Heading to Japan and becoming immersed in a culture full of bizarre and fashion-forward individuals, shrines and temples that all equally and beautifully pay homage to the deep and rich history of the country, skyscrapers that offer views stretching deep into the horizon, and food choices so wide and so diverse it’ll always leave you scratching your head as to whether you made the right choice with your significant other seems to be the current trend.
However, in a country that is so generous in what they can offer visitors, it can sometimes become too overwhelming to even begin putting together an itinerary.
When most couples look to plan a romantic day, its often associated with trips to a private hot spring, or exploring the traditional side with temples and shrines, or even trekking out to the wilderness and conquering mountains together, but more often than not, the colourful and whacky allure of Harajuku doesn’t make the cut.
Costume-clad cosplayers, endless lines for crepes, and hoards of crowds at every turn can be off-putting, and certainly not aligned with romance. However, whilst the mainstream Takeshita Street, Meiji Street, and Omotesando Street all cater to the average tourist seeking a taste of modern pop culture in Japan, Cat Street, which is a small side street just off of the main Omotesando Street that stretches parallel to Meiji Street, could not be further away from this stereotype.
Just a stone throw’s away from the massive crowds is a small, calm, unassuming street that boasts quiet residential dwellings amongst small cafes and restaurants, boutique fashion stores and vintage clothing shops, a small but growing culture of food trucks, and a broad mix of people (both locals and foreigners), quietly and humbly exploring the ‘other side of Harajuku’. Whilst the crazy Harajuku Girls fashion is not quite completely lost here, there is an air of composure amongst those walking the roads of Cat Street, completely unlike the frenzy that ripples through crowds when a someone in a tutu is spotted.
Cat Street makes for a perfect date spot, complete with fun activities to do with your partner, plentiful shops to explore, and a whole heap of food choices to boot.
We’ve outlined a few places that you should check out whilst you’re there, but of course, no experience is as good as your own experience, so take note of the below, but don’t be afraid to wander off the main street and explore interesting looking alleys and hidden roads; that’s where the real gems are.
Where is Cat Street? How do we get there?
As mentioned before, Cat Street runs parallel to Meiji Street, but the size and composition of the street could not be more different to its sibling. To get to Cat Street, catch the train to Meiji-Jingumae Station, and get off at Exit 5. Once you’re outside, flip 180 degrees and cross the road to the Tokyu Plaza Omotesando, you know, the famous multi-story shopping centre at the intersection of Meiji Street and Omotesando Street that’s home to the famous aesthetic mirrored entrance? People have travelled far and wide to capture a whimsical image here, and you could too, on your way to Cat Street.
From Tokyu Plaza, cross the road to the other side (where you may see ‘Brooks Café’ or ‘Pandora’), and turn left to walk along Omotesando Street for approximatey 2 to 3 minutes until you reach a relatively shrubby area on the right, and that’s the entrance of Cat Street.
There you have it! The beginning of your next adventure. Follow us through Cat Street as we show you how a trendy little neighbourhood could make for one of the most fun dates you’ll have in Harajuku.
First stop, Waratako – serving up fresh, quality takoyaki across Japan since 2010
The store is located just a minute from the entrance of cat street on the left. You can’t miss it, because it has this bright red exterior that just screams ‘Look At Me!’. Often there are queues of people lining up for these takoyaki balls on the weekends. They have a wide variety of toppings to choose from, and eight pieces of takoyaki start at 500 yen.
Takoyaki is always a great idea on a date because a). you get to share this meal with your significant other, b). how better to express your love than blowing on something hot for your partner to eat, and c). the mutual love for food (and each other) can only be heightened after having a delicious meal.
Address: 〒150-0001 Tokyo, Shibuya, Jingumae, 5 Chome, 11-3
Hours: 11:00am – 9:00pm
It’s Candy Show Time!
Candy Show Time is a candy store located opposite Waratako that specialises in creating original cute, colourful candy that comes in a diverse range of flavours. The exterior and interior of the store is kawaii, and for the couples with a sweet tooth, this place is literal heaven.
They line their walls with rows and rows of different different flavoured candy such as yoghurt, lychee, creaming soda, and strawberry, and this includes shaped candy in moustache and love heart designs. Along the back wall, there is a display of adorable stationary you and your partner can purchase a souvenir together.
Sometimes, employees will stand at the front offering free samples, so be on the lookout! Once you enter, you will see that there is a glass panel that allows you to watch the ‘Candy Artisans’ display their craftsmanship in making the candy. A great and adorable experience at the same time.
