Grab something sweet, wear your most outrageous outfit and dive head first into this paradise of the weird and wonderful.
With devoted fans like Lady Gaga, Gwen Stefani and more home-grown talent Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, it’s no surprise that Harajuku has gained legendary status. The cramped and retro red brick train station bursting with every fashion sub-culture imaginable is, for most people, their first taste of Harajuku and it sums up the place perfectly.
This is where traditional Japan hits modern Japan head first.
Harajuku has become synonymous with the Japanese fashion scene, so much so that maybe your grandma even knows what lolita and decora is (she might even be one!). If street fashion is your thing, then head to La Foret, a huge shopping mall just a minute’s walk away from Meiji-jingumae subway station. With stores sporting big name brands like Angelic Pretty and Baby The Stars Shine Bright, you can stock up on all things frilly and lacey here.
Takeshita-dori is one of the two main shopping streets and home to some of Harajuku’s most celebrated boutiques and brands. Kiddy Land will convince you that you really need a lifetime’s supply of super-kawaii character goods (the Hello Kitty oven gloves are obviously worth investing in). If you want a slice of quirky-boutique-chic, you need to check out Solakzade. Even the most diehard of contact lenses fans will have a riot rummaging through its vintage glasses frames, with some even dating back to the 1800s.
Omotesando is the second street and caters to an older, richer clientele. Along the tree-lined streets, world-famous designer brands, such as Louis Vuitton, have chosen to locate some of their biggest stores within uber cool showcases of contemporary architecture. If you still want to sample the luxuriousness of Omotesando without the price tag, track down Ragtag, a hugely popular store selling second-hand designer clothes.
All that shopping’s bound to make you hungry and it’s a good thing that Harajuku’s food is as trendy as its clothes. Sweet desserts (matcha-strawberry-brownie crepe, anyone?), Michelin-starred restaurants and bargain gyoza (fried dumpling) restaurants like Harajuku Gyoza Lou (6 gyoza for 290 yen, bargain!) sit side-by-side.
If the crowds get too much, there is calm amongst the chaos. Vacant, a chameleon-like art gallery that also serves as a concert venue and bar, always has something new to offer. Similarly, the Ota Memorial Museum of Art is a petite oasis of ukiyo-e (traditional woodblock prints) just minutes from Harajuku Station.
The museum also happens to be on the way to another famous landmark: Meiji Jingu. Dedicated to one of Japan’s most influential emperors, Meiji Jingu’s extensive gardens and grounds offer respite from the crowds. It also backs onto Yoyogi Park, whose reputation for hosting some of the biggest and best cultural events in Japan is well deserved.