Harajuku is home to many of Japan’s youth subcultures. Many people flock to the area to get their loot on the latest kawaii trends and styles. Not only is it a vibrant shopping district, but it’s also home to a plethora of food options and experiences.
Brace yourself, your walking shoes, and your wallet for a district encompassing Japanese youth culture.
What is Harajuku known for?
Harajuku is most known for Takeshita-Dori, a long, narrow alley filled with kawaii boutiques, crepe stores, vintage clothes, and so many more geared to the youth. Colorful Takeshita-dori is enveloped between Yoyogi Park, Meiji-Jingu, and Harajuku Station (JR Yamanote Line), which makes it a tourist destination that’s worth visiting. South of Takeshita-Dori is chic Omotesando, which houses famous high-end brands for the fashion-conscious urbanites.
Aside from the two shopping districts, Harajuku is a short walk away from marvelous greenscapes and cultural heritages–Meiji Jingu and Yoyogi Park.
How to get to Harajuku station
Harajuku Station is one station away from the iconic Shibuya station via the JR Yamanote Line. It’s adjacent to the relaxing Meiji Shrine and a 3 minute walk (240 meters) from Yoyogi Park. The station is conveniently located next to Meiji Jingu’s entrance and is in front of Takeshita Dori.
The Old And New Harajuku Stations
Note that Harajuku now has a new station and while it may be more roomy and efficient, its generic styling is no match for the charm of the old station building. There are plans to knock the old station down and replace it with a “replica”, but let’s hope that common sense prevails and that the original station building is restored and maintained.
What are the best things to do in Harajuku?
The best way to experience Harajuku is first and foremost to check out Meiji Shrine, followed by Yoyogi Park, Takeshita Dori, and lastly Omotesando.
Meiji Jingu Shrine
Meiji Shrine located in Shibuya, Tokyo, is the Shinto shrine that is dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shoken.
A must-visit for first-time or repeat tourists, Meiji Shrine is a shrine honoring the country’s first modern emperor, Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shouken. The Shrine sits next to Yoyogi Park, both of which serve as an oasis for Tokyoites and tourists alike.
Aside from the temple itself, check out the unique sake barrels or ‘kazaridaru’, which is a decorative display to honor the gods.
Read More: Meiji Shinto Shrine and Park
Take a Break from Shopping and Relax at Yoyogi Park
Take a nice break from all the shopping and relax at Yoyogi Park
Tokyo balances the mix between greenscapes and cityscapes so well that there’s usually a park in every urbanized city. For the Shibuya and Harajuku area, it’s Yoyogi Park, one of Tokyo’s largest parks which boasts lush lawns, tranquil ponds, and densely forested spots. It’s the perfect spot for a quick stroll, a quaint picnic, or a quick jog.
Pro Tip: This is one of the best places to see Cherry blossoms during season as there are over 720 Japanese Cherry trees in the park. You can sit on the grassy area , enjoy a nice picnic lunch and capture the beauty of the Cherry blossoms around you.
Witness kawaii culture at its prime at Takeshita Dori
The centerpiece of Harajuku is Takeshita Dori, a 400-meter haven overflowing with fashionable shops, vintage boutiques, cafes, and restaurants. Teenagers are usually the main demographic of this street with its youthful and fashionable vibe. Take note that the street gets usually busy (packed, even!) during the weekends and holidays. If you want to immerse yourself in the latest Japanese trends, this is where your heart should be.
A quick tip: don’t be afraid to wander through Takeshita Dori’s side streets. Some hidden gems await!
Takeshita-dori is buzzing with bright life, and there’s always something for someone’s fancy. Don’t get intimidated by the bright and out-of-the-ordinary mannequins outside, there’s a lot to look forward to–every shop is unique in its own: from Lolita dresses, school uniforms, gothic styles, and so many more.
Here’s a round-up of textbook Takeshita Dori experiences you shouldn’t miss out on!
