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If you have just landed in Tokyo, then this is a perfect introductory self-guided walking tour itinerary for Tokyo. You will explore Shibuya and Harajuku.
We will start at the famous Shibuya Crossing and scout the entire area. Next, we will continue on to Harajuku and tour Takeshita Street, Meiji Shrine, Yoyogi Park. Finally, we will discover Omotesando and do some shopping. Welcome to Tokyo!
Shibuya and Harajuku Walking Tour Map
Following is Shibuya and Harajuku walking tour map that I will be referring to throughout my post.
Shibuya and Harajuku tour starts in the front of Shibuya Station. Furthermore, Shibuya Station is marked as “A” on the map.
In order to get to Shibuya Station, you can either use JR East or Tokyo Metro. If you are a holder of JR Pass, then you should use JR East line called Yamanote. It stops at Shibuya Station and the cost of your trip will be covered by the pass. If you are going to use Tokyo Metro, then there are several lines that will bring you to Shibuya Station. You can use Ginza, Fukutoshin, or Hanzonmon Line.
Notably, Shibuya Station sits in the heart of the famous fashion, shopping and entertainment district of Shibuya. By the way, the station is the third busiest train station in Tokyo, after Shinjuku and Ikebukuro, with around 2.4 million passenger movements per weekday. However, it is clearly marked and easy to navigate.
Shibuya Station has five exits. The exit you need to take is called Hachiko. I have attached a link to JR East Shibuya Station Map. This is the map that I used and found the exit with no problems.
Statute of Hachiko
When you exit Shibuya Station via Hachiko Exit, you will encounter the famous Hachiko’s Statue.
As you know from the movie Hachi: A Dog’s Tale Hachiko was an extremely loyal dog who kept up his daily routine of waiting for his owner, Professor Ueno, in front of the Shibuya Station even after Professor’s death. Consequently, Hachiko was honored with a statue.
By the way, this is a great spot to take some pictures with the famous dog.
Next, right in the front of you will be the famous Shibuya Crossing. By the way, going to Tokyo and not doing the scramble through Shibuya Crossing is like going to China and not seeing the Great Wall, or like going to India and not visiting the Taj. It is not a cliché, you must experience Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo.
I would recommend watching a few rounds of the scramble before plunging into the crowd.
Specifically, five streets intersect each other at the Shibuya Crossing. The lights change every two minutes and within these two minutes large crowds collect at the curb. Once the lights change, the massive flooding of the street starts. It is amazing that everyone finishes on time.
On top of that, Shibuya Crossing is smothered in billboards, sound commercials, and every size and color of neon lights possible seems to be there.
Now you are ready to do the scramble! And, hustle! You have two minutes to make your way to the other side. You will feel like a small fish in a large ocean.
Here is a short video that I took: Shibuya Scramble
For full details on how to have the best experience and where to go for the best views of Shibuya Crossing, read my post Shibuya Crossing – An Icon Of Modern Tokyo
Across the road from Shibuya Station is Center Gai, or Sentagai. It is a short pedestrian street in Shibuya that’s famous throughout Japan. Following is a map that will help you locate the street.
I think that it is the busiest and most youth-focused street in Shibuya. Center Gai is full of neon lights, advertising boards, and giant TV screens. Game arcades, music shops, fast food joints, cafes and pachinko line up the street.
Center Gai attracts various Tokyo’s subcultures. The most visible subculture at Center Gai is Gyaru. Gyaru is Japanese English for “gal” and Gyaru style is a girly-glam style. Gyaru are trend seekers who change their style every few months. The one constant feature is a Japanese beach style — dark tanned skin and surfer girl hair.
Continue past Center Gai and you will reach Hikarie. It is no more than 10-minute walk. Following is a map that will help you navigate through the area:
Once you get to Hikarie, hop on the elevator and go to the Sky Lobby. It is located on the 16th floor. Here, you will get the best views of Shibuya and beyond. In addition, you will find a lot of restaurants here, if you want to get something to eat.
Moreover, the floors are open till 11 pm. It is a fun place to hang out in the evening and catch some awesome views of Tokyo at night.
Now, retrace your steps and head back to the Shibuya Crossing. Locate Shibuya 109. A tall building clearly signed – 109.
A visit to 109 is a must. It is a teen girl’s paradise, floor after floor is dedicated to a seemingly endless array of wearable art.
Consequently, ten floors house more than a hundred boutiques; music blares from speakers at every turn, and store associates shout their hearts out trying to lure you in. Furthermore, if you are visiting on a weekend, the place will be jam-packed with shoppers.
Shibuya and Harajuku tour will give you an insight into Tokyo’s youth fashion culture and even if fashion is not your thing, it’s well worth to stop by Shibuya 109.
Don Quijote (“Donki”)
Next, continue past Shibuya 109 to Don Quijote (“Donki”). You will not miss it. It is maybe a 10-minute walk.
Don Quijote (“Donki”) is a giant discount chain store found all over Japan. It sells all kinds of cool, fascinating, waky, random, cheapo stuff. I guarantee that you will find something to buy here. The shelves are crammed with goods and the noise level is high with a constant “don don don donki” theme song blasting out of in-store speakers.
Shibuya and Harajuku Tour Continues
Now, let’s continue our tour and head on to Harajuku. It is about 20-minute walk from Shibuya Station to Harakuju Station. If the weather is nice, and you feel like walking, then take Inokashira Dori.
If you absolutely do not want to walk, then hop on JR East Yamanote Line and get off at Harajuku Station.
For full details on Harajuku, read my blog post: Complete Guide to Harajuku in Tokyo
The focal point of Harajuku is Takeshita Street. Notably, the street is narrow and tightly packed with trendy shops, high fashion boutiques, and used clothing stores. Needless to say, every single day of the year, Takeshita Street is extremely busy and jam-packed.
