Japan: Tokyo: What to See & Do: Walks: Omotesando and Harajuku
Omotesando and Harajuku
Nothing beats the combination of wacky Japanese fashion and excellent shopping in the Omotesando and Harajuku neighborhoods. To catch a glimpse of what makes Tokyo’s youth culture tick, take a couple of hours to explore this must-see area.
Start at the Harajuku station. Here you’ll be on the edge of the Meiji Shrine, a calm wooded area dedicated to Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken that was built in the 1920s and reconstructed after WWII and is worth a visit. After you exit the park, cross the street in front of the station and head down Takeshita Dori, the main shopping street and a catwalk for the city’s youth. Come on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon to see the wildest styles, and peek into the small shops lining the sides of the pedestrian street. You probably won’t be dressing yourself in anything you find here, but it’s worth a look, since you’re unlikely to see clothes like this anywhere else. Note: feel free to take pictures. These kids love to show off.
When you reach the end of Takeshita Dori, turn right on Meiji Dori. At the next big intersection (a Gap will be on your left), take a left onto Omotesando. Here you’ll find an amazing selection of high fashion (Louis Vuitton’s biggest store is among the glass-fronted boutiques), souvenir shops (young girls will love the Kiddy Land) and architectural landmarks (Pritzker prize–winning architect Tadao Ando designed Omotesando Hills, a shopping and residential complex). Watch for Shu Uemura’s flagship store, a gorgeous boutique that displays cosmetics as if they were fine art, and the kitchy Oriental Bazaar, a fun place to shop for affordable mementoes.
As you continue, take a quick detour down the street that intersects Omotesando at the small canal. Lined with funky cafés and up-and-coming designer boutiques, this is the perfect place to spot a trend that will likely arrive in your city two to three years from now. If you’re hungry for lunch, take a right after the Camper store to find Fujimamas, a casual, welcoming eatery with an English-speaking staff in a former tatami factory.
Back on Omotesando, head uphill toward Aoyama Dori. Cross at the large intersection. You will see the Spiral building, a multipurpose cultural center with art galleries, shops and restaurants that also serves as a performance and event space and is worth a look, as are the maze of streets behind it, which include cutting-edge boutiques, like Bapexclusive. If you continue on to the narrow portion of Omotesando, you’ll pass Issey Miyake and Dolce & Gabbana stores. But the real gem is Prada’s building, a glass tower designed by Herzog and de Meuron that looks something like an oversized beehive. Jump on the subway at Omotesando Crossing, where you can find a line that will transport you back to your hotel.— Henley Vazquez 04/07/2008