Aoyama (Blue Mountain in Japanese) is located just southeast of Omotesando/Harajuku in western Tokyo. The area is mostly shopping, but it’s worth a look and provides a nice stroll. The town is named after the late samurai Aoyama Tadanari, who was a daimyo in the area during Tokugawa Shogunate rule.
A main street named Aoyama-dori runs south-northeast through the town. You can start anywhere on the street, but if you head east, then south from Omote-sando Station, you can start at the Ao Building:
At the very south end of Aoyama-dori is a large building + complex called Ao Building. Itcontains a Kinokuniya bookstore, 2 outstanding restaurants (steakhouse ECM, and Two Rooms grill), and various other places of interest. If you’re up for a fine dining experience and willing to spend a lot of bucks, Two Rooms is an absolute must-see.
There is also a large farmer’s market just a block south on the same side of the street.
Just a block or so to the south of the market on the other (east) side of the street around 35°39’37.43″ N 139°42’26.78″ E is a popular little yogurt place called Tea and Spoon Nanaya Aoyama. If you’re up for a walk a few blocks to the south, check it out. It’s on a backstreet.
If you’re up for a walk 1/2 a mile to the east, around 35°39’45.14″ N 139°43’01.28″ E is the Nezu Museum.
After you’ve checked out Ao Building, head north on Aoyama-dori for a nice stroll. You can head all the way north on it past the Imperial State House Gardens, and then into Akasaka.
Beer Brain+ Stockholm Roast
Around 35°40’03.31″ N 139°42’52.00″ E as you stroll north is a tiny little project on a trailer built by a few entrepreneurs called Beer Brain. It’s a small popular beer hangout – but it’s tiny – just a plywood shack. There is outside seating.
Also in the area on the same side of the street is a great little outdoor walk-up café called Stockholm Roast (which has seating on the roof). Both are excellent.
As you continue north there are 2 more places of interest: Miyota, a popular restaurant, and Modern Works, a new furniture store:
There is also an Olympic bike shop nearby, which incredibly, sells a Hummer mountain bike made by General Motors.
As you continue north, you’ll come to a fork in the road. You can either take the left side and end up at the new 2020 Olympics complex, or you can take the right side and end up in Akasaka, which is also well-worth seeing. If you’re hungry after all that walking, there is a nice big 2-story Doutour café right at the split. If you take the right side far enough, eventually you’ll end up in Shinjuku.
Take the left side for the Olympic venue, or the right side for Akasaka.The Doutour is just on the left in the center and has some good cheap meals under $5.
Right around the split, if you take the right side, off to the south is the vast Ayoyama Cemetary, which is nearly 1/2 a mile wide. Buried here, among others is Ōkubo Toshimichi, a Japanese statesman from the 1800’s who was a major figure in the Meiji Restoration of 1868. Toshimichi was instrumental in ending the Tokugawa Shogunate and the feudal system in Japan. The small town of Okubo, now a Korean enclave, a few miles to the north was named after him.
While there may not be a ton to do in Aoyama, it’s still worth a look. You can stroll Aoyama-dori for hours, get some exercise, and still have fun. You can always check out Omotesando back to the west if you like.
Possibly the best pancake restaurants in Japan are A Happy Pancake chain of restaurants (aka “Shiawase no Pancake” – literally Pancake Happiness).
There are several all over Japan but the 2 most impressive ones are in Omotesando + Ikebukuro. There is also one in Shinjuku. The one in Omotosando/Harajuku is the newest, cleanest, and biggest of them all, but the others are just as worth checking out.
To find the one in Ikebukuro, exist theSeibu east exit from JR Ikebukuro Station + head south. A few blocks down, turn right, then turn left down the 1st alley (see map below). You can also use GPS on smart phones + simply type the name in – your smartphone should show you a map, the Happy Pancakelocation, and your direction relative to it. It’s one block southwest of the Baskin Robbins, also shown @ the bottom of this map:
The alleyway looks like this and at the far end is the entrance which leads back out to a street on the southeast side of JR Ikebukuro Station:
A Happy Pancake is 2/3 down the alley on the left – and is in the basement shown here.
Prices range from $8-$15. Lots of great combinations.
