Though often listed as two separate entities, Harajuku is in fact technically a district of Shibuya, long considered the heart of Tokyo. Synonymous with the youth and streetwear scene, Harajuku is a bustling hub of constantly evolving, and always fascinating, sub-cultures. After being largely demolished during the devastating Great Tokyo Air Raid in 1945, the area bounced back and has become one of the most mythologized and iconic locations in all of Japan. Given the rise of Japanese culture in the West, it’s fair to say the reputation of Harajuku has grown to epic proportions; however, in reality it’s a lot more than the multi-coloured mess that meets the eye.
Given its super central location and walkable streets, getting to and around Harajuku is relatively easy, even for the most directionless traveller. Sitting between the iconic Yoyogi Park, Meiji-Jingumae Shrine and Takeshita Street is Harajuku JR station, which is serviced by the Yamanote line. Essentially the city circle loop line, the Yamanote stops at most of the city’s major hubs.
If you’re going via Metro, catch the Choyda line to Omotesando. A slightly more high-end pocket of Shibuya that backs onto Harajuku, Omotesando Boulevard is a stunning little city walk and worth wandering through on your way to the outlandish Harajuku.
Dotted along the more tourist-heavy pathways sits an uncountable number of crepe stands ready to whip you up a made-to-order cream and fruit-filled snack. Super sweet and popping with pastel cream, soft red strawberries and multi-coloured sprinkles, if Harajuku’s Takeshita Street were a food it would definitely be a crepe, so if you’re doing the touristy trek through the area, grabbing one of these is essentially a rite of passage.
Ramen lovers will be pretty familiar with the name Ichiran. This popular Japanese chain has a constant string of eager customers awaiting their tailor-made ramen feast. From spice level to noodle density, here you can curate your own specific dish by checking the ordering sheet’s requests. Each chair at the restaurant is separated by its own flavor booth to ensure each customer pays full attention to their dish. Try it out yourself and see what the hype is all about.
Ichiran Ramen is the most popular ramen chain in Japan! It was heaven in a bowl after trekking our way through Tokyo! They have multiple locations, but they all operate the same. First, you order via a vending machine! Second, you get handed a form where you circle your preferences to customize your ramen (i.e., broth richness, spicy level, noodle texture). Third, you get seated in your own, single-person dining cubicle and hand in your ticket orders. Fourth, slurp and enjoy! Another notable point is there is virtually no human interaction because it's designed for you to focus and enjoy the umami of the ramen. Such a unique experience! I loved it! 🍜 . @ichiranjp #ichiranjapan #ichiranramen #ramen #tonkotsu #tonkotsuramen #tokyo #japan #japantrip #harajuku #tokyoeats #japaneats #koalateats #koalateatsjapan #ichiranharajuku
Harajuku is the unofficial home of Tokyo’s hip hop scene, and Manhattan Records is essentially the heart of the Harajuku hip hop community. Now clocking in at 30 years, the team here have been supplying locals with the best in rap, funk and RnB on vinyl since its inception. The crew at Manhattan Records also curate their own compilation titled “The Hits,” where you can discover some of the city’s best underground artists.
Sitting in the backstreets of Harajuku, Big Love has become a must-visit destination for travelling record collectors, thanks to their carefully curated selection of local and imported records. As well as being an iconic little indie store, Big Love is also home to a bar and an exhibition space.
Manhattan Records: 10-1 Udagawacho, Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan, +81 3 3477 7166
Big Love: 2 Chome−31−3, Houei Bldg, Jingumae, Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan, +81 3 5775 1315
Harajuku is streetwear central and you can’t have streetwear without fresh sneakers. Scattered just beyond the tourist mecca of Takeshita Street sits a collection of some of the best stores in the world. No matter what style of shoe you’re after you can find it here. Some store names to look out for include Billy’s, ATMOS and Kicks Lab, all three of which have multiple locations in Harajuku alone.
Harajuku is also the unofficial home of mega-streetwear names BAPE and Supreme. Of course, BAPE was founded here in Japan by local legend NIGOS; Supreme is a little different. Though it’s popular everywhere, Japan loves Supreme most, and as a result the company has opened more stores in Japan than anywhere else in the world.
The most impressive Supreme store in the world is here in Harajuku. Located on the second floor, the flagship outlet towers over the suburbs’ busy walkways. Featuring super clean wooden floors, clean white walls and galvanised steel rails, it’s an exercise in tasteful minimalism.
Supreme: 4 Chome−32−7, Jingumae, Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan, +81 3 5771 0090
One of the most famous parks in Japan, Yoyogi Park is essentially its own suburb alone. Located adjacent to Harajuku Station and Meiji Shrine, it’s where visitors can essentially witness the weird and wonderful world of Tokyo getting together. Like the city’s communal backyard, there’s always something to see or watch at Yoyogi. From the rockabillies that perform at the opening gates to the elaborate picnic setups that surface during spring, any amount of time in Yoyogi is time well spent.
Sitting next to Yoyogi Park is Meiji Shrine, the Shinto shrine dedicated to the spirits of Emperor Meiji, Japan’s first modern Emperor and his wife, Empress Shōken. It was completed in 1920, eight years after the Emperor’s death. After being destroyed during the Second World War, the shrine was quickly rebuilt, where it still stand tall today. Located about ten minutes from the station, it’s a well-trafficked spot; however, it remains incredibly tranquil especially compared to its surroundings. The shrine is currently undergoing renovations in preparation for its 100th anniversary in 2020.