Harajuku / Shibuya
Much like Shinjuku, Harajuku and Shibuya are two places where you’ll see interesting sights without having to plan your day around any specific attraction.
Starting from inside the Harajuku Station, take the Omotesando exit and walk outside, where you’ll see the (7) Harajuku Bridge. This is where the Goths, the Lolitas, and the cosplayers gather on Sunday. You may spot these Harajuku fashionistas if you’re lucky. When I was there — on a Sunday, no less — the bridge was quite empty. Maybe they were all watching the Ayumi Hamasaki concert happening in the stadium across the street, but I can’t be sure. Apparently, Harajuku Bridge was a lot more lively when the city used to closed down the streets to motor traffic every week for Harajuku Hokoten (again, hokoten = pedestrian paradise). Since Harajuku Hokoten was ended in the mid-90s, Harajuku Bridge has not been the same.
Cross the bridge and walk past the big wooden gate. This path will take you to (8) Meiji Jingu Shrine. If you come on a Sunday morning, you may be lucky enough to come across a wedding procession or two.
Head back toward the Harajuku Bridge, but don’t cross it. Instead, take a walk inside (9) Yoyogi Park. It’s a great place for people watching. When I was there, I saw old men starting up a drum circle, girls in platform shoes dancing in front of a camera, families having a picnic, and street performers doing magic and mimes.
Ready for some shopping? Go back out the park, cross the bridge, walk past Harajuku Station, and follow the crowd into (7) Takeshita-dori, a narrow street where teenagers shop and hang out.
At the end of Takeshita-dori, turn right. At the intersection, turn left into (10) Omote-sando, the main shopping street of Harajuku. High-end retail stores line the street on both sides. In fact, Omote-sando is called “Tokyo’s Champs-Elysees” thanks to the many flagship stores of luxury brands here. If you need a rest, there’s plenty of seating outside under the cool shade of the trees.
If you keep walking along Omote-sando, eventually you’ll reach Aoyama Dori. You can either take the train from Omote-sando Station to Shibuya or you can turn right here and just keep walking until you reach Shibuya. It will take you about 20 minutes on foot to get there.
When you reach Shibuya, head on over to the famous (11) Shibuya Crossing. A good place to sit down and watch people scramble in the Shibuya Crossing is the Starbucks in the Tsutaya/Q-Front building.
Image credit: Kakidai [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.