National | AT A GLANCE

In touristy Tokyo, Harajuku still stands out from the crowd

by Yoshiaki Miura

Staff Photographer

Harajuku, one of the most popular tourist spots for foreign visitors to Tokyo, is best known for Takeshita-dori, the narrow lane crammed with shops that runs for about 350 meters from JR Harajuku Station toward Meiji-dori.

In a survey earlier this year by global travel information website TripAdvisor, Harajuku was voted the most popular tourist destination in the country.

The street has become famous for its large number of shops and boutiques targeting youths, especially high school girls, with fashion items having unique — even peculiar — tastes.

Since Takeshita-dori has been designated by Shibuya Ward as an adult entertainment-free district, there are no pachinko parlors or “fuzoku” sex shops nearby. That is one of the reasons why schools from across the country choose the area as a major destination during their traditional trips to Tokyo.

The number of visitors peaks during spring break in March and Golden Week in late April and early May. According to data compiled by JR and Tokyo subway companies, an average of around 110,000 people visit the area every day.

After World War II, the Washington Heights housing facility for high-ranking U.S. servicemen was built in what is now Yoyogi Park. Not long after, shops selling furniture and toys to the U.S. residents began to spring up around Harajuku.

Local merchants say the current shape of Takeshita-dori based on youth fashion was formed in 1974, when a nine-story commercial complex called Palais France was built at the end of the street near Meiji-dori. The complex was demolished about a decade ago.

Kazuhiro Osozawa, head of the Takeshita-dori merchants association, said he hopes the shops in the area will make young people’s dreams come true.

This section, appearing on the first Monday of each month, offers a snapshot view of areas that may interest tourists.

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