Go on a ¥100 per-item shopping spree at Daiso Harajuku
Japan, 〒150-0001 Tokyo, Shibuya City, Jingumae, 1 Chome−19−24 ビレッジ１０７
Aside from the huge Mega Donki in Shibuya, there’s another huge place where you can spend all your yen on, and it’s the biggest Daiso in Tokyo! Spiral down three stories of 100-yen items from food, cosmetics, socks, and toys perfect for souvenirs for your friends back home.
Some must-buy items are adorably realistic food-shaped erasers, matcha powder, socks, face masks, and fans.
Get your Japanese-style photo booth picture taken at Purikura NOA
〒150-0001 Tokyo, Shibuya City, 渋谷区Jingumae, 1−17-5
Purikura, in its simplest form, is a photo booth machine where you can strike poses with your friends and get a copy of it afterward. It’s kind of like a photo booth machine for your passport or ID photos, but with a flashy, cute and youthful touch, kind of like a Snapchat filter, but with a kawaii Japanese touch to it.
Purikura, short for “Print Club”, unfolds in four steps. First, insert your coins outside the booth. Purikuras usually cost JPY 400. Once done, go inside the booth and let the magic unfold! The photo booths are very spacious and can fit a group of friends, so this is a perfect keepsake for your Japan memories. When you’re done taking photos, move to the drawing area where you can doodle and customize your photo to your heart’s desire. Some machines can even let you change your hair color, enlarge your eye shape, and add makeup. One thing, though. These steps usually have a countdown timer so you have to hurry up! After “editing” your photo, you can finally go ahead and print the photos. Voila!
If you’re a fan of animals, Harajuku is home to a few cafes that houses some of the cutest animals ever. If you’re tired from all the walking, sit back, grab a cup of coffee, and relax with these adorable creatures for an hour or two.
Relax with your feline friends at Cat Café MoCHA
Photo by Philip Lai. Used under CC.
4F Cross Avenue Harajuku 1-14-25 Jingu-mae, Shibuya, Tokyo
Unwind and relax with adorable feline friends at Cat Café MoCHA, where an assortment of cats and a gorgeously Alice in Wonderland-esque space awaits you. Just like the other MoCHA branches, Cat Café Mocha’s interiors are visually appealing and Instagram-worthy. Grab a drink from the drink bar and chill with the super cute cats for a cozy experience altogether. It’s only a few steps away from Harajuku station so you can people-watch with the cats in peace if that’s your sort of thing (introverts, unite!).
Meet the cutest dogs at Mame Shiba Cafe
3F, 1-6-10 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
More of a dog person than a cat person? Get up close and personal with Japan’s doggos at Mame Shiba Cafe! Mame Shiba Inus are a smaller version of the famed Shiba Inu dogs (think, a Miniature Dachshund). The entry fee is JPY 880 for 30 minutes, which comes with a free drink from the drink bar. The cafe has a traditional old Tokyo vibe, with tatamis and wooden accents all over. If you’ve ever dreamed of petting a Shiba Inu, this humbling (yet pricey) experience is for you! Queues can get a bit longer during the afternoon, so make sure to arrive early, or try to visit on a weekday. If you arrive late in the afternoon, tickets may already be sold out. You can get your tickets in advance by lining up and selecting a timeslot after.
Get up clossse and personal with snakes at Tokyo Snake Center
Huge fan of snakes? You must check out the Tokyo Snake Center! Too bad, I have a strong case of ophidiophobia, so, you won’t find me there. Here’s a photo of a generic snake instead…or that’s what I am told. My eyes are closed.
Japan, 〒150-0001 Tokyo, Shibuya City, Jingumae, 6 Chome−5−6 サンポウ綜合ビル 8F
This is a far cry from dogs and cats but still deserves to be on the list. Japan’s first snake cafe, Tokyo Snake Center boasts a snake-themed cafe menu alongside its ssselection of snakes. Unlike the cafes above where you can ‘cohabitate’ with all of them in one space, the Tokyo Snake center lets you choose a caged snake you want to ‘sit with’. Unfortunately, you can’t pet them or let them out of their cage, but the licensed snake attendants can help you touch a selection of other snakes (with an added fee, though).
