Japan is known for its deep culture and fascinating history. However, there is another side to Japan, and this culture can be experienced in Harajuku. Harajuku is a part of Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, and it has been a popular town amongst many foreigners, as well as the young interested in pop culture and fashion.
You somehow find yourself out of Harajuku Station (JR line) through the massive crowd (this is unavoidable, expect this anytime of the year). Stepping outside, the road is packed, from edge to edge, with people. Great, another crowd, you think. But as you look closely, this is no ordinary crowd. The variety of people, wearing colorful clothing and heavy makeup, all walking on a narrow street, somehow catches your attention. After all, you’re not going to turn back to the station and head home, right? There is no choice but to go forward, so you clutch your bag and dive in to explore more of this interesting city.
You cross the street, and find a long road that is, of course, packed with people. Looking up, there is a large sign, Takeshita street.
This is the street that many people know Harajuku for, because of the trendy shops and fashion boutiques. As you continue down the street, you are immediately aware of the change in atmosphere. Hundreds of tiny stores, tightly packed into one 350 meter street. The first thing you see is Daiso, the famous 100 yen store. Next, colorful crepes, candies, and cotton candies are sold in various stores, such as Santa Monica Crepes and Candy A Go Go. Turn around, and you see a clutter of vintage, second hand clothing stores, such as WEGO, Kinjii, and more. Clothing here is fashionable, trendy, and affordable. People that are also stuck in the crowd struggle to even enter these stores. Korean culture has been huge in Tokyo recently, so Korean makeup stores, such as Etude House, are filled with young high school girls (joshikousei, also known as jk).
Through all of the chaos for Korean makeup, you hear loud screaming a few meters down. Turning in the direction of the noise, you see a celebrity with bodyguards, trying to control the crowd, as well as hundreds of cell phones pointing at them, eager for a picture. Although you are lucky, models, actors, and TV personalities are not uncommon here in Takeshita Street. This street is so famous, many television shows feature Takeshita Street regularly, so be prepared for camaras and screaming. Personally, I have seen model Kiko Mizuhara, model MIU, and South Korean singer, Kim Hee Chul walking on the streets of Harajuku. Because the street is so narrow in width, you are somehow able to snap a picture, take a couple videos, and move on.
You’ve reached the end! You’ve seen the various and unique boutiques, stores, and cafes of Harajuku! Go ahead, take a break, but I can assure you that you’ll be eager to go back for more!
If you are interested in Japanese subculture, the word, Purikura（プリクラ） may be familiar. But what exactly is it? Purikura is short for Print Club, and it is essentially a photo booth. It has been a trend for decades now, and it is a popular way to save memories with friends and family. Now what’s so special about a photobooth? It’s just taking pictures and printing them out, right? Not so fast, there is much more to Purikura than you might think.
Walking into the Purikura Store, dozens of various photo booths are lined up against one another. Each photo booth has a different theme, with different filters and designs. After picking the one that is best for you, the first thing you do is pay. Purikuras in Tokyo generally cost about 400 yen per photo shoot, so if you were to split the price between 4 friends, it rounds out to only 100 yen, for the memory of a lifetime.
After putting the money in, get inside, because it’s time to take the pictures! Although it depends on what photobooth you selected, you can take around 6 photos. Some booths are even included with full body shots! Now strike a pose, make a funny face, it’s all up to you! This process is very short, about 5 minutes. When the photographing process is over, the screen will instruct you to continue to another part of the booth. This is what Purikura is famous for: editing the pictures!
Here, you are free to alter your pictures however you like. Add cat ears/whiskers,
phrases, designs, today’s date, anything! Many booths allow you to enlarge the eyes, brighten
the skin, and darken the lip color. But be quick on your hands; because you usually have a time
limit of about 4-5 minutes. After editing, just press “print” and the pictures will be yours in no
time! A feature that is available in most Purikuras is the email feature. Before printing, you have
the choice to type in your email. If you choose to do so, the booth will send you all the pictures
that were taken to your phone. This way, your pictures will not get lost, and are sure to be accessible.
