Translated by Lester Somera
15 Things To Do In Harajuku - Tokyo’s Pop Culture And Fashion District
Harajuku attracts many visitors with its Japanese pop culture and beautiful nature spots. We will introduce you to the most popular spots and destinations not to miss out on if you are planning to visit the Harajuku and Omotesando area.
Written by MATCHA
Harajuku and Omotesando- Unique and Fashionable Shopping Districts
Harajuku is known as a fashion town where people wear outstanding clothing in bright as well as pastel colors or dark gothic lolita outfits. It is also famous as the birthplace of the kawaii culture. Harajuku is full of cafes and apparel stores that have a creative pop culture vibe such as the Kawaii Monster Cafe Harajuku and the 6% Dokidoki boutique, which are very unique even to Japan.
On the other hand, the abundant nature of Meiji Jingu and Yoyogi Park, as well as the Ota Memorial Museum of Art, where you can enjoy ukiyo-e art, are right besides Harajuku Station as well. This unusual combination creates a diverse array of ways to enjoy yourself in Harajuku.
Right next to Harajuku is the Omotesando area. While Harajuku is especially colorful and popular with younger people, Omotesando is a stylish upper scale area lined with rows of brand-name boutiques.
With elegantly designed shops such as the Minami-Aoyama Prada branch with a diamond shaped glass facade and Louis Vuitton Omotesando shaped like stacks of suitcases, strolling around Omotesando feels like walking through an art museum. It also has a variety of cafes with a relaxed atmosphere, as well as famous sweets shops.
Let’s take a look at fifteen spots you shouldn’t miss when visiting Harajuku and Omotesando.
1.Meiji Shrine and Japan’s Greatest Wooden Torii Gate
Meiji Shrine was built in 1920 and worships the emperor and empress of the Meiji era. Every year, it is the most popular choice for many shrine visitors to pay their New Year’s respects to. It is very popular with Japanese people and tourists alike.
The highlight of the shrine is the giant wooden torii gate. Twelve meters tall and seventeen feet wide it is said to be the biggest of its kind in Japan. When you go through the gate you will immediately feel the peaceful atmosphere. The roughly 100,000 trees planted within the area are offerings from various regions around Japan.
There is a daily event called Nikkusai held at 8:00 and at 14:00, where a sacred food offering is made to the gods. A religious ceremony called Tsukinamisai is held on the 1st and 15th of every month.
Address: Tokyo, Shibuya, Yoyogi Kamizono 1−1
Access: Two minutes from JR Harajuku Station on the Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line or Meiji Jingumae Station on the Fukutoshin Line
Homepage: Meiji Jingu Shrine
2. Enjoy All Four Seasons at Yoyogi Park
Yoyogi Park is located next to Meiji Shrine. With an area of 54.1 hectares, you can enjoy the natural beauty of all four seasons on the vast park grounds. Visitors can spend their time watching the flowers, having picnics, playing music and enjoying sports in the park.
The Yoyogi National Stadium, built in 1964 for the Tokyo Olympics, is also in this area. If you like architecture, the hanging roof of the stadium, built without using pillars so that spectators could focus on the games, is something you should check out. Its smooth lines and silhouette are very artistic as well.
Address: Tokyo, Shibuya, Yoyogi Hanazono 2-1
Access: Three minutes on foot from JR Harajuku Station, Yoyogi Park Station on the Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line, or Meiji Jingumae Station on the Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line or Fukutoshin Line, six minutes on foot from Yoyogi Hachiman Station on the Odakyu Line
Homepage: Yoyogi Park
3. Takeshita Street - The Embodiment of Harajuku
Takeshita Street is the representative shopping street of Harajuku. It has rows of affordably-priced shops selling fashion items, accessories and general goods. It is popular with Japanese people and international visitors alike.
Takeshita Street is particularly busy on holidays, with many people flooding the street. Some of the stores here include the famous 100-yen shop The Daiso, Calbee Plus, which sells freshly fried potato chips, and the boutique Takenoko, which sells peculiar fashion items such aslolita goods.
It is also famous for its various crepe shops and it is very popular to walk down Takeshita Street while eating a crepe. How about buying your favorite crepe and taking a picture of yourself with the Takeshita Street in the background?
