The vibrant, colorful, and kawaii culture of Harajuku, Japan’s street fashion capital, showcases its youthful and fun vibe. The epicenter of this trendy and cutting-edge fashion hub is Takeshita Dori (Takeshita Street) and its nearby alleys—with rows and rows of fashion boutiques, used clothing stores, and shops selling anything that exudes extreme cuteness. Harajuku starkly contrasts with to Omotesando Hills to its south, with luxe designer brands, classy cafes, and high-end restaurants.
Aside from the lively ambiance of Harajuku due to the influx of teens and teen-at-heart visitors, Harajuku also is home to various historical shrines and museums. After basking in the fashion, culture, and cuteness of Harajuku, go ahead and sink your teeth into the sweet, savory, and Instagrammable offerings of Harajuku. Let’s head on and unravel the delectable eats of this hub of youth culture, and find out where to eat in Harajuku.
Harajuku is abundant with themed cafes to give you a cuteness overload. The themes don't just extend to the interior decor, but also to the menu and the way the food is served. The Kawaii Monster Cafe, produced by Sebastian Masuda (the art director for pop star Kyary Pamyu Pamyu's videos), is responsible for the decor of the cafe: scarily cute and colorful. A cake-shaped carousel adorned with unicorns will greet you as you enter the restaurant. The entire café is segmented into four: the Mushroom Disco, which has a unique gossip section solely for the ladies; the Milk Stand, which is decorated with animal heads drinking milk from baby bottles; the Mel-Tea Room with seats that look like melting ice cream; and the bar area, or the Bar Experiment, with a humongous jellyfish towering over it. Must-try on the menu include Colorful Rainbow Pasta and various desserts like Colorful Poison Parfait Extreme. The costumed servers are also a sight to behold, so make sure you stay for their dance performance.
Sanrio, the iconic Japanese company that is known for its kawaii characters, evidently lived up to the brand with its Pompompurin Cafe. Pompompurin is a yellow golden retriever character of Sanrio and is the central concept in the all yellow-and-brown cafe. The menu carries curry rice and pasta sets as well as desserts priced at ¥990 to ¥1490 per set. All of these food items are branded with Pompompurin in some way, from the shape of the rice to the small Pompompurin characters on the plate.
Crepe: a paper-thin and pancake-like pastry which is either filled with a sweet or savory filling. Harakuju is home to some of the most delicious crepe shops in Japan. Angel’s Heart is easily recognizable with its pink heart and yellow neon light decor and shelves filled with replicas of crepes, with prices starting at ¥350. Another early player in the Harajuku crepe game is Marion Crepes, which began in 1976. Marion’s blue and red stall is iconic, with a display case of the various crepe variants. A must try crepe flavor is #21, Custard Chocolate Special. Other offerings at Marion Crepes include matcha crepes and strawberry cheesecake.
Croquant chou? Sounds French, right? Well, croquant means "crisp" in French while "choux" is a type of pastry used in cream puffs. In Harajuku, this French treat has been given an upgrade thanks to Zaku Zaku. The highlight of Zaku Zaku’s croquant chou is its crispy croquant made from the freshest egg whites and sugar combined with Hokkaido flour, and the milky custard cream filling, paired with almonds for that additional crunch at ¥250 per piece. The store also offers soft-serve ice cream with almond crunch at ¥450.
Your sweet tooth will be surely satisfied with the saccharine rainbow-tinted cotton candy from Totti Candy Factory, which you can see being made right before your eyes. It's super-sharable and very Instagram-worthy. Also sold in this candy land are different cake pops and lollipops. Each cotton candy costs in between ¥300 to ¥900, with the exclusive "Harajuku Special Cotton Candy" coming in at ¥900.
Not sure where to eat in Harajuku if you don't have a sweet tooth? For a break from all the sugar, hit up Harajuku Gyozaro. Shell out just ¥290 and you can savor some no-frills gyoza, served either pan-fried or steamed. For some contrast in texture, order the fried version, the thin wrapper is cooked to an absolute crisp and the savory sweet, meaty goodness explodes in your mouth with every bite. It's affordable, fast, and delicious.
Meanwhile, for an authentic mame daifuku (bean-filled mochi) experience, head on to Mizuho, a Japanese confectionery. The fist-sized mochi ball is served with velvety rich azuki bean paste, definitely worth trying. It's very subtly sweet and absolutely packed with azuki. They also have monaka (sweet bean paste encased in two thin wafers). But go early before they sell out!
Once you've shopped till you want to drop, why not revive yourself with a cup of coffee? Check out Koffee Mameya (literally, "beans shops") in Harajuku. It's a minimalist coffee beans shop where you can have a crash course about coffee beans. The baristas, knowledgable coffee doctors, will teach you a thing or two about the darkness of the roast and the origin of the beans. They will also prescribe you the right bean for your preferred kind of cup.
Feel like partying? Check out Bar Bonobo, a small cocktail bar hidden under transparent curtains and wooden doors. Bonobo features a library with an extensive collection of magazines about Japanese pop rock and art, to the tune of amateur DJs spinning turntables freely. On clear nights, screens are opened to add additional space for dancing while live music blazes from the basement, and sometimes barbeques or takoyaki parties are organized on the terrace. Drinks cost around ¥600-800. You can order a whisky highball, wine, beer, or a fruity cocktail. There are also tasty pastries and cakes, but they're snapped up pretty quickly. The crowd is a range of youths to mid-thirties who come to enjoy good drinks and tunes.
Harajuku is a breeding area for anything kawaii; the face of Japan's street fashion. Patronized by fashionistas and budding photographers, Harajuku reflects the bold, bizarre, and hip culture of Japan, which has made a name for itself internationally. Now that you know where to eat in Harajuku, have fun munching on crepes and slipping into themed cafes in this creative and trendy Tokyo neighborhood.
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