Must-Read Guide Top 10 Cool Ideas On What To Do In Harajuku Tokyo
Harajuku is one of the most popular places to visit not just by the tourists, but also Japanese. Once you’ve covered Shinjuku and Shibuya, it’s time to head to Harajuku, Tokyo’s entertaining youth neighbourhood, right in-between Shinjuku and Shibuya. Here comes the list of 10 cool ideas on what to do in Harajuku!
1. Takeshita street (竹下通り)
If you are not familiar with Takeshita street, it is Harajuku’s hub for literally everything you can imagine. The list of things to do in Harajuku is long and you don’t have to go far; Takeshita street is only a few minutes away from Harajuku station. You’re not going to see skyscrapers but instead, this teenagers’ paradise offers hundreds of small, independent shops specialising in Harajuku fashion.
If you’re about to skip seeing this place. Stop right here and read why this is the only must-see place to visit in Harajuku. First, Takeshita street never seems to be quiet during daytime. If you’re looking for something unique that cannot be found elsewhere, the chances are that you’re going to find it here, before it gets streamlined by the big fashion chains.
My first impression of Takeshita street? It’s a place that instantly makes you forget it’s been a while since you became a grown-up! Its bustling young spirit makes you shout it’s never too late to make rooms for some changes, to your wardrobe or personal life.
Apart from the main Takeshita street, also known as Takeshita dori (dori means street), there many smaller backstreets to get lost in. You don’t have to be into Harajuku fashion or looking for an outfit for yourself. If you are just curious and see what this place is about, make sure to check out the boutiques specialising in Lolita fashion and Gothic Lolita accessories, selling anything from kawaii dresses to daring platform shoes with some dangerously looking studs!
You are bound to see a few interesting personas, some with an overly dramatic, almost theatrical makeup, others making the most of their new cosplay outfits. I have to say that I have never been to any other place where people were making more efforts to look exactly like their favourite anime characters, including London Comicon.
Takeshita dori is will bring back your childhood memories too and perhaps will even make you want to get a t-shirt with your favourite Dragon Ball character!
2. Visit Daiso Harajuku (ダイソー 原宿)
Daiso is a much-loved 100 Yen store, or to make it easy, $1 store (and £1 store when the pound drops even further) in Japan for a number of reasons. It strives to deliver good quality products, wide variety and all at ridiculously low price points! Daiso Harajuku has 3 floors, each one of them offering something different, fresh, unique and practical (you’d be surprised how many things you will need after checking out this shop).
Despite its international presence in a few Asian countries, Australia and even the US, there are no Daiso stores to be found anywhere in Europe. And it’s a shame because you’ll love these thoughtful Japanese products!
If you’re looking for some cool ideas on what to do in Harajuku and wouldn’t mind combining it with shopping, visit Daiso in Harajuku. It will sort you out with cheap, decent quality last-minute souvenirs for your friends and family, buy some hair accessories, decent makeup, latest gadgets, delicious snacks including matcha, kitchen or bathroom products, you are going to love this place. We literally ended up buying the whole shop (well, I wish!) and even now, back in Europe, I’m missing the convenience of going to Daiso just to grab a couple of bits and forget I even spent anything!
Check out our tour around Daiso beforehand to get an idea of how huge and clean this superstore is. Now you know where to shop if you’re visiting Japan on a budget but also want some really cool and cute stuff:
3. Meiji Jingu or Meiji Shrine (明治神宮)
Moving onto our number 3 on our list of cool things to do in Harajuku. Meiji Jingyu is one of the most visited shrines in the whole of Japan and number one shrine during Hatsumode period (start of new year), with over 3 million worshippers during the 3 day period! This shrine is dedicated to Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken after they passed away.
It’s not just any Shinto Shrine, Emperor Meiji and, together with Empress Shoken have had a great influence on shaping up Japan between late 19th and early 20th century. Essentially, they encouraged technological modernisation of Japan which triggered fundamental changes in the society and transformation of Japan from an isolated society to what you see now, one the greatest economies with forward thinking.
