Christmas is only hours away! That means we must hurry up and post the rest of our Tokyo Christmas 2009 photo walks. We still have to cover Omotesando and Aoyama to complete the neighborhoods around Harajuku. Looks like won’t finish Shinjuku and Ginza this year, but there’s always 2010.
So, for this update, let’s take a walk up Omotesando Dori (or “Omotesando Street” if you prefer). The media loves to call this road the “Champ de Elysee of Japan” because of the high concentration of luxury goods shops. Besides the Christmas shoppers, this year we’ll have to brave the crowds coming out to see the Omotesando Christmas Illumination. I’ve been hearing claims in the Japanese media that 2009 is the first illumination in Omotesando in 11 years. However, we seem to remember very cool holiday lights back in 2006 – and claims that year that it was the first time in 8 years. Not sure what that’s all about. The bottom line is that this year’s holiday lights are beautiful, and are guaranteed to bring big crowds to the area. Are you ready for expensive shopping, huge crowds, and lots of pretty pictures?
Me too! But first, let’s try to clarify something unclarifiable (that’s not a word, right?). What is Omotesando? Hmmm. What is Harajuku? What is Aoyama? Those are questions for which even Tokyoites have less than definitive answers. Omotesando is a subway station and a street, but it’s also a name to which shops near (and less-than-near) the street and station associate. Harajuku and Aoyama have same identity issues. So in the area this walk covers, you might see a shop that claims to be in Harajuku – right next to a shop that claims to be in Omotesando or Aoyama. For example, Kiddyland is almost always said to be in Harajuku, but the Chanel store a few doors down is almost always said to be in Omotesando. Why? Probably because “Harajuku” sounds better for a toy shop, and “Omotesando” sounds cooler if you’re selling luxe fashion. To make a long story short (or not), we’re going to walk down Omotesando Dori today, but we’ll also be hitting some stores/locations that are in Harajuku and Aoyama. Sometimes we might not have any idea which are claiming what or why. The common thread in all of today’s pictures will be the fact that they are all attached to Omotesando Street in some way!
Okay, enough of that boring stuff! If you’re ready, let’s get started on our Omotesando Dori Christmas 2009 Photo Walk…
(Remember, you can view a high quality version of any photo by clicking on it.)
We’re going to officially start this walk at the intersection of Omotesando Dori and Meiji Dori, because we covered the area of Omotesando Dori between Meiji and Harajuku Station on the first part of the Harajuku photo walk. That said, we’re walking down from Harajuku Station anyways, so we might as well grab a couple of pictures along the way. This first shot is the Play House shop near the top of the hill. The shop specializes in collectible Snoopy and Peanuts merchandise – but as you can see from their holiday window display, they also sell other cute character goods including Care Bears, Usavich, and Chucky (the little freak from Child’s Play).
Our second picture is the first “one that got away” of the night. This was supposed to be a photo of the huge lighted “Merry XMas” message on the top of the building you see across the street – the one with Gold’s Gym and Zara. We tried to get up high enough to photograph the roof, but we just couldn’t make it happen. If we had another two hours, and a grappling hook and some rope…well, maybe next year.
Another cute little shop on our way down the hill toward Meiji Dori. This one sells bags. The bag on the top left of the photo appears to say, in huge letters, “Don’t Lose Your Mind, Always Beautiful Days.” If I had any last minute Christmas shopping to do, that bag would be GONE!
Hey, it’s the Gap Harajuku. We’ve seen this before in other photo walks, but it’s worth showing again. Why? Because it’s a Harajuku landmark for the last 10 years, and it’s going away. That’s right, Harajuku – you won’t have the Gap to kick around anymore after January. Or, you will – but you’ll have to walk up to the new location directly across from Harajuku Station. Not sure what’s going to take the place of the Gap at the intersection of Omotesando and Meiji, but you can bet it will be something big. That location has to be insanely expensive. Bye bye, Gap!
After shedding about one and one half tears over the Gap closing, we start the real part of our walk. We’re now heading up Omotesando Street toward Omotesando Station – on the LaForet side of the street. This picture just shows a bunch of bicycles parked on the edge of the sidewalk, and some nice holiday lights. There is also that suspicious looking guy standing on the right side of the picture in front of Lawsons, but we won’t mention that. Let’s get moving and see if he follows us!
Speaking of Kiddyland (well, we were a while ago) – there it is, on the other side of the street. We’ll just take one wide shot and get close-ups later. See the lighted Christmas tree on the side of the building? No, you don’t? Okay, that’s because I took the picture at the wrong time after it turned into a star. Oh well!
This picture shows the tiny gold holiday bells that are attached to trees all up and down the street. It would be cool if they would ring them all simultaneously on the hour, every hour! But, they don’t. So, we’ll just look at them for a second and then keep moving.
On the other side of the street, we can see the Dior building. In front of that is the pedestrian bridge which we crossed in our Harajuku Part Two walk. They’ve since closed the bridge to all foot traffic because too many people were stopping on it to take pictures, so no one could move. Don’t blame us, though – we only paused for a second or two.
We’re continuing up the street. Here’s Omotesando Hills. Right now, they have a skating rink inside of the Hills, and a disco Christmas tree. As we discussed in one of our previous walks, the disco ball seems to appear quite often in Tokyo Christmas displays. Not sure why.
