The team at Japlanning are off in a couple of weeks back to Japan, and today's article is all about one place we can’t wait to be in. If Shibuya is the youth’s playground of Tokyo, then Harajuku is their catwalk. Nestled between Shinjuku and Shibuya, it’s the centre of teen culture and all styles of fashion.
Here you can literally see fashion trends being born. Harajuku is also a main place to come see legendary Japanese cosplay out in public, with many Japanese youth hanging out in their latest creations for all to admire. To fully experience this and see the Harajuku Girls that Gwen Stefani sung about, you have to visit Harajuku on a Sunday, where you will find many people gathered around the areas by Harajuku station in their cosplay attire. From some who look like a gang of 50’s greasers, to others dressed as their favourite anime characters, or looking like they fell out off Alice in Wonderland. It’s a sight for creative eyes, like dozens of walking artworks.
However, there is more to Harajuku than fashion, teenagers and shopping - it is home to one of Tokyo’s biggest shrines, the Meiji Shrine, which is located next to Yoyogi Park. With the beautiful shrine, stunning wooded areas and green vistas, it’s a great way to escape the city buzz for an afternoon.
Let’s take a look at what brings people to Harajuku
Shopping is HUGE in Harajuku. More geared towards the teens and 20’s crowd, however you will find every big name in fashion here, with some of the biggest sized stores you have ever seen. Then to the exact opposite, you will find amazing boutiques that look small and quirky that go back deep, and seem endless -- it’s like the rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland. Shopping in Harajuku is, for the most part, split into two areas:
The Takeshita Dori runs from Harajuku Station, and is a small street about 500 metres long. It’s easy to find with its large gateway entrance with LCD screens welcoming all to its legendary shopping. This is where a large amount of Japan’s -- and even some of the world’s -- fashion trends are born. The street is lined with countless stores selling everything from regular clothing to extreme fashion. Also, you will never see as much Hello Kitty-ware in one concentrated area in the world! This is a must stop for all fashionistas to find the perfect item to wear back home that you won’t find anyone else with. In fact, many of the shops are known to be “antenna shops”, which many manufacturers fill with prototypes as a way to do some test marketing.
Beyond all the amazing fashion, the Takeshita is also home to Japan’s largest 100¥ store! Daiso, which have recently been springing up all over Australia, have their flagship store here in Harajuku, which has over four stories filled with clothing, kitchenware, office supplies, souvenirs and groceries, with every item being just 105¥ once tax is added. It’s a must stop for all those souvenirs’ for the people back home, without breaking the bank or eating into your own shopping money!
Takeshita Dori is located across from the exit of JR Harajuku Station. The best way to get to Takeshita is to take the JR Yamanote Line, and disembark at Harajuku Station. Most shops trade between 11:00am and 9:00pm daily.
The Omotesando is the main road leading down from the corner of Harajuku Station and Yoyogi Park. The one-kilometre road is picturesque, with beautiful green trees lining the road the whole way, however the main attraction along here and a few of the intersecting streets is the world class shopping.
The street is lined on both sides with flagship stores from some of the world’s biggest names in fashion, like Gap, H&M, Forever 21, Louis Vuitton, Nike, and so many more. There are also many shopping complexes along the road, each filled with every other name in fashion with smaller stores, you could enter some of these and exit later, only to realise you lost a whole day in a sea of shopping.
One of the must visits along Omotesando is Kiddy Land, the legendary Toy store that occupies five stories, and has every toy imaginable, including an entire Hello Kitty section, and a Snoopy town.
For architecture buffs, the road is a haven of spectacular buildings with amazing contemporary designs on either side of the street. Some of the most popular buildings are the Prada Store, Tod’s Building, and the newly opened Tokyu Plaza, which, beyond all the stores, has a spectacular design with an entrance with elevators going through a mirrored frame. The complex also has a beautiful open terrace garden on the sixth floor.
Omotesando is located opposite Harajuku Station and Yoyogi Park. The best way to get to Omotesando is to take the JR Yamanote Line, and disembark at Harajuku Station. Most shops trade between 11:00am and 9:00pm daily.
Needing a break from the Shopping and youth culture that embodies Harajuku? Well, thankfully, there is a beautiful escape: Meiji Shrine and Yoyogi Park, located just on the other side of the tracks from Harajuku Station.
Opened in 1912, the Meiji Shrine was built to honor Emperor Meiji, who passed in 1912, for his role in the Meiji restoration, however it was destroyed in the WW2 air raids. The current shrine was opened in 1958.
The shrine is situated almost in the middle of the Yoyogi Park area, making it about a 10-minute walk from the Southern and Northern entrances. The walk to the shrine is through a tranquil forest of more than 100,000 trees, donated from regions across Japan. The entrance to the shrine grounds is marked by a massive Tori gate, which is like the entrance way into the peacefulness of the temple grounds.
If you come on the weekends, you will usually be able to see the proceedings of a traditional Shinto wedding on the grounds, which is quite beautiful, with their traditional garments being worn and the precession that follows. The grounds are quite open, with a large courtyard in the middle, and some other buildings on the sides. At the shrine, you can take part in Shinto traditions as well as buy items from the temple store run by the temple workers.
Also part of the temple grounds are the Meiji Jingu Treasure House, which has many personal belongs of the Emperor on display. Another lovely feature of the grounds is the inner garden, which has a peaceful tranquility, and a perfect escape from the city just beyond its berm. Both these parts of the shrine have an admission fee of 500¥.
While in the peaceful tranquility of the shrine, just next to its grounds is Yoyogi Park, which is one of Tokyo’s biggest parks, with wide green vistas, lakes and ponds and also wooded areas. It’s a fantastic place for a picnic, or a early morning jog if you're staying near the area.
Meiji Shrine is open daily from Sunrise to Sunset. The best way to get to Meiji Shrine is to take the JR Yamanote Line, and disembark at either Harajuku or Yoyogi Station.
Yoyogi Park is open from 5:00am till 8:00pm in the summer months, and closes at 5:00pm in the winter months. The best way to get to Yoyogi Park is to take the JR Yamanote Line, and disembark at Harajuku or Yoyogi Station.
Harajuku is an amazing part of Tokyo, with two polar opposite areas: one being the youth crazed and trend-setting shopping culture of Takeshita Dori and Omotesando, then you have the tranquil peacefulness of Yoyogi Park and the beauty that is Meiji Shrine. However these two key parts of Harajuku sit together side by side in harmony, making Harajuku a haven for all tourists to enjoy an afternoon, or even a whole day while in Tokyo.
Have you been to Harajuku, or have always dreamed of it?
Tell us all about it in the comments below!