Let's face it, these days travelling means taking pictures and for most of us that means posting them on Instagram! We love to share our experience with the world, and in all my years of travelling, I have to say that Tokyo is one of the best places to take some incredible pictures! But nowhere in Japan is more wild, bright and colourful as Harajuku. This neighbourhood is filled to bursting with fantastic places to take wondrous photos! Below is my list of the best places get those iconic shots of Kawaii Tokyo! All the stops are located at the bottom in a handy dandy google map.
TIP: To get the best pictures here without too many people in your shot, head down to Harajuku as early as possible. For most of the photos in the first part of this tour, you don't need to enter any shops or business so you won't need to worry about opening times. By the time you get to the second half of this tour, most of the businesses will be open and you can get those interior shots.
1. Meiji Jingu Sake Barrels
Right before the entrance to Harajuku, if you stroll down the peaceful pathways towards the Meiji Jingu Shrine, you'll find this incredible display of painted Sake barrels! These are called 'kazaridaru' and are barrels from brewers all over Japan who donate them to the temple as offerings to the Gods and the people of Japan. The scenes painted upon them are breathtaking and make for a rainbow backdrop for your pictures. This is the one more traditional parts of the tour and a nice way to begin your morning in this relaxing and quiet little forest in the middle of the city.
2. Entrance to Takeshita Street
Takeshita Street is the main entrance into Harajuku. It is a busy pedestrian shopping lane where no cars are allowed after 9 am. Despite the lack of vehicles, this street is always filled with people, crowds so thick you'll barely be able to make out the road below. But if you arrive as early as we did (around 7:30 am) you’ll be treated to an almost abandoned looking laneway. The entrance to the street is decorated over its archway with a different brightly coloured design made out of balloons. This archway is the perfect frame for your photo into Harajuku.
If you've ever spent some time cruising the #Harajuku hashtag on instagram, you're bound to have seen dozens of pictures of cute girls smiling with GIANT rainbow cotton candy cones. These awesome creations can be found at Totti Candy Factory. While there is often a line-up, it moves quickly, and while waiting in line, you can observe the candy creators inside moulding these incredible sweet treats. They are gorgeous to look at and even better to eat! But before digging in be sure to snap a pic of this sugary mountain of colour!
4. Santa Monica Crepes
It might seem like a recent phenomenon since the creation of Instagram and "food selfies", but crepes have been a Japanese fascination for over 40 years. Now, you'll pass many different crepe shops, each with dozens of flavours showcased with intricately designed plastic models. Each shop seems to want to outdo the other in these amazing designs and decorations, and they make for great photo taking stops! I love Santa Monica Crepes because of their bright pink exterior, neon signage and rainbow coloured crepes in the window!
At the end of Taskieshitadori, you'll find a giant clock. Bright pink and covered in retro, neon toys. This is the Moshi Moshi Box, which provides tourists with sightseeing information, free wifi and currency exchange. This is one of the most iconic sights in Harajuku, but since it's so far from the entrance to Taskieshitadori, you’ll sometimes find that people miss it altogether. Don't make that mistake! Standing in front of this fantastic display is like standing in front of a giant work of art and makes for a beautiful photo!
The Design Festa Gallery is located on the backstreets of Harajuku. Inside this incredible building is an urban art gallery featuring young new artists from Tokyo. And while the interior with all the fantastic art is worth checking out, the building itself is what draws so many people to it. A group of local artists took it upon themselves to reignite this otherwise dull building with a slew of hypnotic graffiti and a series of frenetic scaffolding which feels like an alien attempting to swallow the building whole.
7. Sakura Tei
Just down from the Design Festa Gallery, you'll find Sakura-Tei, one of the city's most popular restaurants. Just outside the restaurant is one of Harajuku's incredible graffiti walls, commissioned by the restaurant. The restaurant itself has a gorgeous interior which continues in from the street, but if you aren't interested in the dining experience, you can still come and admire the facade's spray-painted mural, covered in iconic Japanese imagery.
8. Now is Forever
Further up the backstreet of Harajuku, you'll find the “NOW IS FOREVER” mural. This incredible work of art was painted by an American artist, Stephen Powers in 2014. Japan appreciates graffiti art when done well and cares for them greatly, with locals even doing some of the paint touch ups. Despite this mural being so old it looks like it's brand new and the message is a beautiful one which makes for a great little photo op!
Eddy's Ice Cream is located down a tiny side street inside what looks like a San Francisco style pastel townhouse. The interior is miniature, but its neon pink painted walls and brightly coloured ice creams are more than enough to make it feel larger than life. It's so hard to pick between a shot of the outside or inside; so you'll have to do both!
As you walk towards the intersection between Omotesando and Harajuku, you’ll find it's hard to miss Tokyu Plaza Omotesando Harajuku. This incredible building houses all the high-end fashion brands like Tommy Hilfiger, Gucci and Chanel, but we aren’t here for the clothes. As you approach, your eyes will be immediately caught by the dazzling kaleidoscope of mirrors that serves as the entrance to the mall. They call this the stargate, and with good reason. The artist Hiroshi Nakamura wanted the building to reflect, "the time and the seasons, for an ever-changing view." Standing outside or in, you can see all around the crossing — the people, the landscape and the colours that change within it.
11. Honey Mi Honey Cafe
Honey Mi Honey is a famous apparel brand, but the real draw is their cafe located right beside their shop in Harajuku. This cafe was designed for Instagrammers and is themed as a retro motel. You can order up adorable pastries and drink organic smoothies while sitting in this pastel paradise. Reservations are required since this place is so popular, but if you have the forethought to book in advance, it makes the experience much less stressful as you can roll up and take pictures to your heart's content without standing in line for hours.
12. Alice on Wednesday
Walking down the street from Honey Mi Honey, you’ll come upon a tiny doorway which leads you into a whimsical little world. Alice On Wednesday is one of a few different Alice in Wonderland themed stores and restaurants in Tokyo. Inside this shop, you'll uncover three floors, each one designed to reflect aspects of the fairy tale. But it's the doorway to this place which is the star of the show. This small doorway, fit for a miniature Alice, on the front of the building makes you crouch down to get inside the shop. It looks like something right out of a story book and is almost too cute to be real. So you've got to share it right?!
What were your favourite photo spots in Harajuku! Let me know in the comments!