The Harajuku district in Tokyo, Japan is well known for fast fashion tailored to an urban lifestyle. Walking the streets of Harajuku, you can see interesting tops, shoes, costumes, and much more. While the area is known as place for young adults, there are a number of shops and restaurants for older individuals. Harajuku is home to many boutiques and designers offering a variety of clothing and fashion accessories for all ages. One thing to keep in mind is that the shopping area is not just small, independent retailers. Multi-national brands such as Louis Vuitton, Lululemon, Gap, Nike, and Zara are also located in the area. Here are a few places that should be near the top of the list for anyone interested in fashion and urban culture.
The entrance to Takeshita Dori is very close to Harajuku Station. This street is home to many retailer shops that symbolize the essence of Harajuku. A great way to start exploring Harajuku is to walk through the Takeshita Dori corridor to get a feel of the vibe and fashion trends. Take a peek inside some of the interesting boutiques and grab a quick snack along the way.
Omotesando Hills is an upscale shopping center with multiple floors of shops and restaurants. While Takeshita Dori caters to a younger audience; you will find more shops here that cater to a slightly older crowd. The area around Omotesando Hills is also quite busy and a destination for many people.
The street close to Omotesando Hills lined with trees and expensive retail shops is called Omotesando Dori. This busy road is full of high-end name brand retailers you may recognize. The atmosphere around this street is a different feel from Takeshita Dori and also caters to a slightly older crowd. You should definitely try to catch an outdoor spot for a drink or afternoon snack to enjoy people watching and to soak in the beauty of Harajuku.
Discover Hidden Gem Clothing Stores
Around Takeshita Dori are many narrow side streets and maze-like alleys. This area is home to unique and vibrant boutiques that are off the normal radar for travelers. If you want to be adventurous and explore more of the Harajuku fashion scene, take some time to wander around the area.
There are many retail shops with interesting products and luxury goods scattered throughout Harajuku. From name brand retailers to flashy street wear, you can find a wide variety of goods. However, finding items that are not clothing or fashion oriented can be a bit more challenging. One great place to pick up inexpensive Japanese gifts is the large Daiso on Takeshita Dori. This Daiso is just down from the entrance near Harajuku Station and carries a large assortment items at affordable prices. It is definitely worth a stop when shopping for gifts to bring back for friends and family. Another place well-known for carrying more authentic Japanese souvenirs is the Oriental Bazaar. You can visit their website to see what kind of goods they sell along with their store hours.
Ueno Park in the heart of Tokyo offers many activities and attractions for locals and tourists. It is home to a number of museums, temples, and even a zoo. Here are a few reasons to visit Ueno Park during your next stay to Tokyo.
Cherry Blossom Viewing
One of the best places to view cherry blossoms in full bloom is in Ueno Park. It is very common for people to have picnics and gatherings under the beautiful trees. It can also get quite crowded during this time of the year. The cherry blossoms are a great excuse to visit the park along with its other offerings.
The oldest zoo in Japan, Ueno Zoo is a great destination for families and tourists. One of the zoo's biggest attractions is seeing the giant panda bears. The admission rate is very affordable and free for children. Families traveling to Tokyo should definitely mark Ueno Zoo as a possible activity in Tokyo.
Tokyo National Museum
As the largest art museum in Japan, Tokyo National Museum is a prime opportunity to peek inside Japan's rich history. One of the interesting parts of the museum is its outdoor garden that has multiple buildings representing different periods of history. They have been moved to the museum to show the various architecture and cultural significance of the past. In addition, the museum houses many National Treasures and Important Cultural Properties. If you have played any of the Final Fantasy games and recognize the name Masamune or Yoshimitsu, then you should definitely visit the sword and weapons exhibit.
You may have heard from a friend, online article, or through social media about animal cafes in Japan. Across Japan, you can visit a cafe that has different types of animals to see, hold, or even play with for a period of time. These cafes typically charge an entry fee and an additional amount of money per hour. One of the reasons animal cafes are popular in Japan is because it can be expense to own a pet; especially, living in a big city. Here are a few different types of animal cafes to expect during your next trip.
One of the more common animal cafes contain multiple breeds of cats. Cats are scattered across the cafe sleeping, playing with each other, and visiting guests. You can usually pet and play with them. People will also go to the cafes for a drink, to read, chat with friends, and use the Wi-Fi. Definitely consider visiting one scattered across Tokyo or in another city if you are a cat lover.
Dog cafes are available in Japan for people to visit. One unique twist of dog cafes is that you may have the opportunity to take a dog on a walk (for a fee). Living in small quarters in a city makes it challenging to own a dog. These cafes give people the chance to enjoy spending time with dogs around the neighborhood.
There are owl cafes scattered across Japan. Guests can see owls roaming around the cafe while enjoying tea and other beverages. Some cafes will allow guests to hold an owl. You may see an employee holding an owl outside inviting people in for a drink or an experience.
Not to be left out, there are rabbit cafes in Japan as well. Enjoy a nice beverage or dessert surrounded by cute rabbits sleeping and hoping around.
While technically a bar, there are places to visit that have penguins living in a habitat. You can enjoy seeing the penguins having a beverage or meal. A well-known penguin bar is Penguin Bar Ikebukuro in Tokyo.
You may find other cafes and opportunities to see additional animals not mentioned. Japan is full of fun and fascinating animal cafes for locals and tourists to enjoy. Take an opportunity to have a unique experience during your next trip to Japan.
Walking through the streets of larger cities such as Tokyo and Osaka, you may have noticed large establishments with vibrantly colored window displays and rows of slot machines. The machines are actually pachinko machines and the place is called a pachinko parlor. Gambling for real money is illegal in Japan. Pachinko parlors are the closest thing to legalized gambling you will find. The way parlors work is similar to earning tickets for prizes at Chuck E. Cheese or a Putt-Putt Fun Center.
Customers at pachinko parlors purchase metal balls that are used to play the machines. The machines vary in style, gameplay, animation, and theme. In general, balls are shot to the top of a machine's play area and fall down hitting metal pins. Balls will change trajectories when they hit the pins and each other. The goal is to get the metal balls into different slots or gates to earn additional attempts and prize payouts. The prize payouts a player earns are in the form of additional metal balls to either use in the machines or exchange for actual prizes.
Customers can exchange the metal balls received as prize payouts for items offered in the pachinko parlor. For example, a customer can exchange a certain amount of balls for a microwave or other item. The parlors cannot give actual money. However, there is usually a place near the parlor that takes prizes won by players and exchanges them for real money. You can think about it as winning a microwave and then selling it to a pawn shop for half of its estimated retail value.
Travelers are welcome to visit and play pachinko in the parlors. However, they are not family friendly as children are typically barred from entering. If you would like to learn more about pachinko, read through Japan Visitor's guide.