Experience a kawaii explosion at Kawaii Monster Cafe
YM square building 4F, 4-31-10, Jingumae, Shibuya, Tokyo
As eccentric as the Robot Restaurant in Shinjuku, Kawaii Monster Cafe is a (weird) feast for the senses. This visual overload proves your preconceived notion of youthful Japan to be true. Crazy neon lights, wacky costumes, you name it. Designed by artist Sebastian Matsuda, Kawaii Monster Cafe is a comical interpretation of crazy Harajuku. Explore the cafe’s four trippy zones and catch a strange performance bedazzled with techno music. It’s certainly flashy and bright, but it’s an experience that’s for the books.
Sing your heart out at Karaoke Kan
You’ve probably already seen the familiar red text over the apparent blue background in different parts of Tokyo. If you’re in the mood to channel your inner pop star and belt out a few high notes after a long day of exploring the wild city, get a room at this popular karaoke joint. There are three branches of Karaoke Kan within the vicinity, which offer crazy costumes, party deals, food, and drink. Don’t worry about the song selection–Karaoke Kan recognizes its global customers and has a versatile database of songs in English.
Luxuriate in high-class brands at Omotesando
Omotesando seems to be Takeshita Dori’s older sibling. An upscale neighborhood, it houses a couple of high-end luxury shops from Jimmy Choo to Louis Vuitton. After strolling through Takeshita Dori, you’ll notice the striking contrast between the two areas.
Not only is Omotesando home to upscale shopping malls, but it also houses the best of modern architecture. It’s no surprise that wandering around the area will make you appreciate the configuration of the city with the stunning building facades as the main focal points.
Shop the latest trends at Cat Street
5 Chome-10-10 Jingūmae, Shibuya-ku, Tōkyō-to 150-0001, Japan
Sadly, this isn’t exactly a place where cats cohabitate with humans, or where cat-related merchandise looms all over. Cat Street is a half-mile long stretch lined with trendy stores such as vintage shops, local designer clothing, and high-end brands. This is just a stone’s throw away from Takeshita-Dori and Omotesando, so the three areas are perfect if you’re in the mood for a bit of (window) shopping!
Immerse yourself in department store heaven at Omotesando Hills
4 Chome-12-１０ Jingumae, Shibuya City, Tokyo 150-0001, Japan
Feeling luxurious? Check out Omotesando Hills for a Beverly Hills-esque experience with the opulent shops lined up. You don’t have to spend to feel luxurious though, window shopping therapy usually does the trick!
1 Chome-11-6 Jingumae, Shibuya City, Tokyo 150-0001, Japan
Another popular shopping mall in the Omotesando area, LaForet Harajuku is a popular department store with 13 floors of boutiques and is a great spot to find unique items. Beauty items, cosmetics, and clothes are elementary to almost all department stores in Japan but LaForet is something else. If you’re lucky, pop-up stores come and go every once in a while, usually owned by budding business owners or popular shops from places outside Tokyo.
4 Chome-30-3 Jingumae, Shibuya City, Tokyo 150-0001, Japan
The multi-story shopping centers never end! Tokyu Plaza is nestled in the heart of Omotesando and Harajuku. A distinct sight is its mirrored entrance, which is a visual masterpiece in itself. Don’t forget to take a photo for keeps! Tokyu Plaza houses an array of luxury flagship stores and restaurants on the top floor. Check out its rooftop garden, Omohara Forest, to get a stunning view of cosmopolitan Omotesando.
Snag all High Quality Japanese-themed souvenirs at Oriental Bazaar
Photo by yuchinglai0729. Used with Permission.
5 Chome-9-１３ Jingumae, Shibuya City, Tokyo 150-0001, Japan
Aside from the previously mentioned Daiso, don’t miss out on the best of souvenirs and check out Oriental Bazaar which houses four stories of anything and everything Japanese. Its exterior is visually reminiscent of a temple and entices tourists to give it a look. Buy some Japanese items for your loved ones back home–traditional items, antiques, t-shirts, you name it.
