Saturday, July 20, 2013 Category : TOKYO

Harajuku (原宿)  is an area between Shinjuku and Shibuya on the Yamanote Line. The area has two main shopping streets Takeshita-dori and Omotesando. The landmarks include: Yoyogi Park, Meiji Shrine and NHK headquarters. Even though Harajuku is remarkable as a shopping paradise for the most extreme and rebellious teenage culture , it also offers decent shopping for adults and presents great historic sights.

Access: The JR Yamanote Line stops at Harajuku station.


1. Takeshita Dori

Once you exit the station the colorful teen culture hits you. Takeshita street is the center of the vivid teenage culture and famous for its gathering of flamboyant,  trendy and rebellious youth. This is the place where you can find stores selling Gothic Lolita, Hip-Hop, Visual Kei and Punk outfits. If you would like to see fashionable and trend-conscious teens at their most extreme you need to visit Takeshita-dori on Sundays when this extremely crowded street will present a perfect mix of fashion, style and freedom.  Anime-characters, musicians, cosplay people- they are all here!

Besides being good for a shopping spree, Takeshita-dori is worth visiting for its famous crepe stands. Harajuku crepes have become so famous that their name turned into the label itself. No wonder that whether in Hawaii or the US you may find some “Harajuku crepe” cafes. There are several crepe stands along Takeshita-dori and you can easily find them by spotting the long queues. The crepes are very soft and warm on the outside and stuffed with fresh fruit, ice-cream, whipped cream and other toppings The price ranges from 300 yen  to 500 yen for a crepe depending on a filling (sweet ones include: strawberry, bananas, cream; savory ones; ham, cheese, fresh veggies etc ).

ACCESS: JR Yamanote Line to Harajuku, Takeshita Exit

2. Meiji Jingu (Meiji Shrine)

Meiji Jingu is one of the greatest Shinto shrines, which is dedicated to the Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken. During the rule of the Emperor Meiji (1868-1912) the country made a great shift from an isolationist feudal state to a modern nation. The shrine was constructed in 1920 and destroyed in World War II air raids. It was rebuilt in 1958 with the help of Japanese people from all over the country who collected around 120 000 trees.

Several wooden gates (torii) indicate the entrance to Meiji-jingu. The largest gate stands 12 metres high. Every day at 8am and 2pm a priest strikes the large drum as an offering to the deities enshrined in Meiji-jingu. If you wish to make an offering too, toss a coin in the box, bow twice, clap your hands twice and bow again.

If you want to make sure that the deities have not forgotten your pray, you can address them in written form using a special wooden tablet Ema. These tablets can be obtained in Juyosho (amulet offices).

At the same office you can purchase different kinds of amulets like Omamori. These charms are for various occasions: for traffic safety, for health, for success in passing exams etc.

Meiji Shrine consists of two areas: the outer precinct Gaien and the inner precinct Naien.

Meiji Memorial Picture Gallery (Kaigakan) [admission fee: 500 yen],  Jingu Baseball Stadium, the Gold Driving Range, the Softball Grounds, the Tennis Club , Meiji Memorial Hall etc. are all placed in  Gaien. Nowadays Memorial Hall is used for Shinto weddings but this Hall is a famous historical site because the famous Meiji Constitution was drafted here.

The shrine buildings and treasure museum (Homotsuden) are located in Naien.

Meiji Jingu Garden (Meiji Jingu Gyoen) [entrance fee: 500 yen] is the only part of Naien, which had existed long before the establishment of Meiji Jingu. This land used to belong to feudal state but the Meiji emperor himself designed the iris garden for empress Shoken to give fresh energy on this land. The garden is especially magnificent in June when the irises bloom and April when colorful azaleas reach their blossom peak.

One may wonder about the relevance of wine casks along the path leading to Meiji shrine but this is another historical influence. The Meiji era was seen as an era of enlightenment and opening. Meiji emperor started wearing Western clothes, sheared his topknot and introduced Western cuisine. The emperor especially enjoyed wine. The barrels of wine were gifts to the emperor from Bourgogne wineries in France. It is another acknowledgement of the West to the pro-Western emperor whose spirit lives on in Meiji Jingu now.

ADDRESS: 1-1 Yoyogi, Kamizono-cho, Shibuya-ku

ACCESS:JR Yamanote Line to Harajuku, Omotesando Exit

WEBSITE: http://www.meijijingu.or.jp/english/index.html

3. Yoyogi-Koen (Yoyogi Park)

Yoyogi Park is one of the largest and most famous city parks in Tokyo, featuring picturesque lawns, ponds and forested areas. It is a perfect spot for a picnic (during Sakura blossoming season this park is overcrowded), jogging and outdoor activities.

Besides cherry trees, Yoyogi park is famous for ginko trees which turn gold in autumn.

Yoyogi park is a must-see place during sunny and warm weekends. Even if you have no special plans with your friends, you can spend great time at this park listening to jazz-bands or watching a group of retro-greasers dancing around. Many cosplayers (costume players) gather at this park for dance rehearsals or photo-shoots.

Another landmark of this area is the National Yoyogi Stadium built by Tange Kenzo for the 1964 Olympics. Now it is being used for ice-skating, volleyball competitions and concerts.

