The districts of Harajuku and Omotesando might be next door, but they're also worlds apart.
Both are hubs of Japanese and international fashion, packed with clothing stores, trendy cafes, design houses and fashionable locals strolling the maze of streets. However, their aesthetics couldn't be more opposed.
Harajuku and Omotesando are both easily accessible by train.
Take the JR Yamanote Line to Harajuku Station for Harajuku's Takeshita Street or the Metro Chiyoda Line to Meiji Jingumae for Omotesando. Both areas are connected by a main boulevard, so the best way to travel around is by foot.
Takeshita Street in Harajuku is the center of Tokyo's street fashion scene
Omotesando is the approach to the Meiji Shrine, opened in 1920
The bridge by Harajuku Station is a popular spot for cosplayers and rockabilly dancers
While Harajuku is always on the forefront of the next big local trend, Omotesando focuses on the international and timeless. While Omotesando is all about luxury brands, the streets of Harajuku are overflowing with thrift store jackets and novel accessories.
Though their attitudes can contrast at times, these two Tokyo hotspots share a unique sense of cultural harmony and mutual appreciation that you won't find anywhere else. If Harajuku is the cool teenager, then Omotesando is the more mature and sophisticated older sibling.
For cheap, fun trends, make your way to Takeshita Street in Harajuku . Here you'll find upcoming trendsetting boutiques like Nadia Flores en el Corazon sharing walls with more iconic long-term staples like Dog, known to be frequented by fashion icons like Lady Gaga. Keep an eye out for deals as you dig through the shelves, and don't forget Daiso and Thank You Mart, Takeshita's two big discount stores.
Weave your way through the back streets that shoot off Takeshita to uncover a variety of tiny shops and at the end cross the main road to find Harajuku's sneaker district (look for the small alleyway to the right of Murasaki Sports). For the ultimate in "kawaii" fashion, be sure to stop by 6% Dokidoki, located near Meiji Jingumae station behind the Kawaii Monster Cafe.
Over the past few years, Omotesando has become Japan's home of modern high-end fashion, with many designer labels setting up stores along the lavish and spacious boulevards that line the area. The second biggest upscale shopping neighborhood after Ginza, Omotesando differs from Ginza by focusing on more contemporary names like Maison Margiela, H&M, and MVRDV over classics like Dior and Prada (although both have locations in the area). Head to the iconic Omotesando Hills mall for seven floors of high-end fashion.
Physically and aesthetically between Harajuku and Omotesando lies Cat Street. A little more upmarket than Takeshita Street's offerings and less expensive than Omotesando, this popular local shopping destination is filled with some of the best variety of stores and cafes in Tokyo.
In addition to high-end upscale shopping and cutting-edge trends, the corners of these two neighborhoods are filled with rich history. Harajuku is home to Meiji Jingu Shrine , one of the city's most famous and well-trodden spiritual sites, and one of the area's largest green spaces. Originally completed in 1920, the shrine was destroyed during the Second World War, but was rebuilt not long after.
Omotesando is the front approach leading to Meiji Shrine , with the Japanese "omote" meaning "front" and "sando" meaning "approach."
If there's one thing that connects the Omotesando and Harajuku areas, it's a love of art. Both neighborhoods are filled with mainstream and independent galleries displaying works from both local and international artists.