by Bryce Marley-Jarrett
Japlanning is back today with a new trail in Tokyo to help you see some well known sights and attractions, in an order that best uses your time in experiencing Tokyo, rather than sitting on a train to get from one point here to another point across the city. Today's trail takes you from the bustling streets of Shinjuku, though to the trend setting Harajuku, with an escape to nature along the way. Let's get moving!
On today's trails we are showing you a great way to experience some of the quieter, local side of Shinjuku, as well as the famous Meiji Shrine, Yoyogi Park, and the trendy streets of Harajuku, all in just a few hours.
- We start today's trail at the intersection of Tokyo-to and Shibuya-ku, just down from the southern exits of JR Shinjuku station. The intersection most known for the Giant Clock of First Kitchen Fast Food on one corner.
- From here you will be turning left down Shibuya-ku, and will continue walking about 1 kilometer. As you walk you will notice a change in scenery and congestion. The road gets quieter and you will see a bit more of the local side of Shinjuku. Take your time wandering through any shops or arcades you fancy, or stop at a local restaurant for a bite to eat.
- Continue walking down Shibuya-ku until you walk under the highway overpass.
- Here you will be at an intersection. Turn right and walk straight up the road until you enter the parklands of Meiji Shrine (The road will end and you will be greeted by a giant Tori gate.)
- Once entering the grounds, continue walking straight ahead and follow the signs directing you to our first stop Meiji Shrine and Yoyogi Park.
STOP 1 - Meiji Shrine / Yoyogi Park
Opened in 1912, the Meiji Shrine was built to honour Emperor Meiji, who passed in 1912, for his role in the Meiji restoration, however it was destroyed in the WWII air raids.
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.
Japlanning tip - Visit Meiji Shrine on the weekend and you will have a great chance of seeing a traditional Shinto wedding happening, a beautiful sight!
- Once you have admired the history, ritual and natural beauty of Meiji Shrine and its surrounds, making your way to the next stop is easy.
- Follow the signs to the exit towards Harajuku station, it's a quick 10-15 minute stroll from most parts of the grounds and Yoyogi Park.
- As you exit through another Tori gate you will be at our next stop
STOP 2 - Harajuku Station and Bridge
The bridge just outside the entrance to Yoyogi Park here is one of the main places you might have the chance to see Harajuku girls and other cosplay enthusiasts in their finest wares on the weekend.
Right by the bridge, historic JR Harajuku Station, one of the oldest in Tokyo being built back in 1906. The main building still shows it's original architecture and historic clock above the main entrance.
Japlanning tip - A stroll around Yoyogi Park on the weekend will usually reward you with more Harajuku girls enjoying nature, as well as the odd group of 50's style greasers mock dance fighting a la grease. (and it is spectacular!)
- Continuing on our trail we turn left at Harajuku Station and walk down the street about 200 metres to the entrance of our next stop: Takeshita-dori! It has a huge entrance arch, so you definitely won't miss it!
STOP 3 - Takeshita-dori
Welcome to Harajuku! 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 the legendary shopping inside. 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.
Japlanning tip - A must stop that isn't fashion related is Japan's biggest 100Y Store. This is Daiso's largest store and spans 4 levels, with everything just 100Y (plus tax).
- Once you have finished the craziness that is Takeshita-Dori, you will come out the other end at a Meiji-Dori. Here you turn right.
- Wander down the road, past some of the worlds biggest youth brands' retail stores to the next intersection, Omotesando.
- Here you want to cross the road than immediately turn left and cross again.
- Walk about 140 metres down Omotesando and you will be at the final stop, Kiddyland Toy Store.
FINAL STOP - Kiddyland / Omotesando
The final stop for this trail is the most famous toy store in Tokyo. This five story wonderland is filled with every brand imaginable, with stores within the store dedicated to some of the most Kawaii brands out there. Here you will find a Hello Kitty Store that will amaze you with how many kinds of things are branded with the loveable Japanese kitty! It's a great store for Japanese hit anime too, to find toys and figurines you'll never find outside Japan.
The street we are on is also part of the last stop. Omotesando is filled with big brands and amazing modern malls, with spectacular architecture lining the street. (such as the amazing building in our cover picture) Many of the world's biggest brands have their Tokyo flagship stores here in spectacular buildings.
Japlanning tip - Just a few doors down from Kiddyland you will find Oriental Bazaar, this traditional Japanese building holds one of Tokyo's largest souvenir shops, with traditional wears like kimonos, kitchen ware, fans, samurai swords and so much more.
To continue on after your trail, you can turn and head back up Omotesando and you will reach Harajuku Station on the JR Yamanote Line, which can get you anywhere in Tokyo you want to experience next!
Here is the end of our Shinjuku to Harajuku Trail, you can spend hours around Harajuku if you're a natural born shopper, or this trail is a great morning or afternoon for the more cultural seeking traveller. However this trail gives followers the best overview of all that Harajuku and its surrounds has to offer.
TOTAL DISTANCE - 4.65klm