Harajuku has long been an area frequented by fashion-sensitive youngsters.
On one side of the railway tracks is the tranquil greenery of Meiji Shrine on the other, Takeshita-dori, the narrow, always-crowded street of countless small stores selling accessories, clothes, gadgets and whatnots.
More recently, the stores of up-and-coming designers in the Ura-Harajuku area around the back alleys of Harajuku, along the Shibuya River landfill walkway, have become popular with fashion-conscious teenagers.
Kiddy Land (hours: 10 a.m.-9 p.m., closed every third Tuesday) is a popular toy store visited by many famous Japanese and overseas personalities.
Its six floors are filled with the latest toys, character goods and stationery.
Some of the recent hot sellers include i-dog, a robot dog that reacts and changes its facial expressions according to sounds and music it likes; the Tamago-cchi palm-size computerized creatures you breed and raise; and Flat Ball, a Frisbeelike object that suddenly turns into a ball when you throw it.
Zoff (11 a.m.-8:30 p.m. seven days a week), located outside JR Harajuku Station, sells eyeglasses for just 5,250, yen 7,350 yen and 9,450 yen. You can choose the frame color and design you want while enjoying a cup of tea in its new cafe.
Nuno Works (noon-8 p.m. seven days a week) is a highly recommended store specializing in original fabrics created in collaboration with artisan weavers throughout Japan.
Experimenting with various hand-printing techniques, including stencil dyeing, silk-screen and transfer prints, the craftsmen create textiles that are unique yet contemporary in design and color.
Nihondo Kampo Boutique (11 a.m.-8 p.m. seven days a week) is a chic Chinese herbal medicine store that you might mistake for a fashionable cafe.
It offers health counseling, Chinese herbal food tasting and a Chinese herbal drinks bar.
Two of the most outstanding museums in the area are the Nezu Institute of Fine Arts and the Ukiyo-e Ota Memorial Museum of Art.
Opened in 1941, the Nezu Institute of Fine Arts (9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., admission 1,000 yen for adults, closed every Monday) has a fine collection of antique paintings, calligraphy, sculpture, ceramics, lacquer ware, gold artwork, wooden crafts, dye prints and archaeological items from the Orient and the Occident.
Its collections of tea-ceremony items, Buddhist artwork and bronze artifacts from China are world famous. The museum shop sells a fine selection of Japanese items.
The Ukiyo-e Ota Memorial Museum of Art (10:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m., closed every Monday) specializes in ukiyo-e woodblock prints that influenced such Impressionist artists as Monet.
Though fairly small, the museum is noted for introducing the origins of ukiyo-e, as well as each stage of its production, and for the almost perfect condition of the preserved colors and materials of the masterpieces on display.
The tiny museum shop located on the basement floor is noted by art-lovers for selling Japanese “tenugui” cotton towels.
If you’re looking for Oriental antiques, Sokendo Sword Store (10 a.m.-7 p.m. seven days a week) is a unique store specializing in Japanese swords.
On display are items of museum-level value, which you can handle with the permission of the store staff.
Or there’s Fuji Torii (11 a.m.-6 p.m., closed every Tuesday and third Monday), which sells antiques as well as being involved in the design, production and sale of new handicrafts.
All of the merchandise is hand-painted and/or hand-crafted in Japan.
Oriental Bazaar (10 a.m.-7 p.m.,closed Thursdays), characterized by its eye-catching red lacquer columns, has long been a feature of Omotesando.
It sells Japanese interior goods and traditional crafts, ceramics and other Oriental goods at reasonable prices.
If you want a one-time, one-stop lesson in traditional crafts, the Japan Traditional Craft Center (11 a.m.-7 p.m., closed some Wednesdays and from Dec. 31 to Jan. 3) is for you.
From kimono, embroidery, dyed fabrics, Japanese paper and weaving to lacquer ware, ceramics, cloisonne, inlaid bamboo craft and wooden furniture, the works of modern Japanese artisans fill two floors of the Metropolitan Plaza in Ikebukuro.