Harajuku… Harajuku desu. Gojosha, arigato gozaimasu
Haa, Japan. Their temples, their food, their weirder than weird street fashions, their pop and rock music bands with that oh so emblematic sound, their mangas, and Pokemon. (As we are in clichees, let’s not forget Pokemon. And sushi)
Japanese fashion has been part of my life in a quite important way for about 10 years, and of course, when I travelled to Japan in 2013 and 2015 it was impossible for me to miss the famous Harajuku district, where Lolita fashion was born in the late 70s-80s (we don’t know exactly when, but whatever), and which became popular in the 90s thanks to celebrities like Mana from band Malice Mizer. But well I’m not here to talk about the history of Lolita, but more about memories of two trips to Japan, when I went walking around in Harajuku, finding out its little secrets. A sort of Throwback Thursday post. (*•̀ᴗ•́*)و ̑̑
I still have the jingle of the metro station in mind, the speaker when you arrive with the Yamanote line (and I always try to imitate it ヾ(＾∇＾)) , and then you are in THE Kawaii fashion and crepes district. I was a Lolita back then, and I was so impatient to go shopping in the physical stores from which I used to order online, for example Closet Child or other Lolita second hand shops. Of course I already went to Closet Child in Shinjuku, close to my hotel, and which was my favorite because it was the one carrying the most Moi-même Moitié items, my favorite brand when I was a Lolita. But like every good Lolita I wanted to go to Harajuku, particularly walking around in Takeshita Street.
So let’s get back to our dear Yamanote Line. When we go out of the train we arrived in a lovely small wooden station, built in the 1920s. I heard that this building will be replaced by a modern one for the 2020 olympics. I think it’s a shame as it’s one of the last similar buildings, but this is how things are. And we will see what it will look like. Then you will arrive at the entrance of Takeshita street, the temple of Kawaii fashion, which welcomes you with this kawaii arch.
Your awesome touristic guidebook will say that you really have to visit Harajuku, and go to this particular street, because you will see young Japanese wearing weird clothes and you can take pictures of them （；¬＿¬)
And then, congrats, you will contribute to the clichee that « all the japanese are wearing Lolita/Decora/Gyaru/VisualKei and other kawaiithings ».
That’s not true.
This is why when you will visit Takeshita, you will see less and less « original » people. They left the district to go somewhere else, because of too many rude tourists taking pictures without asking, making fun of them, considering these people like attractions.
Then there is also the evolution of some of these fashions who makes them more or less popular among young Japanese, but this is another story.
Let’s talk about this street. During my first trip in 2013, there were still a few young people wearing alternative fashions, but not many. But as it was my first trip to Japan, I don’t know how it was before, but according to photos I saw, there used to be plenty of people with different styles, and they used to gather on the famous Harajuku bridge to take pictures. Pictures that you could see in « Street snap » pages of alternative fashion magazines like Kera or Gothic & Lolita Bible.
By the way there was nobody on this bridge. But we took a « Harajuku bridge » photo like in the magazines.
I had read that on sunday afternoon, there were a loooooot of people, and that you could see different alternative fashions. It’s true that I went there during the week, and then on sunday afternoon to compare, there is a huge difference ! It’s very impressive, you can’t even walk at a normal speed.
Want to see « traffic jams » without cars ? go to Harajuku on sunday afternoon.
But many people in the street were tourists, who came to see the « kawaii people ».
As I was dressed in Lolita, I looked for some Japanese Lolitas but I saw only 5-6 in 2013 (in total, I went several times to Harajuku during the trip), and only two in 2015. I didn’t saw many other Harajuku fashions either. I would say that about 1 person out of 20 was wearing an alternative fashion style, I don’t count the salespeople of the shops.
Talking about the shops, if you are a Harajuku fashion enthusiast, you will be amazed by the variety of clothes you can find there. I recommend you to leave the main Takeshita street and go to smaller paralel streets, you will find some gems, particularly in second hand stores, in which you will find bargains !
