Shinjuku. You may have heard of the city with the busiest train station in the world, and one of the major economic hubs. It’s probably at the top of most tourists’ bucket lists who want to visit Tokyo. Of course the reason is probably one, that this it the city that never sleeps, and two, there is so much to do all day and all night!
Hopefully this article can be a guide for those who want to see more than the usual tourist spots and get deeper into the lesser known parts of Shinjuku!
This is quite the Memory Lane (literal translation of Omoide Yokocho) as you can get a nostalgic feel of 1950s olden Shinjuku, as you chomp on your tasty yakitori skewer while sitting in a slightly cramped barspace, surrounded by Japanese salarymen who come to drink beer after a hard day’s work.
There are about 60 restaurants, most selling yakitori and oden in the winter, tightly crammed into a 4 lane space. It’s really the place to go if you want a taste of Japanese life during the early post-war era when this area was flourishing.
At first glance, Kabukicho is most likely the most touristy spot on this list. However, besides the bars, lights, and infamous red-light district there are many little unknown and unique bars and shops if you ever chance to go deeper within the streets.
Firstly there is the Shinjuku Batting Center where you can flex your batting muscle, then you can wander around the gay entertainment area of 2chome while spying hosts and hostesses trying to pick up customers.
Finally there is the mega variety store Don Quijote which is open 24 hours and has 4 floors of fun random products as well as your standard snacks, cosmetics, and other appliances. You will never be bored here in Kabukicho!
If you’re not afraid of flashing lights, loud head-splitting music or crazy creations like giant female robot cyborgs “dancing” in front of you, or the hefty price, then this is the ultimate tourist spot for you!
The newly opened Robot Restaurant could possibly be the answer to every tourist who is looking for the “modernized Japan experience.”
For the shopaholics who desire classy fashions, the latest shoes and cosmetics, and the finest gifted fruits (and more in the basement shopping area), you’d better come to Isetan Shinjuku. This shopping mall also has a lot of history as it was originally built back in 1933.
Guys, don’t be depressed imagining having to wait for your significant other while she oohs and ahs over all the latest fashions. There is actually a separate Isetan Men’s building as well! Also, if you are interested in slightly younger modern fashion, there is also the nearby Marui Men’s as well as another separate building for women.
Tired of seeing crowds of people after even more people? Take a train or walk through the Shinjuku metro station underground to Shinjuku Gyoen National Park! For a nominal fee of 200yen for adults and just 50 yen for children, you can relax and enjoy this popular hanami spot which has 20,000 trees! Plenty of greenery! Whoever said Tokyo is a concrete jungle may be slightly ashamed to know this..
Another, lesser known park in Shinjuku is the Central Park, which is sandwiched between skyscrapers like the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building and many apartment buildings. The park even has its own Niagara Falls, which has become the symbol of this park. The 80,000 trees add to the overall greenery of the city and makes a pleasant place to take a walk, ride a bike, or just relax!
Similar to Omoide Yokocho with its narrow streets and tiny buildings but on the eastern side of Shinjuku versus west, this “Golden Street” lets you revisit the “golden era” of Shinjuku in which well-off artistic clientele (think manga artists, directors, literary artists) drink pricey drinks in jazzy bars, most likely reminiscing of the latter part of the 20th century.
The area started off as a brothel district before it became illegal in 1958, but didn’t really flourish due to its nearby rival Kabukicho, so very few people such as the artists knew about this street, thus making Golden Gai a sort of secret hide-out. Come and explore the narrow alleys which are chockfull of history!
On a clear day, you can you will be able to see Tokyo Sky Tree, Tokyo Tower, Tokyo Dome, even Mount Fuji from one of the two 202 meter all observatories.
Tip: the panoramic view from the North Observatory is most popular at night!
Looking for the latest Japanese camera, beauty appliances, or other electronics? Shinjuku offers the best at some of the biggest branches of Bic Camera, Yodobashi Camera, Sofmap so you don’t have to go all the way to Akihabara just to check it out.
Also be on the lookout for Bicqlo, an 11 floor building which houses Bic Camera, Uniqlo and GU together! Staff also speak multiple languages so you can enjoy your shopping spree without trouble!
A shrine hidden in the massive concrete jungle that is East Shinjuku, the Hanazono Shrine actually holds a lot of history, built in the mid 17th century. Come and see many businessmen visiting the Shrine to pray for success to Inari, the androgynous god of fertility and worldly success. Annual events are even held at this Shrine so be on the lookout.
If you’re here in Japan, you might as well get an experience you can’t get elsewhere.
Shinjuku is home to many themed izakayas and cafes, including Christon Cafe (designed based on an European church of the olden times), Alice in Wonderland Cafe, Arabian Rock Persian Restaurant, and more!
“Let’s meet in front of the LOVE sculpture.” The large red LOVE statue is a common meeting place in Shinjuku as it is very obvious and easily accessible. You may have seen this statue in some movies or dramas, but did you know that there are many different versions all around the world?
Brave the crowds and get your Korean food fix by just walking about ten minutes from Shinjuku East Exit.
Recently with the KPOP music boom in Japan, Koreatown has become very popular for tourists and locals alike, who want to eat quite authentic Korean food, buy cheap Korean cosmetics, and buy their favorite idol’s goods.
Fans of the 2003 movie Lost in Translation, starring Scarlett Johansson, will be glad to know the bar in which many scenes were shot, is very accessible in Shinjuku.
According to bar-goers, the New York Bar deserves 5 stars for its amazing views of Tokyo, good drinks, live music, and a smart scene.
Take a breather and watch a Japanese or foreign movie at long-standing, 1920s built old theater Shinjuku Musashinokan.
Shinjuku Musashinokan*Automatic translation
As a sort of mascot for Toho Cinemas’ new Kabukicho movie theater, marketing experts decided to enlist Godzilla’s aid to help their new venture stand out above the rest, literally. If you go down the main road of Kabukicho towards Shidax Karaoke you can see the 1992 Godzilla vs. Mothra 12 meter version of Godzilla towering over Toho Cinemas. Godzilla even roars from time to time!
Also, you can even stay in Godzilla View rooms offered by the next door Hotel Gracery! Who wouldn’t want to wake up to a huge Godzilla head staring you right in the eyes?
Toho Cinemas Shinjuku*Automatic translation
So there you have it – 16 more places in Shinjuku for you to explore! Now get off the main road and drink in the nostalgic aura of a bar in Golden gai, fill your stomach with crazy “themed” food, shop ’til you drop, and more! Shinjuku is the city that never sleeps, but we’re sure that you will enjoy it to the fullest by completing this bucket list!