To get seated enter the number of adults + kids at this machine, then press OK – you’ll be give a ticket with a number on it.You can also scan the QR code onto your smartphone.
Be careful on the treacherous stairs – yikes! – which have no railing!
Harajuku is most famous for its shopping street – Takeshita Street. Omotesando Blvd. is runs parallel just to the south and is much bigger with more upscale shops + eateries.
Just to the north is Yoyogi and just to the south is Shibuya. Harajuku Station is on the JR Yamanote Line on the west side of Tokyo. A brand new larger JR station was completed in late 2019 to replace the historic aging older wooden station, which is now much too small for the tourist load. The new station is just south of the old one in the same block.
To get here, take any JR line that changes with the JR Yamanote Line, and get off at Harajuku Station. As a footnote, there is 1 other Metro station – Omoto-sando Station, all the way on the east side of Omotesando. You can traverse Omotesando Blvd. in a flash by shuttling between these 2 stations if you take the Chiyoda Line.
Old Harajuku JR Station in late autumn 2019. The new station is on the left. Turn left from this vantage point at the next corner to enter Omotesando Blvd.Takeshita Street is to the right in this photo, out of frame.The old station was torn down in 2021.
Old Harajuku JR Station exit. The new station is to the right. Takeshita Street is straight ahead. This exit is shown in the photo above under the clock. Far too small for today’s tourist traffic load, the brand new station just to the southwest replaced it.The old station was demolished and is no more.
Newly completed Harajuku Station on the JR Line. The old station is just to the right, out of frame and is scheduled to be torn down soon.
After you exit Harajuku Station, you can either turn left, and be at the entrance to Takeshita Street, or you can head right (south) and end up at a large intersection. If you head east from the intersection, you’ll be heading down Omotesando Blvd – which is the main shopping and restaurant street in the area.
Takeshita Street is shorter and takes less time, but is also much more crowded since it is smaller and more popular. Takeshita Street is mainly known for its several Crepé shops – including the famous Marion Crepés which was founded in 1976. There is also another Marion Crepés in the backstreets of Akihabara. There are also lots of clothing stores, restaurants, other food places, oddity shops, a DAISO 100¥ shop, and a small Bic Camera annex.
There are also a few hidden gems if you’re willing to venture down a few side streets for an off-the-beaten-path adventure. We’ll cover a few of those later.
It’s usually pretty packed – especially on nights + weekends. You’ll have to jostle with lots of other people. Just after the entrance on the right is a small alley with lots of T-shirt shops (see Totally Drew‘s video below). Just past that not too far down on the right is the very good NOA Coffee – well worth a stop. Marion Crepés is about 1/2 way down on the left. Oddly, NOA Coffee is run by the NOAH Company which also runs sound + dance studios and boxing gyms all over Tokyo.
The old harajuku Station exit just across from the entrance to Takeshita Street, which was demolished in 2021 after the new station opened.
Entrance to Takeshita Street.There is an excellent Hoshino’s Coffee just to the left under the sign over the entrance. There is also a Family Mart.
Entrance to Takeshita Street at night.
Giant crepé menu on Takeshita Street. Around $5-$7 each.
Angel Crepés shop.
Angel Crepés.You can eat yourself silly at these places. But after walking 10-15 miles a day, you’ll want to.
About 1/2 way down Takeshita Street on the right, you’ll find a small side street that heads up a hill. Head up this street to the end – past several shops and boutiques, and then head left as the street curves around. Wander down a bit futher and at the end you’ll find the Depla Pol Chocolatier. This fabulous place has all kinds of goodies and waffles to boot. It’s only open from 10:00 AM to 8PM but well worth it. Its located at approximately 35°40’15.61″ N 139°42’14.89″ E. But because it’s off the beaten path, there is almost never a line and you can usually get right in.
There is also an excellent bar/restaurant hidden back on this street.
Along this street is an amusingly named beer/coffee shop called Farms – by Good Munchies.
A stroll down Takeshita St. This is facing back towards the street entrance to the west.
Just south of JR Harajuku Station. The new station bldg. is on the left. The tall NTT HQ bldg. (also known as the “bubble building”) is in the center off in the distance in Shinjuku to the north.To the right is Omotesando Blvd.
