Hidden Harajuku: Exploring the Back Streets
April 20, 2016
Harajuku is famous for being the vibrant neon epicenter of youth fashion and kitsch crepes. However, if you venture a little further into the back streets known as “ura Harajuku” (or "ura Hara" for short) you will find that there are many hidden gems waiting to be discovered. Read on for a few of our favorites.
Design Festa Gallery
Once you stumble across the quirky Design Festa Gallery you will wonder how you never knew it was there before! Showcasing a rotating array of local artists and photographers, this unique place provides welcome relief from the crowds of shoppers yet still provides the buzz of creativity from young Japanese artists. Admission is free and the work is unregulated inside the two buildings and 21 exhibition spaces. There is a café and a bar with English speaking staff where you can enjoy the graffiti art on the walls around you. There is also a fun okonomiyaki restaurant where you can try this delicious dish from the Kansai region. If you have never tried okonomiyaki before then you are in for a treat! Often described as a savory pancake or cabbage pizza, words do not do it justice, and this is comfort food at its finest. The staff will help you to prepare it on a hot skillet at your table and you can choose your fillings.
Address: 3-20-2 and 3-20-18 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Open: Daily, 11 a.m.–8 p.m.
Fortune Telling by the Harajuku Haha
Tucked away on a side street near the famous Eggs ‘n’ Things café, you will find the mystical tarot studio of Suzuko Sugano, also known as the “Harajuku Haha,” meaning the “Mother of Harajuku.” Based in the area for over 20 years, young girls would come to her for fortune telling when they were having boyfriend troubles and soon her reputation as the Mother of Harajuku spread. Stepping into her studio is like visiting your grandmother. You will find yourself in the comfort of vintage pink wallpaper and kitsch soft furnishings. Sugano offers tarot card readings in Japanese only, so be sure to take a friend with you to translate or simply select a five-minute session and see which cards she pulls for you!
Address: 501 Cosmo Harajuku, 4-31-11 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Open: Daily, 12–8 p.m.
The Lace Center and British Indian Cafe
A curious combination, this quaint building would not look out of place in a village in England. On street level, you can step inside this cosy café for an Indian meal and a cup of hot sweet chai. Upstairs you will find the Lace Center Harajuku. Selling lace products from Japan and England, the staff also offer lectures and workshops on lace. An anecdote to the modern chaos of Harajuku, this charming building is a doorway to the past where you can dream of days gone by!
Address: 3-27-7 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Open: Thu–Tue, 11 a.m.–7 p.m.
Bach Original Flower Remedies
If you need a little pick-me-up, the Bach Original Flower Remedies studio is a hidden oasis of calm. Indicated by a discreet sign on the outside of the building, if you walk down the street to the right of Ralph Lauren then you should find it on the right-hand side. The helpful staff will give you advice on which flower remedies are best suited to your ailment or physical condition. As well as the traditional flower remedies, the store also stocks a range of natural beauty products and a small selection of crystal jewelry.
Address: 4-24-23 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Open: Mon–Sat, 12–7 p.m. (closed on national holidays)
Looking for used or vintage clothing in Harajuku? Check out five of our favorite shops here.