Visit the character shop Mecca at Kiddyland
6 Chome-1-9 Jingumae, Shibuya City, Tokyo 150-0001, Japan
For the kids and kids-at-heart, Kiddyland is a character-goods haven. An assortment of different characters awaits: Totoro, Hello Kitty, Luke Skywalker, Gudetama, Disney Princesses, and so much more. Five floors in total, Kiddyland is complete with toys, everyday items, and novelties of your favorite characters. The best part? It’s a tax-free store!
Where do I stay in Harajuku?
Harajuku is more of a day-trip destination and less of an accommodation haven. We highly suggest booking a hotel in colorful central Shibuya. Check out our guide here!
Where do I eat in Harajuku?
Just like its bright atmosphere, most of Harajuku’s popular food items are sweets. There are not a lot of restaurants aside from fast food, but all food outlets are all equally delicious in their own way, nonetheless!
One quick tip, though: it’s rude to eat while walking in Japan. If you find yourself with gigantic cotton candy or a freshly-made crepe, the best choice is to eat it in a space where it’s not very crowded, or outside a convenience store. Don’t feel bad about crowding the convenience store, though, as people expect you to eat it there.
Savor a piping hot Takoyaki at Gindaco
Photo by Mikel Santamaria. Used under CC.
Japan, 〒150-0001 Tokyo, Shibuya City, Jingumae, 1 Chome−14−24 第5寿和ビル
A fairly popular chain, Gindaco Takoyaki prepares takoyaki in a different variety of flavors, from traditional to modern ones. It’s cheap, can fill your tummy quickly, and is perfect for a cold day because it’s fresh from the piping hot takoyaki pan.
Enjoy the rich taste of Tonkotsu Ramen at Ichiran Ramen
Photo by Michael Saechang. Used under CC.
Japan, 〒150-0001 Tokyo, Shibuya City, Jingumae, 6 Chome−5−6 サンポウ綜合ビル2F
Another popular franchise in Tokyo, Ichiran Ramen is one of the most famous pork-based broth ramen restaurants in Japan, so expect the queue to be fairly long. I’ll assure you, though: it’s worth the wait. Aside from its immaculate-tasting ramen, another Ichiran Ramen novelty is its solo booth: you dine by yourself in a small area to fully immerse yourself in your bowl of ramen.
Experience a sugar rush like no other with Totti Candy Factory’s rainbow cotton candy
Japan, 〒150-0001 Tokyo, Shibuya City, Jingumae, 1 Chome−16−5 RYUアパルトマン 2F
Gigantic cotton candy can put you in a sugar rush with enough energy to survey the entirety of what Harajuku has to offer. Enter Totti Candy Factory, which offers a rainbow-colored cotton candy bigger than your head. Each color represents a different flavor, and if Harajuku had a taste–this would probably be it.
Choose from an assortment of different crepes at Santa Monica Crepes
1 Chome-16-16-8 Jingumae, Shibuya City, Tokyo 150-0001, Japan
Your Takeshita Dori journey isn’t complete without a crepe! With plenty of options (over a hundred), it’s probably gonna be hard picking your crepe of choice, especially when there’s a visual representation of what it looks like (the plastic recreations almost look like the real thing!).
The food goes on and on Long! Longer!! Longest!!!
Japan, 〒150-0001 Tokyo, Shibuya City, Jingumae, 1 Chome−7−3 1F CUTE CUBE HARAJUKU
Its eye-catching name speaks for itself. this shop’s main theme is long items: soft-serve ice cream, potato chips, churros, and cotton candy. In line with its wit, these food items are available in three sizes: Long!, Longer!!, and Longest!!!.
Snack on various potato chips at Calbee Plus
1 Chome-16-8 Jingumae, Shibuya City, Tokyo 150-0001, Japan
If you’re already on a sugar rush, try something salty at Calbee Plus where you can buy an assortment of wacky potato chips. Ever tried chocolate-covered potato chips served with soft-serve ice cream? Calbee Plus has a wide variety of potato-snacks perfect for a quick bite. The store also sells packed potato chips, some variants available only in the Japanese market.
That’s Harajuku and its neighboring areas in a nutshell. One thing’s for sure, though–to truly explore the area, immerse yourself and try to get lost. Some of the area’s best-kept secrets are tucked between side streets and alleyways!