Although Japanese society largely revolves around conformity, tradition and respect a certain area in the heart of Tokyo has a bit more of a punk attitude. Harajuku is an area surrounding the homonymous train station that has established itself as a hub of futuristic and frequently bizarre teenage fashion and a mecca for street photographers.
This area has much more to see and enjoy than just wild and colorful fashion. Let’s take a look at what you can see, buy and where you can relax in this bustling crowded and immensely popular area.
The Jingu Bashi Bridge
The Bridge proximate to Harajuku has been a point of congregation for the followers of the area’s exciting fashion scene. Most famous for its “Harajuku Girls” popularized by Gwen Stefani and the recent Japanophile trend, are teenagers that enjoy fashionable subcultures which borrow and mend various styles from post Victorian maids, to gothic rockers, to a mash-up of multi-colored Kawai (cutetsy) clothes and accessories. If you like street photography or just like to gawk at the unique youth subcultures of Japan, then the bridge is the perfect place for you.
The Meiji Jingu Shrine
The area surrounding the Harajuku station isn’t all shopping and fan-fare, but is also the location of one Japan’s largest and most beautiful shrines. Once you enter the grand gate (or Torii in Japanese), you will be treated to a rich verdant interior. The shrine’s interior also known as Yoyogi Park and even though it’s a far cry from the hustle and bustle of Takeshita, Harajuku or Jingu Bashi, there is still a lot of activity. A noteworthy site within the park is the shrine at the heart of the forested area. Before you reach the shrine you will see various dedication walls and a unique wall of kazaridaru, or decorative rice barrels. These barrels are due to the spiritual significance of sake in the Shinto religion which says the brew brings man and the gods together.
You might have seen the colorful vestiges of the teenagers on Jingu Bashi, well now you visit the shops that sell them. Takeshita Dori (or Takeshita street in translation) is a commercial street that caters primarily to teenagers, but is an interesting and exciting place to purchase souvenirs or get an affordable bite to eat. If you have a craving for something sweet you might want to check out the famous Sweet Box which forgoes traditional cones for crepes and the results are amazing.
If you happen to be in Tokyo with some free time to walk through an ancient shrine and gawk at strangely dressed adolescents then you should definitely take the train down to the Harajuku station. Maybe you find some colorful funky clothes to take with you!