Christmas eve is a huge day for jewelry sales in this area. Couples come from all over to load up on gold and silver. This Star Jewelry display is only for those in a serious relationship. It’s promoting a “Holiday Wedding 2009”. Run!
A few doors up, we reach the new location of the Shu Uemura shop. This holiday they are promoting their collaboration collection with Japanese designer Tsumori Chisato. You can look at the cute window art all you want, but if you actually try to buy any of the Chisato goods, you’ll find out it’s totally sold out. Believe me, I tried!
We’ve now reached the main entrance to Omotesando Hills. If we had time, we could go in and take pictures of the skating rink and the disco ball Christmas tree. Unfortunately, that place is packed, and we have a lot of ground to cover before the stores start closing. Let’s keep moving.
Okay, one quick picture of the white photo-friendly Christmas tree just outside the entrance. There was a line like twenty minutes long to pose for your picture inside the tree. We’ll pass on that for now.
If we turned left off Omotesando Dori onto this side street, we would find the French Connection UK shop. I read that shop will likely be closing sometime in the not-too-distant future, so let’s keep walking straight for now.
The Loewe holiday window display features rotating ice skates. Every time there was a break in the crowds long enough so I could take a quick shot of the window, the skates would rotate sideways so that they wouldn’t appear in the photo. It’s like magic. Holiday Magic.
Okay, big announcement here. We’re still walking up the same road, but now we’ve passed Omotesando Station and crossed Aoyama Dori. That means that technically, we are now in Aoyama. Also, Omotesando Street is no longer called Omotesando Street here. Past Aoyama Dori, it’s just called The 413. Pretty drastic name change. Because we are basing this walk on Omotesando Dori – and The 413 and Omotesando Dori are actually the same street – we’ll continue walking straight until we run out of cool shops. The first shop to photograph on this section of 413 is Nanette Lepore Aoyama. Her Christmas tree is cute – like many of her clothes.
This Nara Camicie shop is slightly off the main street, but you can see it from the street. We’ll rush over for a quick photo. Notice the purple jackets on the left wall of the store being carefully hung by a staff member.
This is Loveless Aoyama. This is heaven underground. If we didn’t have so much more walking and photoing to do, I’d make a quick turn into Loveless and you might not see me for two hours. This is one of the coolest select shops in Tokyo. But, we must continue on…
We’re walking down one side of the street, but shooting most of our photos of the other side. The 413 here is much more narrow than Omotesando Dori, so it’s easy to take photos of the other side. Here’s Yoku Moku. I’ve never been inside, but the sign and Christmas tree are nice.
A little further up, we find one of the cutest shop windows of the night. It’s the Tsumori Chisato Aoyama shop. In the window, they have a Christmas tree that looks a little like something out of a fairy tale. The giant moon next to it reminds me of children’s dreams. We’ll stop for a second to enjoy this cute dream world. We don’t stop too long, though, or the shop staff will get suspicious.
Okay, that’s it – we’ve reached the end of the road. Not literally, of course – the 413 continues on its way to Roppongi or some other faraway place. But for our purposes tonight, we’ve gone far enough. If we turned right, we’d be at the Rick Owens shop. Instead, we’ll just cross the street and head back in the same direction from which we came. If we can make it back to Meiji Dori before the shops start closing, we’ll be doing good. This is the halfway point. Good work – don’t give up now! The first shop we’ll take a photo of on our return journey is Ribbon Hakka Kids in the From 1st building. There are other cool shops in this building too, but not many of them have holiday decorations.
Now we’ve gone around the backside of the From 1st building, and we’re heading back toward Harajuku station on the side road that runs parallel to the 413. These buildings are attached to the main street, but they are on the back, so you have to walk on this little street to reach them. First photo here: Mushrooms, elk, and snowflakes – in vivid color!
We’ve reached the Samantha Thavasa flagship store. This is where Beyonce, Paris Hilton, Penelope Cruz come to greet fans. I’ve been here when the whole place is so crowded you can’t move! So, the fact that we’ve reached this shop means that we are now going to pass Omotesando Station. We can once again call the 413 “Omotesando Dori”. Let the confusion about which shops are claiming Omotesando and which ones are in Aoyama begin!
Not a great photo, but this is the Petit Bateau shop. They are doing a collaboration with Tsumori Chisato next year!
When we walked up the hill, we took a wide shot of the Chanel building. Now that we’re walking right by it, we can grab a quick closeup of one of the mannequins inside of a strange cage covered in luxury goods.
Now passing the Peltier chocolate shop – with a chocolate Christmas tree and cute teddy bears in the window. I have bought many gifts here over the last year. Should we pop in for a quick snack? Naw, better keep moving!
Wow, we made it all the way back to LaForet! There’s the architecturally cool H&M “Ice Cubes” building in the background. The fact that we’re seeing those buildings again means we’ve covered both sides of Omotesando Street. Time to call it a night before all of the lights go out on us!
That marks the end of this photo walk. We’ve still got Christmas in Aoyama in the queue. The Aoyama walk will cover a lot of the neighborhood that surrounds today’s stroll down Omotesando Street. So, check back soon if you’d like to get more a complete picture of the area. Thanks for your time and Happy Holidays!