The Harajuku area is very popular with foreign tourists as a sightseeing spot as well as the place where Tokyo's "kawaii culture" was born. Here are some popular spots in Harajuku where you can enjoy the unique Harajuku atmosphere.
1. KIDDY LAND Harajuku Branch
The KIDDY LAND Harajuku branch is a toy and miscellaneous goods store that's been in Harajuku for 50 years. The basement to the 4th floor are packed with various character goods beloved by people of all ages. They not only have Sanrio characters like Hello Kitty, but also Disney, Studio Ghibli, Snoopy, Miffy, Rilakkuma, and more. Also, they have a huge variety of action toys, figures, and plastic models. They also have goods made using Japanese aesthetics and regional items that are great for souvenirs for those overseas. This store is recommended for people who love Japanese character goods or who are just looking for souvenirs for children.
2. Omotesando Hills
Omotesando Hills opened in 2006 and quickly became a landmark of the area. It's a building that offers a variety of brands aimed at 30-40 year old men and women with high fashion sense aiming for a "city-like" lifestyle. There are many unique stores like the high-quality daily wear select shop Edition and the recycle shop PASS THE BATON that was created with the concept of collecting antiques from around the world and items that have precious memories from individuals and selling them to people who will care for them and continue the item's story. They also have many restaurants and cafes, such as the Japanese cafe Yasaiya Mei that uses vegetables only from farms they have contracts with from all around the country, and TORAYA CAFE, managed by the 500-year-old wagashi (Japanese sweets) shop Toraya, so you can experience the cutting edge of Tokyo even in your meal. There's a kids' area complete with baby room and nursing room, so you can bring your children without worries. This is the best spot to experience Tokyo's elegant atmosphere.
3. Laforet Harajuku
Laforet Harajuku is a well-established fashion building that opened in 1978. It's one of the pivotal areas for Harajuku kawaii ("cute") culture. They have around 140 shops of a wide variety of genres including apparel shops for both women and men, cosmetics, accessories, and miscellaneous goods. While on one hand the mix of street fashion and high fashion shops helps make it a driving force behind Harajuku's fashion culture, they also have select shops featuring unique fashion styles like Gothic lolita and punk. One shop that foreign tourists should definitely check out is Tokyo Kawaii Musée. It's a shop made with the concept of a bedroom belonging to a foreign girl who loves Japan. They have colorful, cute kimono, accessories and miscellaneous goods from around the world that fit the kawaii theme, and products from creators both domestic and international. They have many items that are only sold here. When you're tired from walking you can enjoy the cafes inside the building, or the crepe stand on the first floor where you can try the famous Harajuku crepe while you have a rest.
4. Meiji Jingu
In a complete 180 from bustling Harajuku, Meiji Jingu is a shrine that has a solemn air. It was built in 1920 as the enshrinement place for Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken. It is Japan's most popular shrine for hatsumode, the religious tradition where one goes to shrines or temples on the first day of the new year to pray for health and peace for the rest of the year. Inside the shrines is a planted forest of 700,000 square meters that is made up of trees cultivated from donations from all over the country. The forest is so soothing that you'll forget you're even in the city. Throughout the year they have various festivals and rituals, and it's also famous for being the location of the first ring-entering ceremony for the yokozuna sumo champion and the ring-entering procession for the rest of the sumo wrestlers. There are many things to see on the grounds, including an iris garden, fishing stand, an arbor, a tea house called Kakuuntei, and more, but the must-see is the Kiyomasa's Well. It's a well of spring water, rare in the city, and it's said to have been dug by Edo period military commander Kato Kiyomasa. It's a popular power spot that attracts tourists from both within and outside of Japan.
5. Taro Okamoto Memorial Museum
The Taro Okamoto Memorial Museum is a museum that was opened in 1998 after renovating the home and studio of Taro Okamoto, an artist that could be said to represent Japanese art of the 20th century. Taro Okamoto is best known for creating the symbol of the 1970 World's Fair in Osaka, the "Tower of the Sun," as well as his famous statement "art is an explosion!" He devoted his entire life to art and his rebellious spirit overflowed in everything he did, so he still has many devoted fans. When he was 18, he went to Europe and stayed in France for 10 years. After that, from 1954 until his death in 1996 he lived in what is now the museum and created many of his art pieces there. The facade was made to his demands, and it's made of walls created by stacked blocks topped with a convex dome-shaped roof. On one wall a painting of his face and a red signature reading TARO definitely attracts the eye. On the first floor they feature the brushes and other art tools that he used, and the 2nd floor exhibits his sculptures, oil paintings, and designs. In the studio there are still unfinished canvases that makes it seem like Taro himself will come back to finish it. You can definitely understand the passion he had towards art.
If you have interest in Japanese modern art, this is definitely a place to add to your itinerary.
Harajuku is an area where different subcultures collide. This is the place to experience both trends and history and feel some of the greatness of the city of Tokyo.
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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