These days, everyone’s “doing it for the ‘gram.” From dessert museums to experiential pop ups designed for photographs, visually-inspired experiences are a hit all around the world. And nowhere is that more true than in Tokyo, where kawaii culture reigns and experiences like TeamLab are consistently recommended as one of the top things to do. It’s in this super-cute world that Foodie Adventure Japan’s Instalicious Tokyo Food Tour was born. This food tour in Harajuku promises sweet and savory treats, historical insight and a glimpse into current fashion trends.
I became friends with Foodie Adventure Japan’s founder, Gizem, on Instagram (of course!). And when she invited me to join one of her Instalicious Food Tours through Harajuku, I grabbed my favorite camera and my Instagram lipstick and made my way to Takeshita Street. At that point, I’d walked up and down that street no less than 10 times and while I was excited, I was pretty sure there were no surprises left for me in Harajuku. Well.. the joke was on me! Gizem (this lovely lady is half-German/half-Turkish and married to a Japanese man) had all sorts of surprises up her sleeve!
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Harajuku consists of roughly three blocks, but they are the very definition of the term chockablock! Hundreds, if not thousands of businesses set up shop here. Lest you feel 100% overwhelmed from the very beginning, let’s stop first on the outskirts.
An Instalicious tour of Harajuku
It’s Cookie Time!
Y’all. I cannot adequately explain my love for Cookie Time. When I lived in New Zealand, this was one of my favorite desserts in Queenstown! It turns out, the second of their two cookie bars in the whole entire world is in Harajuku!
Take your taste buds on a grand adventure with a cookie shake that comes with an Instagrammable inflatable drink holder! Once you’ve enjoyed your shake, it’s time to head out to Takeshita Street to continue your food tour through Harajuku!
Get your mind out of the toilet
Despite the rather popular (or should I say POOP-ular) toilet-themed ice cream available on this street, Takeshita Street has nothing to do with the potty-mouth phrase it contains. This area used to be a a forested neighborhood and the phrase “takeshita” means “below the bamboo.” If you get overwhelmed walking these streets… just picture the calm bamboo forest of yesteryear!
As you walk down Takeshita Street, Gizem points out Harajuku fashion through the ages. More than a decade ago, metal and goth were the kawaii of the day, and you can still see original studded cuffs, platform boots and other accessories your mom definitely wouldn’t approve of you wearing out in public. From there, Lolita fashion became all the rage, frilly frocks inspired by Victorian and Edwardian children’s clothing. Sadly, many of the subcultures are being killed by fast fashion, like H&M and Forever21. Today, you’re likely to see rainbow and unicorn accessories and giant food or character-themed cell phone covers in every teenage girl’s hand.
The subculture fashion is getting fewer and further between, but it’s not gone altogether. In fact, Lady Gaga still frequents one of the shops on the street that carries a replica of her backup dancer’s costume! Want to know which shop? You’re just going to have to book the tour.
Let’s do the twist!
Long! Longer! Longest! prides themselves on creating mega versions of tasty snacks like ice cream, cotton candy and tater twisters. Watch a normal potato go into the spiraling machine, accordioned onto a skewer, battered and deep fried. We tasted three different flavors and came to a team consensus that the butter and soy is a fan favorite!
Purikura is an abbreviation of the words “print club.” Teenagers (and tourists like me) love the chance to take photos and then decorate them with digital stamps and stickers. It’s the best combination of vintage photo booths and a high tech world.
Although some of the groups of teen girls spent as much time selfie-ing on their phones as in the booth, this is a great way to move away from the handheld screen and have some fun friend time with results that last forever in sticker form!
Taste the rainbow
The Totti Candy Factory and I were love at first sight. (Ok – I fell in love after watching the process on a video and their feelings about me aren’t actually clear.) I’ve been to the shop three times, and the novelty of their mega rainbow cotton candy hasn’t worn off yet!
Be sure to get your camera ready for the process – that’s half the fun!
If you know where to look… the subculture fashion is alive and well. It’s just not on Takeshita Street. It’s in the backstreets of Uruhara. Here, small label fashion and select shops are booming. A select shop is one of the oldest forms of influencer marketing. The owner of the shop curates a mix of old and new clothing to create a brand that’s all their own, and the fan base eats it up! When you walk into one of these shops, you’ll get a glimpse into the owner’s soul. The possibilities are endless – from kimono pieces sewn into jackets to a completely handmade line of anime attire, you’ll find your niche here.
It’s on these streets that you’ll find some of Tokyo’s only street art. Graffiti is illegal in Japan, but the owners of some of the buildings in Uruhara have commissioned art in the area. Outside the Vans Beams store, you’ll find a piece by famous artist, Zio Ziegler, who was flown in just to create this piece of art!
Welcome to the zoo
One of the things I appreciated most about the Instalicious Food Tour in Tokyo is Gizem’s ability to curate cute AND delicious treats. So often, the cute food I eat tastes like food coloring or plastic. But this is a food tour for foodies who want it all – looks and taste!
At our final stop, we head down a set of stairs and into a kawaii pink shop, where a menu of animal cones line the wall. (Don’t worry- vegetarians can enjoy without guilt.)
I tried the flavor of the month, and let me tell you… it was high koala-ty! The mango ice cream was some of the freshest and most flavorful I’ve had in Tokyo!
This Instalicious tour was full of beautiful food that’ll keep my Instagram looking good for days to come. And I love that the food tasted as good as it looks! If you want to book your own Instalicious Food Tour, click here!
Note: Foodie Adventure Japan hosted me on their Instalicious Tokyo Food Tour. As always, all opinions are my own and I won’t recommend anything to you that’s not awesome!