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Tag Archive: Harajuku

Exciting Places to See in Tokyo for FREE!

  • Posted by:
  • February 9, 2017

Tokyo is one of the most exciting (and expensive) cities in the world. It is also Japan’s capital city and the most populous metropolis on Earth. Tokyo, formerly known as Edo, was a small castle town during the 16th century. When Tokugawa Ieyasu established his feudal government in Edo, it quickly became the one of the largest cities in the country.

The Meiji restoration  of 1868 saw the move of the capital city to Edo as well as the emperor establishing his permanent residence in the city and was henceforth renamed Tokyo (Eastern Capital).

Odaiba sunset.| Emily Cole at KCP Flickr

Today, Tokyo is a favorite tourist destination and a prominent financial, shopping, and entertainment hub.  It is also a haven for Japanese history and tradition.

Even if Tokyo is an expensive city, you can still experience so many of what it has to offer on a tight budget. Here are a few places to visit for free when travelling to Japan:

Get lost in the Imperial Palace gardens. The outer gardens are open to the public for most of the year. The East Garden is probably the most popular with its little bridges, grassy knolls, ponds, and flowering trees. Its gorgeous landscape reflects Japanese aesthetics. Most of the Palace’s administrative offices are located here, including the Imperial Tokagakudo Music Hall, the Archives, Mausolea Department Imperial Household Agency, and the Museum of the Imperial Collections.

Imperial Palace East Gardens. | Matthias Catón

Be enchanted in Harajuku. Harajuku is the Kawaii capital of Japan, is the center of Japanese fashion and youth culture where you can get unique shopping finds and have a great dining experience. Harajuku in Tokyo is the best place to see extreme Japanese pop culture come alive, as well as to appreciate some of the country’s historic sights, all in one place.

Explore Odaiba. Odaiba started out as six artificial fort islands made during the Edo period to protect Tokyo from sea attacks.  Tokyo Governor Shun’ichi Suzuki began developing the islands, spending around 1 trillion yen. But it wouldn’t bear fruit until the late 1990s, when it became a leisure and tourist spot as well. By the 20th century, the fort islands had been expanded so that they could be used as a commercial and residential area.

Walk along Tokyo’s Sumida River. The Sumida  branches out from the Arakawa River at Iwabuchi and flows directly into Tokyo Bay. It passes through the Tokyo wards of Kita, Adachi, Arakawa, Sumida, Taito, Koto, and Chuo. The river meanders for 27 kilometers and runs under 26 bridges which are spaced about a kilometer per bridge.

There are so many more things to see and do in Japan for free for any frugal traveller!

Sumida River.| Emily Cole at KCP Flickr

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Harajuku Haven

  • Posted by:
  • March 9, 2015

HarajukuIMG_20150117_142639 (原宿), the Kawaii capital of Japan, is the center of Japanese fashion and youth culture where you can get unique shopping finds and have a great dining experience. Harajuku, in Tokyo, is the best place to see extreme Japanese pop culture come alive, as well as to appreciate some of the country’s historic sights, all in one place.

Harajuku encompasses from Harajuku Station to Omotesando, including smaller backstreets like Takeshita Street and Cat Street, to Sendagaya to the north and Shibuya to the south. You can join in the popular cosplay culture, and shop at thrift boutiques and even at some of the world-famous high-end fashion chains.  Harajuku is also very close to other local attractions such as the Meiji Shrine, Yoyogi Park, and Yoyogi National Gymnasium.

Winter 2015 KCP Students at Meiji Shrine, Harajuku. | KCP Flickr

DSCN1383During the pre-Edo period, the Harajuku area was a small town where Minamoto no Yoshiie gathered his loyal followers during the Gosannen War (Later the Three-Year War, fought in the late 1080s as part of a long struggle for power within the warrior clan). They came together at the Seizoroi-saka, now known as Jingūmae 2 chōme. As a reward for safely delivering Ieyasu Tokugawa from Sakai to Mikawa during the Honno-ji Incident of 1582, the towns of Onden-mura and Harajuku-mura were given to Iga Ninja in 1590. The Iga clan residence was built in Harajuku to defend Edo because of its strategic location along Koshu Road. The main source of income in the Harajuku area during the Edo period was flour milling and rice cleaning directly sourced from the Shibuya river.

