So, continuing from my last post (, I spent a bunch of time in Harajuku this time around, and it was great. We set a very relaxed schedule, and planned only to walk around and try to go to places and see things that we hadn’t seen before. That said, I couldn’t resist the lure of either Kiddyland (the awesome toy store) or the beautiful Tintin shop, but we did decide to disappear into the sidestreets and back streets of Harajuku, a mostly residential part of town that didn’t get much in the way of tourists. It was wonderful, and a great reminder that there’s so much to Tokyo–and really any travel destination–than the must-see stops in the guidebook.

Popping back around the corner from the Tintin Shop is the Louis Vuitton flagship, which featured a massive installation of work by and based on the art of Takeshi Murakami, which is… pretty awesome! We explored a little bit and found it utterly delightful, but in retrospect I wish we’d lingered a little longer. They were pretty serious about a lack of indoor photographs, unfortunately.

Omotoesando is quite a bit less busy, the further away you get from the station, Meiji Shrine, and tourist attractions.

So about 5 minutes after that last photo was taken, we decided to just duck down a random side street and see what life was like outside of the malls and stores. So of course the first thing I photograph is a convenience store… (Combini/Conbini for short). Why? BECAUSE I’VE NEVER SEEN THIS ONE BEFORE. I know, it’s ridiculous, but seeing it I was just… overcome. I dunno. I thought I had the conbini hierarchy all figured out, but I’d somehow completely missed “Ministop”. More to learn!

I could look at pictures of Japanese streets for hours. The cars, the powerlines, the architecture… It’s even more fun to walk down them.

About the time we tripped over this corner, we realized that we were going to see some unique stuff. Tiny office buildings, bright-yellow appartments overtop tiny parking spaces. Those awesome delivery mopeds… The buildings in Harajuku are fabulous.

Great little artbookstore.

Tiny little retail space undergoing rennovation. Andrew shown for scale. :)


This one took the cake.

Some great under-the-bridge ‘graffiti’:

Hippie-beach-party-drum-circle store going out of business. That Pegasus is BAWLER.

An old Japanese lady laughed at us as we were taking this photo. I think she was just NUTS though.

This freaked me out, this whole complex.

Then we got back to the main street that Harajuku station is on, and managed to walk back up! It was a lovely little detour, we walked a pretty good ways, it was super fun… except for being v. hungry for much of it. Travel tip: Remember to eat. Seriously.

Then we got back to the place that made their own donuts! Which was a lovely time. You can check it out in one of my Random Japan posts about Desert:

Loved the Hello Kitty/Lucky Cat mashup at the entrance to this Family Mart.

… and then we were at  the entrance to Takeshita Dori, the cool/cute/boutique shopping strip that runs parallel to Omotesando. It’s Jam-Packed with boutiques, restaurants, chains and more. You could spend a whole day just here, but as you can see the sun was starting to set so we didn’t dawdle.

Explicit anti-jerk instructions written in English. I mean, they still misspelled a bunch of the instructions, but… Yeah. I guess some people come here and are jerks and need to be told otherwise. :-/

Not only CAN you smoke in restaurants in Japan, you basically HAVE to smoke in restaurants in Japan.

This was a Faaaaaaaaabulous shop for drag queen clothing! I clearly was a) not gonna fit into anything and b) was not the intended audience, so I didn’t head in very far. But I did love it a great deal, and was happy to stumble over it. Sugoooooiiii!

I’ve run into some pretty strange versions of “tough” outfits in Japan, but I thought this sound-effects hoodie over-top of the Angry Goofy t-shirt was pretty badass. Didn’t have my size, alas.

And before you knew it, Takeshita emptied us back out onto the main shopping throughfare, right at the doorstep of the gorgeous “icecube” building that house the Japanese H&M flagship.

The then-recently-opened Forever 21 store is right next door, and I can’t tell if it’s ALWAYS that busy on a Sunday or if there was a special event, but the lineup to get in was surprising!

