Undoubtedly one of the most popular cities in all of Tokyo, and also holding the title of the busiest station in the whole world, Shinjuku is a-whole-nother level of concrete jungle.
You will definitely pass through this station (and thus city) during your travels through Tokyo, seeing as how it’s one of the major transport hubs of Tokyo, even if you don’t plan on visiting the area itself – however, we highly suggest passing through and even staying within Shinjuku because a). it’s sort of ‘in the middle’ of everywhere, and b). it’s got a ton of activities you’d be crazy not to try!
The crowds of Shinjuku are just what you’d imagine Tokyo to be like – bustling and loud (a bit like in Shibuya). The streets of Shinjuku are also just how you’d imagined them to be – bright, flashing, colourful, and completely addictive. During the day, Shinjuku is a maze of retail shops and cafes, but it really comes alive at night when the bars and restaurants begin to open, and the crowds thicken with salary-men and shift workers coming off their jobs.
Navigating through Tokyo may be a bit confusing if it’s your first time in Japan, but what’s not confusing is the fact that Shinjuku is one of the liveliest and most entertaining cities you could come across – ever.
The Best Hotels In Shinjuku
Keio Plaza Hotel Tokyo
This is pretty much one of the top hotels you could stay at in Shinjuku. From its perfect location that’s only a few minutes’ walk from Shinjuku Station, to its clean, modern facilities, multilingual staff, and even the choice of a standard room or an over-the-top but somewhat not crazy enough Hello Kitty room, Keio Plaza Hotel offers everything you need for a comfortable stay in Tokyo.
All rooms offer panoramic views of the city, and will keep you entertained with their flat-screen TVs and satellite channels. There are even yukata robes and slippers for all guests to slip into. Onsite, there’s a fitness centre, an outdoor swimming pool, a karaoke room, convenience store, restaurants, a bar, and even a free shuttle to Tokyo Disney Resort.
Why Guests Love It: “Great hotel! Great staff, great location! Very clean!”, “Awesome buffet breakfast, comfy beds and near the train station. Winner!”, “Very well located in Shinjuku, near shops, restaurants, bars and Shinjuku Station.”, “Incredible shopping precinct with an abundance of restaurants. Perfect place for families and couples.”
Book It Now: Keio Plaza Hotel Tokyo
APA Hotel Kabukicho Tower
Located in the entertainment district of Kabukicho is this popular modern accommodation, only 6-minutes away from JR Shinjuku, and 2-minutes from Seibu-Shinjuku. Multiple comforts are available for all guests at this hotel, including an open-air public bath onsite, free Wi-Fi throughout the property, 50-inch flat-screen TVs, onsite restaurants, and a buffet breakfast that includes a plethora of Japanese and Western-style dishes.
If you want to eat out instead, simply step through the doors of the hotel and prepared to be overwhelmed by the unlimited number of restaurants, cafes and bars only a few metres away.
Why Guests Love It: “It’s comfortable, clean, and the soundproofing is great…absolutely no noise from outside can be heard inside! Surrounded by several 24 hour convenient stores and millions of 24 hour restaurants. Very close to both JR and subway station.”, “The free onsen is very nice, every night we spend our time there.”, “Perfect location. Free communal bath is a great plus moreover during August hot days.”
Book It Now: APA Hotel Kabukicho Tower
Centrally located amongst multiple stations, Nishitetsu Inn is a great, average-priced hotel for travellers who are looking for a comfortable stay in a generous-sized room without the hefty price tag. The modern hotel offers free Wi-Fi throughout the property, with air-conditioning and a flat-screen TV across all guest rooms.
There are massage services onsite that you can take to knead out those sore legs from walking all day, and restaurants and cafes so you don’t have to go far for a decent meal.
Why Guests Love It: “Really great hotel near the centre of a busy area, close to the business district. Very clean rooms which are well furnished.”, It was relatively inexpensive, clean, and well-located.”, “Hotel is a few steps away from metro station, and within walking distance to many attractions/points of interest. Room is tiny but extremely well organised. (It’s seriously inspirational how efficient they utilise every centimetre of the room).”