Also, I know that we are all curious creatures so if you’re into Japanese culture (well I’m sure you wouldn’t be in Japan otherwise), you can witness traditional Japanese weddings held at this particularly special to the Japanese people Shinto Shrine.
In order to get there, you’ll need to walk in the forest for about 10 minutes, it’s a lovely and calm walk with over 10,000 trees surrounding you and cooling you down from the heat in the warmer months. Now you know what to do in Harajuku on a hot and sunny day!
Check out our video from our Visit to Meiji Shrine where we saw not one but two traditional Japanese Shinto Shrine weddings!
4. Yoyogi Park (代々木公園)
Yoyogi Park in Harajuku is literally a 5 minute walk from Harajuku train station. Along with Shinjuku Gyoen Park it is one of the most visited and recognisable parts of Tokyo. The main difference between the two is that Shinjuku Gyoen does not allow drinking alcohol in the park.
Hence why, if you’re looking for a chilled vibe similar to the one in London’s Hyde Park, Yoyogi Park is the closest match. Except for, Yoyogi park takes it to a seriously new level and the entrance to the park is completely free! Here, you will see many people gathering for picnics or playing sports together and also, drinking alcoholic beverages (except for they are doing it in a more civilised manner!).
On a Sunday afternoon, you might see Japanese people walking their dogs, Japanese guys taking some seriously professionally-looking shots of their girlfriends with beautiful umbrellas, some dancers or poets and people who simply want to get away from the crowds on the busy Tokyo streets.
If you’re not sure what to do in Harajuku because Takeshita dori looks overly packed and it’s too hot to do much anyway, Yoyogi park is your best bet to enjoy the hot weather. You will spot groups of Harajuku girls and lots of cosplay lovers, enjoying their time out in the park dressed up in their favourite Harajuku-inspired outfits or Gothic Lolita girls. It’s a perfect opportunity to exchange a few words with Harajuku girls or take some really good pictures of them if you’re into photography.
Sorry to bore you but I think you’d like to know that this park has some history behind it, like it used to be the site o US military barracks when US occupied Japan and in The Yoyogi National Gymnasium was founded for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics with main athletes’ village located in Yoyogi Park. Fast forward a few decades and soon you’ll be able to enjoy 2020 Tokyo Olympics! These days you can go there to enjoy frequently organised concerts or watch sports games, sometimes held even weekly.
Yoyogi park is one of the biggest attractions in Harajuku for its diversity. There are plenty of events happening in Yoyogi park, including the annual Earth Day (which we happened to attend and totally recommend), Cambodia Festival, Rainbow Pride, Tokyo Flea Market, Festival Brazil and many more! For the full list of events, check out this guide.
Lastly, if you happen to be in Tokyo during autumn, make sure to check out out-of-this-world autumn foliage. The best spot is probably Gingko Avenue in Meiji Jingu Gaien, full of beautiful, golden gingko trees. If you’re looking for some inspiration of where to see the best autumn foliage in Tokyo, check out our article about the best spots in town.
5. Themed Cafes Harajuku
Tokyo is known to be the hub of anything that may be cute, crazy, crazy cute, strange and cringy. Ideal place if you want to come up with some new concept for a café! Harajuku is no different and in fact, it’s home to a few interesting ones, but they are definitely rather cute than cringy.
Harajuku, make sure to pop in to this world-famous, one of the most Instagrammable spots in Tokyo, called Kawaii monster café. It’s really cute and everything has super bright colours. It gets better if you visit 6% DOKIDOKI, as soon as you enter, you’ll feel like you’re inside the rainbow!