How was your experience at your first Purikura photo booth? It’s far different from
traditional photo booths, right? Now go see the rest of Harajuku, because Purikura is so
addicting, you might be back in the booths tomorrow!
Hedgehog Cafe (Harry’s)
Have you ever heard of a hedgehog cafe? If your answer is no, you can experience a
once in a lifetime opportunity at Harry’s! Harry’s is the world’s first hedgehog cafe, and it is a
must when you come to Harajuku.
After paying (30 mins- 1,400 yen and 60 mins- 2,800yen) and sanitizing your hands, an
employee will direct you to a seat and instruct how to pick them up. The atmosphere at Harry’s
is very calm and friendly, so you are free to move around and ask questions! Because the
hedgehogs here are used to being picked up and photographed, there’s nothing to be worried
about! Hearing this, you pick one up, and your mood will instantly get better (If you chose to
purchase treats for the hedgehogs (540 yen), it will make for an adorable home screen for your
However, there is a slight catch. Hedgehogs are nocturnal animals, meaning they’re
active only at night. Therefore, there is a possibility that they will be sleeping in your hands, but
they may squirm their way back into their house! When this happens, take a quick break.
Harry’s offers you a free drink while you’re there. You can choose anything from lemonade to
hot coffee, anything you like. Enjoy your drink, chat with your friends, take pictures of the
dozens of other hedgehogs here.
When time is almost up, an employee will tell you that you only have a few minutes left.
Wow, that was fast! When you’re holding hedgehogs, time flies! Before you leave, you want to
hold a hedgehog for the last time. Scooping one up, and seeing the tiny ball roll around and
settle in your hand, you can’t help but smile. They’re just so cute! Harry’s offer a small gift store,
so you decide to purchase a mini hedgehog stuffed animal to show your friends and keep as a
memory for when you get back home. As you leave the cafe with a big smile, the kind
employees will greet you goodbye. But don’t be sad, because in Harajuku, there is a variety of
other cafes, including dog cafes, cat cafes, owl cafes, and even chinchilla cafes!
Shibuya Crossing & Mega Don Quixote
Monjayaki & Melon Pan
Exiting the station, you will immediately see tens and hundreds of Monja Yaki restaurants waiting for you! At first glance, these restaurants may seem like they are all the same, but each restaurant has their own unique pancake recipes, so feel free to experiment! However, most (if not all) of the Monja Yaki restaurants are self make style. The waiters will serve the base, and from there, it is up to you to create your own pancake. In addition, these pancakes are made thin and wide, meaning that they are generally eaten in groups (although eating alone is an option).
Steps to make the perfect Monja Yaki:
- Do NOT mix the batter! Instead, pour out the solid ingredients only (mainly cabbage), and stir fry.
- Using your spatula, arrange your stir fried ingredients into a ring (like a wreath!)
- Pour the rest of the batter (liquid, mainly flour and water) into the ring.
- Mix mix mix! Combine the solid ingredients and the liquid ingredients with your spatula.
- Flatten out your pancake, and let it cook for a few minutes (it tastes better when it is crispy!)
It’s not just Monja Yaki they serve; they usually also serve side dishes like sashimi, and desserts like Japanese crepes (with the flavor choices of chocolate, apricot, and sweetened red beans)!
Finish off your visit with a Melon Pan (literally meaning melon bread)! Although the name sound like it would taste like melons, it is just bread in the shape of a melon! Melon Pan is sold at any convenience store or supermarket, but this store specializes in their breads, so it is jaw droppingly delicious. Squishy on the inside, crispy on the outside, this is the ultimate Melon Pan.
You may have visited numerous cultural places during your trip so far, so it may be time for a change and visit the Parasitological Museum! This museum is located in Meguro, and it is about a 15 minute walk from Meguro Station (you can also take the bus). Walking into the museum, it may be much smaller than you think. Despite the small space, there are over 60,000 parasite samples, and about 300 of them are displayed to the public.