Shinjuku is part party and nightlife district and part business district. During the day you’ll see businessmen and women exiting Shinjuku Station, the busiest train station in the world. At night, the streets are a blaze of neon lights with loads of bars, restaurants, and karaoke clubs. Shinjuku is also a convenient place to stay for access to Tokyo’s other central neighborhoods like Shibuya, Ginza, Akihabara, and Asakusa.
Shinjuku Gyoen is easily one of our favorite parks in Tokyo. The 200 yen entrance fee keeps the park from getting overcrowded like Yoyogi Koen. It has French, English, and Japanese gardens and in May the extensive rose garden is in full bloom. It’s also a popular spot for ohanami, cherry blossom viewing in the spring. The park’s wide lawns are perfect for picnics and the Parisian style promenade is lined with benches where you can relax and people watch. Shinjuku Gyoen is open 9am-4:30pm with last entrance at 4pm.
Location // 11 Naitomachi, Shinjuku, Tokyo 160-0014, Japan
Located behind the Shinjuku Best Western, Golden Gai is a small section of seedy streets packed with tiny bars. Golden Gai is a piece of Tokyo’s past, many of these bars were once brothels, and the narrow streets and small two story buildings exemplify what the streets of Tokyo once looked like. The bars are particularly popular among the artist, writer, director, musician crowd and many are themed. The foreigner friendly bars often have English on their signs.
Kabukicho is the largest red light district in the world. It’s hectic, crowded, and men will be hassled to go into hostess clubs (where they pay to have drinks and be entertained by women). It’s also the home of the hugely popular Robot Restaurant, which has evening shows with dancing girls, giant robots, and elaborate light displays.
We’ve walked through Kabukicho at night and it feels relatively safe. We didn’t stay long and would not go into any bars unless we knew they were safe. There’s still a large Yakuza presence in the area, so getting drunk and wandering around aimlessly could get you into trouble.
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building has free observatories on the 45th floor of each of its two towers. From the observation decks you’ll see Shinjuku’s skyscrapers, like the Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower (the 2008 skyscraper of the year), and on a clear day Mount Fuji. The Tokyo Metropolitan Building is next to Shinjuku Central Park and about a 10 minute walk west of Shinjuku Station.
Location // 2-8-1 Nishishinjuku, Shinjuku, Tokyo 163-8001, Japan
Omoide Yokocho or Memory Lane is also known as Shoben Yokocho or Piss Alley. Shonben Yokocho still maintains its post-WWII black market feel despite most of the area being rebuilt in 1999. These narrow alleys northwest of Shinjuku Station are packed with tiny restaurants serving yakitori, grilled skewered meats and offal, and other traditional Japanese dishes. Some only cater to regulars, so you keep your eye out for friendly shop owners.
Takashimaya is a 15 floor Japanese department store located at the southeast corner of Shinjuku Station. There are three levels of restaurants and a depachika (department store basement), which Blaine and I like to call food wonderlands. Depachika are great places to find food souvenirs like green tea and sweet red bean paste desserts, and sample sake and fresh baked bread. We also purchased one of our masu (wooden sake cup) from a Takashimaya. So, in general they’re a good place to find food and non-food souvenirs.
Location // 5 Chome-24-2 Sendagaya, Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan
What would you most like to do in Shinjuku?
What to do in Tokyo’s Neighborhoods