Takeshita dori and Omotesando
Takeshita dori, or "Takeshita Street" is the teenage culture center of Tokyo, directly across the street from the North Exit of JR Harajuku Station. On one side of Harajuku Station is the large, wooded compound of Meiji Shrine. Nearby is the equally large Yoyogi Park. But on the other side of Harajuku Station is Omotesando dori, a long, tree-lined boulevard that hosts many flagship stores of luxury fashion houses and other high-profile businesses: Ralph Lauren, Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Gucci, Bulgari, Paul Stewart, TAGHeuer, Dior, Gap, Hanae Mori, Prada, Ben and Jerry's, Apple, the Omotesando Hills shopping complex (designed by famous Japanese architect Tadao Ando), Kiddyland (a Japanese toy shop), the Oriental Bazaar (a large Japanese antiques store), and more.
Omotesando is like Tokyo's Champs-Elysees. It was designed to be grand because when it was built in the early 20th century it was designed as the frontal approach to Meiji Shrine. It is lined with cherry blossom trees making a canopy overhead, so in the spring it presents a breath-taking tunnel of pink and white. In the summer the air vibrates with the chirruping of cicadas in the trees. And in December Omotesando is a major Christmas illumination attraction. The immense crowds of shoppers and sightseers - many of them slack-jawed dummy foreigners - is a big distraction, though.
But Takeshita dori is another matter. It is an alley chock-a-block full of tiny pop fashion shops and pop costume jewellery caves. All the teenagers, especially girls, go there to find their gear. A lot of cosplay aficionados gear up there, too, so it is common to see freaks in costume on the Harajuku Station platform. There are some shoe stores, a McDonald's, a big 100-yen shop, some tight convenience stores, and in some of the side cul-de-sacs that branch off it you can find adult stores, tattoo parlors, and the Extreme Body Piercing studio that I sometimes visit. You could say that Harajuku is where luxury and pop fashion meet, or collide.
Be careful about pickpockets.
I have been to Takeshita dori many times over the years. When I was there on Saturday, March 14, 2015 it was not nearly as crowded as it can be. Maybe the cool, cloudy weather was a factor. Despite the weather I was surprised that it wasn't more crowded, being a Saturday. Foreign tourists like to stand at the head of the alley looking downslope into it, taking pictures. I heard one woman wrongly call it "Harajuku Street." Oh, well. Visiting there on a summer Sunday can be very uncomfortable, but that's when Japanese pop culture is most on display. It's all hanging out.