Long considered the epicenter of Tokyo's street fashion — even if some of those in the scene itself consider it to be on the decline — Harajuku (原宿) is a fun neighborhood. The average Japanese shopper in Harajuku likely is in secondary school or even younger and the area tends to feel more forthright than some other parts of Tokyo popular with tourists and local businessmen alike. Accordingly, Harajuku is a pleasant destination in Tokyo for the young or young at heart in addition to those traveling with their own children.
Much like Camden Town in London, the stores perhaps are not quite as independent and unique as they once were, but Harajuku — most notably Takeshita Street (竹下通り) and Cat Street (キャットストリート) — still offer a lively vibe, a nice walk, and plenty of shopping for cute kawaii (かわいい) clothes and fashion accessories.
If you're really interested in local style, you might like to hire a guided tour, because Harajuku is a dense neighborhood and the assorted fashion genres get complicated and change rapidly. However, in general, Takeshita Street tends to have relatively inexpensive indie shops selling punk, goth, lolita, neon, vintage, and other local styles whereas Cat Street consists primarily of mass market international retailers like Adidas and Columbia. Takeshita is closed to cars and their fumes entirely whereas Cat Street is narrow, small scale, has sidewalks and limits vehicular traffic. Both are a nicer stroll than many side streets in Tokyo.
The large Omotesando Avenue (表参道) in between Takeshita Street and Cat Street has a number of high-end luxury brands like Longchamp and Louis Vuitton. In fact, the area is second only to Ginza (銀座) for luxury goods. In terms of shopping, Harajuku definitely covers a lot of ground.
Harajuku also is the home of the beautiful Meiji Jingu (明治神宮) — a Shinto shrine nestled in its own planted forest — so the neighborhood also offers a compelling contrast between the busy and buzzing retail corridors and the quiet and peaceful shrine and its grounds. When visiting Meiji Jingu, travelgasm.com reminds you to be respectful and to bow at each torii (鳥居), or gate, along the route to the shrine. Also, be sure not to overlook the attractive Kakuuntei (隔雲亭) Japanese-style house tucked away in the Meiji Jingu Inner Garden (明治神宮御苑).
To eat in Harajuku, the famous treat is a Harajuku crêpe. The Harajuku variant is similar in style to a French dessert crêpe — and likewise offered with a variety of sweet toppings — but in Harajuku, they are rolled into a cone rather than served open-faced or folded. There are many crêpe shops in Harajuku, but the two most famous are Angels Heart and Marion Crêpes (now a big chain), which have been rivals since the 1970s and are across the street from one another. For a bigger meal, you might like to try the Eggs 'n Things chain, which originally was from Hawaii but now is in Japan only and offers a 24-hour American-style breakfast.
Cafes where you can play with animals also are popular in Harajuku. You already may have visited a cat cafe before, and Harajuku has an abundance of cat cafes, but it also has owl and hedgehog cafes like Owl's Garden and Hedgehog Harry. These more unique animal cafes are so popular that they sell a combined skip-the-line pass that you can purchase in advance if you would like a guaranteed visit.
We've mapped out our preferred route through Harajuku below. It connects the aforementioned Takeshita Street, Omotesando Avenue, and Cat Street in a logical loop from the nearest metro station and back. Be sure to also enjoy the European-inspired Harajuku JR station (原宿駅) — built in 1906 — while it lasts because it may be demolished in preparation for the 2020 Olympic Games.
How to Get Here: Although you also can take the JR Line, it generally is less expensive — and just as convenient — to take the metro. Take the Chiyoda Line (Green) or Fukutoshin Line (Brown) to Meiji-jingumae <Harajuku> Station (C03, F15). Exit 2 is best for Meiji Jingu. Turn around after leaving the exit and cross the bridge on your right. Exit 3 is best for Takeshita Street. Go straight after exiting and it will be on the right hand side of the street. If you follow our suggested walk, Exit 4 is the best departure point.
Like Takeshita Street, Cat Street, Omotesando Avenue, Meiji Jingu or Harajuku in general? Tell your friends and frenemies on social media that you discovered them first:
Intelligent and good-looking readers of travelgasm.com like you also sign up for our free monthly mailing list.
Live in Tokyo? What tourist attraction do you most like to share with visitors? Spotted anything out-of-date or inaccurately translated? Please tell travelgasm.com. ありがとう. Thanks!