Updated： July 11, 2018
10 Best Things To Do In Shinjuku
Because there is so much more to Shinjuku than the (in)famous robot restaurant, we made a straightforward guide from a local's perspective.
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Golden Gai: Back Alleys Of Another Era
Golden Gai is a mind-blowingly interesting small area of Shinjuku that has resisted the development boom of the post-WW2 reconstruction era. It is constituted essentially of a couple of small alleys of two-story buildings housing the tiny bars that usually just have a counter and 5 or 6 seats. The area has a rich history that you will feel it when you get there. Golden Gai is definitely one of the most atmospheric parts of Tokyo.
The famous area is on the east side of Shinjuku.
The famous area is on the east side of Shinjuku.
Hanazono Shrine: Oasis Of Tranquility In The Urban Jungle
Shinjuku is not a place of particular religious importance but there is this one shrine called Hanazono that stands out in the landscape because of its beauty and the fact that its premises are one of the few surfaces in Shinjuku that are not covered in concrete or highrise buildings. The shrine dates back to the 17th century and is traditionally a place where people pray for success. It's located very close to the Golden Gai back alleys so make sure to visit this little gem too.
Shinjuku The Ramen Battle Ground
There are literally hundreds of ramen joint in Shinjuku. The reason is simple, Shinjuku is a major business hub with a massive ramen-hungry Japanese businessmen population. Many of the most famous ramen joints in the country are located here. In front of famous joints, you can sometimes see long queues of people waiting to get their weekly dose of Japan's most addictive comfort food.
Omoide Yokocho: The "Memory Lanes" Of Shinjuku
Omoide Yokocho is similar to Golden Gai in that is also a rare area in Tokyo that has stayed pretty much the same since the early days of the Showa Era. You'll find there so many good little bars and eateries serving, for instance, skewered grilled meat called in Japanese yakitori or kushiyaki. You can also find sushi and sashimi, and all kinds of Japanese traditional fast foods that you find in taverns served in small portions. Omoide Yokocho is on the west side of the Shinjuku Station, adjacent to the train tracks. Omoide Yokocho is a popular after-work drinking place for Shinjuku businessmen and drunkards. It's also called piss alley. It's a must-see place in Shinjuku regardless of whether or not you want to drink or not.
Shinjuku The Shopping Mecca
Shinjuku is pretty much up there in terms of things to buy: whether your looking for electronics, clothes or anything in between. For clothes, many young people like to go to the Lumine, which is a brand of department stores that you'll find around major stations in Japan. Shinjuku has Lumine 1, 2, and EST. On the south side of the station, there is a huge new complex called NeWoman. For clothes, there is also Marui and Isetan. The last three mentioned here are generally seen as being more geared towards an "older" clientele. If you are looking for electronics and gadgets, you might want to go to Yodobashi Camera, or Bic Camera which are both huge department stores.
Kabukicho: The Red-Light District With Lots Of Good Restos, Actually!
Kabukicho is also an unmissable area of Shinjuku. It is widely considered the biggest red-light district of Japan. You'll see plenty of host and hostess bars (basically rental boyfriends and girlfriends that entertain patrons at bars), love hotels, shady "massage parlours", etc. That's one side of Kabukicho. The other side is that it's an awesome gourmet spot! There are countless good restaurants in the area, many of which rate in the top-tier of online Japanese review sites. The famous robot restaurant is located there, but don't limit yourself to that one, please! For traditional restos of Kabukicho, with an awesome atmosphere and food, see the links below.
Jaw-Dropping FREE View Of The City At The Observatory Deck Of The Metropolitan Government Building
Shinjuku ward is the capital of sorts of the Metropolitan Area of Tokyo. It is there that you find the Tocho 都庁, which is the Metropolitan Government building. Because it's a public building, the access to it is free, and there is an awesome observatory floor 202 meters above ground. You have one of the most awesome views of the city. On a clear day, you can even see Mount Fuji. The observatory floor is open from 9:30 AM to 11 PM. The Metropolitan Government Building is on the west side of Shinjuku.
Tokyo's Central Park: Shinjuku Gyoen
When you look at a map of central Tokyo, you will notice three distinct large green areas: Yoyogi Park near Harajuku, the Imperial Palace Park near the Tokyo Station, and Shinjuku Gyoen located at about a 5-minute walk from the South Exit of the Shinjuku Station. These three are sort of the little central parks of Tokyo. They are natural playgrounds where people enjoy picnicking, strolling and lazing around. Shinjuku Gyoen is particularly its traditional Japanese garden part. There is a small entrance fee to get in.
Eat And Drink At An Authentic Izakaya (Japanese Tavern)
As we've said in the ramen section, Shinjuku has hordes of business people, and the presence of this kind of people goes hand in hand with a high concentration of izakayas. The only problem you'll have once you've decided to go for some drinks and foods at an izakaya is deciding which one to go to because there are so many. See the guide that we've made for some ideas.
Enjoy The Nightlife At The Countless Other Drinking Holes
There are so many cool places to have a drink in Shinjuku. If you are looking for bars specifically, you might want to try the Shinjuku Sanchome area (South Exit of the station). Golden Gai and Omoide Yokocho are good places to have drinks too if you want a grungy atmosphere. Shinjuku is also home to the biggest gay town of Japan called Shinjuku Nichome. There are plenty of bars there as well. Here's a guide to some of the popular bars of Shinjuku.
- Japanese food culture enthusiast. Love to explore new areas and discover local specialties.
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