Even if fashion isn’t your idea of a pleasant holiday experience trip to Harajuku, Tokyo’s fashion centre, is essential. The district is a sight to behold; the epicentre of this is Takeshita Street, a place you’re unlikely to find anywhere else in Tokyo.
Put all presumptions you have about clothes shopping aside for now; those images of the usual experience. Where you find yourself wandering amongst pieces which are the shops idea of what’s in this season and almost slip on tiles polished of any character. Takeshita Street is different and certainly has character; it really doesn’t care about the season, nor that items have a matching style.
This is evident as soon as you approach the entrance. But, don’t expect the usual ‘welcome have a pleasant shop’ type sign. Instead, be amazed by the zany LED display which plays a Space Invaders style game where the aliens are blasted into the welcome itself.
This display should prepare you for the mayhem of the strip; which really shouldn’t be called a street: more like an alleyway. Vibrant colours and displays with little correlation to one another surround you instantly. Each shop has its own distinct feel which has been crammed into tiny outlets meaning their stock bursts forth onto the shop fronts. Clothing hangs from anything it can be attached in the hope it may capture your attention.
Whilst this may sound chaotic, it actually seems to work. The mish-mash of merchandise offered by neighbouring stores may not match, but in doing so they fit with the street. If any general theme is to be found it could be said to be alternative; punk and grunge aplenty, with an air of the Sex Pistol’s Britain.
If you can imagine a Japanese Camden market, then you’re not far from envisioning this. The similarities are striking, although gone is the reggae and sickly sweet smell of banned goods. Replaced with blaring J-Pop, high pitched cashiers calling ‘Irimasen’ and the smell of caramel.
The crowd is different too; quite impossibly Takeshita Street manages to be even busier than Camden’s stables. You’ll find yourself in a lane system that runs the length of the strip, yet the atmosphere isn’t unpleasant. It’s an air of childish excitement that flows through much of Tokyo, colourful characters and cheerful pop surrounds you, meaning you can’t help but get into the party spirit.
As you explore the street you must indulge in one of Harajuku’s famous crepes. There are many outlets to choose from, each offering a vast selection of fillings. Most of these stores offer a choice well over a hundred, with a mixture of both sweet and savoury. Why not have a cheese and ham for starters followed by a cheesecake brownie for dessert? They may sound indulgent, but you are sure to walk it off.
Despite so much on offer Harajuku’s main area is pretty compact. But, by the end of the day you will be glad as the distance to the station is only a short ache away.
A special thanks to Josh for sharing his experience with us. You can find out what else he’s been up to whilst in Tokyo by checking out his blogs below: http://takentotokyo.blogspot.co.uk/ and http://geekboybabbles.blogspot.co.uk/