Japan Series – Tokyo: Harajuku

Before visiting Harajuku, I had this preconceived notion of what the area was going to be like – I expected outlandish Harajuku girls with crazy hair and makeup everywhere! Little did I know that the district was going to welcome me with a huge forest-like park, where you practically forget you’re in the middle of the Tokyo madness.

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Meiji Jingu
The Meiji Jingu shrine is a large wooden complex with some intricate carvings present, although compared to many of the other temples we’ve seen, it’s quite a bit simpler. There’s nothing flashy about the place, perhaps apart from its size. On the other hand, aside from the uniqueness of the park around it, the shrine itself is not massively memorable. I still stand by saying the smaller shrines we’ve seen seemed to have much more to offer. We came across some rather interesting Ea plaques here though!

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I did really enjoy the park, as it just transports you to a completely different setting. If it weren’t for the occassional sighting of a skyscraper through the trees, you could easily pretend you’re in the countryside. You could easily spend a couple hours just walking along all of the paths. I’d recommend bringing a picnic and enjoying the sun on the meadow by the lake whilst admiring the beauty of the Japanese gardens. There’s also a Treasure Museum nearby for those thirsting after more culture.

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Takeshita-dori
The shopping street Takeshita-dori is known for being popular amongst Japanese teenagers and bargain shoppers. Even though we went there in the middle of the day when you’d expect all of the prime customers to be at school, crowds and crowds of people somehow manged to squeeze into the tiny space.

The word tiny is actually fitting for describing many things you’ll encounter in Takeshita-dori: From the tiny clothes, which were definitely not designed for westerners, to tiny shops – the smallest one is the is the ACDC stall at the very end of the street (or the beginning, depending on where you’re coming from). Apparently this was the very first shop on Takeshita-dori, and while it may appear miniscule compared to the newer competitor’s towering over it, it has the most character by far (and definitely no shortage of eager shoppers).

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Food and snacks
Takeshita-dori’s signature street food are sickeningly sweet crepes. There’s a whole selection of crepe stands in the street, so if you’re a dessert lover you’ll be spoilt for choice.

If you don’t have much of a sweet tooth, you can head to the nearby sushi conveyor belt restaurant Heiroku Sushi located just a few blocks away – approximately half way between the Meijijingumae and Omotesando stations. While it’s not the most mind-blowing sushi experience we’ve had on our trip, it’s a nice and inexpensive way of trying out different types of nigiri and maki.

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Getting there
Depending on whether you’re using a Japan Rail Pass or a Pasmo, you can either take a JR train directly to the Harajuku train station, or get on the Chiyoda underground line and hop off at the Meijijingumae station (C03).

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