Having been to Tokyo three times previous to our recent vacation, I was excited to take my daughters to Harajuku, a popular teen shopping area in the city. By Mark Frauenfelder

(In 2010, I went on a family vacation to Japan. Here are my posts about the trip: The Ghibli Museum | Watermelons in the shape of cubes, hearts, and pyramids | What happened to the Burgie Beer UFO of Melrose Avenue?)

Having been to Tokyo three times previous to our recent vacation, I was excited to take my daughters to Harajuku, a popular teen shopping area in the city. To get there, we took a short ride on the JR Line to Harajuku Station, which has a neat Tudor-esque building built in 1925.

We took the Takeshita Exit from the station, which lead us to Takeshita Dori, a narrow pedestrian street filled with teen fashion boutiques and creperies.(Harajuku Station photo by Shiny Things. Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.)

I didn't see anyone smorking (or smoking, for that matter), but I saw plenty of "touts" — young African men who follow shoppers down the street to try to convince them to shop in stores that hire them to tout their wares. No one seemed to pay any attention to the touts. I wonder how they make a living?

Cheap trinkets were in abundance near the top of the street, giving this part of Takeshita Dori a slightly seedy, past-it's-prime vibe, much the way I remember London's Carnaby Street in the 1980s.

I liked these luggage tags.

Further down Takeshita Dori, the stores get more interesting and less garish.

This store had an airplane fuselage running through it.

Kawaii desu ne!

The little alleys that ran off Takeshita Dori had quiet and intriguing little businesses. This is a hair salon.

As much as I liked climbing the colored stairs and visiting the wee Hide A Way Tree House Concept Salon Cafe & Bar — which sold drinks, clothes, books, and other select products — everyone was smoking so we beat a hasty retreat back outside.

Stores in Tokyo have lots of vending machines in them. Some dispense products. Others accepted our 100 yen coins, flashed several screens of Japanese at us, and returned to a dormant state.

My 12-year-old daughter was intrigued by this establishment, which was filled with space-age photo booths. Girls can get their photos taken here, and the photos are automatically altered to make them look like manga characters, with big eyes and washed out complexions.

The photo booth shop had a sign that said "GIRLS ONLY!" but the manager of the store said to us, "Family OK!"


My daughter had some photos taken, and when they came out of the printer, they were tiny. So tiny, in fact, that we seemed to have lost them. (If I find them I will add them to the post.)

More kawaiiness.

A nearby street in Harajuku, called Omotesando, is more upscale than Takeshita Dori. This shady, tree-lined avenue is one of my favorite streets in Tokyo for sitting down, cooling off, and watching the never-ending parade of people go by.

We spent a long time at Kiddy Land, a toy story with six floors.

I can't remember which floor of Kiddy Land was selling these little anatomical models, but aren't they great? I wonder if Audrey Kawasaki used this line of models as reference in the painting we bought from her last year, "I Want to Play?"

Near the Harajuku Station is Yoyogi Park, where cosplayers happily pose for photos.

And where friendly folks give free hugs (we all got hugs!).

We went to the Hello Kitty Ice Cream Stand three times while we were in Japan.

Fabulous crepes abound!

My favorite snack was the hot waffles made on the spot in Yoyogi Park.