Harajuku, a must-visit when you are in Tokyo – THE place to see subcultures and fashion among Japanese youths displaying their individualistic expression, something that contradicts the traditional Asian collective culture.
There are plenty of places to go in Harajuku and the best (and sometimes worst) day to visit Harajuku would be on a Sunday. The best part is that you would see more activities as the Japanese youth would be out and about for their weekly recreational activities. The other side of it, it would be very packed with human traffic. If you prefer a more lively ambient, the weekends should be the day to head to this area but if you prefer some quiet time strolling around then you should plan your visit on a weekday. Take the train to the Harajuku area, and exit at the Takeshita-Dori gate to start your journey for the day.
Since its near to the Harajuku station (and the one that closes the earliest), you should visit the Meiji Shrine once you reach Harajuku. Once you exit the station and are standing across the Takeshita Dori street (or commercial clothing stores), turn to your right and walk along the sidewalk until you reach a large wooden arch. You will have to walk all the way in (there are other entrances according to our local friend but we couldn’t find them) through some botanical gardens and other attractions before you reach the shrine right in the middle of it all. Note that photography is not allowed at the main inner shrine area but allowed within the compound.
Meiji Shrine is a Shinto (Japan’s main religion) shrine dedicated to late Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shoken. Built on 1920’s, the shrine is a national prayer centre for peace and prosperity as a result of combined efforts to commemorate his virtues. The shrine was engulfed by fire during the last war but has since then reconstructed in 1958 supported by the Japanese people. The area comprises of a few gardens, Kaguraden, Treasure Museum, Bunkakan and the Meiji Memorial Hall where shinto weddings are usually performed. Inside the Shrine, you are allowed to pay your respects, do prayer rituals to the Divine Tree, or just walk around and enjoy a little piece of peace within the bustling city. If you’re lucky, you might stumble upon young Japanese children in traditional garbs or a wedding procession.
Packing some snacks or lunch boxes are almost essential when you’re in Tokyo. If you managed to grab a bento set or Onigiri from convenience stores, you should walk a little further just after the Meiji Shrine entrance into Yoyogi Park. On weekends, you might catch interesting mime or Elvis acts or other Japanese netizens doing all sorts of things to pass time.
Takeshita Dori street
If you’re into modern subcultures or would just love to have an unusual experience, walk down Takeshita Dori street as it is THE epicentre of all goth, grunge, lolita and ninja fashion rolled into one giant cake. Walking down Takeshita Dori, you will find a row of shops that sells everything from household items (Daiso), crepes with a whole cake slice in it (like, seriously!), candy stores, clothing and pet clothing. You will even bump into store staffs standing along the street trying to lure customers into their stores dressed in eye-catching garb. Holding signs to the store is a common advertising method in Tokyo as most restaurants or shops are on upper floors so don’t be alarmed if a man starts talking to you while pointing towards an upper floor of a building.
Walk straight through Takeshita Dori, and cross a traffic light junction you will end up at another world of street wear fashion. Here, the hypebeasts come out and play as there are plenty of street wear and sneaker stores around the alleys. You will find local brand as well as big brand names side by side offering the latest, the classics and the limited ones for those who wants to be ahead of the game in street wear fashion.
Omotesando is one of the higher-end part of Tokyo. Here you will find classier looking stores by various international brands but in the smaller alleys you will find secondhand stores. If you’re not into branded goods, it’s still fun to walk around Omotesando area and see their interior store designs. Around Christmas time, they would have illuminations all over Tokyo and Omotesando would be one of the places to view it. They also have a famous Tonkatsu restaurant Maisen and all other notable restaurants around this area.
Situated on the main street, you won’t miss Kiddy Land as this is the mecca for all things magical. Even if you’re a big kid, going through the four-floors of Kiddy Land makes you feel like you’re back in primary school. I was definitely one of them as I walked out of the store with a big bag of toys.
Do you have any spots to recommend within these two areas? Leave us a comment.