Harajuku And Omote Sando, Tokyo
Omotesando is a neighborhood in the Shibuya Ward of Tokyo located between Harajuku and Shibuya crossing, but much closer to Harajuku. The main street, a wide tree-lined boulevard, was created as the primary entrance to Meiji Shrine. Today the area is one of Japan's high end shopping districts, featuring several major huge outlets for major brands. The street is known as as Tokyo's Champs-Élysées, due to its resemblance to the street of this name in Paris.
Takeshita Dori (“dori” means street) is a narrow street in the district of Tokyo known as Harajuku. This district is known as a focal point for some of Japan's most extreme teenage cultures and fashion styles, and Takeshita Dori is the epitome of Harajuku. Its narrow pedestrians-only (thankfully!) length is lined with uber-trendy clothes shops interspersed with the kind of refreshment stops likely to appeal to its mainly teenage market. This is a great place to come, and in particular on a Sunday, if you want to see Tokyo’s youth at play.
The most eccentric and colourful fashions will be those of the so-called “cosplay” aficionados, cosplay being short for costume play, in which fans of animė, manga etc dress in the costumes of favourite characters. While this started as a practice for fan conventions and similar gatherings, today it has extended into life on the streets and the range of costumes widened. There are even (though we didn’t see any) cosplay restaurants where the waitresses are dressed as video game or anime characters, or maid restaurants where they dress as maids. As well as these costumes you’re likely to see Goth, punk and many other styles – often several combined in the one outfit! And the shop windows of course display fashions in the same vein. I wasn’t surprised to read later that Lady Gaga apparently shops in at least one of these!
Our group had split up at this point, with not everyone wanting to brave the crowds here, but Chris and I squeezed ourselves into the crush of people walking along Takeshita Dori and wove our way between them. The shops here are mainly independent ones, clearly targeted at the young people who flock here to shop for cute accessories and the latest fashions, but there are one or two chains among them, including 7-Eleven and McDonalds for refreshment breaks. We wanted something more Japanese than the latter so, despite feeling a little out of place in this crowd, decided on lunch at the Caffe Solare which had both Western and Japanese light meals (I had a great toasted sandwich with avocado and cheese – so not so Japanese after all maybe!) We managed to get a table by an upstairs window which gave us a great vantage point from which to watch the passing crowds.
After lunch we walked a little further down the street and grabbed some more photos. But unless you’re a youthful shopper you will probably not want to spend a long time here, though it’s certainly worth a look, especially if you’re in the area to visit nearby Yoyogi Park and the Meiji shrine .
Takeshita-dori sounds nasty in English, but in Japanese, it is a family name that means something pleasant like "under the bamboo." Takeshita-dori, or Takeshita Street, and its side streets are lined by many trendy shops, fashion boutiques, used clothes stores, crepe stands and fast food outlets targeted mainly at Japanese teenagers.
Takeshita-dori is the center of Tokyo and all of Japan's teenage culture. While the shops are intended to draw the fashion and trend conscious teens. The teens themselves come here to set new fashion trends. This is s great place to visit on Sundays when crazy Japanese kids come dressed like dolls, punk rockers, California girls, and cartoon characters.
Takeshita-dori is a narrow, roughly 400 meters long, and closed to vehicles during busy times of the day.
Shibuya, the fashion center of Japan, has two famous shopping areas, the area around Shibuya Station and Harajuku. Both attract well-to-do youth in droves, but Harajuku is known as the area that attract many of the uniquely Japanese fashions like punk, gothic lolita and cosplay.
Harajuku is a huge shopping district that includes malls and individual stores with international brands, Japanese brands, and some independent shops. Omotesandō is sometimes referred to as "Tokyo's Champs-Élysées," and it has many up-scale fashion shops such as Louis Vuitton, Chanel, and Prada. Takeshita-dori runs parallel to Omotesando and has more independent shops catering to fashionable youth.
The area is located at Harajuku Station. Nearby is the Meiji Shrine and Yoyogi Park.
A visit to Tokyo for me would not be complete without pursuing the following itinery. Because we tend to be based in Asakusa we take the Ginza line all the way to the other end alighting at Shibuya Station.
