Going down the avenue, which is on its way up, makes wanderers and shoppers at the luxury brands and architecture.
Omotesando Area Guide
Omotesando Avenue is a sloping tree-lined boulevard in Tokyo's fashionable Aoyama district that goes through parts of both Shibuya and Minato wards. The Harajuku area, which Omotesando is often considered a part of, has its own distinctive brand of youth fashion. On the other hand, Omotesando itself caters to the haute couture end of the spectrum, with plenty of places to sit back and relax over good food and drink, and take in the cutting edge architecture that typifies many of the establishments here.
Omotesando means "Shrine Entranceway Road," reflecting its history as the approach to the Meiji Shrine - and its former grounds, that have now become Yoyogi Park - at the top, north-western, end of the street.
Omotesando features many cutting edge buildings designed by prominent architects, both Japanese and from overseas. The architectural charms of Omotesando are maybe best enjoyed at night when the lighting accentuates the inspired lines and curves.
Omotesando goes through three districts. Most of the boulevard, from Yoyogi Park to about where the Apple Store is, is in Jingumae, Shibuya ward. From the Apple Store and Exits A1/A2 of Omotesando Subway Station to the intersection with Aoyama-dori Avenue is Kita-Aoyama, Minato ward. The stretch beyond, down as far as the beautiful Nezu Museum, is where some of the area's biggest fashion stores are and is in Minami-Aoyama, Minato ward.
Co-op Olympia (コープオリンピア ) is a large apartment building at the top end of Omotesando. Built in 1965, Co-op Olympia is famous as being one of Japan's first high-class condominiums with "mod-cons" like elevators and all-building air conditioning. The aging, deteriorating complex has for several years been caught in a developmental deadlock between a majority of occupants that wants to rebuild and a minority that doesn't.
Omotesando shopping is typified by big, expensive international fashion brands (including of course brands from Japan), exclusive one-off boutiques, galleries, and cafes. Bulgari, Louis Vuitton, Dior, Tod's, Prada, Emporio Armani, Ralph Lauren and many others have all constructed flamboyant buildings imagined by the biggest names of the time such as Ito or Jun Aoki. The samurai of Japanese fashion, Issey Miyake, Yohji Yamamoto and Comme des Garçons hold rank here.
Laforet ("la-faw-ray") Harajuku (ラフォーレ原宿) is a stylishly designed space with split-level floors, and houses over 140 stores representing almost 400 different fashion brands, catering almost exclusively to very youthful fashion tastes. The Laforet Harajuku building is on Jingumae Intersection, right by the Meiji-jingumae 'Harajuku' Subway Station. It is a six-story building, but its split-level floors provide 13 levels of shopping. There is an ATM on the 1.5 F and a 4F terrace with vending machines and for smokers. The Laforet Museum is on the 6F, and has regular exhibitions of a wide range of artists as well as fashion events.
- Opening hours: 11 am - 9 pm 1-11-6 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-0001
- Access: 5 minutes walk from JR Harajuku Station; right in front of Exit 5, Meiji Jingu "Harajuku" Station (Chiyoda Line, Fukutoshin Line)
Tokyu Plaza Omotesando Harajuku
Tokyu Plaza Omotesando Harajuku (東急プラザ表参道原宿) is a big, bold 6-story (self-styled) "fashion theme park" shopping building just across from Laforet Harajuku. Tokyu Plaza's biggest draw is its huge dazzling mirrored entrance way. The shopping is mainly women's fashion and accessories, There is a pleasant "Omohara" terrace on the 3F and a bigger even more pleasant Omohara no Mori "forest plaza" on the 6F full of trees, where you can have a coffee and get a great view over the surrounding Harajuku area.
- Opening hours: 6F Omohara no Mori "forest plaza" 8:30am-11pm; stores 11am-9pm.