Fall 2014 KCP students at Harajuku. | KCP Flickr

Tōgō_HeihachirōAt the beginning of the Meiji period in 1868, the towns and villages of Shibuya Ward, including Harajuku Village, merged with Tokyo Prefecture. In 1906, Harajuku Station opened as a part of the expansion project of Yamanote Line. In 1940, Togo Shrine was built in honor of Imperial Japanese Navy Marshal-Admiral Marquis Tōgō Heihachirō, one of Japan’s greatest naval heroes.

So much of Japanese culture and history can be experienced in Harajuku—sampling some of the freshest sushi, window shopping, people watching, or visiting a temple. There’s always something for everyone at Harajuku.

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KCP student Emily Cole shares photos of her KCP experience

  • Posted by:
  • December 20, 2012

Gorgeous photos from KCP student Emily Cole capture many facets of Japan, such as the scenic, serene gardens of Shinjuku Gyoen and Ueno Park in contrast to the bustling streets of Asakusa.

Thanks for sharing, Emily!

Kasai Rinkai Koen. This park was about 15 minutes, by foot, from my dorm. It’s right on Tokyo Bay, and on a clear day you can see Mt. Fuji. | KCP Flickr

My favorite place in Tokyo is Ueno Park, a beautiful place to visit in fall as well as spring. Taken at the beginning of December. Leaves littered the ground, in some places so thickly I couldn’t even see the grass. | KCP Flickr

Another shot of Ueno Park. This street is lined with sakura trees, which come into full splendor during the spring. | KCP Flickr

I visited Asakusa during the Jidai Festival. Asakusa is a great place to get a feel for an older, majestic, historic Tokyo. | KCP Flickr

During the semester, KCP took a bus trip to Fuji-Q Highland. Seeing Mt. Fuji so close was awe-inspiring. | KCP Flickr

Harajuku, a famous place in Tokyo for those who love fashion. This is Takeshita Dori on a typical Sunday. | KCP Flickr 

Spectacular Shinjuku Park, just across the street from KCP. Any time I needed a break from the buzzing city, I would meander through Shinjuku Park. | KCP Flickr


After a class field trip to the Nature and Science Museum. All level three students. It was really fun to be able to interact with my classmates and teachers outside of class. | KCP Flickr

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Cosplay: A Unique Form of Japanese Expression

  • Posted by:
  • September 29, 2011

Cosplay (コスプレ) or costume play, is a type of performance art where participants (“cosplayers”) wear costumes to depict an idea, a character, or almost anything imaginable. In Japan, the more popular costumes are inspired from manga, anime, Japanese pop music bands, TV shows, and video games. Japanese cosplay is known as Harajuku fashion since it usually takes place in Harajuku, the bridge that leads to Meiji shrine. Cosplay is different from costuming in that cosplayers do role play by acting like the characters depicted by their costumes.

Harajuku fashion | NatalieHG




Japanese cosplay is popular with people of all ages, and the costumes, including wigs and accessories, are always colorful, outrageous, hip, or downright strange. Whatever it is that cosplay enthusiasts wear, they never feel out of place among the crowd. The creative street fashion show in Harajuku is a Sunday activity and is a source of inspiration for many of the best known designers and celebrities all around the world.

Cosplayer | SHINEZ Photo


Cosplay’s Catching On

Japanese cosplay is a subculture in Japan that is fast becoming a global sensation. Cosplay costumes in Tokyo are a booming industry. Costumes can conveniently be purchased online. A number of cosplay-themed cafes cater to fans where even servers are dressed to impress. Numerous cosplay nightclubs, amusement parks, and parties also pay tribute to the fans of manga, known as “otaku.”

Cosplay is not limited just to Japan, and in fact, has a huge following in the U.S.and Europe. Western cosplay costumes include characters from popular science fiction and fantasy stories: Star Trek, Harry Potter, and Star Wars.