Book It Now: Nishitetsu Inn
You can find more accommodation options in Tokyo here: Where to stay in Tokyo.
The Best Things To Do In Shinjuku
1. Kabukicho & Robot Restaurant
Kabukicho is the famed red-light district of Tokyo, but don’t let the charm of Japan’s polite and rule-following society fool you – here, it’s as gritty as it gets in Japan (which isn’t really that gritty at all).
All throughout the week, at night, you will see bars and host clubs set up with greeters outside beckoning you into the dim doorway entrances of their seedy looking establishment.
Most will attempt to call to you once and let it go, but some can be a bit pushy. Almost everything is paid in yen at these places, so make sure you have enough in your wallet before you head in!
In saying all the above, Kabukicho is really just a Sunday stroll for most. It’s a highly entertaining area with car horns and music and loud shouting sounds filling the air every night, and you can easily walk through the neighbourhood with your partner or your friends without feeling threatened.
One of the most popular activities to do in Kabukicho with tourist is visiting the Robot Restaurant Tokyo. For those who have never heard of it before, it is not so much of an eating establishment as it is entertainment show that’s wild, loud, confusing, and at all times completely random.
There are girls in skimpy outfits, massive drums, dancers dressed up in animal costumes, and of course, robots. It’s a show that just doesn’t make any sense, and you just kind of take it at face value. It’s great fun, and makes for a super fun night out with your friends and a great story to talk about at home.
You can purchase tickets online but make sure you do it in advance cause it’s often fully booked.
Discounted Tickets: Robot Restaurant Tickets
2. Golden Gai
This area encompasses the famous drinking alleyways of Shinjuku. It consists of a couple of small blocks of tiny bars jam-packed right next to each other, with the space in each one being able to host on average 5-8 customers.
From their humble beginnings as a small nightlife escape during the post-war period, it’s now grown exponentially, not in size, but in value and name. What use to be just a locally-minded drinking hole area is now a famous tourist attraction, and on any given night, you’ll see many foreigners perusing through the small alleys, peering tentatively through the flaps of the entrance to try and get a glimpse and feel of what’s inside the bar.
The area is small, but the offerings are wide in variety and price – each place has its own unique drink, and some places charge hefty entrance fees, whilst others, not so much. Some are wholly welcoming with foreigners, whereas you might feel a sense of judgement at others (although not so much anymore – to be sure, if there is English on the menu outside, you’re good to go!).
Visiting this area is a tick off the bucket list for most – the best stories are the ones where you end up bar hopping all night, making friends from across the world at each one, and wake up to a bit of a headache, a lighter wallet, and memories to last you a lifetime.
- Address: 1 Chome-1-６ Kabukichō, Shinjuku-ku, Tōkyō-to 160-0021
- Access: From Shinjuku Station, take the East exit. Head towards the Shinjuku Ward office, and then take a right. Continue until you start to see the small bars (only a few minutes away).
3. Shinjuku Gyoen Park
This park is one of Tokyo’s largest and most popular parks for tourists to visit. It’s easily accessible from Shinjuku station, and offers a respite from the high rise towers and massive crowds of the city. Whilst there is a small entrance fee, the tranquil scenery is one that’s enjoyed by many locals and tourists alike, especially during the cherry blossom season, when the grounds are covered in picnic mats and people simply enjoying the beauty of the nature there.
A few of the attractions to this park include the gardens there, which include an old landscape garden that features large ponds with small islands and bridges, a French garden, and an English landscape garden, all with perfectly manicured lawns and well-kept greenhouses.
If you’re a fan of autumn foliage in Japan, this is also a great place right in the middle of the city to revel in the beauty of the burnt orange autumn landscape that Japan’s famous for. Grab a picnic mat or relax on the many benches available throughout the park and enjoy the warm sun with a bento in one hand and a beer in the other.
