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The Complete Guide To Harajuku – Tokyo’s Cute, Cool And Crazy Fashion District

Harajuku has always been the place that, to me, encompassed the Japanese experience I had always been fascinated by. The Harajuku Province, located between Shibuya and Shinjuku, is the heart of Japanese street style and is the symbol of Japanese youth culture. Harajuku’s street style is childish, colorful, cute {Kawaii in Japanese} and eclectic, and is inspiration to many fashion designers around the world. The entire area is one huge shopping center where everything can be found, from luxury brands, international fashion brands, local fashion stores, boutiques and second-hand shops. So even if Japanese street style isn’t your cup of tea, there’s no way you’ll be leaving this area empty handed.

A big Harajuku fan myself, I felt like I was in heaven and had finally realized many of my Japanese fantasies – from a crazy Harajuku performance, to a colorful manicure and Lolita style photo session {a well-known fashion trend in Harajuku culture}.

The complete guide to Harajuku - the cute, cool and crazy fashion district of Tokyo

 

I have so much to tell and so many photos to share from this area, I decided to write a post that focuses only on things to do in Harajuku!

Ready for a world full of cuteness? Let’s dive in!

 

 

Absorb the Kawaii atmosphere on Takeshita street

Harajuku’s beating heart is Takeshita street, located right by the Harajuku station. A small pedestrian street, colorful and especially sweet, filled with shops full of clothing and accessories, and food stands selling a variety of extremely sweet desserts – candies, crepes stacked with fruit and whipped-cream, ice-cream, cotton candy and more. This street is one of the more famous streets in town, and so, it is less recommended to visit on a Sunday when it’s especially crowded.

The complete guide to Harajuku - the cute, cool and crazy fashion district of Tokyo

The complete guide to Harajuku - the cute, cool and crazy fashion district of Tokyo The complete guide to Harajuku - the cute, cool and crazy fashion district of Tokyo The complete guide to Harajuku - the cute, cool and crazy fashion district of Tokyo

 

The complete guide to Harajuku - the cute, cool and crazy fashion district of Tokyo

Get a sugar rush from the famous crepes and sweet cotton candy for the perfect Insta image

 

The two most famous sweets in Harajuku, particularly on Takeshita street, are the extravagant crepes and cotton candy. Relative to the fact that this is a small street we’re talking about, you can find an especially large quantity of stands specializing in the preparation of these two sweet snacks, and the choice of flavors is enormous! Bear in mind, the Japanese crepe is different than the French one, its dough is less well done and feels more doughy. As for the cotton candy? Taste wise there’s not much of a difference in comparison to others, but there is no doubt that these two desserts are the perfect accessories for photos along the colorful street {and cost accordingly…}.

Eat the best dessert on Takeshita street

 

Croquantcou Zakuzaku is a little dessert shop, right in the center of Takeshita street. Although they offer only two products – A crispy crusted cream-filled pastry, and rich vanilla ice-cream with a crunchy topping – there is always a queue. And for good reason – the two are just insanely good! Although there are other desserts more adequate for an Instagram moment {see crepes and cotton candy} in my opinion, this shop wins first place as Takeshita’s best dessert.

 

Shop like a real Harajuku girl at WEGO

 

I planned on beginning my Harajuku experience on Takeshita street, but due to our taking the wrong exit at Harajuku station, instead of using the main exit leading right across to the entrance of the street, we had to make a small detour. Although we passed many colorful and intriguing stores as we made our way to Takeshita street, I didn’t want to get into a shopping frenzy just yet. Still, there was one store that caught my eye just before we reached our destination {mainly because of the pink beret you’ll notice in many of my photos 🙂 } It was a large store by the Japanese WEGO chain.

WEGO is a trendy fashion brand, popular amongst Japanese style followers. It’s got a unique style which is hard to find in other chains, a mix of Japanese pop and American vintage. If you’re interested in trying out the Harajuku look without spending too much, this is the place! Despite the low prices, the quality is really good and you can find a huge selection of clothing and accessories to suit any kind of Harajuku style – from flirtatious doll-like styles to a more punky, dark look.

After my raiding the store for about an hour, we continued toward Takeshita street, where I discovered another huge store of the same chain and couldn’t help myself from purchasing in there too 🙂 Here you will find the full list of stores.

 

 

 

Shop outside of Takeshita street as well

 

While the eclectic and colorful style typical to Takeshita is the essence of Harajuku, the moment you leave the busy street you can find designer stores and boutiques, couture shops and international fashion brands that perhaps may suit a more mature, yet not less fashionable, audience. Omotesando, a short walk from Takeshita, is considered the Champs-Élysées of Tokyo and is easily identified by its tall trees and high-end luxury shops, aligned with trendy restaurants and cafes.