ACCESS: Yoyogi Park is a 5 minute walk from Harajuku Station on the JR Yamanote Line, Omotesando Exit.



Omotesando (表参道) is an avenue with Zelkova trees lined on  both sides, south of Takeshita dori which is often compared with the Champs-Elysees in Paris. Similar to the Champs-Elysees, Omotesando is an upscale shopping area featuring international brand shops: Prada, Armani, Michael Kors, Dior, Louis Vuitton , Shu Uemura, Marc Jacobs, Paul Smith etc. Even if you are not into brands and luxury bags, this avenue is worth visiting to see the magnificent flagship buildings designed by famous Japanese architects. The most well-known are Louis Vuitton store (Jun Aoki, 2002), Prada building (Herzog  HYPERLINK “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herzog_ 2003), Tod HYPERLINK “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tod’s” (Toyo Ito, 2004), Dior (SANAA, 2004), Omotesandō Hills (Tadao Ando, 2005) and Gyre (MVRDV, 2007).

Among the great variety of shops, three venues stand out:  Oriental Bazzar, Laforet and Tokyu Plaza.

Oriental Bazaar is a huge souvenir shop in Omotesando which offers a range of products from Japanese traditional furniture to miscellaneous goods. This place is well liked by foreigners and tourists as this is where you can buy souvenirs to take back home or get assistance in English with trying on a kimono. Opening hours: Everyday except Thursdays from 10.00 a.m.-7.00 p.m.

ADDRESS: 9-13 5-chome Jingumae, Shibuya-ku Tokyo 150-0001, Japan

ACCESS: approximately 5 minutes walk from JR Yamanote Line Harajuku Station.

WEBSITE: http://www.orientalbazaar.co.jp

Tokyu Plaza is a recently opened mall (2012), which immediately caught the attention of all fashion-lovers. This mall features such stores such as the Shelter, Tommy Hilfiger, American Eagle Outfitters and many others. Popular “Hands Be” store with the motto “when you visit, you find what you want” is also located on the 5th floor of Plaza.

ADDRESS:4-30-3 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo. Tel: 03-3497-0418 (11.00-21.00[B1-5 F]: 8.30-23.00[6-7F])

ACCESS: 4 minutes walk from JR Yamanote Line Harajuku station; 1 minute walk from subway Meiji Jingumae station.

WEBSITE: http://omohara.tokyu-plaza.com/

4.  Laforet

Laforet is a home for cutting-edge Harajuku style. You can find such brands as Nomine, Topshop, furfur, BeautiK, YOSHiKO CREATION, wjk etc. The mall has 6 floors but there is also a Laforet Museum Harajuku, which exhibits popular culture art and the latest fashion trends. Laforet is also famous for its huge summer sales in July.

ADDRESS: 1-11-6 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-0001. Tel: 03-3475-0411 (11.00-20.00)

ACCESS: 5 minutes walk from Omotesando Exit of JR Yamanote Line Harajuku station.

WEBSITE: http://www.laforet.ne.jp/en/

5. NHK studio park

NHK (日本放送協会, Nippon Hōsō Kyōkai, Japan Broadcasting Corporation)  is Japan’s public television and radio broadcaster. NHK Studio Park is a part of NHK Broadcasting Center, which gives you the chance to look inside of NHK broadcasting production for a small fee (around 200 yen). You can learn how the popular dramas are recorded. Besides this, you can also try activities such voice-dubbing and news production (same-day reservation is necessary). It is open every day from 10 a.m.-6 p.m and closed ever third Monday of the month.

ACCESS: NHK Studio Park is 10-15 minute walk from Harajuku station on JR Yamanote Line.

ADRESS: 2-2^1, Jinnan, Shibuya, Tokyo, 150-8001 Japan. Tel: 03-3485-8034 WEBSITE: http://www.nhk.or.jp/studiopark/

6. Nezu Museum

Nezu museum displays the private collection of Nezu Kaichiro (1860-1940). The impressive collection is composed of sculpture, ceramics, calligraphy, paintings etc. But the highlight of the collection is the national treasure painting “Irises” by Ogata Korin (18th century). In total there are around 7000 works presented. Besides the grand collection, Nezu museum is famous for its scenic garden, featuring ponds, waterfalls and teahouses. The entrance fee is 1000/800 yen. The opening hours are: every day except Monday from 10 a.m-5p.m.

ACCESS: 8 minutes walk from Exit A5 of Omotesando station of the Ginza, Hanzomon and Chiyoda Line.

ADDRESS: 6-5-1 Minami-Aoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo, 107-0062

WEBSITE: http://www.nezu-muse.or.jp/en/

7. Watari Museum

Designed by Swiss architect Mario Botta this museum was set up in 1990. Watari museum is known for displaying retrospective exhibitions of such artists as Mike Kelley, John Lurie, Fererico Herrero, Nam June Paik etc. There is a good art bookstore in the basement. The entrance fee is ¥1000/800 . Opening hours: everyday except Monday: from 11.00 a.m.-7 p.m. (till 9 p.m. on Wednesday).

ADDRESS: 3-7-6 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

ACCESS: Gaienmae, Exit 3, Ginza Line



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