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Everything you need to know to explore Harajuku in Tokyo. Included is a step-by-step self-guided tour of Harajuku with detailed location information and instructions on how to get to Harajuku. The tour starts at the famous Takeshita Street, and continues through the beautiful Yoyogi Park and with a visit to Meiji Shrine. The tour ends at the fabulous Omotesando Shopping area. You will learn all about the Harajuku culture which includes Harajuku fashion and cosplayers.

Location of Harajuku

Harajuku is a district in Shibuya, Tokyo. It is located  pretty much around Tokyo’s Harajuku Station. Harajuku Station is located between Shinjuku and Shibuya Stations on JR Yamanote Line. Take a look at the following map – I marked Shinjuku and Shibuya Stations with the yellow stars and as you can see, Harajuku is right in the middle.

Harajuku

How to Get to Harajuku

You can take JR Yamanote Line and get off at the Harajuku Station. If you are a JR Pass holder, the cost of your trip will be covered by the pass.
You can take Tokyo Metro as well. Chiyoda Line will take you to the Harajuku Station. Here is a picture of the station.
When you exit the station, cross the street and turn left. Takeshita Street will be right ahead of you.

Harajuku Station

Self-Guided Tour of Harajuku

Following is the self-guided tour of Harajuku. You can use this map as a reference. I will discuss the following four locations:

  1. Takeshita Street
  2. Meiji Shrine
  3. Yoyogi Park
  4. Omotesando Street

On the map directly below,  A is Harajuku Station, B is Takeshita Street, and D is Omotesando. Meiji Shrine is labeled in the upper left hand corner and is surrounded by Yoyogi Park. Further below in my post, I included a detailed map of Yoyogi Park and Meiji Shrine.

Harajuku

Takeshita Street

The focal point of Harajuku is Takeshita Street. The street is narrow and tightly packed with trendy shops, high fashion boutiques, and used clothing stores. Every single day of the year, it is extremely busy and jam-packed. Both locals and tourists love to stroll through this shopping mecca of the world, hang out, and check what the latest trends are.

Harajuku Fashion

Takeshita Street is a birthplace of many of Japan’s fashion trends and a symbol of teenage culture. The Harajuku Fashion is one of the fashion trends that originated here.

Harajuku’s start as a center of fashion and youth culture came after WWII. US Army barracks, called Washington Heights, were built here. Shops that catered to the military families followed. This attracted young people curious about the western culture. In 1964 when the Olympic Games came to Tokyo, Washington Heights became the Olympic Village housing the athletes. People from all over Japan came to Harajuku for a chance to meet the athletes. In 1978, the Laforet fashion mall was opened and it quickly became Harajuku’s main attraction. It changed from being a place, into being a concept. Harajuku Fashion was born. It stood for energy, change and novelty.

Trends come and go at lightning speed on Takeshita Street: Decora, Goth-Loli, Cyber-Punk, Mori Girl, the list is endless. Many happen at the same time, and influence each other. Often it’s impossible to determine what gave birth to what.

Harajuku Shopping

What is a visit to Takeshita Street without some shopping? Personally, I skipped the high fashion shops and focused on sampling some of the food. First, you need to head on to Totti Candy Factory and buy their giant cotton candy.

Second, you need to try some crepes. It is hard decide which filling to choose from. All of the plastic displays look so good. I settled on  a crepe with Caesar salad and chicken filling and afterwards, I had another crepe with cheesecake and raspberries filling.

Where do you find the best crepes on Takeshita Street? You have several choices: Angels Heart, Marion Crepes and Santa Monica Crepes. And, if you want my opinion, definitely head on to Angels Heart. As they say, the devil is in the details and these people know all about crepes! They make fresh crepes right in front of you and have the best fillings as well. Don’t be worried about a long line, it moves with lightning speed, because they run the best operation.

