I like taking pictures of toys, because I like Looking at toys. Particularly toys that are beautifully constructed, and not stuff you normally find here in North America. Harajuku, fashion and shopping Mecca of Japan, is a place to find pretty-much everything your heart desires, including a huge toy-store (mostly aimed at a female clientelle) called Kiddy Land. In 2008 I took my first trip to Japan and spent an hour wandering around this heavily boutiqued and beautiful toy-store, and I probably spent even longer there in 2009.
From Harajuku JR Station (the main point of entry for any tourist) you can head east along the major-chain shopping street Omotesando (home of the Omotesando shopping complex) (the yellow one also labeled ’413′), or head north a block and then head east (turn right at The McDonalds, basically) along the tiny Takeshita Dori, home of high-fashion boutiques, low-fashion boutiques, goth/loli wear, indy/alt/punk wear, and so very much more. For this trip we headed up Omotoesando, circled the entire city back to Harajuku JR Station, and then headed east along Takeshita Dori. It was a very long day… but the photos are pretty great…! Click to…
Upon exiting Harajuku JR station, our beloved and amazing SNOOPYTOWN had disappeared. I’d heard that they might be moving/reopening, but seeing it all covered in grey hoarding is sad.
If you want to see the joy and wonder of Harajuku Snoopytown, check out my posts from 2008.
But that didn’t stop the delightful goths, lolis, gothlolis, and freaks from congregating on the bridge outside the station.
To be honest, the phenomenon has gotten to be a bit… much. Like not to rag on either the people doing it or the people watching, but it’s been in so many guidebooks and websites for so long that… Yeah, I kinda felt like a creep taking photos, it’s just a total scrum of people trying to get in there.
So I stopped taking pictures. Sorry. There are enough pictures of goth lolis I think. Well, for me anyway.
I’ll take pictures of tako-yaki instead! It’s tiny pieces of octopus covered in batter and then deep fried. It goes best with beer…
Can I just say again… for the record… how much civilized it is to be able to buy yourself a cold beer on a hot day and enjoy a nice walk through a park? It’s one of those times that I really regret being born into a puritan, uptight country, and living in the province with the strictest liquor laws in the country only compounds that. Anyway, here’s to Japan. Home of beer, octopus, and rockabilly dancers:
Meanwhile, the newest trend when we were there? Character socks! Totally, totally unlicensed character socks, from what I could tell. Very cute though. Who doesn’t want Batman, as a bear, as socks (lower left)? Or Spider-man, as a mouse, as socks?
Spider-man AS MICKEY MOUSE, as socks. And I should mention for the record, that this was July 2009, more than six months BEFORE Disney bought Marvel. Japanese fashion trends are better than a crystal ball, I tell ya what.
The ‘reusable bag’ trend had just started to hit as well, and while I’d like to think these were all officially licensed goods, I can’t really prove it. But if you ever wanted an ALF shopping bag, there’s probably still one in Harajuku.
The main shopping drag of Harajuku, Omotesando Road, is very, very full on a weekend. But this is not as full as it can be in Harajuku.
We’re going to jump forward in time a year to May 2010 when I went back to Harajuku. In addition to it being a warm weekend full of people-watching, it was also “The Thai Festival” and there was some sort of sporting event going on at the olympic stadium around the corner. This is what it was like trying to exit the train station:
Just a steady stream of people, out the door down the street. Unreal. So yeah, Japan is not a place for you if you do not like crowds.
If you’re anything like me, you mostly want to see PRODUCT PHOTOS. Well you’re in luck! We went back to the fairly-awesome giant toy store KIDDYLAND and took some photos.
I love the boutiquing of Japanese stores, and toy-stores in particular. It’s utterly amazing, the disparate ranges of products all artfully arranged together. Figure out what your niche is, go to that section, and just spend to your heart’s content. All of the popular stuff is on the back wall, all of the up-and-coming stuff is in the center aisles, just waiting to hook some poor new fan. Awesome.
They even provided a handy chart so you could get the right Popple, based on your personality.
So many Elmo.
A murder of Elmo.
There’s something unsettling about Bert dolls without comperable Ernie dolls… Just tickle-me-Ernie, which is no good. No good at all.
And then, front-and-centre, it’s Hello Kitty. Because they pay for the good displays.
Hello Kitty patterned Wellys… With heel, of course.
My most vivid memory of being at Kiddyland that hot July day? The first 3 floors were _crawling_ with unhappy white children. Seriously. This tour group of like 20 Australian kids, maybe 8-14, just absolutely fucking miserable, taking up my precious valuable air conditioning. The possibility exists that they were brought to the toy store and then told that they could not buy anything, and that would almost justify their sullenness. Instead they sat on the already narrow stairs and whined. Ugh.
So when a friend asks you to “bring back some Moomin stuff from Japan for me” and then you’re confronted with this, you’re in a bit of a pickle. Because… do you just bring back like $50 worth of stuff? $100? $200? Cuz $200 won’t even make a dent in the available merchandise.
But it’s far worse if they’re Ghibli fans…
Can you believe that statue is only $35? Uggggh. I wanted to buy everything.
Me and Totoro.
At this point Ponyo had just been released to Japanese theatres, and I gotta say for Ghibli merch it looked strange as hell. Big eyes, featureless. But having seen it now? I kind of regret not getting a little something, it’s a great, great film and the merch is adorable.
Meanwhile, we found Snoopytown:
It had migrated to take up a full floor of Kiddyland. Not nearly as ritzi as previous digs, but probably a tenth the cost in rent…
Meta? More like METADORABLE!!!! Amirite!?
No, I didn’t feel awkward or out of place at all, why do you ask?
The Evangelion posters welcomed us to a new floor. A badass floor. A floor… for DUDES.
I really wanted the Statue of David toy, but I didn’t forty dollars want it.
SEH! PHI! ROTH! (dunh dunh dunh dannnnh). Click to wallpaper-size.
Then we took our leave of the humble Kiddy Land, and headed down the street to The TinTin Store, which I also love.
Tintin and Snowy greet you inside the door!
It was sale season when we were there. Sales everywhere! Apparently the economy really needed the boost.
Anyhow, that wraps the first half of our walk through Harajuku! Stay tuned for getting lost in the residential part of town, and fashionable street Takeshita Dori!