Harajuku is more than just a neighborhood in Japan. Harajuku is a monolith of fashion, aesthetics, and culture that can’t be found or replicated anywhere else. There are so many unique sights, restaurants, and attractions that surely inspire the trends that come out of Harajuku, and if you’d like to learn more about them, and more about Harajuku as a whole, keep reading on.
If you didn’t know, Harajuku is a district located in the Shibuya ward of Tokyo, and is one of the most popular travel destinations amongst international and domestic tourists alike. Though the area now known as Harajuku has been around since at least the pre-Edo period, it wasn’t until the Shibuya Station opened during the Meiji period in 1906 that the neighborhood would begin to gain any traction. Several military facilities were built in neighboring areas after the Russo-Japanese war (1904-1905) and the second Sino-Japanese war (1938-1945), and as the soldiers moved to Shibuya, many first generation department stores followed, thus laying the groundwork for the booming metropolis that stands today. Nowadays, you can visit Harajuku by taking either the JR Yamanote Line to Harajuku Station, or Tokyo Metro’s Chiyoda or Fukutoshin lines to Meiji-jingumae Station.
Why Should You Go To Harajuku?
When you visit Japan, or any country for that matter, you want to take in as much culture as possible, right? Well, between the never ending pool of Instagram-worthy restaurants, products, and photo ops, and the one-of-a-kind energy and spirit that inspires locals to treat the street like a daily fashion show, Harajuku is basically the apex for all the things that make Japan so unique.
If you’re looking to shop til you drop, make sure to check out Takeshita Street, which is considered to be the center of all things Harajuku fashion. Located directly across from Harajuku Station, Takeshita Street is lined with all the best shops and boutiques for all types of clothing, like cosplay, lolita fashion, and reworked vintage. And while you’re there, you can grab a bite to eat at one of the many beloved creperies like Marion Crepes. Or, you can take a walk through Omotesando Hills to check out some high-end stores and gourmet restaurants, too!
Looking for even more culture? Make sure to stop by the Ukiyo-e Ōta Memorial Museum of Art to take in the Japanese art style known as ukiyo-e, which translates to “pictures of the floating world.” You can also swing by the Watari-Um Museum of Contemporary Art, which promotes conceptual art and other non-commercial artists in Japan.
Ready to plan a trip to Harajuku yet? If you are, make sure to schedule your trip for sometime for either the spring (March or April) or the fall (September through November). If you go in the spring, you’ll get to see all the beautiful sakura cherry blossom trees in bloom, and if you go in the fall, you’re guaranteed to see some stunning views of the autumnal fall foliage.
What Is Harajuku Style?
Before you visit Harajuku, you should prepare to see some pretty eclectic outfit choices on the regular.
Harajuku fashion doesn’t have one defining characteristic, due to the fact that it blends so many sub-genres of fashion together, like lolita, visual kei, cosplay, and Decora. That being said, Harajuku fashion still manages to be one of the cornerstones of Japanese style. Though the Harajuku aesthetic has been around for years, there are still debates surrounding what the style represents. Some people claim it’s a rebellion against Japan’s strict societal norms, while others believe it to be a simple form of expression.
Because there isn’t an agreed upon definition of what makes something Harajuku and what the style stands for, there are many ways you can be “Harajuku.” For example, you can take the lolita route and style an outfit around large, ornate skirts and a lot of lace, or you can center an outfit around the decora aesthetic, which has a lot of crossover with the Kawaii aesthetic. Cosplaying as your favorite cartoon or anime character is also an option, or you can shift away from that completely and take the goth approach. The possibilities are endless!
Between the culture, the food, the fashion, and the overall eccentricness that runs through Harajuku, it should definitely be on your list of must-see places to travel to in Japan.
Let's take a look at the rainbow grilled cheese in Harajuku!