Arguably the most famous district of Tokyo (東京), Shinjuku, serves all kinds of entertainment and shopping pleasures. Let me tell you what you definitely don’t want to miss when going there.
Shinjuku (新宿) is one of Tokyo’s 23 city wards. Be that as it may, most people think of the large entertainment and business area around Shinjuku Station (新宿駅) when asked about it.
Very understandable, as this is where most of the magic happens.
Shinjuku station is the world’s busiest train station serving over 2 Million passengers every day and having connections to over 10 different railway lines.
In addition, right above the station lies a big bus terminal, where many long-distance highway busses (to Kyoto (京都) for example) depart from.
Seeing as it is such a busy and crazy area there are a bunch of things to do here. I’ll give you my top ten things to do in Shinjuku:
1. Robot Restaurant
This is one of the first attractions that come to my mind when thinking about Shinjuku. The Robot Restaurant is exactly what the name suggests, a restaurant where all kinds of wacky stuff happens.
Neon-lights, screens and mirrors everywhere, this is not a place for the light-hearted.
Once inside, you are seated in the dining area right next to the spot where three to four 90-minute shows are held each night. And these are mindblowing I tell you. If you’re into crazy modern robo-dances and displays, then this is exactly your place.
You can order bento (弁当) boxes and snacks along with drinks. Keep in mind that the prices are relatively high.
Also, you need to pay an entrance fee of 8,000 Yen (62€/$73; Exchange rates as of June 2018) to enter the restaurant.
The establishment is open daily from 4pm to 11pm and is located northeast of Shinjuku Station in the Kabukicho district.
About 8 minutes of walking starting from Shinjuku Station’s North Exit will get you to the restaurant.
2. Kabukicho (歌舞伎町)
Japan’s (日本) largest red light district. This area offers an abundance of restaurants, bars and nightclubs for your nightly activities. Pachinko slot parlors can also be found here.
As it is a red light district, a wide variety of love hotels and establishments typically found in such places are located here as well.
Be cautious when visiting here especially at night, there are touts going around that try to get you to enter their bar or whatever and charge you exorbitant cover fees and prices (mainly non-Japanese establishments).
If you keep your eyes open and be vary of such trickeries, the district is very fun in terms of entertainment and eateries that it has to offer.
The above-mentioned quite famous Robot Restaurant is located here as well.
Kabukicho is a 10-minute walk from Shinjuku Station’s North Exit.
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3. Metropolitan Government Building (東京都庁)
As the name suggests, these 2 towers, along with surrounding buildings, contain offices and the assembly hall of the metropolitan government of Tokyo.
This is why visitors are subjected to bag checks upon entering the building.
Aside from that, the 243 meters tall towers have observation decks on the height of 202 meters that can be visited free of charge.
Depending on weather conditions, famous sights such as Mount Fuji, Tokyo Tower, Tokyo Sky Tree or the Meiji Shrine can be seen from the decks.
I highly suggest coming here as it offers a nice free alternative to Tokyo Tower or Sky Tree, which of course have an entrance fee (still recommend going there though, especially Tokyo Tower).
Each deck has a café and a souvenir shop.
The building is located in the West of Shinjuku Station and can be reached within a ten minute walk from the station’s Western Exit.
4. Golden Gai
Part of Kabukicho is the night-life district Golden Gai. With over 200 bars and small restaurants, you will certainly find something of your liking here.
As space is very limited, most places only have one counter or a few seats available, which are also often already taken by regular customers.
Thus it can be hard sometimes to find a seat, but I promise you’ll find one!
Some bars are even very foreigner-friendly, offering English menus and signs.
If you’re keen on trying out some Japanese sake (rice wine) in bars or restaurants, I recommend taking a sip beforehand to get a taste. For starters, I like a sweet sake like this Kunikiku sake. It’s not that strong but very enjoyable. To drink sake Japanese style, you can get yourself this beautiful Ceramic Sake Set. And to provide yourself and your friends with the appropriate knowledge about sake, I recommend The Sake Handbook. In over 200 pages, the different types of sake and even the basic making of sake is thoroughly covered.
Note: This article contains affiliate links from which I earn a small commission should you purchase anything. There are no additional costs for you.
Golden Gai can be reached by foot after about 9 minutes of walking.
5. Omoide Yokocho
Literally meaning ‘memory lane’, this neat little place also has the playful nickname ‘Piss Alley’.
Similar to Golden Gai, it’s a small network of multiple little streetways that inhabits a big number of smaller restaurants and bars serving all kinds of delicacies like Sushi (寿司), Ramen (ラーメン) or Yakitori (焼き鳥).
Space can also be limited here so be prepared to search around a little until you find an open seat.
A quick 6-minute walk is all it takes to get you there, North of Shinjuku Station.
6. Shin-Okubo Koreatown
Are you into K-Pop or Korean food but can’t or don’t want to go to South Korea? This is the place to go.
