Having been cancelled due to the 3/11 earthquake, the Omotesando Illuminations are back in force this year. All of the famous zelkova trees on Omotesando boulevard has been wrapped in lights. At night the whole place is lit up and to avoid dangerous crowds forming on the pedestrian overpasses these have been shut off for public use. I still managed to sneak a few photos at the street crossing despite the guards urging crowds not to stop for too long and hold up traffic. The illuminations are scheduled to last until January 5th, and is lit until 2100 every night (with an exception off the 21st to 25th when it stays on until 2200).
Omotesando is not only flagship stores but also the home for several very high end shopping “clusters”, like the Omotesando Hills, that flaunted building rules by digging down instead of building up. There are more sub-floors than top floors and it is a must for people interested in modern architecture. As you can see though, the building doesn’t look like much from the outside. I don’t blog about it because photography is not allowed inside (for some reason). For kids (with well off parents) or people who still like to see fun/cool/strange/high end toys, the famous Kiddyland store is a must. It celebrates 60 years in business this year! Very close to Kiddyland is one of the few stores that virtually everyone I know visit at least once, Oriental Bazaar. It has a huge range of fake-traditional to genuinely traditional craft, art and souvenirs, and the prices are about as fair as anywhere in Japan. It has everything from the tackiest plastic samurai swords for kids to real antique kimono. A lot of people I know go there once, to check out the souvenirs and get an idea of prices, and then again before they go home to fill up on any gifts and souvenirs they missed (and I missed getting a photo of the place). You can miss Kiddyland and Oriental Bazaar as they are pretty close, on the right hand side if you come from Harajuku station and walk towards Omotesando street crossing. Omotesando Hills is on the opposite side.
For touristy eating there is also the rather good (for a conveyor belt sushi restaurant) Heiroku Sushi (the photos on their site are old, it looks much better these days). They have proper English menu and a huge variety of sushi, fish and otherwise: a great place to challenge your conceptions about raw food. If you are more into burger chains Wendy’s also has a nice shop just off Omotesando street just near the Sushi place, it is a little tricky to find. Of course there are hundreds of other restaurants, but for the casual tourist with not too much time or money on hand these might be a good start.
Apart from Omotesando Hills there is also the newish Tokyu Plaza, or the Omahara Plaza as some cool cats say (Omotsando + Harajuku = Omahara) with some very peculiar architecture, especially at the entrance. This place is more like a proper department store, with lots of different shops and restaurants, including off course a more stylish mini-Tokyu Hands. Also good for souvenirs.