- Address: 4-30-3 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, 150-0001
- Access: 5 minutes walk from JR Harajuku Station; right in front of Exit 4, Meiji Jingu "Harajuku" Station (Chiyoda Line, Fukutoshin Line)
Omotesando Hills (表参道ヒルズ ) is the area's biggest shopping complex with a 250-meter-long street front. Omotesando Hills is a very sleek, chic shopping, dining, art and café space that began in 2005, designed by the famous modern Japanese architect Takao Ando. The Omotesando Hills Main Building squeezes a majestic sweep of seven floors - three above ground and four underground - into quite a deceptively small space, complete with ramps that recreate the sloping pavements of Omotesando. There are four entrances to Omotesando Hills along Omotesando: to the West Wing, with its Tully's Coffee (B1 floor) and Pass the Baton secondhand goods shop (B2 floor) and a dozen or so other stores featuring high-end fashion, lifestyle goods and refreshments; the two Main Building Entrances: the Main Entrance and East Entrance; and the Dojun Wing Entrance. The 3-story Dojun Wing preserves the look of the Bauhaus-inspired Dojunkai Aoyama Apartments, built in 1927, that previously occupied the site.
Omotesando Hills has about 75 stores (men's, women's and kids' fashion, jewelry, watches, bags, shoes, accessories, lifestyle accessories, cosmetics and beauty-related, art galleries, restaurants and cafes), 9 restaurants, 11 cafes, and a dozen beauty stores and salons.
Hours vary by store, but Monday-Saturday closing time for stores is 9 pm, for restaurants 11:30 pm (last orders at 10:30 pm), and cafes 10:30 pm (last orders at 9:30 pm). Sunday closing time for stores is 8 pm, for restaurants 10:30 pm (last orders at 9:30 pm), and cafes 9:30 pm (last orders at 8:30 pm). Occasionally the whole of Omotesando Hills may be closed on a Monday.
- Access: Exit A2, Omotesando Subway Station (Ginza Line, Chiyoda Line, Hanzomon Line) Exit 5, Meiji Jingu "Harajuku" Station (Chiyoda Line, Fukutoshin Line)
- Address: 4-12-10 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-0001
Kiddy Land (キディランド 原宿店 ) is one of Omotesando's best-known shops, having been here in Harajuku for decades. Kiddy Land Harajuku is one of four Kiddy Land stores in Tokyo, another being in Venus Fort. Kiddy Land is similar to Hakuhinkan Toy Park in Ginza in that it is a multi-floor emporium of everything fun for kids, whatever they're into, including a big section dedicated to Studio Ghibli goods.
- Opening hours: 11am-9pm Monday-Friday; 10:30am-9pm Saturdays, Sundays, public holidays.
- Address: 6-1-9 Jingu-mae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-0001
Gyre (ジャイル) is a shopping center on Omotesando with a striking architectural presence - the work of Dutch designers MVRDV. Gyre is home to several high-class international fashion brands, but combines this mood of urbanity with the spacious, outdoorsy feel of its often wood-themed terraces and abundant greenery. Chanel and Bulgari are the big two ground-floor stores at Gyre, with a MoMA Design Store on the 3F, as well as other fashion stores and restaurants.
- Opening hours: 11am-8pm, and restaurants 11:30am-midnight. Open daily.
- Address: 5-10-1 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, Japan
Cat Street is a pedestrian-only street that passes across Omotesando at the Gyre shopping building and cannot be ignored by the serious shopper. Cat Street is an alley of fashionable boutiques - just over a kilometer long - joining Omotesando and the trendy Jinnan area of Shibuya, and is pedestrianized between Omotesando and Shibuya.
The Omotesando presence of Japan's favorite bag maker, Louis Vuitton (ルイ・ヴィトン 表参道 ), is in a cleverly "paneled" building - evoking the look of piled-up trunks - designed by Japanese architect Jun Aoki and located across from the upper end of Omotesando Hills. The top, seventh, floor of the building is the Espace Louis Vuitton Tokyo art gallery, with exhibitions at most times throughout the year. Louis Vuitton Omotesando is well-known for its exquisite inner and outer lighting, which highlights the building as a work of art in its own right, especially after sundown.
