Nearby Yoyogi Park (代々木公園 Yoyogi-kōen) was the site of the first successful powered aircraft flight in Japan, on December 19, 1910, by Captain Yoshitoshi Tokugawa, following which it became an army parade ground. During the postwar occupation, it was the site of the Washington Heights residence for U.S. officers. It later was selected as the site for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, and the distinctive Olympic buildings designed by Kenzo Tange are still nearby. In 1967, it was made into a city park. Today, the park is a popular hangout, especially on Sundays, when it is used as a gathering place for people to play music, practice martial arts, etc. The park has a bike path, and bicycle rentals are available. As a consequence of Japan's long recession, there are several large, but surprisingly quiet and orderly, homeless camps around the park's periphery.
By trainJR Harajuku Station on the Yamanote Line is the obvious way to get to Harajuku. The station is next to the entrance to Meiji Jingu and to the beginning of Omote-Sando.
By subwayMeiji-jingu-mae Station (on the Chiyoda and Fukutoshin subway lines) has exits onto Meiji-dori and right in front of the entrance to Meiji Jingu, next to JR Harajuku Station. The subway is better than JR for getting here from central Tokyo, but the Yamanote Line is easier if you are coming from Tokyo Station. The nearby Omotesando Station (on the Ginza and Hanzomon subway lines) is further down Omote-sando near the intersection with Aoyama-dori. Omotesando station has a variety of boutiques and restaurants in the underground station complex.
On footHarajuku is 15 minutes away from Shibuya by foot, just follow the train tracks along Koen-dori from the scramble crossing. (You should pass Tower Records on your right and the Yoyogi National Gymnasium on your left.) If you have more time, see the suggested walking tour below.
If it's Harajuku's youth culture you want to see, don't even bother unless it's a Sunday. Each group stakes out its territory around Yoyogi Park (代々木公園 Yoyogi-kōen). Keep in mind that Harajuku is well known world wide, so many tourists show up on Sundays. Better be a bit early to avoid being stuck between big tourist groups.
- The bridge across the train tracks sometimes has teenagers dressed up as Gothic Lolita and other extreme Japanese youth fashions. Besides just hanging out with friends, many come here to be snapped by the magazine photographers who mingle. Unfortunately, as of lately, the police seem to be cracking down on loitering, so they are becoming increasingly rare.
- Over by the entrance to the park, people with greased hair listen to rockabilly music and dance in their vintage jeans. This subculture has been around since the early part of 1980s.
- The sidewalks along the south side are usually occupied by junk vendors and loud rock bands. Both of these groups periodically get swept away by police crack-downs, though.
- The tree-lined area leading from the south end of the park to Shibuya is filled with all sorts of street performers, mostly folk-pop singers, but also including hip-hop dancing and street theater.
Meiji JingūBuilt in commemoration of Emperor Meiji in 1920, is Tokyo's grandest shrine. Like all of Japan's major shrines, it's large in scale but simple in structure, entered via a winding path and through a giant torii gate. On summer weekends you have a very good chance of catching a Japanese wedding in progress here; the shrine is also packed on New Year's Eve when people come here to celebrate the new year. An excellent place for those who wish to experience an oasis of tranquility among the hustle and bustle of the rest of the area.
Yoyogi ParkA popular get-away from Tokyoits. In springtime, Yoyogi Park is full of cherry blossoms and people partying under the trees. Due to the massive littering, park administration has designed trash collection points. Keep in mind as later as the evening is, the higher the level of intoxication of visitors is likely to be.
Tōgō Jinjaaddress: 1-5-3 JingumaeThis shrine was given the name of Tōgō Heihachirō, who was general in Meiji age.
Walking tour: Harajuku to ShibuyaAn interesting and recommended walk will let you experience Harajuku and Shibuya, and all of the trendy places in between.
Starting from the Takeshita exit (竹下口) of JR Harajuku station, walk straight away from the station down Takeshita-dori (竹下通り), where you will almost certainly run into the mingling pedestrian crowds. When you reach the first major crossroad, Meiji-dori (明治通り), turn right.
When you reach the tree-lined Omote-sandō, turn left. There are no obvious Omote-sandō street signs, but you will note a 2d story office with that name above the pink "Condomania" store on one of the corners. (And no, that business does not sell all sizes of condominium units.)
Omote-sandō is home to the highest of high-fashion stores, including Ralph Lauren, Coach, and Yves St. Laurent.
The approximate half-way point is where Omote-sandō meets Aoyama-Dori (青山通り). There is very little of interest beyond this point, so one option is to walk back down Omote-sandō and return to Harajuku. If you elect to go forward then turn right on Aoyama-Dori and you will eventually pass United Nations University on your right, and Aoyama Gakuin University on your left, before continuing down and finishing up at Shibuya's world-famous pedestrian crossing.
Allow yourself approximately two hours for this walk.
Yoyogi ParkHas a bike path and bicycle rentals are available.
Harajuku and Omotesando are home to many upscale beauty salons, with prices to match.
address: 2-32-3 JingumaeActresses and models sometimes use this salon.
Harajuku has two major shopping streets, which couldn't be more different to each other: Takeshita-dōri and Omote-sandō.