Also worth a visit is the Tokyo Plaza shopping mall, right between Harajuku and Omotesando, not only for its great shops, but mainly for its impressive architectural entrance, made of multiple mirrors that create a unique, psychedelic look.

 

The complete guide to Harajuku - the cute, cool and crazy fashion district of TokyoThe complete guide to Harajuku - the cute, cool and crazy fashion district of Tokyo

The complete guide to Harajuku - the cute, cool and crazy fashion district of Tokyo

Eat exaggerated American food

 

Inside the Tokyo Plaza shopping center is also the Japanese branch of New York’s Serendipity 3. Founded in New York over 50 years ago, the restaurant specializes in American style, over-the-top desserts. One can also find a wide variety of other dishes, no less exaggerated. The place is overly decorated just like the food it serves, lots of pink, glass windows and embellishments, and the mood is exceptionally fun. Perfect, of course, for anyone who loves this kind of food and isn’t held back by counting calories 🙂

The complete guide to Harajuku - the cute, cool and crazy fashion district of Tokyo

The complete guide to Harajuku - the cute, cool and crazy fashion district of Tokyo

Fall through Alice in Wonderland’s rabbit hole

 

Five minutes away from Harajuku station is Alice On Wednesday, a concept store dedicated completely to Alice in Wonderland! The magic of this cool shop begins even before entering – with four doors in different sizes, while only the smallest one actually leads into the store. Inside there are three floors, each one features a theme out of the story – the pure white room {the one in which Alice drank the shrinking potion}, the Queen of Hearts’ room and the Mad Hatter’s room. The stairway between the floors is adorned with a beautiful collection of paintings from the story, the most prominent of which is the Cheshire Cat, with his illuminated smile and his eyes that follow the stair climbers. All that is sold in this store is very unique and is perfect for any Alice in wonderland fan, of the book or film. From drinks, cookies and candies, to clothing and fashion accessories, and all kinds of books. The prices are surprisingly reasonable, so if you happen to be an Alice in Wonderland groupie – you will probably leave this place with lots of loot! 🙂

The complete guide to Harajuku - the cute, cool and crazy fashion district of Tokyo

The complete guide to Harajuku - the cute, cool and crazy fashion district of Tokyo

The complete guide to Harajuku - the cute, cool and crazy fashion district of Tokyo

The complete guide to Harajuku - the cute, cool and crazy fashion district of Tokyo


Be drawn into a sugar-coated kaleidoscope at the Kawaii Monster Cafe

 

A must see attraction for Harajuku lovers is the Kawaii Monster Cafe {meaning “cafe for cute monsters”}. This crazy cafe manages to capture the essence of the Japanese famous fashion district and take it to the farthest extreme. I think the best way to describe the experience would be like walking around Takeshita street on Acid, only without the unnecessary risk 🙂 Nothing can prepare you for the radical colors, attention to detail, and the craziness which makes this cafe so special. The psychedelic design features bright neon colors, Japanese pop music, food in every color of the rainbow and Harajuku girls making a very cute appearance, or as the Japanese say “Kawaii!!”, on a giant carousel shaped like a pink cream puff. They don’t call this place the Kawaii Monster Cafe for nothing – it really is scarily cute! 🙂

Entrance to the coffee shop will cost you 500 Yen {about $5} and is worth every penny.

The complete guide to Harajuku - the cute, cool and crazy fashion district of Tokyo

The complete guide to Harajuku - the cute, cool and crazy fashion district of Tokyo The complete guide to Harajuku - the cute, cool and crazy fashion district of Tokyo

The complete guide to Harajuku - the cute, cool and crazy fashion district of Tokyo

Connect with you inner Lolita at Maison de Julietta

 

 

The Lolita movement is one of the original styles attributed to Harajuku fashion, and is still very popular today among Japanese street style fans. Lolita is one symbol of many things the Japanese culture is obsessed with – you guessed – it Kawaii/cuteness. As soon as I found Maison de Julietta on Pinterest, located in the heart of one of Harajuku’s most famous shopping centers, Laforte u, and offering a complete Lolita makeover, I think my heart stopped for a second from all the excitement! I always loved this style and couldn’t believe I was about to realize an old dream which I had never even thought could so easily come true – to dress up as Lolita! Including the perfect outfit, hair, and makeup, and being shot in the most “Kawaii” studio there is.

The makeover {photoshoot included} lasted about an hour and a half and cost 11,500 Yen {about $100}, including the wig which I paid extra for. Not cheap, but in my opinion, totally worth it 🙂

You can make an appointment at the studio itself or reserve a spot via email. All the details can be found on the studio’s website.

Get a Harajuku Style manicure at Jill & Lovers Nails

 

While I’m way passed the age in which I’d like to dress up as a Harajuku girl on a daily basis, I still appreciate the unique style, and for this reason exactly I decided that besides all of the souvenirs we bought on our trip to Japan, during our last days in Tokyo I would get a quality “Harajuku Style” manicure that would stay with me upon returning home. The Japanese manicure is a real work of art, and like anything else in japanese culture, it is done delicately and with attention to the smallest detail.