- Address: 11 Naitōmachi, Shinjuku-ku, Tōkyō-to 160-0014
- Access: From JR Shinjuku station, it is a 10-minute walk from the “New South Exit”.
- Hours: 9:00am – 4:30pm
- Cost: 200 yen
4. Hanazono Shrine
If you thought you had to travel far and wide to witness the beautiful shrines of Japan, you are wrong! Right in the heart of Shinjuku sits Hanazono Shrine, a Shinto Shrine, that’s got thousands of years of history. The gorgeous red traditional structure juxtaposes with the nearby newly renovated and built department stores, meaning you can get the full-circle Japanese experience without even leaving the area.
Past visitors to this shrine have nothing but good words for it. The allure of Shinjuku City is unlike any other place in the whole world, but it is made even more special when you consider that just a few minutes walk outside of its boundaries is a completely different experience and beauty that’s often overlooked and underappreciated, and thus never overrun with crowds. You’ll really appreciate the serenity of this shrine, and on Sundays, there’s even a small flea market set up where you can check out unique wares by the locals.
- Address: 5 Chome-17-3 Shinjuku, 新宿区 Shinjuku-ku, Tōkyō-to 160-0022
- Access: From Shinjuku-Sanchome station, take exit B3 or B5.
5. Fortune Telling
It’s no secret that Asian countries are big believers of karma and fortune telling, and Japan is no different. For a different and whacky experience, you can even get your fortune told on the streets of Shinjuku.
Will the love of your life appear before the end of the year? Will it be an old friend or a new flame? Are you getting that promotion you’ve been working hard for over the past few months? Where will you travel next? These are just some of the questions that might get answered if you decide to dip into one of the stores for your fortune to be told.
Tamao is a recognised and revered fortune teller who’s had many successful and happy customers before, so you won’t be throwing your money into the wind! She consults in her own space as well as your accommodation, and her sessions go for either 40-minutes or 80-minutes. You can even book in a web session, if you want!
- Cost: from 8,880 yen for 40-minutes
- Book It Now: Fortune Telling in Shinjuku
The Best Restaurants In Shinjuku
Before we get into this section, we’d just like to put a disclaimer out that almost every restaurant in Japan is top quality. There are no corners cut here, no jobs half done – every establishment takes major pride in what they serve, and it will always show.
There is a massive (massive) concentration of restaurants in Tokyo, especially within areas like Shinjuku, so you’ll most likely stumble upon a restaurant whilst walking through the streets whose menu looks absolutely fantastic, so by all means, go for it! You probably won’t regret it.
In saying that, below are some of the ones we consider to be the some of the best meals you could treat yourself:
Abura soba literally translantes to ‘oil noodles’ from Japanese, and it’s a dish that’s completely and utterly addictive. It is a soup-less ramen dish that consists of noodles, a special shoyu sauce, and pork grease which is placed at the bottom of the bowl. It is then topped with such things as chashu, green onion, bamboo shoots, seaweed, minced garlic, and an onsen egg.
Once placed in front of you, you are meant to customise it with vinegar and chilli oil to taste, as well as any other condiments you’d like, and mix up the entire bowl before you begin consuming it. It’s a unique variation to the standard soup ramen dishes, and trust us, it’s amazing!
Kappo Nakajima in Shinjuku, Tokyo
This independent Michelin-star restaurant specialises in sardines (iwashi). Now, before you raise your eyebrows and continue scrolling, hear us now! Ths is definitely a case of don’t knock it before you try it.
Whilst Japan is better known for their fresh tuna belly and salmon, this restaurant has mastered the art of serving sardines in four different ways – the Furai fried sardines in panko, sardines sashimi-style with seaweed, the Nizakana style simmered in dashi with shoyu, and the Yanagawa Nabe style, which is served in an egg casserole omelette. The price is ridiculously cheap for a Michelin-star restaurant, so you’ll head out with a full stomach and a surprisingly still-full wallet.
