“When I die, I want to go to Tokyo and be a Harajuku girl” – perhaps I shouldn’t be paraphrasing Mr. Galliano right now, but I think we can agree with the sentiment here. Chances are, if you want to go to Tokyo then that means you want to go to Harajuku. And, hey – why wouldn’t you? It’s one of the world’s most vibrant, creative and exciting places for fashion, and if you’ve read a wee bit of this website, you’ll know how much we love it too.
So, what better way to show our appreciation of Harajuku than a few of our must-see places? We know you know about La Foret and Takeshita Doori, but what about vintage shops, boutiques and galleries? Never fear, Tokyo Telephone’s Harajuku guide is here!
Continue reading for a run-down of some of our favourites so far…
At the risk of repeating myself until I’m blue in the face (now, blue in the hair would be a different matter), is that in Harajuku, exploration is rewarded. We’re still finding new places, tiny streets and little cafes that we never knew existed. There’s a high turn-over of shops in certain areas, so even if you think you’ve seen it all give it just a couple of weeks and you’ll be surprised! This by no means an exhaustive guide, but is designed to give a flavour of a few of our hotspots…
Vintage: Harajuku is fantastic for vintage fashion. We’ve already covered Dog (amazing re-makes, dark 80s), Berberjin (studded jackets, manly vintage) and Tarock with Ricco (fairytales, fake trees), but there’s also a whole host of others… G2? (street wear, trashion), Nadia (girly, retro), Bubbles (brands, bedrooms), Lemon Tea, Panama Boy, Santa Monica, Chicago, Bunkerstud, Crisp, Apollo, Kinsella, T, Sprout 2nd, and a few more. Phew!
Pass the Baton: If I could live in here, I probably would. Covered from floor to ceiling in cabinets displaying Beautiful Things (think old glass, kids toys, antiques and couture vintage clothes), Pass the Baton also tells you stories behind some of the more unusual items. Go there now! Okay, PtB is technically in Omotesando Hills, which is a must-see in itself – I’m allowed a little wiggle room here in this post! Also along this stretch of road is the amazing select shop Bedrock, but don’t go looking for it – you’ll have to get through the Forbidden Fruit cafe first! Totally worth it though, for the stunning neo-ethnic designs, blacklights and a very impressive garden behind a glass wall.
Boutiques: In the way of Harajuku boutiques and select shops that we always have to pop in to, for high-end edge it’s got to be Cannabis and Xanadu. Cannabis is in a very important-looking black building and I must confess that I too feel very important going into somewhere that looks just so damn cool. And cool it is; cool designers from around the globe rubbing shoulders with cool customers and cool shop staff. Xanadu is something of a trial for me – I love it, but I’m terrified of heights and regularly have to test my mental strength by crawling my way up the winding stairs that unfortunately give me a great view of how far away the ground is. Once I’ve stopped hyperventilating (Samuel really is a saint to put up with me!), I can enjoy beautiful fashion from some of Japan’s most exciting young creators. A-Cycle, close to Xanadu, is another place that should go on the list – it’s where we first saw Hiro’s fantastic work. For imported street wear (aside from Candy in Shibuya), it’s worth checking out Radd Lounge – yeah, they’re all pretty rad there, as you’d expect.
Bunkaya Zakkaten: Actually a semi-recent discovery for me, it’s one of the best places (along with Paris Kids on Takeshita Doori) to pick up cheap and cheerful and totally Tokyo bit & pieces. I love everything in there, from the sailor collars and tiny earrings shaped like food, to the jars of interesting buttons and leopard print cutlery. Budget some serious time to look at everything!
Banal Chic Bizarre: One of the true hubs of new Tokyo fashion, it’s well worth hauling yourself up the tiny stairway to know you’re in the presence of fashion genius. Part of the latest generation of designers and creatives to make Harajuku their home, Banal Chic Bizarre get it right. Pick up a copy of one of Root magazine while you’re in there – it’s packed full of the best new underground (ura-hara) fashion – a true must-buy!
Design Festa Gallery: Another place I could quite happily live in given half the chance! With a fun crowd of international fans, regular exhibits and a nice little cafe, if the sun’s out then I’m heading to Design Festa. Split into two sides, wander in and out of the huge converted building, take part in interactive installations and then pop in to the Sakura-tei restaurant to create your own okonomiyaki masterpiece and wash it all down with melon soda. Lush.
Kawaii: If you’ve got an urge for the cute, head to 6%DokiDoki – exemplifying the Japanese kawaii aesthetic and now making it into a social movement in itself, Sebastian Masuda’s vision of a sparkly pink rebellious world is one shared by fans across the globe. Join them, you know you want to! I’d also suggest taking a look at Dicokick for cute, yet somewhat unsettling, jewellery. Now practically synonymous with Japanese street fashion, Tokyo Bopper shoes can be found on the feet of only the coolest fashionistas in Tokyo. Grab a pair and head back to Omotesando Doori to strut your stuff while the street fashion photographers that line the sides of the pavement hunt down the Next Big Thing. We almost never fail to get snapped, so give it a go and you never know – you might end up in Fruits!
Park Life: Finally, if the hustle and bustle gets too much (yeah, I’m still waiting for that moment, and it’s been years!), you’re spoiled for choice in the way of nature – just by the station is the stunning Meiji shrine, and we do like a little bit of culture now & again. It’s so tranquil here, you’d almost never guess that you’re just minutes away from one of Tokyo’s busiest areas. Finally, heading away from Harajuku at last, take a walk through Yoyogi park to get to Shibuya – you’ll have to dodge the dogs in clothes, kids playing football and random musicians, but we like to pick up a quick drink from a vending machine and stroll through at own leisure, perfectly refreshed in time for the bright lights of Shibuya. I’ll tell you a story here, readers: only last month I think, we were in the park watching the crows taking a bath in the lake, when a man approached two young women. There was some furtive conversation, and money may very well have changed hands. One of the girls removed her shoes and the man took photographs of her feet and drew around them. He then left, practically jogging. It was a very surreal thing to have witnessed, and we talked about it for a long time afterwards. Then we ate our bodyweight in yaki-niku.
Even though it’s been over six years years since I first saw Harajuku for myself, I’m still not over it. I don’t think I could ever be. The next couple of years post-quake will be very important for Japan and the tourist economy; please support Japan by continuing to visit Harajuku and the rest of country. I promise you won’t regret it. A slightly maudlin end to this guide, but something that I feel has to be said.