Before beginning this article, I have to warn you: if you’re agoraphobic, you might feel quite uncomfortable during most of the itinerary described below. But if you don’t mind big crowds, Harajuku and Shibuya are definitely two districts that you can’t miss during a visit of Tokyo. From Takeshita-dori to the biggest crossing in the world, follow me for a busy day in the city!
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10am – visiting the Meiji-Jingu Shrine
Let’s start this itinerary at Harajuku Station. Before heading east to the crowds of Takeshita-dori, go across the Harajuku bridge to enter the beautiful Yoyogi Park and its more than 100,000 trees. Shortly after the gate, you’ll walk beneath the tallest torii of Japan: 12 meters high, with 1.2 meters wide pillars and weighing almost 13 tons!
After this giant torii, you’ll quickly reach the Meiji-Jingu Shrine, one of the most beautiful temples of Tokyo. Admire the beautiful wooden roof, the harmony of the architecture and you might even bump into a couple celebrating their wedding.
11:30am – going down Takeshita-dori
After this quiet morning stroll in Yoyogi Park, let’s head back to Harajuku Station and cross the street towards the big sign indicating “Takeshita street”; if you’re standing at the right point you’ll see yourself on the screen beneath the sign!
From this point dominating Takeshita-dori, you’ll be above a real flood of people moving up and down the street. It’s like an open-air exhibition. Everywhere, you’ll find dozens of shops filled with the most unexpected items: decoration, games, any kind of costumes you can imagine or giant rainbow cotton candy from Totti Candy Factory!
With so many crazy shopping options, Takeshita-dori is also a real paradise for the “cosplays”, these young Japanese girls who love to dress as their favourite characters, manga heroes or pretty angels… Even in the middle of such a big crowd it’s impossible to miss their flashy hair and outfits!
1pm – lunch time in Sakuratei
At the end of Takeshita-dori, cross the wide Meiji-dori and keep walking through the little lanes on the other side in the direction of Design Festa Gallery (see below). Left of the building, a narrow path leads you to Sakuratei, a restaurant specialised in the delicious Okonomiyaki. The concept is really funny: here you’ll cook your own food! After selecting the stuffing of your choice, you’ll get a mixture with all the ingredients of your dish and instructions on how to prepare it perfectly on the hot plate in front of you. Icing on the cake: between 11am and 3pm, there’s an “all you can eat” menu. For 1500¥, you have 90 minutes to eat as much food as you want, plus an extra drink offered. Definitely my favourite restaurant in Tokyo!
2.30pm – exploring the exhibitions of Design Festa Gallery
In two buildings on both sides of Sakuratei, this free art gallery is the occasion for many local or foreigner artists to expose their work. Not all the collections had the same interest in my opinion but some of them were really worth a look and you might find an original souvenir to bring back home. Even the facade with its muddle of black metallic poles is an artwork by itself!
3.15pm – 3D latte art coffee in Reissue
This might be the weirdest thing you’ll see in Japan, so kitsch but also so funny and in the end completely unmissable. The barista of Reissue, a little café easy to miss if you don’t see the little staircase heading there, is capable of drawing anything you want on top of your cappuccino, in 3D with milk foam. Name your favourite character or even show him a picture of your choice and after a few minutes you’ll get the result in a cup in front of you. Unbelievable! Will you recognise what I ordered myself?
Booking is advised at least a couple of hours prior to your arrival as it’s a very small place which gets quickly full.
4pm – luxury shopping in Omotesando-dori
A completely different atmosphere compared to Takeshita-dori. Forget about the crazy shops and alternative clothes, on both sides of this wide boulevard you’ll find all the international luxury brands, often in modern buildings with audacious architecture. Take care of your budget if you want to buy something on Omotesando-dori!
5.30pm – the fascinating Shibuya Crossing
From Omotesando Station, walk down Aoyama-dori or simply take the Ginza line until Shibuya, the next stop and terminus of the line. Outside of the station is the famous Shibuya Crossing, the biggest crossing in the world.
Every time the traffic lights turn to red for vehicles, hundreds of people start crossing the street at the same time, in every direction; it’s like a giant human wave, calming down when the traffic lights turn back to green just to start again even more powerfully within a couple of minutes. The best place to enjoy the show is from the first floor of Starbucks… if you manage to find a window seat.
6.15pm – the bright lights of Shibuya
When the evening comes and the lights turn on, Shibuya becomes one of the busiest districts of Tokyo. Take a walk around these bright streets filled with shops, restaurants and karaoke bars!
7.30pm – dinner in the Hikarie Tower
With its 182m, the Hikarie Tower dominates the Shibuya Station; you can even catch a train directly from the lower levels. You’ll find many different kinds of restaurants and cafés on the 6th and 7th floors, offering Japanese or international cuisine. After dinner, take the elevator up to the 11th floor to enjoy the view from the Sky lobby; the Shibuya Crossing looks much smaller from here, still crowded and busy until late at night… If you want to go out after that you’ll be spoilt for choice in the area, otherwise that’s where this day tour around Harajuku and Shibuya ends!
Do you have any other suggestions on where to go in this area of Tokyo? Share them in the comments!
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