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Takeshita Dori Harajuku
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50 things to do in Harajuku

Where to shop, eat and drink in Tokyo’s ‘kawaii’ capital

By Time Out Tokyo Editors and Kaila Imada
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Tokyo is massive and there are lots to see and do in the city, but if you just want to focus on the kawaii and fashion capital that is Harajuku, this list is for you. Harajuku is the neighbourhood that gave us Lolita girls, decora, the pancake boom and Kyary Pamyu Pamyu. This Shibuya neighbourhood has been the epicentre of Tokyo teen fashion (and vintage stores) for decades, and it's still nurturing unorthodox, garish styles even as big-name international retailers like H&M, Zara and American Eagle Outfitters muscle in on the area.

Join us on a trip around Harajuku's best restaurants, cafés, gift shops and fashion boutiques – lots of fashion boutiques. And if these 50 things to do in Harajuku aren't enough for you, make sure to check out our guide to Tokyo's very best shops.

2. Lick an adorable ice cream

Restaurants Ice-cream parlours Harajuku

This Harajuku ice cream stand is disguised as a pink ice cream vending machine, but you actually order from the staff hiding inside. You can choose your preferred ice cream animal including elephants, koalas, panda bears and more. Dobutsuen The Zoo Ice Cream Shop

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3. Shop for funky vintage

Shopping Vintage shops Harajuku

Hidden away in Harajuku’s popular vintage and consignment area, the shop is indeed funky, offering a mix of accessories, toys and clothing. The focus here is on fashion from the ’90s to the early 2000s, with the odd older piece thrown into the mix. Funktique

4. Explore a character menagerie

Shopping Harajuku

Snoopy and Hello Kitty are just two of the 80-odd children's characters you'll find on sale at Harajuku's most venerable toy shop, a five-floor emporium that first opened way back in 1950. Kiddy Land

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5. Go on a ¥100 shopping spree

Shopping Harajuku

From household products to cheap souvenirs, it's amazing what you can stumble across at this three-floor ¥100 shop, a low-cost landmark on bustling Takeshita-dori. Daiso Harajuku

6. A+S

Shopping Fashion Harajuku

Visit A+S, otherwise known as Architecture and Sneakers, for a dose of Tokyo’s ever-evolving streetwear and sneaker culture. Just as the shop name suggests, what you’ll find here is a well-edit selection of sneakers inside an immaculately designed space run by the folks behind Japanese streetwear label Soph. A+S

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7. Snap up some century-old spectacles

Shopping Eyewear Harajuku

If you're looking for an alternative to the latest eyewear trends, you can find something more distinctive at Solakzade, a boutique offering vintage glasses from as far back as the 1800s. Solakzade

8. Take a history lesson in Harajuku style

Shopping Harajuku

When gaudily dressed dance groups known as takenoko-zoku flocked to Harajuku in the mid-'70s and early-'80s, they bought their clothes at Boutique Takenoko. It's still there today, but stocks mainly Lolita and punk fashion now. Boutique Takenoko

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9. Indulge in some gyoza

Restaurants Gyoza Harajuku

There are just two styles of gyoza dumplings available at this no-frills eatery – fried or steamed – and they're as tasty as they are affordable (just ¥290 for six). Harajuku Gyoza Lou

10. Sift through today's coolest streetwear

Shopping Harajuku

Even among the shopping chaos that is Laforet, this store dealing in 'cutting-edge' fashion stands out from the rest. The neon lighting inside lends a quirky glow to styles from up-and-coming and edgy designers as well as a range of items from popular designer collabs. GR8

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11. Satisfy your sweet tooth

Shopping Chocolate and sweets Harajuku

Dig into a well-deserved sweet treat with a tasty waffle shot – simply a shot of espresso served in a chocolate-coated waffle cone at this dessert shop. Bonus, all their desserts are perfect for your Instagram feed. Anywhere Door

12. Have coffee with a hedgehog

Things to do Harajuku

They might not be the cuddliest, but hedgehogs sure are adorable creatures that we don't mind spending time with. Harry's Harajuku location is home to nine different types of hedgehogs you can pick up and admire along with your coffee. Hedgehog Café Harry Harajuku

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13. Dig for stylish designs

Shopping Omotesando

If you're looking for an unusual gift or just some fancy knickknacks for your apartment, you can always find something tempting at this Tokyo outpost of NYC's Museum of Modern Art. MoMA Design Store

14. Open up to cutting-edge culture

Art Harajuku

Want to keep abreast of the latest cultural currents in Tokyo? Start at Vacant, a popular spot that serves as concert venue, art gallery, theatre, cinema and just about everything else. Vacant