We take a quick look at the Hachiko statue. Hachiko was a Japanese Akita dog. He was owned by a Professor Ueno who worked at Tokyo University. Every day Hachiko walked to the railway station with his master as he set off to work. Then he sat and waited for him to return to walk him home. When Professor Ueno died unexpectedly, Hachiko continued to wait for him every day for the next 9 years. (This story was recently Americanized and turned into a movie starring Richard Gere). The statue is now a popular meeting point for young people in Shibuya.
As well as taking a look at Hachiko, while visiting Shibuya it is worth having a look at Love Hotel Hill. Go to the crossroads past the Hachiko staue and wander off up the hill to your left. This area is filled with love hotels, which rent rooms by the hour to amorous couples. The interesting thing is that many of the buildings are built in colourful and over-the-top ways, for example, with bright purple and pink outer walls, or made to look like mediaeval castles etc.
Shibuya is a shopping area and while I'm not big on shopping, I do love to have a wander round the Tokyu Hands Department Store. This sells everything weird and wonderful including clocks that tick backwards. On my last visit I was fascinated by some little models of a rock group which play instruments and dance to whatever music is played to them. I could have watched them for hours but would have needed to take out a mortgage to buy them.
From Shibuya we then take a stroll up to Yoyogi Park. It's much quicker to reach Yoyogi Park from Harajuku Station if you want to go direct. Yoyogi Park was once the site of the American base and was nicknamed Washington Heights at that time. After the Americans left, it became the site of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Then it became a park. At one time it was a popular venue for youth sub-cultures such as the dancing teddyboys, but the police began to move them on, so there are no longer as many.
I strongly recommend a visit to this park at the weekend, especially a Sunday, when the park is filled with people out for a stroll, or picnicing under the trees, or sword fencing, or practising other sports. Not to mention, a group of friends that meet up there to provide impromptu drumming concerts and throngs of youngsters who set up mics and electric guitars and perform near the park's main entrance.
This park is also filled with stunningly beautiful cherry blossom in spring.
Between the entrance to Yoyogi Park and Harajuku Station there is a little bridge which on Sundays becomes a popular spot for Cos-play. Cos play is some weird Japanese thing which results in young Japanese school girls dressing up bizarrely as anything from French maids to Pokemon characters and posing for photos with passers-by. Fascinating, but strange.
Richt next door to this is the Meiji Shrine which could not be more different. It is a beautiful Shinto shrine set in acres of green woodland( it also has a famous iris garden). At weekends it is a popular venue for traditional Shinto weddings or child blessings. Certain numbers are considered unlucky in Japan. A child going through an unlucky number year must be blessed by a Shinto priest to cancel the bad luck.
A wonderful place to take photographs of people in traditional clothes and watch traditional ceremonies.
Since we were in Harajuku for Hanami at Yoyogi, we stopped at the Togo Shrine, which is a kind of bookend to the Nogi Shrine. Admiral Togo annihilated the Russian fleet in 1904-1905. Not surprisingly, his shrine is entered by crossing water -- in this case a huge koi pond, shadowed by more of the ubiquitous cherry trees. It was the first place where I'd seen a charm for boating safety!
A bookshop and a small museum are located on the grounds of the shrine.
.....Starting in the 1990's, as Japan's economic jauggernaut started losing its steam, groups of rebellious Japanese young girls started dressing up as anime characters, lolitas, goths and other outlandish characters and socializing near the entrance to Yoyogi Park in Harajuku on Sundays. They did this because it irritated the older, nose-to-the-grindstone generation. This continues to the present day and got so famous that Gwen Stefani actually dressed her back-up singers in this style. While most of these people are girls, I can't vouch that they all are! I was there on a refreshing spring day and found them clustered on the Jingu bridge that one would have to cross going from Harajuku Station to the Meiji Shrine or Yoyogi Park.
.....Among the fashion trends they started in Japan was "kawaii" chic, where kawaii is the Japanese word for cute. Excessive cuteness was seen as rebellion against the older generations, and kawaii chic has spawned such world-wide icons as Hello Kitty.