The infamous condom store kitty-corner to the gap. Biggest, pretty-big, and “smart” sized condoms. Heh. That is some brilliant-assed advertising right there.

The exterior of the Uniqlo t-shirt store was branded to celebrate the anniversary of Shonen Sunday magazine, and the store featured all kinds of Shonen Sunday t’s and signatures/original illos by creators including Adachi and Kubo.

Here’s a close-up on the Zetman (Zettman?) illo for Halliday, who’s a huge fan of this series.

The interior of the store is fantastically exciting, and all the shirts are sold in capusles!

We then ducked back up one of the boutiquey side-streets to check out some of these utterly fantastic clothing shops.

Love that Domino’s delivery bike.

We tripped across a zine show… 15 minutes after it closed! Soooo pissed off about that, as the idea of buying a bunch of handmade Japanese zines? That is an awesome idea I would like to participate in. Disappointing. I did meet the really lovely Maki from Presspop Gallery, and I encourage you all to check out their nifty blog:

We ducked back to the main street to visit Blister, the then-only-comic-book-store in Japan (for Western comics, superheroes and the like). I heard CB Cebulski say lovely things about it and was hoping to check it out. Sadly, they were closed to… and then they closed their doors for good a few months later. Too bad. :-/

One last look at the icecube building and then it was time to head back to the train station, and home for the evening. We were laden with packages and exhausted from walking for 8 or 9 hours around Tokyo, but it was a lot of fun.

I never did figure out what the hell this guy was selling, but speaking as a fat guy sweltering in the 40+ degree heat of Tokyo’s summer, I would certainly have purchased whatever gave him such refreshment. Feel free to translate this in the comments and make me feel more foolish than I already do :)

And that was Harajuku! Thanks for reading! I’ve got maybe 2 more posts from 2009, one on the Tezuka Museum, and one on Tsutaya. Hopefully I’ll get to those soon.

- Chris

8 Comments on “Japan 2009: Harajuku: Takeshita Dori and the back-streets of Harajuku”

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  1. Heather says:

    Umm, I’m not sure you really want to know all this but it looks like your ad is for what looks to be a mild, herbal diuretic/water pill to treat excess sweating (higher-dose pharmaceutical water pills are generally used to treat high blood pressure). At the bottom of the ad, the big hiragana letters say “pochari,” which means sweat (As in Pocari Sweat). The name brand at the upper-left is “Rhoto.” From these clues, I was able to find the webpage of the actual product:

    My Japanese is really not very good, so using, the explanation I get is that people with “plumping obesity” (bloating, I assume) are retaining too much water, which can result in excess sweating, fatigue and weight gain. Supposedly these pills will allow water to be released faster and easier (by urinating) so that balance can be restored to the body and you stop sweating so much. It seems pretty reasonable. Anyhow, there you go.

  2. Bitter Matt says:


  3. Chris says:

    Heather- Oh I just knew it had to be something weird and gross–that guy totally has that “I’m not constipated anymore!” look you see on the face of advertising here… Heh. Thanks for the quick translation job!

    Matt- Sorry for the lack of comics content, I’ll make up for it next time.

    - Chris

  4. Bitter Matt says:

    Huh? Actually, I don’t think that even occurred to me until I read your comment. Look at all the stuff in this post… it even has all-natural bloating remedies! :-)

    That said, I certainly look forward to whatever comics content you have in store for us.

  5. DeBT says:

    I’m still trying to figure out what the “No Tout!” anti-jerk sign is supposed to be signifying…

    Is it supposed to say “No Touch!” with a Man’s hand on a woman’s breast? That’s what it looks like to me anyways.

  6. Chris Pitzer says:

    Once again, your report amazes and delights! Thanks so much for doing this! I want to go!!!

  7. Fashion UK says:

    The UNIQLO store looks really impressive, they’ve also got some really cool UT t-shirts.

  8. john says:

    Is the tabasco sauce brand store still in Takeshita Dori? I’m still kicking myself for not buying a tie with tabasco labels all over it

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