Omotesando Hills are located right beside Harajuku, and despite their proximity, they could not be more different. Harajuku is where you'll find alternative fashion for the experimental youth of Tokyo while Omotesando is where you'll find an elegant fashion, shopping and entertainment neighbourhood. The tree-lined boulevards of Omotesando often remind people of the Champs-Élysées in Paris.
Omotesando is also home to some of the most impressive architecture in Tokyo. Expensive retailers like Louis Vuitton, Dior and Chanel, have been able to build their flagship Japan stores in the best of modern Japanese design.
Although we didn't stray into the luxury stores, there were a few exclusive shops along the streets that we made a point to check out. The first of which was Kiddyland, a 5-floor toy store! But Kiddyland isn't just any toy store. It specialises in Japanese toys and includes a Snoopy Town and Hello Kitty Shop.
Along with the typical cartoon and anime merchandise, you are also bound to find strange collections of toys never seen in North America. These creepy naked baby figurines dressed in all different costumes were one of those things that most likely just didn't translate across the Atlantic.
You can also find some exclusive (and strange) Gatchapon machines, doling out bite-sized toys in plastic capsules. There was also an entire section of the store dedicated to Gudetama, a Sanrio character in the shape of an egg, who lacks any "spunk". He is a melancholy egg, always moping about but cute as anything! I picked up a few pieces of stationary with the unfortunate mascot on it, and nothing made me happier.
My favourite part of the shop was the Sailor Moon section. Despite its current period of nostalgic popularity, Sailor Moon merchandise wasn't as popular as I thought it would be. But here in KiddyLand, there was an abundance of toys, accessories, stationary and even electronics. These Sailor Moon headphone were incredible but a little too rich for my blood.
Our next stop was at the Oriental Bazaar. The Oriental Bazaar is a one stop shop for Japanese souvenirs. Here you can find; dolls, china, kimonos, yukata, furniture, antiques and books on Japan. There is an entire floor dedicated to kimonos of every size, colour, style and most importantly, price. You'd think you might be paying a premium for these items, but surprisingly, since they know they have steady profits coming in, the prices are kept at a reasonable level.
Down any small alleyway off of the main streets, you'll find tiny, restaurants serving up Japanese cuisine, quick service food and modern fusion dishes.
We were hankering for some dumplings and decided that since we were right there, we had to give Harajuku Gyoza-ro a try. This place is famous all over Japan for their inexpensive and delicious dumplings. The restaurant is relatively large, and although there was a bit of a line, we decided to wait it out.
After waiting around 30 minutes, we were ushered into the restaurant and seated at the long counter surrounding the cooking area. We were lucky since most times the wait can be over an hour, so 30 minutes felt like a breeze.
The restaurant itself is very simple, as is it's menu. There are no frills, but the quality can be higher than since they only have a few options. You can get them steamed or fried, with or without niniku (garlic) or nira (chives), for only 290 yen for six pieces. This works out to being less than $3 for six dumplings! Being sat around the kitchen, we got to watch the cooks at work. They would fold and fry the dumpling in record time. The service itself was a bit slow, and when you can't help but watch these things get made, it's very hard to ignore your overwhelming hunger. The gyoza's themselves as amazingly juicy, with the perfect amount of dough surrounding the meat. There are spices and sauces on the table for you to dip your dumplings in but even on their own, they are full of flavour.
We had been starving and ate these puppies a little too quickly! After gulping down a few orders, we lazily made our way out past the line-up of people, excitedly waiting to get their share of those meat pillows.
We stopped for a short rest outside the metro station to get our bearings and figure out our next move. Dozens of cabs drove by us as we waited and I couldn’t help being amazed by a few things. First, all the seats were covered in bright white lace. This was most likely to protect the seats, but it looks so beautiful! Each car had its unique design, but this kind of protection was just so much nicer to look at than some cabs I’d seen back home which just use thick plastic.
The other thing I noticed whenever someone would hail the cab was that the back door it would automatically open for the customers. This is so useful if you’re carrying a bunch of bags and don’t have enough hands to open the door but also just another general courtesy that the Japanese offer up to their customers. I wanted the experience of riding in the cab, but in Japan, they are just much too expensive, even Uber is priced so much higher than the metro. So alas, I would only be able to admire those lacey backseats from afar.