Wednesday 3 April 2013

Teen Pop Culture in Harajuku

I had one last event for the cherry blossom season planned so on Saturday night after work I headed back over Rainbow Bridge to Odaiba again.  This would be the last time the blossoms were still out in force and I was looking forward to it.  As fate would have it, the weather turned out to be quite cold so we had our party indoors.  My friend whose house we were at, Emiko, has four wonderful young kids.  The oldest I had met when I lived here before (but had grown a lot taller by now!), and the three younger ones who I had not met before.  The kids don't speak any English, and my Japanese is nearly non-existent, so Emiko and another friend Teruyo had to translate a lot for me.  They were great kids and we all had a great time as you can see.

After having been to and written about a few of the more traditional areas of Tokyo recently, I decided to head to the breeding ground of Japanese teen Pop Culture, Harajuku.  This is a shopping district with a lot of big brands having shops here, but also a lot of smaller shops catering to the cosplay (costume play) crowd.  Rain had set in for the day, so I grabbed my umbrella and set off.

 I got off the train and before heading to the shopping area I went the other side of the train line toward the park where I took the cherry blossom photos recently, Yoyogi Park.  Just before the park entrance, there is an entrance to Tokyo's most famous shrine, Meiji shrine.  Whereas temples are the worshipping places for the Buddhist religion, shrines are the worshipping places for the Japanese Shinto religion.  The entrance to the shrine is marked by a huge wooden gateway.

From here you find yourself in one of those contrast situations that I have spoken about.  Just behind you is bustling Tokyo with it's crowds, traffic and bursting trains.  Once you step beyond this gate, you are transferred into a different world with the only reminder of where you are is the faint sounds of the trains coming and going from the station.  The deeper you go into the shrine grounds, even those noises disappear and you are left with peaceful tranquillity.

The grounds of the shrine are, quite simply, amazing.  The shrine itself is quite young by Japanese standards, having been built in 1921.  The shrine is dedicated to Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken.  The emperor reigned from 1867 until his death in 1912.  During this period, Japan underwent great change.  The first national government was formed and Japan went through a period of industrialisation that allowed the country to become one of the world's great powers in a short period of time.

After walking through the outer grounds where all of the greenery is, you arrive at the shrine itself.  The peacefulness that you experience walking through the grounds and around the shrine is so hard to put into words.  I think the pictures do a better job than I can.

Reluctantly I walked back out the way I had come, and after walking back out through the front entrance, as tradition dictates, turned and bowed back in the direction of the shrine and made my way back into reality.  The rain was continuing to fall, and the cloud cover was so low that some of the tall buildings were enveloped in the clouds.

I made my way to Takeshita street where some of the more interesting and quirky shops are.  Due to the rain, at the start of the street, all I could see ahead of me was a sea of bobbing umbrellas!

This is the area that some famous fashion designers have been known to come to to draw inspiration form the fashion that the local teens wear here.  Looking at some of the pictures here, you may wonder about that, but it is true!

You can find shops selling the most weird and wonderful fashion.  Cute socks (and shark backpacks?), jackets, shoes, hats, all kinds of weird and wonderful shirts and tops, even spiderman has a shop here!

Walking down Takeshita street is absolutely a feast for the senses and any visit to Tokyo is not complete without visiting it.

Another reason I wanted to come to this area is that one of my housemates works at a hat shop here.  A little walk from the above mentioned shopping street, it is located in an area that is home to all of the big fashion labels.  The name of the shop is Harajuku Polka Dot ( and it is the hat shop of choice for Rock Music Royalty!!  My housemate, Jinseul, was working one day when this foreign guy came in.  Being that Jinseul is able to speak English well, she started chatting with him.  She asked where he was from, the USA he answered.  He then asked her if she knew the rock band, Van Halen.  It was David Lee Roth!!  Rock Music Royalty shopping for hats in her shop!  I think he is married to a Japanese lady and lives in the neighbourhood.  The funny thing is, he didn't come into the shop with bodyguards and personal helpers, he just rode up to the shop on his shopping bike like any normal person!

Here are a few photos of the shop.

Jinseul with the hat that David Lee Roth bought.