Just down on the right past the entrance to Takeshita St is a small luggage storage locker shop. If you need to store your luggage for the day, you can drop your stuff here, and retrieve them on your way out. Rates range from 400¥-800¥ and you can store items for up to 4 days. The shop has 24/7 video surveillance of all lockers so your stuff is secure. Oddly, this shop is run by the NOAH Company, which also runs the NOA Coffee shop just down the street.
Further down Omotesando Blvd. on the left side is a MOS Burger Café.
There is also a Tokyu Plaza with an open-air garden on top.
Apple Store on Omotesando Blvd.
Plenty of nice restaurants along Omotesando Blvd.
Omotesando Blvd. facing east.
A side street off Omotesando Blvd.
Another side street.
If you head down Omotesando Blvd, past the first major intersection, at around 35°40’04.35″ N 139°42’24.64″ E on the right across from the Ralph Lauren Flagship Store, you’ll see a side street. If you turn right here and head up the street, just on your right you’ll come to the best pancake shop in Harajuku: Flippers. This place is so good there is usually a line. The pancake craze has hit Tokyo and this is one of the best pancake shops in the city. Be prepared to wait and pay a few dollars to pig out on pancakes + fruit. But be careful – you can eat yourself sick in this place if you overdo it.
There are all kinds of additional shops down side streets. It’s well worth it to wander down some of these streets to see what’s there. There is even a TinTin store tucked back on the south side of Omotesando Blvd. If you arrive early enough, you can easily walk all of Harajuku + Omotesando in a day. Try to avoid weekends and nights because that is when the area is packed with crowds of tourists.
If you walk all the way down Omotesando Blvd. about .7 miles, you’ll come to Rt. 413. If you head left (north) here, you’ll find all kinds of interesting stuff. There’s a great upscale noodle restaurant called Miyota. There’s also an Olympic bicycle shop which has some really nice bikes at reasonable prices. There’s an elegant upscale furniture store called Modern Works, and a few small drink spots: Beer Brain in a small wood shack on a trailer, and Stockholm – a small café with a tiny rooftop porch. All worth checking out
Back behind the new Harajuku Station to the west is Meiji Jingu Shrine. This is one of the most famous and popular shrines in all of Tokyo. It’s surrounded by a huge park with spectacular gardens. Well worth a look. To reach the entrance, just exit the station, then head over the small bridge behind it and to the right.
Just to the southwest of Meiji Jingu Shrine is Yoyogi Park – also well worth a visit – and it’s free. There ‘s a small pond inside, lots of walking paths, and large grass areas to sit in. It’s a popular spot for picnics among locals in spring and fall. To reach it, head south (left) from the entrance to Meiji Jingu Shrine just for a few steps, then turn right under the pedestrian overpass. It’s just a few yards down on the right.
In fact, you can walk the entire road encircling both parks in under an hour or two. Both are well worth a look.
A Few More Notables
There are a few other interesting spots to check out: Watari-um Museum, Nezu Museum, and The Awesome Store. See links below for more.
Back behind the main drag in Omotesando is a small quiet side street lined with shops called Cat Street. Well-lit and very interesting for a stroll. If you walk all the way north on this street you will eventually come out in Shibuya (See photos below).
Well, that’s it for Harajuku/Omotesando. Enjoy your trip – both are easy to access, and compact enough to see everything in a day. It’s one of Tokyo’s most intersting spots and well worth a look.
Cat Street in Harajuku leading to Omotesando Blvd.
Cat Street in Harajuku leading to Omotesando Blvd.If you head back the other way and turn right where the street lights end, the road to the right will take you north to Shibuya eventually.
The old wood station being torn down in late 2020.
In the new shopping complex across from the new Harajuku Station is a LIFORK shared work space. This space is brand new and excellent. It’s on the top floor next to the new IKEA. If you’re looking for cool shared office space, check it out. There is also a LIFORK in Akihabara.
Entrance to Omotosano Blvd. across from the new JR Harajuku Station.
Meiji-Dori intersects Omotosando Blvd. near the new Q plaza bldg.