Address: Tokyo, Shibuya, Jingumae 1-19
Access: Right by the JR Harajuku Station Takeshita exit
4. The Epitome of Cuteness - The Kawaii Monster Cafe
The Kawaii Monster Cafe in Harajuku is full of kawaii (cute) culture. Produced by Sebastian Masuda, who is responsible for some of Kyary Pamyu Pamyu’s music videos, it is a themed cafe with a fresh and interesting feeling to it. Stepping into Kawaii Monster Cafe means entering a vivid and crazy new world.
The food and drinks are extremely colorful, such as thispasta served on a paint palette and beverages full of strawberries, oranges, and other fruits. The cafe is just like Harajuku, it absorbs trends and creates a new culture with them. Kawaii Monster Cafe gives the area’s unique culture a visible form.
Address: Tokyo, Shibuya, Jingumae 4-31‐10 YM Square 4F
Access: One minute on foot from Meiji Jingumae Station on the Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line, five minutes on foot from JR Harajuku Station
Homepage: Kawaii Monster Cafe
5. Don't know where to go? - Moshi Moshi Box Harajuku Information Center
The Moshi Moshi Box, with its cute clock art, is a tourist information center in Harajuku. In addition to providing sightseeing information, it has various other services, such as free Wi-Fi, phone charging and currency exchange. The second floor is the pop-themed Moshi Moshi Kimono Salon, where you can try on original style kimonos. How about getting pictures of yourself wearing a Harajuku style kimono as a keepsake of your trip?
6. Laforet - A Shopping Complex Symbolizing Harajuku
The fashion complex Laforet Harajuku symbolizes the area highly popular with teens and young adults. This building primarily houses brand name apparel and cosmetic stores but it also contains cafes and other general shops. There is an official Sailor Moon store with goods that are sure to delight fans located on the sub-basement floor.
Address: Tokyo, Shibuya, Jingu-mae 1-11-6
Access: Five minutes on foot from JR Harajuku Station on the Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line, a minute on foot from Meiji Jingumae Station on the Fukutoshin Line
Homepage: Laforet Harajuku
7. Explore The Latest Trends at Omotesando Hills
Omotesando Hills, five minutes walk from Meiji Jingumae Station, is a shopping mall with a collection of Japanese brand boutiques. Within the facility, there are more than one hundred shops that handle unique and high-quality merchandise. The main building, with three sublevels and three floors above ground, has a central open air space with a unique design. It is surrounded by a spiraling slope. Feel free to come to Omotesando Hills to discover newest urban Japanese fashion.
Address: Tokyo, Shibuya, Jingumae 4-12-10
Access: Two minutes from the Omotesando Station A2 exit on the Tokyo Metro Ginza Line, Chiyoda Line, and Hanzomon Line, three minutes on foot from Meiji Jingu-mae Station on the Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line and Fukutoshin Line
Homepage: Omotesando Hills
8. Look for Traditional Japanese Souvenirs at the Oriental Bazaar
Picture courtesy of Oriental Bazaar
This building, with its eye-catching shrine-like exterior, is a souvenir shop that handles traditional Japanese products, gadgets and folk crafts. Oriental Bazaar opened in 1916 as a gadget shop in Nihonbashi. They moved to Harajuku in 1951. The store has such a long history that it’s said that even John Lennon has visited the Oriental Bazaar.
Address: Tokyo, Shibuya, Jingu-mae 5-9-13
Access: Five minutes on foot from JR Harajuku Station, three minutes on foot from Meiji Jingu-mae Station Exit 4 on the Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line or Fukutoshin Line
Homepage: Oriental Bazaar
9. Shop for Anime Merchandise at Kiddy Land
Kiddy Land is the leading toy store in the Harajuku area. Here you will find Studio Ghibli character merchandise, as well as many goods featuring famous characters such as Doraemon, Hello Kitty and Snoopy. Kiddy Land is even sometimes visited by Hollywood stars who come to Japan. If you’re an anime fan, you should definitely stop by Kiddy Land.
10. Tokyu Plaza Omotesando Harajuku - Home to Stylish Fashion Brands
Tokyu Plaza Omotesando Harajuku is a shopping complex across the street from Laforet Harajuku. If you go up the escalator at the entrance you will be surrounded by mirrors. This makes the building and especially the escalator a famous spot to take photos. Located on the roof is a place to relax known as the Toy Forest. This lush green garden is even seasonally decorated for occasions like Halloween and Christmas. A cooling mist sprays through the area on hot summer days.