Anime Weekend Atlanta | mikemol

Cosplay at Comiket

Comiket (コミケット Komiketto), or “comic market,” is the world’s largest dōjinshi (self-published) comic book fair, held twice a year in Tokyo, during summer (NatsuComi) and winter (FuyuComi.) It also the largest Japanese cosplay event, where cosplayers can meet, mingle, and admire each other’s outfits.

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Tokyo in a Nutshell

  • Posted by:
  • September 4, 2011

Tokyo, one of the world’s most populated metro areas, is the capital of Japan. Tokyo is one of Japan’s 47 prefectures (districts) and is divided into 23 city wards that include numerous towns and villages. Ogasawara and Izu Islands are also considered part of Tokyo. The total population is over 13 million, and is home to people from all walks of life.


Tokyo cityscape | KCP Flickr


Tokyo has the world’s largest metropolitan economy; 47 of the Fortune Global 500 companies are located in Tokyo. Its official name is the Tokyo Metropolis, formed in 1943 by combining the city of Tokyo and the earlier Tokyo prefecture. It is the home of the Japanese Imperial Family, the Imperial Palace, and the Japanese government.

Japanese Imperial Palace | Miki Yoshihito



Originally, Tokyo was known as Edo. It started out as a small fishing village and grew to become Japan’s cultural, business, shopping, and political epicenter. In the early 1600s, it was the home of Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu’s feudal government. During the Meiji restoration in 1808, Japan’s capital was moved from Kyoto to Edo, and in 1868, the emperor made Edo his permanent residence. It was renamed Tokyo, meaning “Eastern Capital.”

Through the years, Tokyo has experienced many tumultuous events–the Great Kanto earthquake in 1923,  the World War II air raids in 1945, and so on. The great city survived and was rebuilt. It hosted the 1964 Summer Olympics!

Entrance to Asakusa Temple | KCP Flickr










Tokyo’s Unique Contrasts

Tokyo has a wealth of things to see and experience. It is steeped in culture both ancient and modern, history, shopping, entertainment, and architecture. There are scads of places to visit, each with its distinct appeal. The Asakusa district is steeped in the traditional charm of its temples and geishas. In contrast, Harajuku is a modern shopping district exploding with people in avant-garde dress.

Posers at Harajuku | flyingpurplemonkeys

Whether you visit Tokyo for business, pleasure, or study, it will leave a lasting impression that you will always treasure.

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Summer KCP Students Go on a Half-Day Tokyo Tour

  • Posted by:
  • July 22, 2011

This summer term, KCP International students were treated to a half-day Tokyo tour as part of their group session. They chose two popular destinations, Akihabara and Harajuku, which includes the Meiji Jingu shrine.

At Harajuku (原宿)

Harajuku is a Tokyo area famous for its one-of-a-kind street fashions. On Sundays, young people stroll and mingle with other folks, most of them dressed in eye-catching styles such as cosplay costumes, gothic Lolita, flamboyant outfits, and colorful hairdos.

A regularly visited spot within the area is the Meiji Jingu shrine, built in 1920 to commemorate Emperor Meiji. It is known as Tokyo’s grandest shrine.

KCP students searching for good-luck charms at the entrance of the Meiji Jingu shrine. | KCP at Flickr

Students purify themselves before visiting the shrine.  | KCP at Flickr

At Akihabara (秋葉原)

Akihabara is a major Tokyo shopping area. KCP students had a fantastic time inspecting all the various merchandise, from game/animation character goods to computers and cameras.

Two KCP students enjoying themselves at Akihabara. The assortment of stuffed toys behind them is based on famous Japan game characters. | KCP at Flickr


This area is also aptly called Akihabara Electric Town, and it is not hard to see why! It is full of the latest electric products, and here you can fill up your shopping bag with great finds of all kinds of gadgets. | KCP at Flickr


For refreshments, the KCP group went to Gundam Cafe where they enjoyed the world of this wildly popular Japanese anime with an original menu that offered Gundam-themed meals. | KCP at Flickr

This half-day around the metro was a big success! The KCP students had lots of fun as they experienced first-hand the traditional and modern blend of Tokyo life.

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