The (竹下通り) targets teens and preteens. This street is guaranteed to fill any adult's Hello Kitty quota in milliseconds. Lately it's been nudging towards an older age bracket though, and now also caters to angsty teens looking for frilly Victorian "Gothic Lolita" clothing or black lipstick. Runs from just outside the Takeshita exit of JR Harajuku station down to Meiji-dori.
Second is (表参道), a tree-lined upscale shopping street appealing to adult, or at least more expensive, tastes. It is sometimes compared to Champs-Élysées in Paris. Runs from JR Harajuku station towards Aoyoma, with the most expensive stores clustered towards the eastern Aoyama end.
phone: +81 3-6440-0568address: 1-8-2 JingumaeShopping center in Harajuku with 11 clothes shops.
address: 6-1-9 JingumaeA huge toy store on Omotesando, near the entrance to Cat Street.
phone: +81 3-3475-0411address: 1-11-6 JingumaeA large shopping mall owned by the same company that runs Omotesando Hills, but targeting a decidedly younger audience. In summer and winter, they have big sales.
phone: +81 3-3497-0310address: 4-12-10 JingumaeDesigned by Tadao Ando and built by Mori Building of Roppongi Hills fame, this is a super-chic shopping mall that caters to those "independent, style-conscious urbanites" (to quote the site) who couldn't possibly wear anything except the latest fashions or eat chocolates not prepared by a famous Parisian patissier. For the rest of us, it's still an interesting browse, and the restaurants on the top floor may be worth a splurge for a light lunch.
address: 5-9-13 JingumaeA kitschy Tokyo institution for tourists and expats alike, with four floors of shopping stocking everything from kamikaze T-shirts to foreigner-sized kimonos. Still, this is definitely the easiest way to get your souvenir shopping done. The Bazaar is housed in an instantly recognizable building with a faux-Chinese temple roof.
YM Squareaddress: 4-31-10 JingumaeKnown for its two big used clothes shops: Kinji and Hanjiro.
The must-eat item of Takeshita-dori is the Harajuku crêpe. It's a treat of a fresh-made crêpe rolled into a cone and stuffed mostly with whipped cream and other goodies such as strawberries, chocolate, even whole slices of cheesecake; the more adventurous options including tandoori chicken. Just stroll down the street and you will see four or five different shops. Most flavors cost less than ¥500.
In terms of eating a meal in Harajuku, the vast majority of restaurants serve Western or Indian food. If it's Japanese food you're looking for, you're probably best off eating before or after Harajuku.
Shakey's Pizzaaddress: 6-1-10 JingumaeShakey's Pizza has an all-you-can-eat lunch buffet for ¥850 on weekdays (on weekends & holidays about ¥1250). If you've never had seaweed, pickled ginger or fruit salad in your pizza, this is the place to try it. The pizza isn't great, but for Tokyo the buffet is a killer deal.
TenyaThis fast-food tempura chain has an outlet on Meiji-dori just to the north of the Meiji-dori/Omote-sando intersection.
Kebab Box Jphone: +81 3-3470-0706address: 1-8-8 JingumaeWhereas most doner kebabs in Tokyo are served out of a van, Kebab Box J's store is firmly attached to the ground. Friendly staff wear cowboy hats.
Kyushu Jangaraphone: +81 3-3404-5572address: 1-13-21 JingumaeOne of the best-known tonkotsu ramen shops in Tokyo, where you can choose between five degrees of noodle thickness, three levels of soup texture, and three levels of soup fattiness.
SakurateiA great Okonomiyaki restaurant where many local artists work.
Arms SandwichesThis small, Americana-inspired eatery is nestled right off the main footpath, and serves lots of Western food, including a wide burger selection (try the avocado burger!) Also serves fries, chili dogs, and other non-Japanese fare. American beer selection available. The place fills up pretty fast, so swing by before a stroll in Yoyogi and put your name in it.
JS Burgers Cafeaddress: 6-6-2 2F JingumaeClean, bright, upmarket burger chain. A set meal of burger, fries and a drink costs around ¥1200. The thick chilli sauce is recommended.
Eggs N' Thingsaddress: 30-2, Jingumae 4-chomeAmerican-style all-day breakfast joint. Eggs served every way imaginable - pancakes, Eggs Benedict, with sausage, etc. Wildly popular at lunchtime, with lines backing down the street, so go early or late (possibly after 19:00).
R/O-426address: Jingumae 4-26-18Small burger and beer joint with the kitchen housed inside a small, Airstream trailer. Outdoor patio seating just above a small walkway where you can watch wannabe models and photographers capture bright-eyed moments in the afternoon sun.
phone: +81 3-3478-0182address: 4-31-10 JingumaeThis restaurant/cafe often holds events including guest speakers and live shows. The hamburger menu is popular.
Kawaii Monster CafeEat extremely colorful cute cakes in an equally psychedelic atmosphere.
phone: +81 3-5410-6288address: 2-33-12 JingumaeLocated in a cavernous basement, Fonda de la Madrugada is regarded as one of the best Mexican restaurants in Tokyo. Menu in English, Spanish and Japanese.
phone: +81 3-5411-1209address: 2-31-7 Jingumae Shibuya-kuNice selection of Belgian bottled beers, lots of beer, quite a lot of beer, all are available in 750 mL (25 floz) bottles, good for sharing with a friend. ¥1000-1200 for single serving bottle, around ¥2000 for 750 mL (25 floz) bottle.
- Shibuya is within walking distance if you're still in the mood for more teenybopping.