A nice shop that I will be going back to again.  Thanks to Jinseul and Yuda-san for showing me around the shop.

Heading back towards Harajuku again in search for food, I stumbled upon this shop and stuff..

I had the same expression on my face looking at him!!

I headed to a nearby Okonomiyaki (Japanese savoury pancake) restaurant that I had heard was pretty good and also that they had an English menu too.  The restaurant name is Sakua Tei  () and is well and truly hidden in the little back alleys of Harajuku.  I managed to find it and ordered the spicy yaki.  At this restaurant you cook the food yourself.  It is fun, and also, I guess, if you mess up the cooking, you can't blame the restaurant!

Luckily for me, it tasted good!  The inside of the restaurant is pretty interesting, with murals covering the walls, including instructions on how to cook it.

Really nice restaurant with friendly staff.

I headed back out into the rain, my shoes now well and truly soaked through, and made my way back home after another enjoyable day off in Tokyo.  

That's it for this week.  See you again next week.


  1. The sea of umbrellas looks really cool. I can remember seeing something similar in The Netherlands and had never seen so many different types, styles and designs on umbrellas before.
    It's great to see things that you would have never have thought about before, until you see it. Then it's like,wow, I've never seen that before and I've discovered something new! Does that make sense?
    I love the hat shop. Could have some fun in there! Any tips for up and coming fashions to look forward to in Australia? Some of the window displays are um....interesting!!

    1. Hi Natalie. Yeah, the sea of umbrellas looked very cool. I totally wasn't expecting the street to be that busy on a day when the weather was so bad. I know exactly what you mean!
      I think the clothes in the panda shop might be a hit in Cummins right?!!

    2. Well as I am currently an Arts teacher, I think that could give me more flexibility in school attire...Would get the kids attention, that's for sure!

    3. It would get their attention for sure, but would they get much work (apart from drawing Pandas) done?

  2. Hi Jason,another interesting blog and a really good photo of you and the little girl.I went to harajuku and was expecting a lot of crazy makeup/clothing etc.I did see a little of it,but nowhere near what I had anticipated.Unfortunately, did not get to yoyogi-koen.As a matter of interest,there is quite a nice eatery in Swanston St. called "yoyogi" and it is cheap.My sister arrives in Tokyo for an organised tour on April 8 and will head south to Shikoku and Kyushu and depart from Fukuoka on the 26th.She will fly Korean Air via Seoul.By the way have you been to Seoul by any chance.From whatI have heard,many Nihon-jin go there for a long weekend.With the current warnings from North Korea,I can imagine trips to South Korea will be few and far between until things settle down.Melissa and baby are doing well.The baby "amber" had her first vaccines a few days ago.Nice autumn weather here at the moment.Crows and Power won this weekend!Dewa mata,Noel.

    1. Hi Noel,
      I think I have been to Yoyogi on Swanston St. I have 2 sisters who live there and I think I may have eaten there on 1 trip to Melbourne.
      I hope your sister enjoys Japan and is able to see what you loved about Japan. I remember bringing one of my brothers for a visit one time, and he definitely saw the wonderful things that I love about Japan.
      Not heading over to visit Korea or China was one of my biggest regrets last time I was living here. I have promised myself that I will definitely visit both countries now that I am back here. I actually share a house with a few Japanese people and a few Koreans as well, so a nice multi-cultural household!
      I have been keeping an eye on AFL results and noticed both teams won, and that my Bombers won too!
      Mata ne.

    2. Konnichiwa Jason.I have barracked for the Bombers since my high school days at Rostevor and have followed them closely ever since.I like to see the 2 south aust. teams do well,but my loyalty remains with the red and blacks in the afl.Their massive win against Melbourne on Sat. will give them a fantastic percentage boost and I am tipping them to win a close one against Freo in Perth this week.I have heard that in some parts of Nihon there are some aussie rules teams,but exactly where I have no idea.Sayounara.

    3. Hi Noel,
      I thought I remembered Mel telling me you supported the Bombers. A bit of a tough off season for the club. That story was just starting to break as I left Australia. Looks like those tough times have galvanised the team.
      You are right about Aussie Rules in Japan. The Tokyo club is called the Tokyo Goannas:
      Looks like it is the off season at the moment.