Today’s place name is one of the most famous places in Tōkyō, probably one of the most famous places in all Japan, and definitely one of the most famous places in the fashion world. In the early 2000’s Takeshita Street attracted fashion-hungry high school kids from all over Japan.
This area of Tōkyō, called Harajuku has been – and still is very much – a fashion center. Takeshita Dōri was ground zero for young people’s fashion for about a decade. It is still very popular, especially with kids from rural Japan and foreign tourists.
The name 竹下通り Takeshita Dōri is quite literally “Takeshita” and “street.” 竹下 Takeshita is a family name. In this case, it refers to a turn of the century admiral of the Japanese Navy named 竹下勇 Takeshita Isamu. It seems old man Takeshita had a house on the street, and being the son of a samurai and a high ranking officer in the Navy and diplomat his name brought prestige to the area. In fact, until 1965 the area at the bottom of the hill and both areas to the left & right of Takeshita Street were known as 竹下町 Takeshita-chō Takeshita Neighborhood. Now that area is 神宮前1丁目 Jingūmae 1-chōme.
The family name itself means “below the bamboo.”
I tried to find a picture of the dude’s house but couldn’t. I tried to find a plaque commemorating the dude’s house, but I couldn’t. I tried to find an old map of the area, but I couldn’t. I tried to find pictures of Takeshita Street from any period before now and I couldn’t. Edo Period maps just show unused grasslands. There must be some pictures out there, so if you have any – or come across any – please share with me.
Admiral Takeshita might not want to see those photos, though. Apparently the area was famous for love hotels, brothels, and counterfeit goods until the 1990’s. Around that time, the zoning laws changed and they started cleaning up the area. I haven’t been there in a long time, but I don’t remember ever seeing any places like that so I’m gonna go out on a limb and say it’s been completely “gentrified” for at least a decade – especially with its proximity to Omotesandō Hills.
I wrote this article in early 2013, but for the past six years the Tourism Boom in Japan has completely killed Harajuku. Takeshita-dōri is the biggest victim. All but three or four cool shops have vanished. Most shops are just large foreign and Japanese chain shops.
There’s nothing original or interesting here at all. Tōkyōites never go here. It’s mostly Chinese tourists and western tourists. Nigerians touts work the street to pull people into shops. The only Japanese people visiting Takeshita-dōri are young girls from the country who are visiting the big city for the time. The street is just a multitude of people so densely packed that everyone is just trying to get away from there.