I got my manicure done at one of Tokyo’s famous Harajuku manicure salons – Jill & Lovers. I have never before encountered such a huge selection of nail polishes and decorations as I did in this salon! All of the patterns I saw were so beautiful, it may have taken me over half an hour just to choose the colors and designs that were to be painted on my nails. The entire treatment {including gel polish removal} lasted nearly three hours. Crazy, I know, but the professional girls who work there make sure to work very safely and precisely so that customers get the perfect manicure without harming the health of the nail. If you’re in the mood for a “Harajuku Style” manicure, keep in mind it will cost you lots of time and money {especially if you choose elaborate designs such as mine} but it’s totally worth it!

The complete guide to Harajuku - the cute, cool and crazy fashion district of Tokyo

 

Eat an original Cronut {but not only…}

 

Ever since the genius Dominique Ansel invented the legendary “Cronut”, it hasn’t stopped showing up on our Facebook feed with amazing, strange flavors, like watermelon ice-cream served inside a watermelon, corn flavored ice-cream and frozen smores. The famous bakery originated in New York’s Soho neighborhood, and its Japanese branch specializes in sweet French pastries with a Japanese twist mixed into the special desserts, ever new and ever changing in the bakery. The result is innovative and creative dishes and desserts that create a buzz time after time. Each month, Cronut comes out with a surprising new flavor and we were lucky enough to taste two different types of the crazy pastry because we happened to be in Tokyo right in between September and October. #WIN!

The Dominique Ansel bakery has two stores in Japan. The large one, sprawled over 2 floors in Harajuku, and the smaller one in the elegant Ginza neighborhood. We payed visit to the bakery four times throughout our trip, twice in each location. The more successful of the two is in Harajuku, as the ground floor hosts a magnificent display of desserts and many seating areas, and the upper level is a sweet well-lit restaurant which serves dishes fit for morning and noon. I ordered the Avocado-Tarragon toast, served with a side of salad and a huge iced coffee, which were wonderful, though a little pricey.

Create souvenirs in Japanese photo booths

 

A favored activity by the young Japanese is to be photographed inside the Purikura photo booths – and rightly so, it is so “Kawaii”!!! 🙂

These are no ordinary photo booths, of course. The Japanese are experts at peculiarness… and I mean that in the best way possible. Inside the Japanese photo booths is a green screen that allows you to choose cool backgrounds for the pictures, but what is really special about the Purikura booths is that it makes you appear as Kawaii as possible – just like a real sweet Japanese anime character. The machine’s filters lighten the face, widen and brighten the eyes, and reduce the nose, and offers posing suggestions that will make you look especially sweet. After being photographed, you can add cute drawings and create an animated anime character that will appear on the printed sheet of photographs.

Purikura can be found all over the city, inside arcades and shopping malls. In the Harajuku there are a few, usually found in the lower levels.

The complete guide to Harajuku - the cute, cool and crazy fashion district of Tokyo

 

Pet cats at MOCHA Cat Cafe

 

Following our amazing experience at the Cat Cafe in Bangkok, I dreamed of visiting a cat cafe in the place that first created this strange and wonderful concept – Japan! Though my first experience at a cat cafe in Arashiyama was less exciting than the one in Bangkok, I decided to give another chance to a cat cafe in Tokyo. Being that Tokyo is the stronghold of crazy Japanese pop culture, I figured here would probably be a lot better. I wanted most to check out the cat cafe that appeared on the show “GIRLS”, in an episode when Shoshana was living in Tokyo, because it seemed very similar to the one in Thailand, but I decided to give it up because it was far from the city center. I dug through the internet and found MOCHA Cat Cafe in Harajuku, which seemed to be the best choice among the closest options {apparently the best cat cafes are not located near the city center…} Anyway, we decided to give MOCHA a chance, and while the cats were extremely sweet, I realized that Japanese cat cafes are a lot more commercial than the one I liked so much in Bangkok. It’s not really a coffee shop, because you pay according to the time you spend {200 Yen for 10 minutes} and the place itself is set up more like a petting area than a coffee house.

A must-see? Not necessarily, but if you enjoy stroking sweet cats it’s a good place to relax and take a break from all the shopping.

 

 

 

 

 

What’s your opinion on Harajuku’s Kawaii cute-culture? And if you’ve already visited Harajuku – you’re welcome to leave a comment below about what you loved most!

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7 Responses

  1. I love all the locations you visited! These are similar destinations that I’m planning for next month. Thanks for the overview!

  2. i may go to Japan next year, so this has been really helpful! i have always wanted to go to Japan and visit Harajuku and try out the different fashion styles. thank you.

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