Omotesandō has been dubbed Tokyo's Champs-Elysée. It is one of the rare avenue of the Japanese capital to be planted with trees on all its length. "Omote-sandō" means "front approach", in reference to its role as gateway to the Meiji Shrine in Yoyogi Park.
Contrarily to Ginza, Tokyo's other luxury shopping district, Omotesandō is dotted with small boutiques rather than big department stores. The largest Louis Vuitton shop in Japan opened there in 2003, and queues are still frequent. In February 2006, a new shopping center, Omotesandō Hills, was inaugurated in great pump. It was developed by the Mori Group, like Roppongi Hills from which it is inspired.
Harajuku offers the most eccentric elements of Japanese subculture. On Sundays, groups of hard-rock fans with heavy make-up and scary black costumes gather in front of Yoyogi Park. It's also a place for cosplay venues, where fans of manga, anime and video games are disguised in their favourite character.
But Harajuku is little more than an extension of Shibuya. It teems with youths on shopping spree at Laforet department store and smaller boutiques along the Meiji-dōri. Harajuku seems to be swarming on every Sunday, national holiday or whenever the weather is nice.
Yoyogi-kōen Park 代々木公園
Yoyogi Kōen is the largest of Tokyo's parks open to the public in Tokyo (Akasaka Park and the Imperial Palace having partly restricted access). Contrarily to others like Ueno or Shinjuku Gyōen, it has a much more luxuriant flora, and is the only one really like a forest rather than a park or gardens.
Yoyogi Kamisonocho/Jinnan 2-chome, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
3min walk from Harajuku (JR line) or Yoyogi Koen (Chiyoda line), 6min walk from Yoyogi Hachiman (Odakyu line)
Meiji-jingū Shrine 明治神宮
Tokyo's largest shrine, and one of Japan's three "Jingū" (Imperial shrine), the Meiji Shrine is concealed in the middle of the Yoyogi Park.
It was built in 1920 in memory of Emperor Meiji and Empress Shōken, but was destroyed during WWII and subsequently rebuilt in 1958. It houses the "Yasakani no magatama" (八尺瓊曲玉), one of the three Imperial Regalia of Japan, along with the sword "Kusanagi no tsurugi" in Nagoya's Atsuta Jingu and the mirror "Yata no kagami" in Ise Jingu.
Nowadays the shrine is a popular place for traditional wedding and New Year ceremonies. As with the controverisal Yasukuni Shrine, visits by government officials are frequent. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited the shrine in 2009 to show her "respect toward history and the culture of Japan.". In January 2010, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle demonstrated the same respect when he concluded his visit to Japan with a visit of the shrine.
Apart from the New Year celebration, two major events take place annually at the Meiji Shrine. The first is the Spring Grand Festival, which takes place from 29th April to 3rd May. It involves performances of traditional theatre, dance and music.
From 1st to 3rd November is held the Autumn Grand Festival, which commemorates Emperor Meiji's birthday. Over a million people come to pay homage to the emperor who modernised Japan. For the occasion, martial arts, archery and horseback archery performances join the traditional music and dances.