A trip to Tokyo is incomplete without exploring Harajuku fashion in the kawaii fashion capital of Harajuku. Step outside Harajuku train station and immerse yourself in Tokyo’s famous fashion style and get an insight into Japan’s fashion history.
Located in the Shibuya ward of Tokyo, Harajuku is an iconic shopping area that’s a haven for fashionistas keen to emulate the colourful style of iconic J-pop star Kyary Pamyu Pamyu. You’ll find everything from vintage fashion, independent designers and high street shops as well an impressive selection of shoe shops selling gravity-defying platform shoes (a key Harajuku trend).
When you fancy a bite to eat, allow yourself to be tempted by the Instagrammable pancakes and cute cafes dotted along the streets. You can even pick up some of the best beauty brands in Harajuku too, proving that yes, Harajuku really does have it all.
What’s so great about Harajuku fashion?
Harajuku style is all about self-expression and individuality. Combining multiple layers bright or pastel colours with bold patterns, the main appeal of the trend is the fact that it gives people the chance to have fun with their outfits.
Drawing inspiration from Lolita style, vintage fashion from bygone eras and cyber-punk, its origins date back to the ‘90s. The trend rose to popularity with the help of Japanese street style photographer Shoichi Aoki and his legendary FRUiTS magazine, which featured the latest Japanese street fashion styles.
Shopping for platform shoes in Harajuku
If you’re a fan of Japanese platform shoes, be prepared to collapse in Harajuku. There are so many shoe shops, it would be a tragic if you didn’t leave with a pair… or four depending on the level of your shoe obsession *cough cough*.
Stroll along the legendary Takeshita Street and you’ll find jaw-dropping platform shoes by Yosuke at Out of the World. Not for the faint-hearted, you can choose pastel coloured platforms, or chunky platform boots which you just know are going to cost you the majority of your suitcase allowance. Totally worth it, right?
There are plenty of side streets a short distance from Takeshita Street, like Cat Street, an area connecting Harajuku to Shibuya, ideal if you prefer to shop away from the crowds.
One of the most iconic Japanese footwear brands, Tokyo Bopper is located on Cat Street. If you don’t visit, you’re really missing out. Note: make sure you look for their name on the pavement outside and save yourselves a few hours walking up and down looking for the shop. You’re welcome.
Packed with achingly beautiful designs, Tokyo Bopper is paradise for shoe addicts. Famous for their thick platform shoes, there’s an impressive selection of ankle boots, trainer styles and ballet inspired heels. They also sell unique leather handbags and backpacks. It’s hardly surprising this shop has been going for over 18 years. You can check out a previous Look of the Week featuring one two of my Tokyo Bopper purchases.
Shopping for fashion, beauty and kawaii goodies in Harajuku
There are plenty of things to do in Harajuku. Not just a kawaii fashion hotspot, Harajuku has several beauty shops including Etude House and 3CE, (the latter is part of Style Nanda and sells quirky and modern fashion to satisfy your inner fashionista). Whether you’re looking for the hottest skin care or cute make up to get a dewy look popular, you’re bound to found them in both stores.
Prices vary for skin care in Harajuku and because Etude House and 3CE are Korean brands, they’re not necessarily cheaper but what’s great is that staff are incredibly helpful and give you generous free samples with purchases. If you’re a fellow sheet mask addict, you’ll be pleased to know Etude House regularly have special offers of buy one get one free on sheet masks packs.
The Line Friends store in the heart of Harajuku is where you’ll find cute characters based on the Line Friends messaging app. Be warned: your purse will definitely feel lighter when you leave.
Opposite Cat Street is Omotesando, a boulevard filled with designer boutiques and kawaii shops, like Kiddy Land. Kiddy Land is the perfect place to pick up treats of popular Japanese characters like Hello Kitty or Gudetama.
Harajuku is also home to Laforet, a department store that’s definitely worth visiting. Here, you can take your pick from a stunning selection of unique designers expressing their love for modern and Harajuku fashion styles.
Kawaii pancakes in Harajuku
Aside from beauty and fashion shops, Harajuku is also filled with a tempting selection of eateries including crepe shops. Selling a delicious range of sweet and savoury crepes, you really are spoiled for choice. Angel Crepes, located across the street from the 3CE beauty store is definitely worth a visit.
The change in Harajuku style
Although there are plenty of shops filled with colourful designs, it would appear that sadly, Harajuku style is on the decline. Whether it’s the rise of social media, or the trend for a more polished look appearance, it’s definitely not as evident on the streets of Tokyo as it once was.
Aoki closed FRUiTS magazine down in February 2017, citing that there weren’t enough ‘cool kids to photograph’ amid an increase in high street stores in Harajuku. I expected to see lot of Lolita outfits in Harajuku and it was surprising to only find a few people dressed in kawaii looks. Where’s Kyary Pamyu Pamyu when you need her?
Ultimately, Harajuku is a magical place where you never quite know what to expect until you visit. If you’re a big fan of Harajuku street fashion, I highly recommend you walk down its iconic fashion streets. You can also check out my Japanese inspired Look of the Week shot near Tokyo Tower for more inspiration.