You can relax in the Toy Forest for free, so feel free to drop by to refresh yourself after a long day of shopping.
Address: Tokyo, Shibuya, Jingu-mae 4-30-3
Access: Four minutes on foot from JR Harajuku Station, five minutes on foot from the Meiji Jingu-mae Station exit 5 on the Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line or Fukutoshin Line
Homepage: Tokyu Plaza
11. Visit the Ota Memorial Museum of Art to Enjoy Japanese Ukiyo-e
Picture courtesy of Ota Memorial Museum of Art
This art museum is specifically focused on ukiyo-e. Each month the museum selects artwork based on a theme and displays around 14,000 pieces. This includes work by representative ukiyo-e artists such as Utamaro Kitagawa, Hokusai Katsushika, and Hiroshige Utagawa. At the museum's souvenir shop you can buy tenugui hand towels printed with ukiyo-e art, as well as postcards. Both make great souvenirs. You can see various new pieces each time you visit, so every visit will be a delight.
Address: Tokyo, Shibuya, Jingumae 1-10-10
Access: Five minutes on foot from JR Harajuku Station, three minutes on foot from the Meiji Jingumae Station exit 5 on the Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line or Fukutoshin Line
Homepage: Ota Memorial Museum of Art
12. Enjoy Art and a Japanese Garden at the Nezu Museum
Picture courtesy of ©Mitsumasa Fujitsuka
At the Nezu Museum, you are able to appreciate Japanese and Western artwork. Buddhist carvings that have become Important Cultural Properties, Japanese paintings designated as national treasures and various other highly acclaimed art pieces are on display here. The collection belongs to industrialist and tea ceremony master Kaichiro Nezu.
Nezu Museum’s other appealing point is its Japanese garden. Within the vast garden, there is a teahouse comprised of four buildings. After enjoying at the artwork, we recommend taking a stroll through the garden.
*The museum is closed until August 31st, 2018 due to repairs and maintenance.
Address: Tokyo, Minato, Minami-Aoyama 6-5-1
Access: Eight minutes on foot from the Omotesando Station A5 exit on the Tokyo Metro Ginza Line, Hanzomon Line, or Chiyoda Line
Homepage: Nezu Museum
13. Try Delicious Sesame Ice Cream at Gomaya Kuki!
Picture courtesy of favy
Gomaya Kuki’s flagship item is its super-rich sesame ice cream, made with about 9,000 sesame seeds. While the ice cream is delicious on its own, variations like ice cream parfait topped with green tea pudding and sesame ice cream tempura are also items that shouldn't be missed. You can add sesame seed and sesame oil toppings for free, so why not customize the ice cream to your liking?
14. Relieve Stress with the Cute Animals at Hedgehog Cafe®️ HARRY
Picture courtesy of Hedgehog Cafe Harry
At Hedgehog Cafe®️ HARRY, the animals can move around freely in the cafe’s stylish interior. Just looking at them will put a smile on your face.
You can touch them but be gentle. The feeling of a hedgehog rolling up into a ball in your palms will surely relax you. At the Otter Cafe®️ HARRY, you can play with otters, chinchillas (*1) and rabbits in addition to hedgehogs.
※1: Chinchillas are highland animals from South America. Resembling squirrels, they are about 30 cm in length, with tails that are about 15 cm long.
15. The Cat Street - A Stylish Avenue That Leads to Shibuya
The Cat Street, a promenade that connects Harajuku to Shibuya, is a road lined with unique shops. It also offers comfortable cafes where you can take a break when you’re tired. The area around Cat Street is beloved as the hidden side of Harajuku for many years. Other than the main street with its rows of high fashion outlets, you can find many street brands and other unique shops around the Cat Street. Experience the fun of walking around the unknown side of Harajuku.
Harajuku and Omotesando - Easily Accessible, Fun and Fashionable
JR Harajuku Station is five minutes by train from Shinjuku Station. You can even get there on foot from Shibuya Station in about 20 minutes. The Tokyo Metro Meiji Jingumae Station is reachable from Ikebukuro Station by the Fukutoshin Line in about 10 minutes. To get to the Tokyo Metro Omotesando Station you can take the Ginza Line from Asakusa or Ueno and it will take about 10 minutes.
Original writer: Jumpei Kawashima
*This article is a rewrite of the original, published on August 15th, 2016.