For youth culture Japan – “cool” and “cute”- Harajuku, just north of Shibuya, is the number one fashionable, fun, faddish, ridiculous, crazy “crib” to “chill out”. Come along on a Sunday and you’ll see it all!
Harajuku first burst onto the scene in 1964 – the Olympic year. With the Olympic gymnasium and village located nearby, the prospect of meeting somebody famous in the street drew people from far and wide. Today, the area includes Takshita Street, Meiji Dori Avenue and Omotesando Dori Avenue.Takeshita Dori Street is opposite the Takeshita Dori Exit of Harajuku Station. Here, shops sell a most extraordinary blend of goods reflecting the Japanese notions of “cute”, “cool and American” and “rebellious and British”. In other words a strange mixture of Hello Kitty, hip-hop and the infamous British punk. As for the shoppers? Well, any form of fancy dress goes.
Turn right at the bottom of Takshita Dori Street, walk along Meiji Dori Avenue as far the crossroads, then turn left into Omotesando Dori Avenue.
On a Sunday, Omotesando Dori Avenue is littered with street performers. Look out for the resident Rockerbilly Group. Timing is certainly amiss, but quiffs rise high. So together with the two men in suits who lose most of their day talking to pink bunnies, it’s certainly a curiosity. At the end of Omotesando Dori Avenue, you’ll find Aoyama, a stylish area full of expensive shops and boutiques.
For yet more Sunday street entertainment head up to Yoyogi Park. It’s close to Harajuku Station. The NHK Broadcasting Plaza is just opposite. A quick five minute walk over the plaza and you’ll be in Shibuya.
Meiji Jingu Shrine
The Meiji Jingu Shrine was built in 1920. It honours the life of Emperor Meiji. Prior to the Meiji Era (1868 – 1912) Japan was a closed nation, but as ruler between 1869 and 1912 Emperor Meiji rekindled lost friendships, fostered overseas relations and in so doing, laid the foundations of modern day Japan.
The gate to the shrine is made of cypress wood. It’s one of the largest in the country. Walk under it and up the long gravel path and the city shrinks a mile away -the surrounding woodland covers 175 acres and is said to contain at least one example of every single tree found in Japan. At the end of the path you’ll find the main shrine buildings. The originals were destroyed in the air raids in 1945 so these reproductions date from only 1958.
The stalls selling religious artifacts also sell leaflets which explain, in English, the procedure for paying respects at a shrine. Notice the worshippers purifying their hands and mouths with water from the stone basin, and the wooden plaques upon which special intentions are written. In the summer too, look out for Shinto wedding ceremonies – the Meiji Shrine is a popular, but expensive venue.
The Meiji Jingu Gardens and the Meiji Jingu Treasure Museum are situated in the shrine grounds. The museum exhibits items that belonged to Emperor Meiji and his wife Empress Shoken. The traditional style building is interesting. It’s set in beautiful pastureland and sits in stark contrast to the Shinjuku “Manhattan” skyline behind.
You’ll find the Meiji Jingu Shrine close to Yoyogi Park. The entrance lies in the trees behind and slightly to the west of Harajuku Station.
How to Get To Harajuku and Meiji Jingu Shrine
Take the JR Yamanote Line to Harajuku Station.
From Shibuya, Harajuku is about a ten minute walk. Walk along Meiji Dori Avenue or over the NHK Broadcasting Plaza.