I first heard of Harajuku long before I visited Japan through the term Harajuku girls. The term is used to describe those (predominantly teenage girls) who enjoy dressing in theatrical costumes to take on the aura of real or fictional characters.
In the past Harajuku was a gathering point for this genre, particularly at weekends and although they are still to be seen, it would seem the popularity of garish dressing is on the decline. The area’s popularity inevitably attracted the attention of large international chain stores, which now compete with the edgier independent fashion stores for the patronage of the fashion and trend-conscious youth market. Nevertheless, Harajuku remains very much a youth oriented area and a major hub for youth culture and fashion.
Geographically, Harajuku is a relatively small area roughly covering the area between Harajuku Station and Omotesando, a more up-market area where one can find many high-end luxury brands. At this point, I should acknowledge that those who know Tokyo well would recognise that some of the photographs in this post are within Omotesando. However, geographic boundaries are often blurry and they are included as being more Harajuku in style.
Most people travel there by train and the first view is from the station platform (pic 1) looking directly down Takeshita Street, the must-see inclusion in any visit to Harajuku. Exiting the station, follow the pedestrian crossing (pics 2 & 3) directly to Takeshita Street, which is really more of a laneway with shops (pics 4 to 6) on either side. Be prepared for a crowd if visiting on a weekend (pic 7), though during the week there is more room to move (pics 8 & 9).
It’s a good place for people watching and one encounters interesting casts of characters such as those in pic 8. There is the Salaryman in his business suit seemingly interested in nothing but his mobile phone; the young attractive woman presumably wanting to be noticed and the young guy on the left who maybe doesn’t want to be noticed. This assortment of characters is typical of Tokyo where, no matter what an area’s dominant demographic might be; one invariably finds a cross-section of people from different walks of life, including those with interesting pets (pic 11).
The area also has entertaining buildings worth a second look. We often hear that land is scarce in Tokyo and perhaps one should not be too surprised to find a three-level café built from (or at least inspired by) shipping containers (pics 12 & 13).
Another standout building is The Watari Museum of Contemporary Art (pics 14 & 15), one of Tokyo’s leading contemporary art galleries. I recall turning my head when I first drove past in a taxi upon my arrival and immediately made a mental note to find the place again. As well as attracting attention to the Museum, one must applaud their promotion of art in this way. If one is wondering what the faces are looking at, the answer is on the other side of the street (pic 16). By the way, pics 16 to 18 are what I meant by Harajuku style in Omotesando.
To conclude this little walk through Harajuku I could not resist snapping the photographer on an overpass setting up his large frame camera (pic 19). What was he photographing? The Sunday afternoon crowds outside Harajuku Station of course (pic 20).
(Please click on any of the following images for an enlarged view.)