Harajuku is known as Tokyo’s teenager town. It is an entire district catering for the young and trendy Tokyoite. The precinct is jam packed with hundreds of small boutiques, cafes, stores and restaurants all focusing on the youth market.
Harajuku is one of the best places in Tokyo to people watch; you can see just about everything from Goths and Punks to adult girls in school uniforms and guys in cowboy suits, it’s quite bizarre some of the fashion. There are Japanese takes on just about every culture with American and British themes being very popular. The mixture is amazing, you can see guys with green hair wearing a hello kitty shirt with tartan pants and chains, or a girl with a beehive wearing a French maid’s uniform with furry purple boots. You would think you’re in the middle of a fancy dress party; but no, this is how many of the trendy Tokyo youth go out.
You could describe the fashion as ridiculous, crazy or faddish, but you can’t disagree its fun. If you ever wondered where Iron Chef host Chairman Kaga gets his outrageous shirts, you would probably find a design like his around the fashion shops in Takeashita Street.
Harajuku is the best spot to see some the locals engaging in the popular youth pastime of cosplay. Cosplay is the term given to wearing a costume to try and look like your favourite anime character, movie or j-pop star. Cosplay is probably the next step on from some of the weird fashions you see on the street and is something rarely seen outside Japan; except for behind Gwen Stefani, whose entourage named the Harajuku girls, were inspired by the area.
The area first became popular in 1964 with Tokyo’s hosting of the 1964 Olympic Games. Many of the sports centres built for the Olympics are located close by and many of the athletes were housed in the Harajuka area. The area drew thousands of visitors soaking up the Olympic atmosphere.
Nearby Yoyogi Park is a popular place to relax and one of the few green areas in Tokyo. The weekends draw thousands to the park to see or be seen. Many of the more extreme fashion minded, love nothing better than to pose for the photographers. Youyogi Park is next door to Tokyo’s grandest shrine, the Meiji Jingu which was built to commemorate Emperor Meiji in 1920. It is a popular place for weddings and is extremely popular new years eve when thousands flock to celebrate the new year.
Sunday is the busiest time to visit Harajuku and will offer the best sights, but be warned there will be thousands of people who will be packed like sardines down the trendy lanes and streets. While your down there make sure you try a Harajuko Crepe, this rich crepe cone is stuffed with cream, strawberries and chocolate, It might not be too good for your waistline but is absolutely delicious, you mightn’t be able to stop at one.
One store not to miss is the Oriental Bazaar, which can be found at 5-9-13 Jingu-mae. This kitschy Tokyo institution is known for stocking everything from the crass to the ridiculous, including a great range of kamikaze T-shirts and kimonos. It is one of the best places to get your souvenir shopping done. You can’t miss the bazaar with its recognisable building with its Chinese temple roof. Another worthy store is the Laforet department store which stocks a huge range of trendy gear.
JR Harajuku Station on the Yamanote Line is the easiest way to get to Harajuku, but Harajuku is only a 15 to 20 minute walk away from Shibuya on foot if you follow the Yamanote Line tracks.