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15. Take notes from the bean specialists

Restaurants Coffeeshops Harajuku

Koffee Mameya is a coffee bean dealer with enough shebang to turn you into a proper barista at home. They sell between 15 and 20 varieties of beans sourced from five specific roasteries, so you'll also be able to distinguish your favourite in the long run. Koffee Mameya

16. Pick up some Gaga-grade garb

Shopping Harajuku

Basement boutique Dog has wooed some unusual customers with its blend of outlandish vintage and reworked clothing – not least Lady Gaga, who's visited incognito in the past. Dog

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17. Dine in proper 'kawaii' style

Restaurants Cafés Harajuku

As the name gives away, this café right by Laforet is packed with elements drawn from all things kawaii. It's a fantastic merry-go-round of super-cute elements, and offers four types of appropriately OTT seating in areas labelled Mushroom Disco, Milk Stand, Bar Experiment and Mel-Tea Room. Kawaii Monster Cafe

18. Make unique vintage finds

Shopping Omotesando

Inside this 'modern recycle shop' you’ll find a range of secondhand items, including antiques, furniture, clothing and art – many of which have been previously owned by celebrities. Pass the Baton

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19. Browse through endless amounts of music

Shopping Harajuku

Trusted among musos for its good taste, this independent record store collects vinyl and cassette tapes of indie bands from the US, the UK and Europe. Soak in the atmosphere at the bar space where you can enjoy Shiga Kogen beer, one of the best Japanese craft beers. Big Love

20. Hunt for rare designer clothes

Shopping Harajuku

A secondhand shop for brand-name clothing, Ragtag offers three floors' worth of used designer goods and furniture – perfect if you're hoping to stumble across a rare item. Ragtag Harajuku

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22. Lounge in style

Hotels Harajuku

Aiming to let guests experience the best of the surrounding area during their stay, this hotel's lounge hosts parties every Friday night. The art-filled rooms are stocked with made-in-Japan, environmentally friendly bathroom amenities, which can also be bought at the shop on the ground floor. Trunk Hotel

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23. Shop with the cool kids

Shopping Designer Shibuya

The first-ever flagship for Tokyo-based brand Ambush stretches across 140 square metres and its design remains true to the gender-neutral vibes of the brand’s collections. The store houses the brand’s conceptual jewellery alongside a growing number of its original apparel range. Ambush Workshop

24. Thrift your day away

Shopping Harajuku

This thrift shop in Harajuku is well worth visiting for bargain hunting, offering T-shirts from ¥735 and shirts from ¥945. There are plenty of quality items to be found if you dig around a bit, and it also stocks a range of accessories, including shoes, bags and sunglasses. Kinji

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25. Party it up, Harajuku style

Clubs Harajuku

Found on a back street not far from Jingu Stadium, Bonobo occupies an old two-storey house with a rooftop terrace. The ground-floor bar is complemented by a DJ booth and a lounge upstairs, which is where the frequent gigs and other music events take place. Bar Bonobo

26. Pick out fresh florals

Shopping Florists Harajuku

The florist has called this obscure Harajuku spot home for the last seven years and continues to turn out gorgeous bouquets and made-to-order arrangements. This secluded shop also has a sister store on Cat Street, where you can purchase both fresh and dry flowers. The Little Shop of Flowers Atelier

27. Get wrapped up in furoshiki

Shopping Harajuku

This beautiful shop specialises in traditional Japanese furoshiki wrapping cloths, which are used to wrap everything from bento lunch boxes to wine bottles and gifts. Musubi

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28. Savour a few microbrews

Bars and pubs Craft beer pubs Harajuku

It may be just around the corner from Takeshita-dori, but the teen fashion crowd feels a long way away at this intimate craft beer bar run by Numazu's Baird Brewing. Harajuku Taproom

29. Collect mugs from around Japan

Shopping Harajuku

Located down the backstreets of Takashita-dori, this shop houses over 400 different mugs and cups made by craftsmen and artisans from around Japan. On each shelf you’ll find a short description of where the mug is from and the artisan who made it – so you know you’re getting a work of art instead of a generic mug. Mug Pop

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31. Finish your shopathon with a song

Things to do Harajuku

Sing and dance to your heart's content at this staple karaoke joint in the heart of Harajuku. Continuing to bring in the crowds till the wee hours, complete your karaoke experience with food and drinks and you're set for the ultimate evening of fun. Just don't be a mic hog. Karaoke Kan

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Think of Things
Nacasa & Partners Inc.