- Opening hours: Store, 11am-8pm every day; Gallery: noon-8pm during exhibition times.
- Address: 5-7-5 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-0001
Dior is in its own unpretentious, but chic, white stand-alone building on the south side of Omotesando, across from Omotesando Hills. Dior is the design of prize-winning architects, SANAA, and it is only in the evening that its true splendor becomes apparent with its beautiful night lighting.
- Opening hours: 11am-8pm
- Address: 5-9-11 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-0001
Oriental Bazaar is a Japanese souvenir shop in an unmistakably oriental-looking building right next to Dior - and is an Omotesando old-timer, having been here since 1951. Check out Oriental Bazaar for its three floors of very diverse, tasteful and often reasonably priced souvenirs from Japan: including clothing such as kimono, yukata, and T-shirts on the B1 floor, antiques, ornaments, vases, lamps, stationery, pottery and china on the 1F, and antiques, furniture, more kimono, and screens on the 2F. Friendly, English-speaking staff.
- Opening hours: 10am-7pm Closed Thursday
- Address: 5-9-13 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-0001
- Access: 5 minutes walk from the Omotesando Exit of JR Harajuku Station 4 minutes walk from Exit B4, Omotesando Subway Station 3 minutes walk from Exit 4, Meiji-jingumae "Harajuku" Subway Station
The 6-story Aoyama branch of Prada is made up of greenish glass bubble panes and occupies the ultra-exclusive stretch of Omotesando past Aoyama-dori. This very memorable building was designed by world-famous architects Herzog & de Meuron.
- Opening hours: 11am-8pm Monday-Thursday, 11am-9pm Friday-Sunday
- Address: 5-2-6 Minamiaoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo 107-0062
Ota Memorial Museum of Art
The Ota Memorial Museum of Art specializes in ukiyoe (literally, "pictures of the floating world") which is a style of woodblock print and painting that flourished in Japan from about the 17th to 19th centuries. The museum holds regular exhibitions of works taken from its collection of more than 12,000 pieces. The Ota Memorial Museum of Art is just one block north of Omotesando towards the Harajuku Station end of the street.
The Nezu Museum is an Omotesando must-see for anyone with an appreciation of things Japanese. The museum displays pre-modern Japanese and other East Asian artifacts collected before WWII by the businessman and politician Kaichiro Nezu (1860-1940), a former president of the Tobu Railway, and a tea ceremony aficionado. The Nezu Museum's collection comprises mainly ornaments and accoutrements associated with the tea ceremony such as ceramics, lacquerware, paper screens, textiles and sculptures. The Museum also has a beautiful Japanese garden for visitors' enjoyment as well as a cafe. The Nezu Museum is at the very end of Omotesando, about five minutes walk on (south-east) from Omotesando intersection.
- Opening hours: 10am-5pm (last entry at 4.30pm)
- Admission: 1,100 yen for adults for the regular collection, 1,300 yen for special exhibitions.
- Access: 8 minutes walk from Exit A5 (stairs only), or 10 minutes walk from Exit B4 (escalator & elevator), of Omotesando Subway Station (Ginza, Hanzomon, Chiyoda lines)
- Address: 6-5-1 Minami-Aoyama, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 107-0062
Minami-Aoyama on the other side of Aoyama-dori from Omotesando stretches about 1.5 km north-east of Omotesando and is full of fashion and other boutiques, cafes, restaurants, and also has some well-known museums. Chokokuji Temple right next to the Nezu Museum is worth a visit for the 10 meter high wooden statue of the Kannon Buddha in its Kannon-do hall.
Takeshita Street is a crowded, kaleidoscopic and somewhat grungy youth fashion street very near Harajuku Station.
Yoyogi Park and the Meiji Shrine are very near the Harajuku Station end of Omotesando.
The hustling, bustling Shibuya commercial and shopping district is just one stop south-west of Omotesando. Either take the JR Yamanote line from Harajuku Station, or the Hanzomon subway line from Omotesando Station.