Harajuku Cosplayers

Cosplay is dressing as a character in an anime cartoon, a manga comic, a movie, or a video game and acting as them. What better place in which to spot some amazing Japanese fashion and cosplay than Harajuku?

Meiji Shrine

For a change of pace and scenery, let’s head on to Meiji Shrine.

You need to re-trace your steps back to Harajuku Station and continue past the station. The entrance to the Meiji Shrine grounds will be on your right.

Following is the map of the Meiji Shrine grounds that I used and it will help you navigate through the area.

Meiji Shrine (Meiji Jingu) is a large Shinto shrine built in 1920 dedicated to the souls of Emperor Meiji (1852-1912) and his wife, Empress Shoken (1849-1914).

Emperor Meiji became a ruler in 1867 at the time when Japan saw the violent end of over 260 years of Tokugawa rule. Emperor Meiji led the industrialization, urbanization and colonial expansion of Japan.

Harajuku

The tour starts at the torii gate, which is the entrance to the Meiji Shrine grounds. You need to continue along a path lined by large cedar trees. The path will lead you to the shrine.

If you are visiting in late June, make sure to stop by the beautiful Inner Garden (admission is 500 yen). It is filled with over 150 species of irises which are in full bloom in late June. It is said the Emperor Meiji designed the garden himself for the pleasure of his wife.

Next, explore the Treasure House Annex (Admission 500 yen). You will see the royal couple’s clothes and personal things on display.

Also, check out Kaguraden for sacred kagura dances.

Harajuku

Harajuku

The admission to shrine grounds is free. It costs 500 yen to see the irises and 500 yen to enter the Treasure Museum Annex (Bunkakan). You can visit the shrine grounds from sunrise to sunset, but the garden and the museum hours are 10 am to 4 pm.

Yoyogi Park

The park that surrounds Meiji Jingu Shrine contains some 120,000 trees of 365 different species. Spring is the best time to visit.

Harajuku

Harajuku

If you are visiting in winter, stop by the North Pond in the front of the Treasure Museum – you will see a lot of beautiful Mandarin ducks.

Every Sunday famous Rockabilly Club performs in the park. It is fun to watch them. You can find them at the Harajuku entrance to Yoyogi Park.

Harajuku

Harajuku

Omotesando Street

Omotesando starts right in the front of the entrance to the Meiji Shrine grounds. All you have to do is cross the street and there you are. (If you decide to skip the Meiji Shrine or the park, and go straight to Omotesando from Takeshita Stree, just exit Takeshita and head south.)

Omotesando is a broad, tree lined avenue often referred to as Tokyo’s Champ Elysees. Here you can find famous brand name shops, elegant cafes and upscale restaurants. I will discuss some of my favorite stops along this street.

Tokyu Plaza

Tokyu Plaza is worth stopping by and riding the escalator. The faceted mirrors all around the escalator reflect off each other like a cut diamond.

Omotesando Hills

Omotesando Hills complex designed by Ando Tadao has intriguing design elements .

It contains hundreds of boutiques, restaurants and beauty shops.

Omotesando

Omotesando

 

Kiddy Land

It does not matter that you are a grownup, you need to stop at Kiddy Land. The store transcends age and nationality and immerses all visitors in the joy of Japan’s kawaii culture.

The store is virtually a theme park of character goods.

There are four specialty shops:

  • SNOOPY TOWN Shop Harajuku, carrying all the familiar faces from the cartoon Peanuts
  • PrismStone, a rendition of the shop in the anime Pretty Rhythm: Dear My Future
  • Rilakkuma Store Harajuku, whose cuddly bear boasts enduring popularity
  • Hello Kitty Store Harajuku, featuring one of Japan’s iconic characters

There are many more places that you can explore here, or you can head on to Shibuya, which is just next door to Omotesando and check out the famous Shibuya Crossing. Read all about Shibuya Crossing in my blog post: Shibuya Crossing – An Icon of Modern Tokyo

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