There are a lot of second hand shops, and you have to know that Japanese are very careful with their stuff, so most of the stuff you will find in these shops is like new or in great condition.
For Kawaii fans, you also have to visit the « Cute Cube », a small shopping center with various clothing stores, Kawaii cafés and purikura machines. You know these photobooths in which you can edit your pictures by adding funny stuff on them and that will make you look like a manga character. But be careful, some of the machines are « ladies only », we got the surprise when we wanted to make photos with my husband…
To come back to the shops, about Lolita shops, I found them quite empty (people-wise I mean), in 2013 and 2015. So this is why I think that this fashion is loosing its popularity among Japanese. The emblematic Gothic & Lolita Bible published their last issue before stopping. But this is evolution, this fashion changed a lot recently and seems to be more popular in our countries than in Japan now.
Laforet Shopping center, well known for having corners of famous japanese alternative fashion brands
Of course, the district is far away from being a disappointment ! There are a lot of cool things to see there.
Omotesando street, described as the Champs Elysées of Tokyo, where you can find luxury shops such as Vivienne Westwood, and also the famous Laforet Shopping center, well known for having corners of famous japanese alternative fashion brands. One of their floors is full of Lolita brands !
I really loved the Tokyu Plaza Omotesando shopping center, the architecture is particularly beautiful. The shops are also very nice and we enjoyed walking around in there for quite a while ! My first Japan trip was during the Christmas period, so there were a lot of beautiful Christmas decorations. Then in 2015 there was an Shaun the Sheep event called « Shaun in Japan », there were a lot of Shaun sculptures decorated by Japanese artists in different styles.
Between the luxury shops in Omotesando or the curiosities of smaller streets around Takeshi, Harajuku is a shopping paradise, but that’s not all !
I’m sure you also heard about the famous Japanese styled crepes, which are also emblematic in Harajuku. You will see a lot of crepe shops, and every flavour is possible, even things you never imagined. Sweet or savoury.
In the « too much » style, you can have ice cream + cheesecake + whipped cream (take a look to the picture !)
To be honest I did not wanted to try. I stuck to chocolate ice cream and banana which was already enough and made me feel so full. The crepe itself is unimportant, and rather tasteless (we tried several shops) the only important thing is what is inside.
As I prefer savoury than sweet, I tried chicken curry crepe which was totally awesome, or the classic tuna salad with mayonnaise.
There are so much possibilities that you will find a recipe you like.
And in the worst case, there is one shop that sells sugar crepes for super cheap like 100-150 yen. It made me laugh because I remembered a scene from the famous French movie « Les bronzés font du ski » in which Gilbert enters a crepe shop and asks for a sugar crepe and the shop says they don’t make any.
It’s true that I haven’t seen any « classical » crepe like the ones we can find in France, and even less sugar crepes. But if you go to Harajuku, you don’t take a sugar crepe ! Maybe you can be tempted by the Flamby/Whipped cream one ? Or not.
Whatever. Don’t forget to drink a melon soda next to that ! It’s really colorful and doesn’t look super natural but it’s not harmful if it’s only from time to time. It is an emblematic drink among young Japanese. It is a green colored soda with melon flavour, you cannot miss it.
Another noticeable detail about Harajuku, there is a Döner Kebab which seems to be very popular. When will there be an alsacian flame-tarts shop ?
If you go to Harajuku, don’t go there just to « look at weirdly dressed Japanese », try to be more interested in these fashions and discover this side of Japanese culture. And why not buy some clothes ? For example a Lolita dress that you can wear in a retro style ? So the district can continue to live °˖✧◝(⁰▿⁰)◜✧˖°
This is it for the pop culture side, and don’t forget the traditional side. There is the famous Yoyogi park with the very beautiful Meiji Jingu temple, a must-see during your visit, to calm down from the colorful atmosphere of Takeshita.
Japan is brilliant when it comes to ally tradition and modernity.