Harajuku

Updated November 3, 2019 | by Chad A. Thiele, 23 year veteran of Tokyo.

If you are visiting Japan and only had enough time to see one city, I would say that it would have to be Harajuku. 

There is no other place that is so full of life, so happy and vibrant, and so unique as Harajuku. 

You know that feeling you get when you go to a state fair at night, and you are walking through the gaming sections, and the smell of fair food makes you feel like Homer Simpson when he sees a doughnut? 

And the feeling you have looking at all the colorful lights and hearing the different music that fills the air as you walk amongst a crowd of people? 

Well, multiply that by ten and throw in some young people who look like they stepped out of an anime cartoon and you will understand the essence that is Harajuku.

Japan is a country that prides itself on tradition and community. For a community to work harmoniously, everyone needs to follow the rules.

For the most part, this serves Japan well, but it can be exhausting, and sometimes you just need to go somewhere that allows you to let loose and unwind.  

That’s why Harajuku is so popular with the youth of today. 

The vibe is very hip and cool and a little bit freaky, but most of all, it is very accepting.  This is the place where they can go to be who they are, no matter what that might be, and everyone just goes about their business of enjoying themselves.

In fact, Gwen Stephanie was so captivated by the energy and vibe of this town that she even wrote a song about it called “Harajuku Girls.”  In the song, she describes the way they dress and act in Harajuku. 

Girls dress in colorful outfits that are whimsical and child-like and some dress in cosplay, or what they call sweet Lolita. 

Of course, there is the punk rock side of things as well. In most of Japan, tattoos are only for a specific group of people and are frowned upon, but not here in Harajuku. 

Here, they are trendy and fashion-forward.

There is a ton of stuff to see and do here and almost impossible to see everything in one day, so I created a very ambitious itinerary for you to follow that will at least hit most of the highlights.


How to pronounce Harajuku?

Hada-Jew-Koo. It can be used as both a noun and an adjective. As a noun, it is the name of the town in Tokyo. As an adjective, it refers to a fashion style. 


What is Harajuku famous for?

Harajuku is most famous for being the place where anime and cosplay come to life. 

When you walk down the streets of Harajuku it is very common to see boys and girls dressed as famous characters or just dressed in their own unique, outspoken style. 

To fit in with the style of the youth, the city stores also reflect the kawaii (cute) style. As extravagant as Harajuku fashion is, so are the stores. 

Here is where you will find the most unique café’s that make Harajuku so popular.


What is Harajuku fashion?

It is freedom of expression. The birth of Harajuku fashion happened as a result of the youth of Tokyo rebelling against mainstream fashion. 

It started as a mix of traditional Japanese attire mixed with some unique and colorful western clothing and with the youth wanting you to know that they will wear what they want when they want. 

Today, the style is it is as wild, crazy, funky, and fun as you can get. Dress like a cute child and throw in some funky punk rock, mixed with some 80’s style candy machine jewelry, and crazy colored hair and you have Harajuku style. 

Whether you like it or not, the message with this style is clear – we won’t conform to your rigid societal rules.


This page is a work in progress. There will be more soon. I promise. 🙂