The Meiji Jingu is within a big forest park next to the station Harajuku. It is a peaceful and calm place where people pray for luck and wedding ceremonies are held. The shrine had been built for the souls of the Meiji Emperor and his wife almost one hundred years ago and the forest surrounding it is like a natural grown one with big trees. It is a famous landmark for the Meiji Period which started more or less in 1868, when the Meiji Emperor opened the country for trading with the western countries and lead Japan into a modern age. This shrine seems to me as the biggest homage to one of the most important changes in Japans history.
The Meiji Shrine is separated from the district Harajuku by the subway tracks of Yamanote line. As soon as you cross the bridge outside the shrine park you are confronted with extremly crowded shopping streets and young people styled in the latest fashion.
When I was in Tokyo in 2008, Harajuku was the place to be, when you wanted to show your style. The crazier the better. The fashion back then was colorful, crazy and very individual. There were styles like the famous Gololi or Steam Punk. Many people were performing songs and dance moves along the bridge, in the Meiji Park and in the streets of Harajuku. The shops in Harajuku were even more crazy than the people. Stuffed with clothes, many of them second-hand, you could find everything. Gothic, maid costumes, steam punk clothes, anime character clothes, all kinds of colorful crazy shoes. But not only fashion, I remember we found an entire shop with figurines of the TV-series Care Bears.
Being back in Harajuku in 2017 was different. We saw only a few people styled other than business chic or the well combined Japanese fashion style. There were no people performing or showing off. Maybe because it was only 12 degrees… but I couldn’t believe that. When we slowly pushed our way through famous Takeshita Street we saw some shops that had colorful and crazy styles, but I had expected more. The street was filled with tourists and some girls going shopping–wearing normal clothes or even school uniform. We continued walking through the streets just to find expensive and very nice clothing stores of young designers. A lot of fashion for men and some stores for high class furniture. Nothing crazy. It seemed Harajuku grew up and had been gentrified. We liked this new Harajuki. Some of the streets were calm and nice. Unfortunately we didn’t do any fashion shopping (our backpacks were already full), but we found a small store filled with thousands of crazy stickers, they seemed to design on their own. Every girl of the staff asked us where we were from and that we were kawaii and asked for a photo. And there it was, like a small island, but we had found the old Harajuku.