Both locals and tourists love to stroll through this shopping mecca of the world, hang out, and check out the latest trends.
Takeshita Street is a birthplace of many of Japan’s fashion trends and a symbol of teenage culture. Harajuku Fashion is one of the fashion trends that originated here.
Incidentally, Harajuku’s start as a center of fashion and youth culture came after WWII. US Army barracks, called Washington Heights, were built here. Shops that catered to the military families followed. This attracted young people curious about the western culture.
In 1964 when the Olympic Games came to Tokyo, Washington Heights became the Olympic Village housing the athletes. People from all over Japan came to Harajuku for a chance to meet the athletes. In 1978, the Laforet fashion mall was opened and it quickly became Harajuku’s main attraction. It changed from being a place, into being a concept. Hence, Harajuku Fashion was born. It stood for energy, change and novelty.
On the whole, trends come and go at lightning speed on Takeshita Street: Decora, Goth-Loli, Cyber-Punk, Mori Girl, the list is endless. Many happen at the same time, and influence each other. Often, it is impossible to determine what gave birth to what.
Harajuku Shopping and Food Sampling
What is a visit to Takeshita Street without some shopping?
Personally, I skipped the high fashion shops and focused on sampling some of the food. First, you need to head on to Totti Candy Factory and buy their giant cotton candy.
Second, you need to try some crepes. It is hard decide which filling to choose from. All of the plastic displays look so good. I settled on a crepe with Caesar salad and chicken filling and afterwards, I had another crepe with cheesecake and raspberries filling.
Where do you find the best crepes on Takeshita Street? You have several choices: Angels Heart, Marion Crepes and Santa Monica Crepes.
And, if you want my opinion, definitely head on to Angels Heart. As they say, the devil is in the details and these people know all about crepes! They make fresh crepes right in front of you and have the best fillings as well. In addition, do not be be alarmed by a long line, it moves with a lightning speed, because they run the best operation.
Cosplay is dressing as a character in an anime cartoon, a manga comic, a movie, or a video game and acting as them. What better place to spot some amazing Japanese fashion and cosplay than Harajuku?
For a change of pace and scenery, let’s head on to Meiji Shrine. You need to re-trace your steps back to Harajuku Station and continue past the station. The entrance to the Meiji Shrine grounds will be on your right.
Following is the map of the Meiji Shrine grounds that I used and it will help you navigate through the area.
Meiji Shrine (Meiji Jingu) is a large Shinto shrine built in 1920 dedicated to the souls of Emperor Meiji (1852-1912) and his wife, Empress Shoken (1849-1914).
Emperor Meiji became a ruler in 1867 at the time when Japan saw the violent end of over 260 years of Tokugawa rule. Emperor Meiji led the industrialization, urbanization and colonial expansion of Japan.
Meiji Shrine Tour
The tour starts at the torii gate, which is the entrance to the Meiji Shrine grounds. You need to continue along a path lined by large cedar trees. The path will lead you to the shrine.
If you are visiting in late June, make sure to stop by the beautiful Inner Garden (admission is 500 yen). It is filled with over 150 species of irises which are in full bloom in late June. It is said the Emperor Meiji designed the garden himself for the pleasure of his wife.
Next, explore the Treasure House Annex (admission is 500 yen). You will see the royal couple’s clothes and personal things on display.
Also, check out Kaguraden for sacred kagura dances.
The admission to shrine grounds is free. However, It costs 500 yen to see the irises and 500 yen to enter the Treasure Museum Annex (Bunkakan). You can visit the shrine grounds from sunrise to sunset, but the garden and the museum hours are 10 am to 4 pm.
The park that surrounds Meiji Jingu Shrine contains some 120,000 trees of 365 different species. Spring is the best time to visit.
However, if you are visiting in winter, stop by the North Pond in the front of the Treasure Museum – you will see a lot of beautiful Mandarin ducks.
Every Sunday famous Rockabilly Club performs in the park. It is fun to watch them. You can find them at the Harajuku entrance to Yoyogi Park.
Omotesando starts right in the front of the entrance to the Meiji Shrine grounds. All you have to do is cross the street and there you are. (If you decide to skip the Meiji Shrine or the park, and go straight to Omotesando from Takeshita Street, just exit Takeshita and head south.)
Omotesando is a broad, tree lined avenue often referred to as Tokyo’s Champ Elysees. Here, you can find famous brand name shops, elegant cafes and upscale restaurants. I will discuss some of my favorite stops along this street.
Tokyu Plaza is worth stopping by and riding the escalator. The faceted mirrors all around the escalator reflect off each other like a cut diamond.
Omotesando Hills complex designed by Ando Tadao has intriguing design elements .
It contains hundreds of boutiques, restaurants and beauty shops.
WNext stop is Kiddy Land. The store transcends age and nationality and immerses all visitors in the joy of Japan’s kawaii culture.
The store is virtually a theme park of character goods.
There are four specialty shops:
- SNOOPY TOWN Shop Harajuku, carrying all the familiar faces from the cartoon Peanuts
- PrismStone, a rendition of the shop in the anime Pretty Rhythm: Dear My Future
- Rilakkuma Store Harajuku, whose cuddly bear boasts enduring popularity
- Hello Kitty Store Harajuku, featuring one of Japan’s iconic characters
Shibuya and Harajuku tour ends in Omotesando.
If I were you, I would head back to Hikarie, grab dinner there and soak in some great sunset views of Tokyo.
If you need more ideas for sightseeing in Tokyo, check out my blog post on Tsukiji Market. It is a number one attraction in Tokyo: Tsukiji Market Should Be #1 on Your Tokyo Bucket List
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