Here you can find a variety of Korean shops and restaurant serving everything you could ask for.
K-Pop music, videos or even Korean groceries. Most if not all of these shops are operated by Korean immigrants.
Shin-Okubo Koreatown is located just around the Shin-Okubo Station (新大久保駅), which is one above Shinjuku Station.
Take the JR Yamanote line in Shinjuku Station. The ride costs 140 Yen (1,08€/$1.28) and is only 4 minutes long. As soon as you leave Shin-Okubo Station, you’re basically there.
Alternatively you can walk about 20 minutes from Shinjuku Station.
7. Shinjuku Gyoen
Escape the hectic city life of Tokyo for a moment in Shinjuku Gyoen (御苑). This park is one of the largest and most popular of its kind in Tokyo.
You have to pay 200 Yen (1,54€/$1.82) to enter it but let me tell you that it is definitely worth every Yen.
Spacious lawns provide for a good spot for a picnic. During Cherry Blossom Season in April, this park is one of the best places to enjoy the views.
The Garden is separated into three parts: an English, a French and a Japanese Garden. On top of that, there is also a Greenhouse that you can enter.
Opening hours are from 9am to 4:30pm with 4pm being the last chance of entry
The park is located just outside the Eastern Exit of Shinjuku Station. You can reach its entrance by foot within 10-15 minutes
8. Hanazono Shrine
But even here you can enjoy some traditional sites, and I recommend the Hanazono Shrine (花園神社) for Shinjuku particularly.
It is and has been since the 17th century, the main shrine of the Shinjuku city ward.
Ukanomitama (稲魂) is the name of this shrine’s deity, the god of agriculture (rice especially). Praying (how to visit a shrine correctly, later article) here might increase your findings in delicious food. 😉
Hanazono Shrine is a 10-minute walk from Shinjuku Station’s Northern Exit.
9. Department Stores
Don’t think about leaving Shinjuku without having done some shopping!
There are 6 big Department Stores worth mentioning here:
Hours: 10:30am – 8pm
Shinjuku’s oldest Department Store. Ten floors of epicness, including restaurants on top and a food department at the bottom.
Hours: 10am – 8:30pm (Sundays until 8pm)
Big Department Store with 16 floors also including restaurants at the top and a food department in the basement.
Hours: 10am – 8pm (Fridays and Saturdays until 8:30pm)
The main part of the Takashimaya Time Square complex. 15 floors including 3 restaurant floors.
Hours: 10am – 8:30pm (Sundays and holidays until 8pm)
Part of the Keio Group that operates a subway line from Shinjuku to West Tokyo, the Keio Department Store has 11 floors with restaurants and a food department.
Hours: 11am – 9pm
Ten floors in general, seven floors for shopping, three floors of restaurants. Within the same complex lies the ‘Mosaic Dori’, a Pedestrian Street between Keio and Odakyu Department Stores.
Mylord is part of the Odakyu Group.
Hours: 11am – 9:30pm
Lumine is located right beside and above Shinjuku Station’s Southern and Eastern Exit. That’s because it is owned by JR East and also separated into two parts, one for each exit.
All of these Stores are located in the very vicinity of Shinjuku Station. As their buildings are quite big, you won’t miss them!
10. Cat café ‘Die Katze’
I’m sure you have heard of this wonderful attraction you can experience here in Japan, the cat café. ‘Katze’ is the German word for cat. The owner is a cat named ‘König’ (King) that will gladly serve you over 30 varieties of tea.
Definitely visit here if you’re fond of cats. Snacks like brownies or cookies are also available, as well as lunch sets.
Monday-Saturday: 11:30am – 10
Sundays & Holidays: 11:30am – 7pm
The café is located inside the Sunmall Building No. 7.
Take the Marunouchi Line (Red) from Shinjuku Station to Shinjuku-Gyoenmae Station for 3 Minutes and 170 Yen (1,31€/$1.55). Then, walk for another 3 minutes.
Alternatively, you walk all the way which takes about 16 minutes.
And that’s the list! 10 places I highly recommend visiting when in Shinjuku, so schedule some time for it. 🙂
Of course you don’t need to do everything and there is still a lot of other things to do besides these 10 (some of which I will likely cover in later articles)
Shinjuku is a place full of excitement. When you are in Tokyo, you definitely cannot miss this district.
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Thank you very much for reading! Below I’ll provide short information about how to get to Shinjuku.
From Tokyo Station (東京駅)
Take the JR Chuo line (orange trains). The ride takes about 15 minutes and costs 200 Yen (1,54€/$1.82).
From anywhere with connection to the JR Yamanote Line
The JR Yamanote Line always circulates between Tokyo’s major stations. That means you can reach Shinjuku from places like Shibuya (渋谷), Ikebukuro (池袋), Ueno (上野) or Harajuku (原宿) for very cheap money.
That’s it for this article. See you in the next one! また ね!