A Day in Harajuku: From Shrines to the Street
Updated: Apr 15, 2020
A Day in Harajuku: From Shrines to the Street Harajuku may be one of the most famous neighborhoods in all of Tokyo. Home to a vibrant fashion scene and pop-culture influence, but there’s a lot more to this corner of the city than just neon clothes and pastel-colored crepes.
From the rich history of Meiji Shrine and the incredible ukiyo-e works hanging on the walls of Ota Memorial Museum of Art, to the stylish restaurants and bars of nearby Tomigaya, this side of the city has no shortage things to see do and eat. While it can be fun getting caught up in the tourist attractions, sometimes you can miss the ‘real’ side of Tokyo, so we’ve put together a local’s guide to making the most of Harajuku in one day.
11am Coffee Culture And Sky-High Views
The mornings start late in Harajuku. Most stores and cafes open at 11 am, so for those who like to sleep in, don't feel pressured to get there early. Start the day with coffee from Koffee Mameya, a stylish, minimalistic coffee shop that sits between Harajuku and Omotesando Stations.
Within the local coffee community, this place is legendary, staffed by knowledgable baristas who keep the menu simple. The focus of Koffee Mameya is one the quality of the beans, so expect drip coffee or espresso, that's it. Take your cup of perfectly roasted and head to the sixth floor of Tokyu Plaza Omotesando Harajuku.
This stylish shopping complex designed by world-renowned architect Hiroshi Nakamura is home to a broad cross-section of retail outlets. While the shopping here is excellent, the sixth-floor rooftop terrace area is the building's most impressive feature. The terrace is free to enter and open to the public. From the lush, foliage surrounded seating areas, you can kick back and sip your coffee while admiring the view that is the Tokyo skyline drenched in the late morning sun. There's also a Starbucks on the same floor, for those who want something a little more than just coffee.
12:30 pm - Lunch in Yoyogi Park, Tokyo's Backyard
By the time you finish your coffee and take in the view, it'll almost be time for lunch. You're located right by one of the city's most popular hangouts, so grab something to go and set up a little picnic in Yoyogi Park.
Harajuku's main street, Takeshita Dori, and the smaller laneways that branch off it features countless takeaway restaurants, snacky food stands, and cafes, serving up lunchtime options for those of all tastes. Gyoza, takoyaki, savory crepes, potato fries, pies, burritos and sushi, the hardest part isn't finding something to eat but deciding what to get, once you've decided head on over to Yoyogi to grab a picnic table or find a seat on the grass.
1:30 pm - Join the Tokyo Localized Free Harajuku Walking Tour
Tokyo Localized run free walking tours of Harajuku and the surrounding area twice a day, once at 9:30 am and another at 1:30 pm, with the occasional additional tour mid-morning (check the listing for more details on that one). The tour is an excellent way not only to explore the sights of Harajuku but to also learn more about one of the city's most sacred sites, Meiji Jingu Shrine.
Perfect as an overview, this two and a half-hour-long tour passes through Takeshita Dori, and Tokyo Olympic Stadium, offering plenty of opportunities to gain more insight into what makes this corner of the city so special.
The group meets at the bridge out front of Yoyogi Park and Meiji Shrine, right near Harajuku Station. The shrine, which opened in 1920 as a dedication to Emperor Meiji and his wife. The pair two of the most influential figures in Japan's contemporary history. Along the tour, you'll learn more about the historical importance of this iconic shrine, while also meeting other travelers from around the globe.
3 pm - Gallery Hopping
If you found something during the tour that caught your attention, you can always go back and check it out in more depth. However, if you're feeling inspired to learn more about Japanese culture and history, there are two nearby museums well worth checking out.
Just a five-minute walk from Takeshita Dori, the Ota Memorial Museum is a museum dedicated to ukiyo-e, a traditional form of Japanese painting that flourished from the 17th through the 19th centuries. Delicate and detailed, ukiyo-e works typically focus on classic folk tales, and iconic of the time, think kabuki actors, sumo wrestlers, and beautiful women. The works in this gallery come from the collection of Late Seizō Ota, a businessman and passionate patron of the arts.
A 20-minute walk from Harajuku Station in the sleek surrounds of Minamiaoyama is where you'll find the Nezu Museum, one of the city's most respected homes of Japanese and East Asian art. The museum was commissioned by Japanese industrialist and passionate art lover Nezu Kaichiro, who first opened the gallery in 1941. Since then this space has been renovated and is worth visiting for the impressive architecture alone. Inside the space, you'll also find a tranquil garden and cafe that feels worlds away from the sometimes manic energy of central Shibuya and Harajuku.
5 pm - Cat Street Shopping Along the Streets of Omotesando
Omotesando, the main street that follows on from Harajuku, is one of the city's most well-stocked high-end shopping destinations. It's home to mega-sized designer outlets and secretive boutiques. If Harajuku is all about colorful youth fashion and culture, then Omotesando is its older, more refined, and expensive sibling.
Put aside at least an hour or even two to stroll the main avenue and explore the poplar, backstreets like Cat Street, the wide, car-free road, that's the unofficial home of Tokyo cool. Running between Shibuya and Harajuku, this shopping strip is densely populated by well-dressed locals, and fascinated tourists, looking to soak up some of the city's vibrant street fashion scene. Here you'll find plenty of trendy, youth culture brands, vintage stores, sneaker outlets, and cozy independent stores.
19:00 pm - Tomigaya, Secretive Side of the City
As the day rolls into the evening, Tokyo comes alive. This time of the day is when local folk finished work, hungry, thirsty, and ready to blow off a little steam. While the central districts are always bustling, if you're in this corner of the city, you might as well take advantage of the opportunity to hang out like a local.
Tomigaya is a backstreet, very local district of Shibuya, just across the road from Yoyogi Park. The neighborhood sits just southwest of the park. It features countless cafes and stylish hole-in-the-wall niche restaurants offering all types of cuisine, from classic izakaya fare to French, Italian, hamburgers, and everything in between. If you're heading to Tomigaya from Yoyogi Park, the main street runs to central Shibuya, right by Shibuya Station, making it an excellent detour on the way home or to your hotel. While it is popular, it's never too crowded in Tomigaya (unlike central Harajuku), so feel free to stop and grab a drink, or dinner wherever takes your fancy, and let the night lead you where it may.
How to get to Harajuku
Harajuku Station is easily accessible on the JR Yamanote train line, one stop from Shibuya Station and two stops from Shinjuku Station. You can also access the station via the subway, hop on the Chiyoda Metro line.
Tokyo Localized provides visitors and travellers to Tokyo with a unique perspective of this great city, what makes us unique is that our walking tour guides live and work in Tokyo, have a passion for this city and love meeting and welcoming new faces. Find out more about our Unique Day and Night Tours of Tokyo - we can't wait to meet you!
A great experience for: Day Tours in Tokyo, Night Tours in Tokyo, Group Tours in Tokyo, Private Walking Tours, University Walking Tours, Things To Do at Night in Tokyo, Activities in Tokyo, Tokyo Sightseeing Tour, Tokyo Tourist Attractions.