Thursday, 9 August 2012

Harajuku

Did you know that Harajuku is also known as 原宿 "meadow lodging"? Most people associate Harajuku with its vibrant youth culture but if you look beyond the Lolitas and young punks, you will find another side of Harajuku that is rather charming. There is the tree-lined high-fashion street of Omote-sando, which has occasionally been dubbed the Champs-Elysées of Tokyo and Yoyogi Park which people flock to during the cherry blossom season in spring.

The best time to visit Harajuku is during spring maybe. Well, anytime except summer because the heat can really kill you. It made us so sweaty and grouchy while jostling with the mostly teenage crowd at Takeshita-dori, that we swore we wouldn't ever come back during summer. Yet, we went back there three days in a row just to buy hats and more hats from one particular shop.
Harajuku station is always packed and it is most crowded on Sundays when the teenagers come dressed in their best gothic outfits.

Takeshita-Dori, also known as 'Cat Street'  is the place to be for teenagers.
We never understood how these young ladies could wear kimonos in this weather.



 Honestly, there is nothing for us to buy at Takeshita-Dori. Everything here is either too cute or gothic. But there is plenty to eat here. Our lunch at a random cafe was one of the highlights of the trip. The ebi fry and deep fried pork cutlet were so crispy and fresh, I swear it was the best we've ever had.
Ebi fry.


Pork cutlet.
 We tried the same thing at other places in Tokyo and nothing came close. Unfortunately, I did not note down the name of the restaurant. After lunch, we nipped across the road to wander around in the less frenzied part of Harajuku.
 
 In the small alleys connecting Takeshita-Dori and Omote-sando, you can find quaint shops and cafes amidst lush settings.
 The ambience here is much more tranquil. Don't be fooled by the greenery as it was still very hot and muggy, though less searing than along the shopping district.
 
When we came across a cafe called Home with an outdoor garden, it was like finding an oasis in a desert.

We settled down for coffee and cake under the big tall trees and it was good to enjoy some peace and quiet in the heart of the city.
We also hit the tree-lined street of Omote-sando and joined throngs of people walking along the wide pavement. As far as our eyes could see, there were endless streams of people walking quickly along this street. No surprise really as Harajuku is situated in between Shinjuku and Shibuya, both very popular shopping destinations.

My friend insisted I must visit Kiddyland, her favourite haunt when her kids were still young. I was pleasantly surprised to find a large Rilakkuma Store inside.

Omotesandō is home to brands like Ralph Lauren, Coach, and Yves St. Laurent and has recently seen a rise in opening of up-scale fashion shops such as Louis Vuitton, Chanel and Prada.

Omotesandō Hills Shopping Mall.
On Sundays, groups of hard-rock fans with heavy make-up and scary black costumes gather in front of Yoyogi Park. When we were there, there were some people dressed in fancy costumes. Three young people were also offering free hugs to passerbys.
 Strangely, just steps away from the goth and punk, a cultural performance by young children in traditional gear was going on.
 Yoyogi Kōen is the largest of Tokyo's parks open to the public in Tokyo. It is more like a forest with big trees and luxuriant flora. However, it was too hot and we were too tired to venture beyond the gates.Maybe next time, when the weather is more kind.

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