© istock/SeanPavonePhoto
© istock/SeanPavonePhoto

Harajuku in Tokyo: the kawaii capital of Japan

4 minutes to read

If you are looking for the hotspot of Japan's distinctive kawaii fashion culture, Harajuku in Tokyo is the place to go. Harajuku is the neighborhood of Tokyo where Japan's kawaii culture began and continues to thrive. Known as the kawaii and fashion capital for youngsters, Harajuku attracts people who wear all kinds of colorful clothes, including the Gothic & Lolita styles. Besides the kawaii pop culture, Harajuku is also filled with beautiful nature and iconic spiritual spots. 

Harajuku, the birthplace of kawaii culture

© iStock/Korkusung
© iStock/Korkusung

Harajuku is famous as the birthplace of "kawaii culture", which is the culture of cuteness in Japan. It can refer to items and humans that are charming, vulnerable, shy, and childlike. Pop and creative fashion stores and food stalls are crowded around Takeshita Street (known as Takeshita Dori). On the other hand, the Omotesando area is right next to Harajuku, but unlike Harajuku, Omotesando is a fashionable spot with high-end brand stores. Shops with sophisticated buildings (such as Prada Boutique Aoyama and Louis Vuitton Omotesando) are lined up, making you feel like walking into a museum. You can really enjoy the contrast of Takeshita Dori and Omotesando while you are in Harajuku.

Takeshita Dori: full of kawaii-ness

© iStock/FotoGraphik
© iStock/FotoGraphik

Takeshita Dori is a 360-meter long main street of Harajuku, and it starts literally right at Takeshita exit of JR Harajuku Station. Shops of various sizes are lined up, and the street is always very crowded. Takeshita Dori is a collection of all Harajuku culture, including fashion, kawaii goods, culture, and trendy street food. Walking through and glancing at Takeshita Dori, you will see what kind of town Harajuku is. There are many crepe shops, and eating crepes while walking along Takeshita Dori is a typical experience.

© flickr/MK · Photography
© flickr/MK · Photography

The best place where you can experience the feeling of Harajuku is Kawaii Monster Café. It is located a 7-minute walk from Harajuku station. The pop look of the gourmet menu is intense and full of kawaiiness. Kawaii Monster Café offers the space of pop, colorful photogenic dimension that you can only find in Harajuku. It is always busy, so it is strongly recommended to book your place in advance.

Kawaii Monster Cafe, Harajyuku, Tokyo
Kawaii Monster Cafe, Harajyuku, Tokyo
4-chōme-31-10 Jingūmae, Shibuya City, Tokyo 150-0001, Japan

Omotesando: the high-end sophistication

© iStock/siraanamwong
© iStock/siraanamwong

Known as an architectural showcase street of Tokyo, Omotesando is a tourist destination where the latest trends are gathered. It is located right next to Takeshita Dori, but the atmospheres of these two streets are so different. Omotesando features high-end international brands, such as Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Alexander McQueen, etc. Omotesando is often used as a location for drama shooting. In winter, the streets are filled with illuminations and create a romantic mood of sophisticated Tokyo.

© wikimedia/kcomiid
© wikimedia/kcomiid

Omotesando Hills is a shopping mall where the most advanced fashion brands in Japan are gathered, located about a 5-minute walk from JR Meiji Jingumae Station. The facility is lined with more than 100 stores that carry high-quality and unique items. Enjoy catching the urban style high-end Japanese fashion trend at Omotesando.

Omotesando Hills, Tokyo
Omotesando Hills, Tokyo
4-chōme-12-10 Jingūmae, Shibuya City, Tokyo 150-0001, Japan

Meiji Jingu, an oasis of Harajuku

©iStock/krblokhin
©iStock/krblokhin

There are shrines all over Japan., but Meiji Jingu in Tokyo is the one that has a connection with the royal family. Meiji Jingu is a shrine dedicated to the Emperor and Empress of the Meiji era. It is the most popular temple in Tokyo, established in 1925. The large premise of Meiji Jingu is filled with large trees and beautifully maintained. Meiji Jingu is the oasis of Harajuku as you cannot feel the lively hustle-bustle energy when you walk in. Instead, you will be surrounded by calm, magical and spiritual energy. 

Meiji Shrine is known for gathering the largest number of Hatsumode (New Year's celebration) visitors in Japan every year. It is located only 5 minutes walk from Harajuku Station, surrounded by beautiful greenery with a solemn but relaxed atmosphere. 

© iStock/coward_lion
© iStock/coward_lion

A large torii gate, which stands at the entrance of each shrine and shows the boundary between the shrine and the place where humans live, is the symbol of Meiji Jingu, and it is the largest in Japan. There are many Shinto events held at Meiji Jingu throughout the year. In addition to annual events, there is a daily ritual called onikkusai, during which the food is served to God (at 8h and 14h). If you want to see the Shinto ritual unique to Japan, you should visit at this time.

Meiji Jingu, Tokyo
Meiji Jingu, Tokyo
1 Yoyogikamizonocho, Shibuya City, Tokyo 151-0052, Japan

Harajuku offers the extreme ends of Japanese culture - the super modern pop culture, the sophisticated trend of Tokyo, and the Shinto spiritual element. It is one of the areas that you cannot miss while you are in Tokyo. It can be said that if you have not visited the kawaii capital of Japan, you have not seen Tokyo.


The author

Mayo Harry

Mayo Harry

Hi, I am Mayo from Japan. Travelling around the world and Japan since my late teens, my life has been a continuation of trips. I am excited to share my knowledge and experiences of Japan with all of you.

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