My 24-year old nephew, Cavin, is my guest again, further unpacking the charm of Japan. He has returned stateside after living in Japan for two years. Here’s why he thinks everyone visiting Tokyo should check out the wards of Harajuku and Shibuya at least once.
Lea: Cavin, if I am planning a trip to Toyko, why should I visit the areas of Harajuku and Shibuya?
Cavin: Harajuku is one of 23 city wards, and Harajuku is hopping! The district is well known for its fashion-forward statements and colorful street art. You’ll see everything from vintage clothing to cosplay along Takeshita Street. Harajuku is also packed with tiny bars and trendy cafes. It’s the bubbly center of Japanese youth culture and fashion. It’s neon lights and eclectic collection of people will remind you of Time’s Square in New York City.
There are also places like cat and dog cafes. I went to a place called Harry Harajuku Terrace (Harry’s Zoo). Harry’s is for anyone that loves animals. You can pet cats, hedgehogs, chinchillas, prairie dogs, bunnies, and otters. I loved it, and it’s something I have never experienced anywhere else. The price was really reasonable.
Lea: We are a family of foodies, so you know I am going to ask about the food.
Cavin: The food is bright, colorful, and usually somekind of twist on a traditional dish. You might find blue ramen or burgers designed like muppet monsters. The cafes aren’t that expensive so you can try lots of different treats.
Lea: You mentioned that Harajuku is famous for its fashion. What did you love about the fashion?
Cavin: The youth are pushing their own style. They are more concerned about what they are wearing than who they are wearing. They don’t seem to care about labels like we do here. It’s hip and cool…it’s trendy Japan. It’s where the young people express themselves through dress, and there are as many styles as there are people. You’ll catch a glimpse of the dozens of subcultures in Japan. People my age maybe be putting their own spin on the traditional dress or designing something completely outrageous. No matter your age, it’s probably the best place to people watch in Toyko.
Lea: What about Harajuku’s neighboring ward of Shibuya?
Cavin: Shibuya, another district, is a major commercial and shopping center. It hosts the two busiest railway stations in the world, Shinjuku Station and Shibuya Station. They shuttle more than 2 million passengers every day. It’s like Grand Central Station in New York City. People might recognize Shibuya Station from the story of Hachikō, the Akita who waited every day for the return of his owner, a professor at the Tokyo Imperial University. Even after the death of his owner, Hachikō continued to wait for more nine years!
In Shibuya you can walk to Yoyogi, one of Tokyo’s largest parks. It has plenty of grassy areas, gardens, forests, and ponds. There are a ton of ginkgo trees that make it a beautiful place to walk in the fall. It’s an oasis in the middle of the hustle and bustle of Toyko. There are, however, plenty of opportunities to listen to live music and watch street performers. There’s even a tea house where you can experience a traditional tea ceremony. You can purchase a complete experience, where you are dressed in traditional kimonos for the tea ceremony. Yoyogi Park is a popular place for local business people to take their lunch…it’s like the Central Park of Toyko.
Between the two districts you can experience much of what is weird and wonderful about Japan and maybe that’s the best reason of all to visit Harajuku and Shibuya.
If you’d like to hear more of Cavin’s insights on Japan please like, share, and comment on this post.