If that’s not your cup of tea, then check out Moomin café. I’m sure some of you might be familiar with Moomins, the Swedish-Japanese cartoon, popular in the 1990’s (when I was 7 or 8, Moomins were broadcasted on the Polish national TV. Me and my school friends used to watch it at 7pm as a goodnight cartoon. Ah, gone are those days without you, darn YouTube!).
There are a few other themed cafes like Pom pom purin sanrio or Nescafe Harajuku to name a few! If you’re looking for a unique Tokyo experience at one of the themed cafes, check out our guide to the theme cafes and restaurants in Tokyo and in Harajuku.
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6. Harajuku Festivals
You will be spoilt for choice as they seem to be popping up like mushrooms! Of course, summer time is the busiest time in Japan with thousands of festivals happening across Japan but there will be plenty of things to do in Harajuku. Jingu Gaien Fireworks Festival (神宮外苑花火大会) is near Meiji Jingu or Meiji Shrine in the second half of August and It’s pretty big!
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At the end of August, there’s a huge traditional dance festival called Omotesando Genki Matsuri Super Yosakoi, gathering 6000 dance performers from all over Japan, all competing on a couple of stages for the first prize! It’s an all day event happening on the last weekend of August (both Saturday and Sunday).
There are many other festivals throughout the year, like I love Ireland Festival, Shibuya Omotesando Women’s Run for the active souls, Paella Tapas Festival, the bigger Spanish food event in Japan, a massive, worldwide known Earth Day festival which you can read about here, Okinawa Festival and even The Caribbean Latin America Festival, spoiling you with reggae, Cuban cigars, and plenty of salsa. Japan, you have got it all covered!
7. Harajuku shopping
As you can imagine, Harajuku has no shortage of fashion shops and they can range from thrift shops (yes, that’s right!) to some classy shops along Omotesando. Did I mention you could get some designer pieces from the classy ‘Tokyo thrift shops’ or recycle your clothes at Yoyogi flea markets? How cool is that!
Harajuku, in particular Takeshita Dori and the backstreets off Takeshita street, have some really good selection of Lolita fashion. Initially I didn’t buy into it but gradually Japan converted me into Lolita aficionado. Although, I must admit, many Harajuku fashion items are not really my thing.
Now if you’re looking into some serious stuff, check out Grimoire, an antique vintage clothing shop that takes inspiration from movies like Harry Potter, Alice in Wonderland or Narnia. You will struggle to find their fashionable clothing elsewhere as this shop specialises in dolly-kei, mysterious and almost ghostly doll characters. I guess you get the gist! Nonetheless, even if you’re not into it, it might be worth visiting this truly unique, European-folk inspired Japanese fashion vintage boutique.
If you like anime, you will find plenty of fashion items here, more than anywhere else. They are also reasonably overpriced, if that makes sense. I mean, you won’t be able to haggle but you won’t feel like you’re being robbed in the broad daylight like you would in South East Asia. Of course, not all independent shops offer best quality but the prices aren’t too bad compared to fashion boutiques inside Shibuya station and are more stylish and better fitted as well.
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In case you’re looking for something more branded, check out Laforet or Tokyu Plaza Omotesando Harajuku with good quality clothes and always following latest fashion trends. Laforet has a better selection but tens of thousands of pieces of glass architecture of the entrance to Tokyu Plaza Omotesando will keep you coming back inevitably! For me, visiting Tokyu Plaza Omotesando is one of the highlights of what to do in Harajuku simply because of its intricate glass design, especially on a sunny day where the glass.
If you’d like read more on the best shopping in Harajuku, check out our article on the best shops to visit in Harajuku.
8. Harajuku Crepes
Yes, if you’re here, it means you made it to the food part which I sometimes like to leave till the end. Food is very important for many travellers but I’d rather tell you more about interesting places first so you can plan your day ahead and enjoy the food whilst sightseeing.
Harajuku crepes are undeniably one of the coolest things to do in Harajuku and they are super yummy! At first, we weren’t too keen on trying this probably-overrated-local-food-fad but it turns out they are so delicious you’ll end up wanting to get more (although you tummy will be telling you otherwise, they are so filling!).