32. Have a coffee with your stationery

Shopping Harajuku

This lifestyle shop-meets-café in Sendagaya seeks to 'straddle the boundary between work and life' – we hope that means a better work-life balance, but you can never be sure in this city; it might just mean 'turning your office into your apartment'. Think of Things

33. Dig through well-worn vintage finds

Shopping Harajuku

From a slew of cut-off denim shorts to vintage items sewn and remade into inventive pieces, this two-storey shop is filled with unique vintage finds as well as a selection of accessories to complete your look. Panama Boy

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34. Satisfy your hunger with a classic

Shopping Harajuku

Japan's longest-running crêpe shop started life as a food truck in 1976 before moving to its current home on Takeshita-dori. It's the quintessential Harajuku street food, whether you're having it sweet or with a savoury filling like tuna and curry sauce. Marion Crêpes

35. Admire priceless works from ukiyo-e masters

Art Harajuku

The late Seizo Ota, chairman of Toho Mutual Life Insurance, began collecting ukiyo-e prints after he saw that Japan was losing its traditional art to Western museums and collectors. Temporary exhibitions drawn from his 12,000-strong collection often include works by popular masters like Hiroshige and Hokusai. Ukiyo-e Ota Memorial Museum of Art

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37. Slurp some fancy noodles

Restaurants Harajuku

Dine on a fine selection of quality soba and traditional Japanese snacks at this serene spot located right above the hustle and bustle of Harajuku. Kamakura Matsubara-an Keyaki

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39. Build up a sweat and climb a wall

Sport and fitness Climbing Shibuya

Spread over three floors, this urban climbing gym overlooks Meiji-dori and is divided into beginner-intermediate, advanced and children's areas, making it the perfect place for family bouldering. Bouldering Studio Peki Peki

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40. Take a stroll through serene grounds

Attractions Religious buildings and sites Harajuku

Hidden behind the busy streets of Harajuku is this peaceful shrine dedicated to Admiral Togo, who served as commander of the Imperial fleet during the Russo-Japanese War in 1905. Togo Shrine

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42. Enjoy a latte or two

Restaurants Coffeeshops Harajuku

This uber-hip roastery and café on Cat Street is one of the city's flashiest specialist coffee haunts. Choose from two kinds of single-origin beans for your americano, latte or espresso. The coffee soft serves and suspiciously Cronut-like NY Rings are sure to satisfy sugar addicts. The Roastery

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44. Refresh your wardrobe

Shopping Vintage shops Harajuku

Hit up this cool shop on Cat Street for streetwear and a curated selection of vintage finds that will be the envy of everything else in your closet. From wacky patterned shirts to flowing dresses, their vintage selection is some of the best, while the hip hop-influenced T-shirts and sweatshirts make for the perfect mix. Unfollow

45. Have a tongue-tingling time

Restaurants Chinese Harajuku

Your taste buds are guaranteed a good workout at this long-running Chinese restaurant, which specialises in fiery Szechuan cuisine. The lunch sets, including a sizzling mapo dofu, are particularly good value. Ryu No Ko

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46. Step into Harajuku-style shoes

Shopping Shoes Harajuku

Be a bit adventurous with your next shoe purchase and browse through the flamboyant selection at this fun shop. Tokyo Bopper specialise in unique footwear styles and are best known for their ultra thick-soles which come in styles from boots to ballerina flats. Tokyo Bopper

47. Dine in the depths of Harajuku

Restaurants Japanese Harajuku

The perfect stop to wind down your day shopping through Harajuku and Omotesando, Negibouzu offers a range of classic izakaya dishes and drinks that will keep your taste buds happy and your stomach satisfied. Negibouzu

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48. Join Tokyo's stylish fashion scene

Shopping Fashion Harajuku

Dealing mainly in domestic brands like Mina Perhonen and Sina Suien, this boutique caters to 'girly but feminine' fashionistas and hosts regular exhibitions at the in-store gallery. Lamp Harajuku 

49. Shop like a Seoulite

Shopping Fashion Harajuku

The latest import from South Korea, this big pink building is filled with miracle-working Korean skincare and makeup products along with a selection of reasonably priced wearables for the trend-conscious. Style Nanda

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50. Follow your inner zen

Attractions Religious buildings and sites Harajuku

Exceedingly popular, this shrine opened in 1920 and continues to draw annual crowds of a million-plus. It also hosts numerous festivals, weddings and other events within its lush surrounds. Meiji Shrine & Inner Garden

Next up:

Nezu Shrine
Photo: Somchai Sinthop/Dreamstime

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