If you’ve even the most passing interest in fashion, chances are you’ve heard of Harajuku. And for very good reason.
A world-renowned boiling pot of alternative fashion and youth culture, the experience of stepping to Harajuku is one of pure sensory overload. Everywhere you go you’re bombarded with light, colour and noise. The air throbs with catchy pop tunes booming from inside stores, while the delicious aroma of street food floats through the air.
Intimidating stores displaying edgy gothic clothing mingle with ultra-girly boutiques and cheery dollar stores.
And when the schools close and the weekend begins hordes of beautiful, fashionable young things flock to this most iconic of shopping districts!
And scruffy jet lagged tourists armed with cameras. Guess which camp I fell in to!
Whether you’re a fashion fanatic or a casual shopper, there’s plenty to see and do in Harajuku. To list everything would require its own guidebook – two if you include its neighbour Shibuya! But since you’ve come to the internet for answers I’m guessing a guidebook isn’t what you’re after.
So for all those readers desperate to know the best places to shop in Harajuku, I’ve condensed this down in to one quick, handy guide! This guide covers everything from where to shop to what to eat, and also includes some secret places many tourists have never heard of. I’ve saved the best till last, so do make sure to read right to the end!
Where to shop in Harajuku
For those with a hankering for alternative style Harajuku’s something of a dream come true! The list of alternative clothes shops scattered over Takeshita Dori alone are almost too numerous to name. But I’d recommend starting at Bodyline; the glittering heart of Tokyo’s most iconic street fashion: Lolita. Here you’ll find row after row of exquisite, Victorian-inspired dresses, delicate hairpiece and even an array of geeky cosplay outfits!
Once you’ve exhausted the most regal of Takeshita Dori’s offerings, proceed to the more punk/goth orientated Richards and it’s rather eccentric neighbour ACDC. The latter of which stocks an amazing variety of quirky shirts and hoodies, such as the gloriously trippy T-shirt pictured below!
And if you’re a fan of bold, quirky clothes then you definitely can’t miss 6% Doki Doki! This simply insane store stocks some of the craziest, most colourful clothes and accessories out there, and really has to be seen to be believed.
And mixed in with these brazen, flashy brands are an abundance of girly boutiques and adorable accessory stalls. Looking for the perfect flower crown? Paris Kids is the place for you! Fancy browsing in the prettiest cosmetics store you’ll ever visit in your life? Then don’t miss out the impossibly pretty Etude House!
Liz Lisa and Wonder Rocket are great places to buy clothes in the feminine ‘Mori’ style, while stores like Gal Fit and Wego stock somewhat more mainstream items. It’s also worth noting that some Western brands like H&M or Claire’s Accessories can be found in and around Takeshita Dori street. There’s still plenty for the guys, but girls are truly spoilt for choice in Harajuku!
But Harajuku isn’t only about clothes shopping! Gift shops, novelty stores and department stores abound, and one again there’s something for every kind of shopper.
During my own wanderings I discovered all manner of delights, including the Tamogotchi Store, an adorable Sanrio shop and most important of all; Kiddyland!
Best described as a character goods store dedicated to every franchise in existence, this jaw-dropping multi-story outlet is a joy for the child in us all. Got a soft spot for Hello Kitty? Snoopy? Harry Potter? There’s bound to be something to float your boat!
And as for those shoppers on a budget or simply hunting for everyday necessities, the equally enormous Daiso is the perfect place to indulge in a good old-fashioned splurge!
Quite possibly the best (and certainly the pinkest!) dollar-store in existence, here you’ll find pretty much every item imaginable. Food, souvenirs, craft supplies, cosmetics, pet toys – you get the idea! If there’s something you need, Daiso probably has it. And at a fraction of the price you’d pay elsewhere!
Where to eat in Harajuku
Unsurprisingly for one of Tokyo’s most popular shopping districts there’s also plenty of places to eat. Dotted around Harajuku are restaurants and cafes serving everything from ramen and sushi to Mexican food! And for better or worse big western fast food chains such as McDonalds can also be found, as can Starbucks.
But it’s impossible to visit Harajuku without indulging in one culinary tradition; Harajuku’s legendary crepes! I brought myself a choco-banana one from Santa Monica Crepes, and it certainly didn’t disappoint!
The enormous, rainbow candy floss from the Totti Candy Factory are also enormously tempting, and you’re bound to see many a gaggle of schoolgirls snacking on these sugary monstrosities as you wander the district!
And for fans of sweets and even sweeter surroundings I’d strongly suggest you drop in at the Pom Pom Purin Café! This ridiculously cute Sanrio themed café serves the most adorable drinks and desserts you’re ever likely to consume in your life, and I for one sorely regret not paying it a visit.
Secret spots in Harajuku
My first secret spot is Maison de Julietta; a dream come true for any girl (or boy!) who’s ever dreamed of dressing up in exquisite Lolita outfits, but can’t afford the normal price tag.
Well here at Maison de Julietta for roughly $100 dollars you can get the full make-over experience; clothes, hair, make-up – the whole shebang! For this price you’ll even be treated to your own professional photo shoot, and get some complimentary tea and cookies to enjoy while you’re at. How’s that for the princess treatment?
While I can’t say I’ve tried this myself (god I wish I had!), fellow blogger Donna has written a fantastic account of her own Maison de Juilette experience over on her blog Haute Culture Fashion. It provides a really thorough account with lots of gorgeous photography so do check it out!
(Address: B1. 5F Laforet Harajuku, 1-11-6 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo)
And last but not least I’d like to bring to your attention a curious little establishment known as the Kawaii Monster Café. How could I possibly write about Harajuku and not mention the Kawaii Monster Café?
Admittedly I know little personally about this infamous café, except for its soaring popularity and the trademark Harajuku zaniness that’s given it so much infamy since it opened in 2015. But by all accounts this café’s bizarre decor includes a candy merry-go-round, a ceiling festooned with giant baby bottles, a jellyfish themed bar and a giant mushroom forest.
Is this what it’s like to be on acid? Because if it is, then I’m never doing drugs.
This (frankly bonkers) experience may not be for everybody, and actually (*insert horrified gasp here*) may even be too weird for me. But for those brave enough to try it, there’s simply no better way to get in touch with the truly mental side of Japanese culture!
(Address: 4-31-10 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo)
Getting to Harajuku
You can get to Harajuku very easily by taking the JR Yamanote line to Harajuku Station. The iconic entrance gate to Takeshita Dori is directly opposite the station, and impossible to miss!
What are your favourite shops in Harajuku? Do let me know in the comments!
And if you’re planning on visiting Japan this year, why not also check out my Top 30 Tips For Travelling To Japan!
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