Harajuku

Sandwiched between the twin powerhouses of Shinjuku and Shibuya lies Yoyogi Park, and the area that surrounds it, known as Harajuku. There is less to explore here than in the nearby mini-cities but it is a spot with some superb attractions to rival anywhere else in the city.

History of Harajuku

Harajuku

For such a modern and fashionable district of Tokyo, Harajuku owes a lot of its prominence to Yoyogi Park nearby and the traditional Meiji-Jingu Shrine next to the station. Following the death of Emperor Meiji in 1912, a commemorative shrine was built in his favorite garden.

While Yoyogi Park has long been the favored green space of many Tokyoites, the region really grew in size and importance following the construction on-site of the Washington Heights housing complex. This was built at the time to home thousands of occupying American troops. Following their departure, the buildings were used as accommodation for the world’s best athletes for the 1964 Olympic Games. The striking National Gymnasium was also built at this time.

This influx of multiculturalism gave birth to the internationalist feel of Harajuku. This attracted many local people (particularly teenagers) who came to the area to see global fashion trends. Since then, the word ‘Harajuku’ has expanded to signify more than just several busy streets in western Tokyo. It embodies its own special Harajuku streetwear style, intrinsically linked to the ‘Kawaii’ culture of Japan.

Location of Harajuku

Harajuku is a pleasant walk away from both Shibuya and Shinjuku. Additionally, its position on the Yamanote line makes it easily accessible from anywhere in the city. The best entry point is the European-style station of Harajuku, or the Meiji-Jingu Mae subway stop just over the road. The pedestrianized Takeshita-dori is the focal point of Harajuku, both the area and the culture, and is impossible to miss.

What To Do in Harajuku

The contrast between the quiet sheltered paths of Meiji-Jingu on one side of the station and the bustling side streets of Harajuku on the other is too good to miss. Not only is the shrine a great place to escape the crowds but it’s also an opportunity to view the towering Torii gates and feel the area’s serene atmosphere. Those lucky enough to arrive during a traditional wedding ceremony will never forget it.

Takeshita-dori has plenty to keep even the most cynical shopper occupied. You’ll find uniquely Japanese brands and those that have received a ‘Kawaii’ twist. The wider Omotesandō Boulevard runs parallel to this and features a lot of international outfitters. Both are worth a stroll along but don’t forget to pay a visit to Yoyogi Park before you leave! As the biggest park in central Tokyo, it has a fantastic atmosphere on weekends and warm evenings. Thousands of people will buy a well-deserved bentō and a beer from 7-11 and sit there on the grass.

How To Visit Harajuku

Afternoons, especially on weekends, will see the main Takeshita-dori street heaving with people. Keep this in mind when scheduling your visit. You might want to consider a Harajuku guided tour, so you can be escorted through the crowds and learn about the area as you go. The evenings are much quieter as there is a much lower concentration of restaurants and bars. By late afternoon, many people will move on to the trendier neighborhoods in ‘Ura-Harajuku’ (the surrounding streets).

Keep in mind that while Yoyogi Park is accessible 24 hours (but best visited on a Sunday), Meiji-Jingu is only open during daylight hours. Sports fans should time their visit here to coincide with either a Yakult Swallows baseball game or a Sunwolves rugby match. Both the Jingu Stadium and the Chichibunomiya Rugby Stadium are close by in the area of Gaien-mae.

For many people, Harajuku is the primary reason for visiting Tokyo. They wish to see the wackiest fashion trends and buy some memorable souvenirs. For precisely the same reason, however, many people will stay on the train and decide to skip it. Harajuku has much more to offer its visitors than just high-street fashion. The fascinating area is full of history, modernity, and nature and is certainly worth visiting!

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