Traveling to Harajuku is a fun experience for anyone. Here's what to know about Harajuku station to make the most of your trip.
Harajuku Station is your window to a wild, rainbow-hued, and cartoonishly fashionable corner of the world. Step off the train and you’ll find yourself transported to a different side of Tokyo–the part of Japan that’s young, hip, outlandish, and unapologetically off-the-wall.
So whether you’re in Tokyo for one day or a month, Harajuku Station is more than just a train stop. It’s a cultural experience.
Here’s what you need to know about Harajuku Station to make the most of your trip.
The Basics of Harajuku Station
Harajuku Station is a rail station in Shibuya, Tokyo operated by the East Japan Rail Company and named for the neighboring Harajuku district. The former Harajuku Station building was long considered one of the jewels of Old Tokyo, designed in a distinctive European alpine style. Don’t worry–the old building wasn’t torn down, and the new one is just down the street.
The new station building (updated in line with the current fire code) is a symbol of all that Harajuku is–young, trendy, and sleek. It lets in a ton of natural light thanks to wide glass windows–oh, and there’s plenty of space for commuters too.
And speaking of commuters (this is a train station, after all), the station has two entrances and exits. The main exit lets out in Omotesando, in addition to two smaller exits letting out at the Jingu Bridge and Yoyogi Park.
Metro Connections and Yamanote Line
For practically-minded travelers, you’re in luck. Tokyo’s circular Yamanote Line (the circular rail line which connects all the other metro lines in Tokyo) is the major line served by Harajuku Station. That means you can get almost anywhere in Tokyo from Harajuku, and you can easily reach Harajuku from just about anywhere in Tokyo.
On the map, if you’re moving clockwise along the Yamanote Line, Yoyogi and Shinjuku are the two stations preceding Harajuku, and Shibuya comes immediately after. If you backtrack to Yoyogi, you can pick up the Sobu line to cut across the city, or you can catch the Chuo line at Shinjuku for rapid service straight across the city.
Of course, once you make it to Harajuku, you may not want to leave!
What is the Harajuku District Known For?
If you’ve heard of Harajuku before, you probably heard of its world-famous fashion. Harajuku is known as the birthplace of Japan’s wildest fashion styles, and the district has some of the richest teenage cultures in the world.
Harajuku’s rich street style culture flowered from Hokoten (a shortening of the Japanese phrase Hokousha Tengoku, “pedestrian paradise”). Hokoten describes a district of streets closed off to traffic so that pedestrians can mingle freely, and Harajuku has long been the most famous Hokoten in Tokyo.
There is no single definition of Harajuku style, beyond the fact that the street style is bravely unorthodox in a conformist society. That said, there are some recognizable subcultures, like the Lolita style which takes inspiration from Victorian-style clothing. The most distinct is the kawaii subculture, a.k.a. the culture of cuteness and innocence characterized by bright pastels, cartoon characters, and frilly clothes.
The Best Things to Do in the Harajuku District
Harajuku is a district known for youth culture, and as soon as you set foot in the district, you’ll see a dizzying array of options all geared toward the city’s teenagers and youth culture. If you can, try to visit on a weekend–this is when the young locals come out in all their full, colorful force. If you’re a cosplay fan, Harajuku sidewalks are a living lookbook of cosplay trends.
Regardless of when you visit, you’ll quickly notice that Harajuku is very much a fashion and shopping district (with an impressive array of rainbow hues). Of course, there’s also a traditional side to the district (some of Old Tokyo’s greatest historical gems, in fact) and some great spots to eat. Don’t be shy about jumping in with both feet!
The moment you set foot outside Harajuku Station, you’ll find yourself sucked into the rainbow vortex that is Takeshita Street, a.k.a. Takeshita-dori. This is Harajuku’s beating heart, the spot where teenagers come to hang out and where some of Tokyo’s famous shops are in residence.
It’s colorful, crammed to the brim, and perfect for people-watching. Of course, if you want to be more engaged, all you need to do is start wandering Takeshita and its various side streets and alleys, all packed to the brim with colorful shops, food stands, and restaurants. You can find anything on Takeshita, from crepes to makeup to candy floss. Better still, it’s all pretty affordable.
Seriously, though, you’ll see a lot of people carrying crepes. Takeshita is famous for its crepe shops, so swing into one, grab a crepe, and snap an Instagram-worthy shot. If there’s one thing you can count on from Takeshita food, it’s Instagram-worthy good looks.
Away from the color and hubbub of Takeshita is Meiji Jingu, or the Meiji Shrine, a Shinto shrine dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shoken.
You might not think you could find a tranquil forest right in the heart of Tokyo, but the Meiji Shrine will prove you wrong. The shrine’s 17-acre grounds are home to thousands upon thousands of trees. If you’re in Tokyo in late June, the Meiji Shrine is not to be missed–the Inner Garden blossoms with 150 species of irises.
Kawaii Monster Cafe
Tokyo is a big believer in themed everything, and the Kawaii Monster Cafe is the best example of that tenet in Harajuku. It was designed by the creators of Japan’s best themed restaurants (Alice in Wonderland Cafe and Vampire Cafe, to name a few).
As for the Kawaii Monster Cafe, it’s best described as a cuteness explosion. Entering the cafe is literally entering the mouth of the monster (his name is Mr. Ten Thousand Chopsticks) and the central area is occupied by a gigantic cake stand. The cafe is split into four areas: the Mushroom Disco (psychedelic mushrooms), the Milk Stand (rabbits and unicorns drinking milk), the Mel-Tea Room (chocolate and macarons), and the Bar Experiment (underwater).
Seriously, if you want a window into the craziest cotton-candy fluff of the Japanese psyche, look no further than the Kawaii Monster Cafe.
Make the Most of Your Time in Tokyo
Don’t treat Harajuku Station as just one more rail stop. It’s a world-famous district for a reason, a global cultural icon in every sense. You haven’t experienced Tokyo until you’ve experienced Harajuku.
Planning the rest of your trip to Tokyo? We’ve got you covered! Make sure to check out our ultimate beginner’s guide to Tokyo.