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Introducing Harajuku & Aoyama

Harajuku’s colourful teen culture hits you as soon as you exit the station. Strolling down Takeshita-dōri is a rite of passage for anyone who has ever felt themselves outside the mainstream. Further down Omote-sandō, the boulevard that connects Harajuku and Aoyama, crowds become increasingly refined; moneyed Aoyama is where Japan’s leading designers have their flagship shops. Somewhere in between are the style mavens of Ura-Hara, Harajuku’s backstreets, where street trends are born.

On weekends in particular, this is the city’s living catwalk. Harajuku and Aoyama have a powerful allure that draws shoppers from all over Japan, and increasingly from around Asia, too. Saturdays and Sundays can be incredibly crowded.

There’s a lot more to do than just shop. There’s Meiji-jingū, one of the city’s top attractions, and a handful of excellent museums, both traditional and modern. The weekend scene in Yoyogi-kōen is worth checking out, too. Broad Omote-sandō, once the official road leading to the shrine, is now adorned with luxury brand boutiques designed by leading Japanese architects; for fans of contemporary architecture, this is a must-see. There’s a healthy cafe culture and some good restaurants, too.

Once the shops close, Harajuku becomes a much quieter place. Aoyama too, though there are some high-end establishments here that fuel the well-heeled after hours. This may be no place to bar-hop, but after a long day you could do worse than making yourself at home in one of the many cafes here that stay open late.