By Cathy Cawood
If you want to experience the epicentre of youth culture and fashion, a walking tour through Meiji Dori is highly recommended. I would suggest starting at the Shibuya train station, from there find the east exit. Meiji Dori will be directly in front of you running parallel to the station. Turn left and walk up towards Harajuku. Quite soon after going up this road you will see a staircase on your left which leads to Miyashita Park. Miyashita is a sports park that has designated areas for football, rock climbing and skateboarding. The Miyashita Skate Park is one of the best Tokyo has to offer and is well worth a visit for both skateboarders and spectators. There are also dozens of shops in this vicinity that sell decks, ready-made skateboards and skate shoes.
Further along the Meiji Dori you will see all kinds of shops that hint at the alternative subculture present in this area. Along the way I saw signage for two tattoo studios right in the hub of Meiji Dori. As you walk on you will notice the shops changing from mostly department stores to more independent fashion boutiques. The colour palette begins to get a little brighter and the style a bit crazier. Once this happens you will know you are in Harajuku, the site of alternative fashion.
After you pass the Starbucks in Harajuku I would recommend taking a detour up Takeshita Dori. Takeshita Dori is the famous shopping street in Harajuku where you will see the Lolita Goths browsing the shops looking for interesting ways to update their wardrobes. Walking through here for the first time can be a surreal experience. Expect bright colours, loud music and a lot of people. Get lost in Takeshita Dori for a while as it truly epitomises alternative youth fashion. You will discover some really unique shops and you can find some really good deals. Not only will you acquire a new outfit for yourself but one for your best friend, meaning your dog. Harajuku is also home to a pet fashion store that seems to take itself quite seriously.
On the other side of Meiji Dori directly opposite Takeshita Dori, you will find Harajuku Street. While Takeshita Dori is full of cheerful colours, Harajuku Street is slightly darker. The shops are a bit more hardcore and cater for a more masculine crowd.
Meiji Dori can be seen as a main artery that runs through the centre of alternative youth culture. From Meiji Dori you can detour to the main shopping district of Shibuya, Harajuku and Yoyogi Park, everything is in close proximity and makes for an enjoyable walk. I’m convinced there are many more interesting things to discover if you just venture up one of the side streets. I urge you to try it and see what you can find.
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I'm a young South African who has traveled many hours to visit the land of the rising sun. I'm a film studies postgraduate, with an interest in cinematography and photography. My mission is to document as much of Japan as possible for the duration of my stay.