I think I finally managed to find the first thing I would describe as a “tourist hotspot.” While some of the places that I have been have certainly been tourist attractions, generally they tended to be quieter, or clearly geared towards a more Japanese crowd. However, getting off the train at the Harajuku stop on the JR line, I was immediately bombarded with crowds of people, both Japanese and those who were clearly tourists. Even many of the Japanese looked to be tourists, geared up with backpacks and cameras.
It’s no big surprise because the Harajuku stop is stuck right in the middle of two huge attractions: Harajuku itself, a district known for its unique fashion and shopping experiences, and the Meiji Jingu shrine, a Shinto shrine located in the expansive Yoyogi park. It was a hot morning, so we opted for what we assumed would be a shadier and cooler experience; we waded through the crowds at the station and made our way into Yoyogi Park.
Immediately we were greeted with a massive wooden torii, the traditional Japanese gate often used to signify the entrance to a Shinto shrine. After a pleasant walk through some large, gravel-paved paths in the woods, we found ourselves at another torii, marking the entrance to the main shrine.
This shrine was much like the one at Mount Takao. At the entrance was a small building where guests were invited to wash their hands and faces, and once inside there were other areas to participate in rituals.
Rather than walk back through the same paths that we took through the shrine complex, we instead took a more winding path that took us back through Yoyogi Park. It was a beautiful day for it and provided a great opportunity for some pictures.
After leaving the park, we headed to Takeshita Street, a pedestrian-only main shopping street in Harajuku. The entire street, from end to end, was lined with cafes, boutiques, restaurants, and shops of all sorts. Our first goal was to somehow get a lunch, and in the masses of people, even that seemed like quite a feat.
After some exploration, we found a cluster of shops called the “CUTE CUBE,” which housed a number of places that lived up to the name. We ended up getting lunch at the Pompompurin Cafe, a cute restaurant based on the popular Sanrio character, Pompompurin. All of the food served was prepared to make it look like various characters, mostly the titular cartoon dog. Most surprisingly, it wasn’t absurdly expensive for a themed cafe!
After lunch we headed out to do some shopping. Harajuku is known around the world for its bizarre and trendy fashions, and the shops reflected that. Takeshita street had everything, from typical “trendy” shops to high fashion, street fashion, and everything in between. The people going into the shops were just as varied, with tourists mixing with Japanese shoppers, and people dressed in all styles, from amusingly incorrect English shirts to Lolita fashion (a style based on Victorian-era clothing) and styles that can’t even be named. I’m not big into fashion or shopping, but it really was a sight to behold.