Tokyo Guide: Harajuku
Green and pleasant Harajuku is Tokyo's most established center of street fashion. While other areas rival it in terms of hip, Harajuku still reigns when it comes to streetwise and cutting edge. Harajuku is flanked by Jingu Gaien/Yoyogi Park to the east, the elegant Aoyama district to the west, and has the haute couture youth fashion boulevard of Omotesando running along its southern edge.
Harajuku comes in various flavors: kawaii (cute), gothic, punk, elegant, cutting edge--but all flavors are those of the street, drawn directly from, and catering directly to, the tastes, passions and dreams of Japanese youth.
A walk down Takeshita-dori avenue (across from the north exit of JR Harajuku station on the Yamanote line) will reveal Harajuku at its most typical. This street has it all in terms of variety, garishness, crowdedness, noise, and hustle. Takeshita-dori is well-known for its crepe shops, selling numerous sugary, creamy decorative variations of the confectionery Japanese schoolgirls love. Harajuku Alta is the Harajuku presence of a chain of fashion and entertainment malls, located partway down Takeshita-dori, and chock-a-block with stores selling things kawaii, including a Disney Store. Daiso Harajuku, also on Takeshita-dori, is a three-story branch of the 100-yen Daiso chain, and offers more than you would imagine for just 100 yen (plus consumption tax), including a lot of Japanese-style goods and trinkets that make great souvenirs.
However, if you veer just a few meters off Takeshita-dori, to one of the streets that runs parallel to it, a more subtle--and a somewhat quieter--Harajuku will reveal itself, offering everything from classy antiques, to jewelry to catwalk fashion. Similarly, a somewhat classier Harajuku can also be experienced by veering diagonally left down "Harajuku Street" once you have reached the end of Takeshita-dori from Harajuku station (look out for signpost).
Quickly merging into Kumano-dori avenue, Harajuku Street is a kilometer (half mile) of alternative, and, by definition, quite expensive, street cred fashion, running all the way to Gaienmae Station (Hanzomon subway line) on Route 246.
Laforet Harajuku is a landmark department store cum museum in Harajuku district: a beacon of youth fashion. Laforet also has an art museum on its 6th floor. Laforet Harajuku is located very near the Jingu-mae intersection with Omotesando street, and is distinctive for the constant changes it undergoes in outward appearance.
Tree-lined Omotesando boulevard (Japan's first ever boulevard) is on the southern edge of Harajuku. This pleasant, bustling slope of mainly fashion boutiques and other designer outlets offers a more mainstream experience of classy shopping, fashion and dining than Harajuku proper. Omotesando starts from the gates of the Meiji Jingu shrine. Omotesando extends west from just south of JR Harajuku station (or directly east from Jingu-mae subway station on the Chiyoda line), bisecting Meiji-dori avenue and then Aoyama-dori avenue.
The Louis Vuitton store on Omotesando was designed by Jun Aoki with its interior done by the peripatetic Takashi Murakami. At night, it literally stops traffic with its glamorous and imaginatively lit-up facade. The inside of the store is divided into five "volumes," each designed like Louis Vuitton trunks.
Harajuku Access - Getting To Harajuku
Harajuku is accessible from Harajuku Station on the JR Yamanote Line.