This is the other it place to be in Tokyo...the other being Ginza.... but Omote-sando, is a beautiful tree lined street with tons of high end shopping stores and tons of high end cafes !!!! A great place to spend an afternoon shopping and having coffee... A must see street, as beautiful as the Champs D'Elysee in Paris, 5th Ave in New York....
the busy Japan Railway Harajuku Station, Tokyo's Harajuku Station, just one station north of Shibuya on the Yamanote Line. The Harajuku Station is in the center of Japan's most extreme teenage cultures and fashion styles, but also offers shopping for grown-ups and some historic sights. The station consists of a single island platform. A temporary platform is located on the west side of the station usable by trains travelling towards Shinjuku which is used when major events occur in the area, especially around New Year when many people visit Meiji Shrine. The main entrance is at the southern end of the station. A smaller entrance in the centre of the platform is convenient for Takeshita-dori, another famous area in Harajuku. Takeshita-dori is a popular shopping street and Takeshita-dori entrance is often very crowded, creating a bottleneck on weekends when scores of tourists and locals arrive and leave Harajuku generally and the shopping areas in and around Takeshita-dori specifically.
Japan's Champs Elysees! if takeshita dori street which lies 200 meters away from Omotesando and is parallel to it is the funky teenage shopping heaven, Omotesando is the Center of Luxe in the Shibuya district (yes, harajuku is part of Shibuya ok!). Omotesando is broad, tree-lined avenue leading downhill from the southern end of the JR Harajuku station. This is the other side to Harajuku Fashion and its challenge to Shibuya and Ginza. Not only is the street full of cafes and international brand clothing boutiques, but now features the very up market Omotesando Hills. If Paris or Milan is the center of the world of fashion design, then Omotesando is the center of world fashion consumption! But don't buy luxury good like hermes of Louis Vuitton here since the prices are 20% more expensive than in other countries due to the large japanese tax on foreign luxury items!
the teeny booper street famous around the world for japanese teenage fashion and the goth subculture unfortunately when I was here was a weekday so I saw no goth characters. In order to experience the teenage culture at its most extreme or the Goths, visit Harajuku on a Sunday, when many young people gather around Harajuku Station and engage in cosplay ("costume play"), dressed up in crazy costumes to resemble anime characters, punk musicians, etc. The focal point of Harajuku's teenage culture is Takeshita Dori (Takeshita Street) and its side streets, which are lined by many trendy shops, fashion boutiques, used clothes stores, crepe stands (see my Angels' heart and Marion's Crepes restaurant tips) and fast food outlets geared towards the fashion and trend conscious teens.
Takeshita Dori (Takeshita Street) is a narrow, roughly 400 meter long street lined by shops, boutiques, cafes and fast food outlets targeting Tokyo's teenagers. Takeshita-dori represents the cutting edge of fashion in Tokyo where you can see all the latest in Japanese street fashion and then buy in the boutiques.
I was so impressed by the stylish shops and fashionable Japanese in the Harajuku district. I had a great time wandering around the shops, viewing all the different fashion-styles, and trying on (and buying) a Kimono and Tokyo 135.
The fashionistas come out for viewing on the bridge on Sundays. Be sure to ask before taking photographs of fashionable people.
Togo Shrine is dedicated to Admiral Togo who defeated Russian fleet in 1905. This peaceful shinto shrine is just next to bustling shopping streets of Harajuku. There is a beautiful garden leading to the shrine not to be missed. On first sundays of each month, Togo Antique Market is held around the shrine area.
Harajuku is the center of Japan's most extreme teenage cultures and fashion styles. Costume play (cosplay) teenagers resembling anime characters are around the streets of Harajuku on sundays. The main street crowded with people shopping and cosplay characters is Takeshita Dori. On this street and its side streets you can find many trendy shops, fashion boutiques as well as some historic sights.
Indulge your sweet tooth and head to one of the crepe kiosks on Takeshita-Dori, Harajuku. There are several dotted along the street and serve crepes with as many different fillings as you can imagine, mostly sweet but there are some savoury options there. You can even have a slice of cheesecake in your crepe if you want!
I opted for a strawberry crepe but when I asked the woman in the kiosk for a strawberry crepe she produced a laminated picture menu and pointed to all the strawberry crepes on offer (at least 5 different varieties!). I picked a strawberries and cream one which was delicious!