2 – 12-12:20pm: Harajuku
Once you are done, get back to Shinjuku station and on a Yamanote Line train on Platform 14 (they’ll be along every few minutes or so) bound for Shibuya and Shinagawa. Skip the next station, Yoyogi, and carry on through to Harajuku. Alight here. You’ll have two choices, put in short, go west and enjoy a beer in the park or go east and look over the shops and oddly dressed folk in either the younger and relatively downmarket Takeshita Dori or Omotesando, older and littered with brand shops. Or you could do both before dropping into a cafe and having a drink.
If shopping isn’t your thing, you might still want to opt for Takeshita or Omotesando, doubly so if the weather is less than favorable for hitting the park. These streets are people waching favorites, and if you do your research, I’m sure you could get a great game of sub-culture bingo going. Be sure to include one group long and only a little unfairly overlooked imho, i.e the shabbily dressed people watching foreigner (of which I was one admittedly). Here is a sample of the latest season’s outfits…
Or you could head south-west of the station conbini and enjoy it in one of the city’s most popular parks, Yoyogi Park. The scenery is pleasant enough, and if you find yourself there on a pleasant spring and autumn day, there’ll be plenty of singles about, and if you find yourself the subject of a withering glance of contempt or conversation about you in a language you don’t understand but sense with some certainty is about you, it’s because she thinks you’re either ugly or weird if not both. Don’t blame the beer. If you find someone who doesn’t hate you, perhaps you could arrange to meet them once your work is done here.
You also might find yourself in luck with other areas, there are often events held in the park, often foreign country festivals, and countries with decent nosh like Thailand, India and Vietnam. It does feel kind of weird advising you to tuck into other nation’s cuisine while you are on tour in Japan but it hardly matters as you wont want to let this opportunity pass if you came across it. Check the Metropolis Magazine guide to see if your luck’s in.
Whichever way you choose, you might as well walk down to the next place, Shibuya, of which there’ll be more about in the next installment.
A lay guide to finding your way around in Harajuku:
Finding Takeshita Street is a piece of cake. Just take the Takeshita Exit which will be toward the back of the platform if you are coming from Shinjuku. It’s across the road from the ticket gate. If you are really pressed for cash, you can find snacks in the big 100yen store Daiso, which has a branch on this street. To find Omotesando, just leave from the entrance nearer the front of the train if you are coming from Shinjuku, go across the road, go right and follow the left bend. You are now on Omotesando. To get from Takeshita Street to Omotesando, walk right along the main street (Meiji Street) once you reach the end of Takeshita, The next major intersection, which has Tokyu Plaza on it is the Omotesando intersection. Turn left for the main action.
To get to Yoyogi Park from Harajuku Station, get off from the front exit of the station, then turn right immediately after walking past the New Days convenience store (presumably after you have stopped in there to grab something), then turn right and follow the footpath that runs across the road, around the bend. Keep going about 100 metres and you will find the front to the park. Entrance is free.