The history of Harajuku is really interesting (more HERE). And, like all good things, it came into fashion in the 1970’s because of 1970’s fashion. I, myself, arrived more recently with a list of ‘must see’ shops, giddy with excitement and the hope of finding a few vintage kimonos to bring home. The concierge at my hotel gave me a list of places to buy beautiful, handmade kimonos, but upon insisting that I wanted vintage ones, he sketched out a rough map that would lead me to a tiny retail hut in one of the side streets off of another side street, in the alley of mazes that make up Harajuku.
I love traveling by myself, and this adventure was a great solo mission. I wanted to explore the myriad of mazes, side streets and minuscule retail outposts. Not speaking or reading the local language made it a bit more interesting for me to navigate, but I was pleasantly surprised by how willing my fellow humans were to play a crude form of charades so that we could communicate. During my trip I rarely came upon anyone who spoke English- not that I expected anyone to, but most of the shops were blasting Kanye West or Chance the Rapper and selling an astonishing amount of items with the word Chicago splashed across them. There were two definite themes that I found running through these cool little shops that did surprise me though- first, the Chicago rap scene and second, the Santa Monica California lifestyle. It was Chicago Rap, mixed with Hollister/California in Tokyo. I was into it. It was not what I expected, but should you really expect anything when you’re entering one of the world’s most famous street fashion neighborhoods? Probably not.
Just about every corner had a ‘Santa Monica Crepe’ vendor, splashing out giant, decadent crepes, the likes that I’ve never scene before. It was like enormous waffle cones, loaded with every sweet thing imaginable. There were places advertising ‘California Breakfast Food’ which I found to be mostly eggs and juices. The Cotton Candy vendors spun some amazing creations as well. There did not appear to be much traditional Japanese cuisine, but the treats were so magical, ‘real food’ didn’t really stand much of a chance.
I did find my vintage kimonos near the end of my jaunt and had a lovely game of charades figuring out how to wear them. Despite the rain, the aesthetic of Harajuku that day can best be described as: rainbow, unicorn, glitter, fantasy. The trip was a success and this is a place that I can’t wait to bring my kiddos back to so they can experience it.