Candy Show Time
Address: 〒150-0001 Tokyo, Shibuya, Jingumae, 6 Chome−7−9 Nest原宿I
Hours: 11:00am – 8:00pm
Quite the fashionistas? RAGTAG is the place to be.
Shopping together with your partner is a profound experience, although it may not appear so at the time. All of a sudden, you’re a stylist, a creative director, an expert in prints, and a model at the same time. And who better to channel your inner Elle MacPherson with than your partner? It’ll be a great challenge to see who does it best…
If both of you know your Undefeated from your COMME des GARCONS, then this is your kind of store. Stocking brands from the high-end of the scale such as Cartier, Chanel, and Fendi, to globally renowned street brands such as Stussy, Supreme, and A BATHING APE, RAGTAG has made a massive name for itself in Japan, and the Cat Street store is the perfect place to soak it all in, being located at such a prime location yet not attracting massive hoards of crowds to fight with you at the racks. Since you’re in Harajuku, follow the trend and get matching clothing with each other. That would be true devotion.
Address: 6-14-2 jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Hours: 11:00am – 8:00pm
After a free immersive experience? Head to the Samsung S9 Popup Store
Whilst this experience is not around forever, it’s definitely worth mentioning for the time being. Samsung have a pop up store that’s been around for a while, and will continue to exist until September 2018.
The popup store basically offers customers multiple free VR experiences within the multi-level building. The VR experiences all vary in entertainment value and wait time, however, to begin, you will be given a stamp card. In order to participate in the ultimate Samsung VR experience (the massive room at the front with clear walls for everyone on the streets to see you scream in terror/laugh manically at whatever it is that awaits you in the VR world), you will need to collect several stamps throughout the venue, effectively enough to earn the free ride on the biggest ride. The entire experience could take more than one hour, depending on the number of people waiting, however, as this is a completely free event, and a VR experience at that, who’s complaining? Think of it as Disneyland on a budget (of zero dollars) with your loved one, and you’ll have a grand time.
Address: no permanent address, but if you walk along Cat Street past Waratako, past Ragtag, it should be a big black building on your right with ‘Galaxy’ splashed across the front.
Hours: Open until 8:00pm (until September)
Need a sugar hit after all that? Number Sugar is the way to go!
Spending a few hours shopping and warping your mind with consecutive VR experiences may be more tiring than most people believe (there’s a mental strain, that’s for sure!). Hit up Number Sugar for some sweet handmade caramel.
The ingredients used in making these goodies are completely natural, so erase that guilt from your mind. The store is just off the main street, on your left after Waratako. The exterior is simple, and the interior is classy. Rows of perfectly wrapped caramel line up tin boxes, all calling out your name, begging to be bought and brought back as gifts. Again, couples with a sweet tooth will feel insatiably happy here.
If you’re not after an entire box, they also offer singular pieces of caramel in a variety of different flavours as samplers for 108 yen. Their flavours range from traditional vanilla and strawberry to the rare mango. If you’re the type of couple who loves to try whacky things, give their ginger caramel a taste!
Address: 5-11-11 Jingumae Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 1F
Hours: 11:00am – 8:00pm (closed Tuesday)
Finish the day off on a sweet note and head to Good Town Doughnuts
One cannot underestimate the power of a good doughnut. Long hailed as the greatest food of all time (by the one and only Homer Simpson), doughnuts have the power to turn any frown upside down. Not that you’d be frowning after a leisurely day exploring one of the trendiest and more serene neighbourhoods of Shibuya with your loved one…
Located off the main street near it’s bigger brother The Great Burger (also worth a visit), Good Town Doughnuts makes you feel nostalgic for those late afternoons in California along Santa Monica Pier that you may not have ever even lived. Wooden benches out the front for those after a bite in the sun, and woody, warm tones throughout the interior make you feel instantly at home. Their impressive display cabinet is the first thing you’ll notice when you walk through the door. Rows of larger than average doughnuts line up against the glass, tempting you to get one of every single flavour.
Whilst they do offer classics such as original glazed (which is simply amazing), they also dare to push the boundaries with flavours such as hibiscus, passionfruit cacao, and sicilia lemon poppyseed. Grab a doughnut (or two, or three), rip it in half, and share it with your best friend.
Good Town Doughnuts
Address: 〒150-0001 Tōkyō-to, Shibuya-ku, Jingūmae, 6-12−6 J-cube B
Hours: 10:00am – 8:00pm
When you explore Cat Street, you do it on your own terms. Whether you only spend a few hours of the morning or the entire day there, you and your partner will thoroughly enjoy experiencing this ‘other side of Harajuku’, and can head home after Japan knowing that Harajuku is made of many complex layers of fashion, culture, and food, and you were able to experience a side that many people generally miss out on. How special is that!