Famous for its street fashion, Harajuku is a bustling hub of fascinating subcultures. Explore the beauty of this colourful community with our guide to the top things to do in Harajuku.
After being largely demolished during the devastating Great Tokyo Air Raid in 1945, Harajuku bounced back and has become one of the most mythologised locations in all of Japan. Located in the district of Shibuya, long considered the heart of Tokyo, the radiant neighbourhood has become a popular tourist attraction with visitors from around the world.
Getting to and around Harajuku
People stand outside Harajuku station in Shibuya-Ku, Tokyo
Sitting between Yoyogi Park, Meiji-Jingumae Shrine and Takeshita Street is Harajuku JR station, which is serviced by the Yamanote line. The line, which is the city circle loop line, stops at most of the city’s major hubs, making it relatively easy to get to Harajuku. If you’re going via Metro, catch the Chiyoda line to Omotesando. A slightly more high-end pocket of Shibuya that backs onto Harajuku, Omotesando Boulevard is a stunning city walk worth wandering through on your way to the outlandish Harajuku.
Harajuku’s hip-hop scene
Manhattan Records, Shibuya-ku
Harajuku is the unofficial home of Tokyo’s hip-hop scene, and Manhattan Records is essentially the heart of the Harajuku hip-hop community. Established in 1991, the team here has been supplying locals with the best in rap, funk and R&B on vinyl since the store’s inception. In addition to promoting other artists, the crew at Manhattan Records also curates their own compilation titled The Hits, allowing listeners to 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 one of the most loved record stores in the world, the iconic little indie store is also home to a bar and an exhibition space.
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. Sweet and popping with pastel cream, strawberries and sprinkles, the popular dessert is a must when visiting Takeshita Street.
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 flavour booth to ensure each customer pays full attention to their dish. Try it out yourself and see what the hype is all about.
Harajuku is streetwear central, and scattered just beyond the tourist hub of Takeshita Street is a collection of some of the best sneaker stores in the world. Regardless of your preference, you are more likely to find a pair or two that fits your personality here. Billy’s, ATMOS and Kicks Lab are popular brands with multiple locations in Harajuku alone.
BAPE Store Harajuku
Harajuku is also the unofficial home of mega-streetwear names BAPE and Supreme. Founded by Japanese fashion designer, DJ and producer Nigo in 1993, BAPE has grown to become a well-known brand with stores in New York City, Paris and London.
American skateboarding brand Supreme is highly popular in the country, with more stores in Japan than anywhere else in the world. Established in 1994, the most impressive Supreme store in the world, complete with endless items, can be found in Harajuku.
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. Completed in 1920, eight years after the emperor’s death, it was destroyed during World War II, but was quickly rebuilt, where it still stands tall today. Located about 10 minutes from the station, it’s a well-trafficked spot; however, it remains incredibly tranquil, especially when compared to its surroundings. The shrine is currently undergoing renovations in preparation for its 100th anniversary in 2020.
One of the most famous parks in Japan, Yoyogi Park is essentially its own suburb. Located adjacent to Harajuku Station and Meiji Shrine, it’s where visitors can essentially witness the unique 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.