Harajuku – はらじゅく- 原宿
原宿, the two characters, literally means “Original Habitat”
It is a strawberry milkshake that smoothly blends history and youth, culture and identity, and pink hearts and gothic skulls together. It melts on your tongue, leaving a bittersweet residue, and rides down your throat, stirring tropical sensations throughout your veins.
Music blasts from each store front.
High pitch advertisements from the microphones of the store clerks.
Ecstatic conversations in every language.
About boyfriends, ankle socks, vanilla ice-cream, curly bangs, the vintage 80’s.
Colors in every possible gradient – brands and logos, slogans and graphics, coloured and dull.
Plaid school uniforms with preppy ties and bows.
Knee high socks.
Sneakers and heels and everything in between.
All screaming “Notice Me” in your face.
A half chewed piece of crepe
A mouthful of buttery fat cream
Fruity perfume that brings back memories of mango topped shaved ice and coconut milk sago.
A handful of plastic shopping bags that crinkle as my knees kick against them as I walk.
My arms are a bit sore from holding the bags. I changed the weight onto another arm.
This is Harajuku, the ultimate culmination of consumerism and purchasing urges, the irresistible combination of desires for attention and fame, and the birth place of Japanese fashion and pop-culture. The mile-long main street branches off into thousands of unique niches, each hiding countless treasures to be discovered and things to be bought.
The street bustles deep into the night, with lights over-powering the moon and stars. The voices will not cede. The swarm of people will continue to flow down the stone-laid roads, like running water, a stream, a waterfall. Each store and every snack seems tempting. The whole street is like a colour and cute-ness bomb, overloading our senses, surrounding us within a fortress of excitement.
It truly is an “Original Habitat”.
And when the sky is draped in a tapestry of new-born baby pink radiating from a blushing (or fuming) sun, maybe only then, will a piece of quiet be found in the thick criss-crossed winding streets.
Under the thin morning dew mist that wraps on the streets like cotton candy, brand logos and names tone down their lights and lifelessly display themselves, leaves twirl down from the trees, a wrinkled Pepsi can crinkly roll across the street as the wind brushes over it, a dampened receipt clings onto the sidewalk. The colors that made Harajuku proud of itself, left it, and made it nothing more than a regular pitiful street.
And vaguely, very vaguely, through the fog, you can see an old man – in a dull green army coat, ill-fitted pants, and a matching camouflage cap – bent over, grasping tightly onto his dustpan and broom. He sweeps across the uneven grey floor blocks that so many young careless souls have stood, walked, and ran upon chasing after their insecurities. His coarse broom scratches across floors, letting out crisp swishing sounds.
Harajuku, the street of pop, flow, and vibe, is no more than a slightly windy, messily built, and very colourless street in the morning, backgrounded with a few crow screeches here and there, a rhythmic sweeping swoosh, and a forlorn, half crushed aluminium can reflecting the sunlight as it rolls down the rough streets.
I guess the colours only come out at night.