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Fun and Hip Tokyo

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Young Hip Tokyo
Are cell phones (keitai 携帯) really that popular?  What makes a Harajuku girl?  Are those things on her feet shoes?  Come back from Tokyo knowing all the latest and greatest trends in arguably the most fashion-forward city in the world.  Below are the trendiest neighborhoods in Tokyo:
Shibuya-ku 渋谷区  (pronounced She-booyah!)
Booyah!  You just hit the trend-setting motherload.  Shibuya is a district in Tokyo three stops from Shinjuku on the Yamanote line.  This area serves as a stomping ground for the trendiest, fashion-forward teenagers in the city.  It's a cool place for window shopping, people watching and snacking on some seriously weird (but awesome) food.  Below are some of Shibuya's unique highlights:
Shibuya 109 渋谷109
What's Tokyo without a huge cylindrical mall for high school girls only? 
Shibuya 109
This shopping mecca with nine floors of girly Tokyo shopping silliness is a must see.  The cylindrical tower that makes its presence known isn't just a cool landmark to highlight the mall inside, it IS the mall.  The property is owned by the Tokyu Railroad Company, who coincidentally also own the very cool everything-store "Tokyu Hands".  Anyway "109" can be pronounced "To-kyu" (10, 9) in japanese so it's a clever way to let consumers know who runs the place.  We recommend taking the dizzying escalators to the 8th floor for some Cake or Omelette Rice at Ma Maison.  This way you get to ride the escalator up and witness all the girly, romantic, silly, and hot styles that make up this one-of-a-kind mall, and when you get those weird looks that you're just in there to freak out high school girls or steal the company's ideas for your own american version of 109 you can shrug your shoulders and point to the Ma Maison.  Hey, you're a foreigner and this place was recommended for all you know that's the best damn food in town! 
In 2010, we were in Shibuya and took some video for you:



Shibuya Crossing


When you exit Shibuya Station be sure to head for the "Hachiko" exit.  When you step out, you'll be at Shibuya Crossing, see the pic below:
Shibuya Crossing


Shibuya crossing is an intersection at the Hachiko exit in Shibuya station and is sometimes credited with being the busiest intersection in the world.  This famous crossing has been featured in "Lost in Translation", " The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift" and on the tv show "The Amazing Race" (Season 9).
It doesn't seem that crowded when you're there, but maybe that's because you're mesmerized by all those great video screens.  Shibuya crossing is also home to the world's busiest Starbucks.  I've never been (because my local Starbucks is busy enough) but it has a great view of the crossing. 
Starbucks Shibuya Crossing


Anyway, the video below shows the ground view at Shibuya Crossing and when he stops behind some people (to cross) he shows us the tall and red sign of Shibuya 109  to the left and the Starbucks to the right.

Harajuku-ku原宿(pronounced Hada-joo-ku)
One stop from Shibuya Station on the Yamanote line, this home to Harajuku girls on Sundays is a bright spot of creativity in the sometimes robotic futuristic world of Japan.  The people here walk to the beat of their own drummer and they don't care who likes it.  You can take your J-pop, pocky-lovin', sorry-self somewhere else if that's what you were expecting.  The teenagers that frequent this area are the (non-violent) punks of Tokyo, the outcasts, the goths, the lolitas of Japan and it's the best place for a tourist to NOT stick out like a sore thumb.
Yoyogi 代々木 Bridge
Leave the Harajuku Station and make a quick right and there you are, Yoyogi Bridge.  On a weekday, this area will look like any other boring bridge leading to a beautiful park.  On Sundays however the bridge is transformed into a sort of "stand & pose" runway for all sorts of unusually dressed models.  See pics below:
Harajuku Girls

 It's a great photo opportunity and they're happy to let you take their picture. 

Harajuku Girls
Most of the "models" are teenagers, although with its increasing popularity those girls who've graduated high school (and have respectable jobs or go to college now) who used to hang out at Yoyogi Bridge, will still hang out there. :-)   It used be that they had to hide their Harajuku outings from their parents, but recently some parents have taken to understanding this unique phenomenon and even let their children wear clothes like these every day.
If their parents won't let them leave the house that way they'll bring a set of clothes with them and walk across the street first to Takeshita Dori (see below) and change in the McDonald's bathroom.
Takeshita Dori 竹下通り (pronounced Tah-KAY-shh-tah DOH-dee)
What a cool name right?  Dori means "street" or "road" and Takeshita roughly translates as "Baby Bamboo" or maybe "Bamboo Sprout" but we like the name Baby Bamboo Road. 
Here's a YouTube video from our 2010 visit to Takeshita Dori:

The pic below shows Harajuku girls on Takeshita Dori, this is how the high school girls (like the ones above) would look before changing into their outrageous cosplay outfits.
High School Girls

and below is just a typical view of the street.

Takeshita Dori

Takeshita Dori is a pedestrian only shopping street with bargains aimed at hip teens with a tight budget.  There's a McDonald's and even a 100 Yen store.


Daiso ダイソー 100 Yen百円 Store 店

If you're thinking about bringing souvenirs back from Tokyo this place has it all and cheap.  100 Yen is about $1, and just like the 99cents only franchise in the U.S. it sells just about anything for a buck. Unlike the U.S., shopping at the 100Yen store in Tokyo is considered cool.  No reason to hide your cart or hang your head in shame, this place rocks!  With 7 floors of bargains you're sure to find something for mom, dad and even acquaintances at a price you can live with. 

Daiso 100 Yen Store


Some gift/souvenir suggestions include: chopsticks, bento boxes, miso soup bowls (with lids and w/o), cool snacks, japanese maps, japanese calligraphy sets, japanese tea pots, tea cups and all sorts of cool stuff.

See the YouTube video below for more information


Getting There - Shibuya


From Shinjuku 新宿 - Take the Yamanote 山手 line to Shibuya 渋谷 and follow signs to the Hachiko ハチ公 Exit*.

Price: 160

Time: 7 minutes

*and while you're there you might as well check out the statue of Hachiko, click here for more information.



From Nakano 中野 - Take the Chuo 中央 line or Chuo-Sobu 中央総武  line to Shinjuku and transfer to the Yamanote 山手 line to Shibuya 渋谷 follow signs to the Hachiko ハチ公 Exit.*

Price: 170

Time: 15 minutes

*and while you're there you might as well check out the statue of Hachiko, click here for more information.


Getting There - Harajuku


From Shinjuku 新宿 - Take the Yamanote 山手 line to Harajuku 原宿.

Price: 140

Time: 5 minutes


From Nakano 中野 - Take the Chuo 中央 line or Chuo-Sobu 中央総武  line to Shinjuku and transfer to the Yamanote 山手 line to Harajuku 原宿.

Price: 170

Time: 11 minutes