Before Ikea Harajuku opened on June 8 inside the brand-spanking new With Harajuku complex, I had never visited an Ikea in Japan. The fact that I have only ever rented tiny 1K apartments in Tokyo so far, coupled with the out-of-the-way locations of Ikea branches, meant that I had little reason to do so.
But now that Ikea has opened its first store in the heart of Tokyo, I thought it would be a good opportunity to check out how the Swedish furniture giant fares in Japan.
In two words: it’s popular.
How is Ikea Harajuku different from other stores?
While traditional Ikea stores are sprawling mazes dotted with furniture displays and room mockups, Ikea Harajuku is tailored toward a more urban living style. In Tokyo, this means a range of smaller items for cramped spaces and shoebox apartments.
The concept, according to the official website, is: “solutions…to create a healthier and more sustainable life at home even for small space living in urban area.”
So while the Harajuku store isn’t as big area-wise as the ones in Tachikawa and Chiba, it is undoubtedly easier to get to without a car. Tokyoites are more likely to find something suitable for their squeezy abodes in the capital.
Inside Ikea Harajuku
Back in Australia, my fondest memories of Ikea as a kid was playing inside the colourful ball pit with other random children. More than the meatballs, this and the picture perfect room sets became synonymous with the Swedish furniture chain for me.
Given the size limitations, there is sadly no ball pit at Ikea Harajuku. (I don’t think I would be allowed to play inside anymore, anyway). A sign near the staircase shows the sections inside the outlet.
I was hungry so I made a beeline for the Swedish cafe on the second floor (more on that later). Besides the cafe, this floor also houses the Cook & Eat section. Here, you can find an assortment of kitchenware and furniture, as well as freezers with frozen foods and other ingredients.
I was pleased to see there were also plenty of those Ikea room sets that make me fantasise about a life I will probably never have. This one is for a combined living/dining room for those in 1LDK or 2LDK apartments. The size is 7.5 ryo (12 sqm).
As Ikea Harajuku caters towards living in cramped spaces, the room sets are also modelled after typical small apartments in Tokyo. This particular set is a layout for a one-person room 5.5 ryo (9 sqm) in size.
On the other side of the floor is the Relax section, showcasing a range of cushions, comfy sofas, lamps and other decorative interior items. There is also an Interior Advice desk for those that want advice on furnishing their space.
Heading back downstairs, the first floor contains furniture and interior goods based on the theme of Sleep and Organise. The Sleep section unsurprisingly contains bed frames, mattress, pillows and the like. As typical of Ikea store, you are welcome to try out the beds by sitting or lying down on them.
The Organise section comprises of storage containers, clothes hangers and other little knick-knacks that don’t really fit in the other sections.
According to the official website, there are approximately 9,500 products available for purchase within the store, all with delivery service. About 900 of these items are small enough to take home on the day.
Swedish cafe “Tunnbröd” and convenience store “Fika”
You can grab a light meal or snack at two locations within the store: a Swedish cafe on the second floor, and a Swedish convenience store on the first floor.
Does the Swedish cafe serve the classic Ikea meatballs? Sadly, no.
But it does serve a range of delicious tunnbröd flatbread wraps — sweet and savory, meat and vegetarian — and Nordic drinks. Best of all, everything is under 500 yen, which makes it kind on the wallet too.
You self-order your food from touchscreen terminals, which will issue you a ticket with a number. You collect your food from the kitchen counter when your number is shown on the screen. I wanted to try one of their veggie sausage wraps but they were temporarily sold out. So in the end I just ordered a normal sausage wrap and lingonberry lemonade.
Social distancing was impossible due to the limited seating available. I just wolfed down the light meal as quickly as possible so I didn’t have to occupy a spot close to people for too long.
The Swedish convenience store on the first floor is a real treat with its offering of delicious pastries. Spinach & feta swirls, blueberry danishes, cinnamon rolls…*drools*. It also serves hot drinks, ice cream and instant plant-based noodles and Nordic craft beer to bring home.
You can check out the full menu for both on the official Ikea Harajuku website.
Getting to Ikea Harajuku
Ikea Harajuku is just across the street from JR Harajuku Station and Exit 2 of Meiji-jingumae Station on the Chiyoda and Fukutoshin metro lines. You really can’t miss it.
Jingumae 1-14-30, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Normal opening hours are 10am to 9pm daily, currently shortened to 11am to 8pm due to the coronavirus pandemic. Speaking of which…
There is a limit of 200 customers in the store at any time. As such, during busy times you will need to take a ticket and wait until your number is called. When I went on a Sunday afternoon, I was directed to an escalator to the left of the entrance to get a ticket from the second floor. The escalator itself had a line so it took around 15 minutes of shuffling up before I reached the machines to issue a ticket.
Moving back downstairs to the entrance, I saw they were only admitting people with ticket numbers up to 2400, so I had five groups to wait (they were allowing in people in increments of 50). The estimated wait time was around one hour. If you scan the QR code on the ticket with your smartphone, you can add the website AirWait as a LINE friend and get push notifications when your number is called.
I did that and wandered around Harajuku for a bit, but didn’t want to stray too far. So towards the end I just hovered around the entrance while reading The Handmaid’s Tale.
When my number was finally called, I moved to the entrance with a handful of other people. My ticket was collected and my hands sprayed with sanitizer by staff at the door, then I was inside and free to roam.
Looking for more things to do in the crazy capital? Check out my archive of Tokyo posts to get some ideas.