There are a million and one tempura restaurants located in Tokyo alone, but Tsunahachi stands out simply because their crisp, light-fried tempura pieces are that good. It’s a super popular place for both salary-men and tourists alike, so expect there to be somewhat of a line when you arrive.
Lunch sets are cheaper than the dinner menu sets, so we suggest heading there at lunch if you’re on a budget. It’s located close to Shinjuku Station, and they even have an English menu!
If you are really into Japanese, you can also check out these food tours in Tokyo.
The Best Shops & Malls In Shinjuku
If you haven’t heard already, Don Quijote is the store you want to go for pretty much everything. Groceries? They’ve got you covered. Souvenirs? Multiple levels to explore. Whacky items that you can only find in Japan? There are entire sections dedicated to them.
It may not sound like you need that much time, but trust us when we way, you’re going to need a few hours, especially if it’s your first time.
You’ll discover products you didn’t’ even know existed, foods that you’ll be dying to try, and of course, come across so many different things to buy as souvenirs that you’re going to have a hard time picking and choosing!
The Shinjuku store is one of the biggest ones in Tokyo, and one that you’ll love to get lost in.
- Address: 1 Chome-12-６ Ōkubo, Shinjuku-ku, Tōkyō-to 169-0072
- Access: Hop on the train to Shin-Okubo, and it is only a few minutes walk from there. Otherwise, it is a 15-minute walk from Shinjuku Station.
Iseten in Shinjuku, Tokyo
One of the longest standing department stores in the entire Shinjuku area, this is the place you’d go to if you’re after the latest and trendiest fashion pieces and home wares. The main building focuses solely on women’s clothing, and it’s connected to an adjustment building for men. The two buildings are connected via passages on the B1, 3rd, and 6th floors.
Some of the brands you’ll find here include international names Gucci, Prada, Fendi, and Bottega Veneta, as well as domestic brands such as Issey Miyake and Yohji Yamamoto. You’ll find that there are also floors for children and baby goods, as well as a floor dedicated to traditional Japanese craft products.
Of course, a true department store is not complete without a depachika (basement floor food market area). Here, you’ll get lost in the maze of multiple counters selling all sorts of food, from glass cabinets selling Japanese yakitori, to bakeries selling fresh-from-the-oven bread rolls and croissants.
The crowd is always thick, and it becomes even more busy during the later hours of the day, when prices fall for everything left on the counters and people scramble for the discounted bento boxes and strawberry crepe cakes. It’s an experience in itself simply walking around and taking in all the beautiful food.
- Address: 3 Chome-14-１ Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tōkyō-to 160-0022
- Access: Take Shinjuku Station’s East Exit and walk 5-minutes.
The name of this store is an amalgamation of BIC Camera and Uniqlo. The shopping complex is full of funky electronics, new technology, and the latest in casual and comfortable Japanese fashion. Here, you can buy thermals and a new mirror less camera all under one roof! It’s convenience at its absolutely best.
With goodies occupying over nearly 4,000 square meters and 8 floors of space, you and your tech obsessed friend can spend hours here perusing through the best of what Japan has to offer: the latest and greatest gadgets, and the best clothing pieces to look and feel the part of a modern Japanese person.
The concept of this store is whacky and you’ll find that it can be very entertaining if you just open yourself up to it!
- Address: 3 Chome-29-1 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tōkyō-to 160-0022
- Access: Take the Shinjuku station East exit, and it is a few minutes walk from there.
We know you’re probably inundated with information about Shinjuku – there’s simply no limit to the amount of activities and sights to see there, thus the limitless number of articles out there to churn through – but we hope we’ve shed some light on the more basic information you should know before you head to Japan. Shinjuku is an absolute beast that just cannot be tamed, so even if you don’t end up staying in that area, we dedicate at least a few hours to this exciting and unique city!