal tip: Order beer while you’re at it.
Heiroku Sushi, Harajuku
Heiroku Sushi in Harauku is very price-friendly and has really fresh sushi. Lot of tourists visit Heiroku Sushi and so there are English menus here. Pop in if you’re craving for sushi while you’re in Harajuku.
Cat Cafe MoCHA, Harajuku
If you are a cat lover and want some therapeutic time, pop into the Cat Cafe MoCHA here at Harajuku. Cats here aren’t super cuddly but they are happy to be petted and are quite friendly. TBH, you can’t really call this place a “cafe” since they only offer vending machines but the drinks are really good (caramel coffee!). Just one thing to note: you must be 15 or above to enter. Kinda makes you wonder why…
Jingu Gaien Fireworks Festival in Harajuku
This festival is only happens in mid-August during summer, where the streets of Harajuku are filled with locals in their Yukata. Definitely a very good time to bring out the beer to go with the local snack while hanabi (fireworks) are firing above your head. Romantic eh?
Harajuku Omotesando Genki Matsuri Super Yosakoi
This festival only happens in late-August during summer, where dancers from all over the world come together to perform in this annual parade. This festival attracts over 800,000 viewers each year. Definitely the time to feel the Japanese atmosphere!
Staying smart with these tips:
Shrine manners: Be reminded that a shrine is a place of great respect for Japanese people. Remember to take your hat before you enter. Cleanse your hands and mouth at the water thing since this is a token of respect to Shinto customs. If you like, throw a coin into the offerings box and bow twice. You can then make a wish to the deity, and when you’re finished; clap your hands twice, then bow once more.
Harajuku is a place filled with local contemporary culture so make sure you don’t miss hanging out here with the local people!
How to get here:
From Tokyo Station
Get on the JR.
Line: Yamanote Line
Stop: Get off at Harajuku Station
Time: Around 30 minutes
From Shinjuku Station
Get on the JR.
Line: Yamanote Line
Stop: Get off at Harajuku Station
Time: Around 5 minutes
*Photos are embedded from Pininterest, Instagram and Google images