There are a few big names out there, such as Santa Monica Crepes, Marion Crepes and Angel’s Heart. You can’t miss them, there’s more than 10 of them. Each crepe stand is so bright, always crowded and located in very convenient places, like the entrance to Takeshita Dori. The most popular flavours are banana chocolate and whip cream or strawberry. We went for something more seasonal and unique and since it was during sakura season, we went for… Sakura matcha cookie brownie special with matcha whip!
Click in the video below from our Tokyo trip to Takeshita dori at the top of this article. The first couple of minutes are dedicated to this delicious snack!
9. Harajuku Pancakes
The list of cool ideas on what to do in Harajuku goes on. If you like crepes, you’re going to love Harajuku pancakes. They have been trending for a while now and Japanese teenagers and young adults are loving them. This is why you’re spoilt for choice in Harajuku and Omotesando where people are ready queue up for a good while before they get the seats!
The places to go to are more of a sit-down cafes rather than the grab-and-go-crepes. The obvious one is Rainbow Pancakes run by the couple who lived in Hawaii, who offer some seriously soft and very thick with a nutty, spongy texture. Go for the macadamia nut sauce pancakes if you can. Other options are Original Pancake House Harajuku, Bills Omotesando and Shiwase no Pancake Omotesando. You can thank me later!
10. Harajuku snack shops and stands
I feel that I haven’t fully emphasised on the wide selection of snacks in Harajuku. It’s not just about the delicious, mouth-watering crepes and pancakes. The food game in Harajuku is on a much bigger scale. I don’t mean gourmet, though. It’s all about pleasing your calorie-hungry taste buds! There are a few good shops you should visit whilst you’re in Harajuku and specifically in Takeshita dori.
There’s a sizeable Calbee store selling all sorts of crisps and unique flavours, Cremia, an ultra-popular and slightly more expensive, super milky soft-serve ice cream. This high class sweet ice cream is very rich in cream, giving the very premium feel to your taste buds, all thanks to the secret formula used. All we know is that the cream content in Cremia ice-creams is as much as 25%! The high milk fat content is just as fatty at whopping 12.5%! Anyway, YOLO, tastes delicious and you simply won’t have enough of it!
This isn’t the end. You haven’t tried snacks from Harajuku if you missed out on Croquant Chou ZakuZaku! I am serious! We’ve tried this much hyped-up about crunchy almond-crusted snack with custard cream filling, a specialty of Hokkaido and it was divine! Say no more, you’re not leaving till you’re done with it, and there will be long queues but you’ll thank me (again!) for introducing you to a premium Japan-invented snack. You’re welcome.
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Ok, last one here is Coisof or Coisofu, just as addictive if you like sesame, it has a very unique look and taste, a combination of black, white and a mix of the two flavours. God, don’t you feel like Harajuku already tastes like heaven without even reaching it?!
Enough is enough, if you want to deepen your knowledge on what else you should try in Harajuku and you feel like there must be more to it, check out our article about snacks to try in Harajuku. You won’t regret diving deep into this article but sadly, I can’t guarantee your no weigh gains upon your return home. All in all, reading about these delicious snacks will make you super enthusiastic about making your trip to Tokyo and in particular to Harajuku station.
I hope you’ve found some inspiration in my article about 10 cool ideas on what to do in Harajuku. There are literally tons of things to do, it’s all a matter of finding the right piece of information available out there! Read our top 10 cool ideas on what to do in Shibuya and top 15 ideas on what to do in Shinjuku to top up your knowledge on these two huge Tokyo wards, they are right next to Harajuku and are full of Tokyo’s top attractions!
If you think this made your day or at least helped you get more organised for your trip, don’t forget to leave a comment, maybe you could even add some suggestions for other readers eagerly anticipating their visit to Japan. Until next time!
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