Top 15 Things to See and Do in Shinjuku, the District of Tokyo That Never Sleeps
Take a look at our top picks for things to see and things to do in Shinjuku! Located in the heart of Tokyo, Shinjuku is a major transportation hub that buzzes with the coming and going of large numbers of people every day. Many people might initially struggle to name any famous tourist sites in the area; however, Shinjuku has more to offer than just its train station, and those who use it just to pass through on the way somewhere else are truly missing out! Let's take a look at some of our top selections for visitors to Shinjuku.
Jun 17 2019 (Aug 05 2021)
1. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building
The Metropolitan Government Building will be familiar to locals in the area, with its signature set of two tall towers. For those outside of the Kanto Region, it is likely that many of them have visited it on a field trip for school. From the observation deck you can get a full 360 degree view of Tokyo so it is also a recommended date spot for you and that special someone. It is also well known that on sunny winter days you may be able to see as far off as Mt. Fuji! The observation decks are located on the 45th floor of the building and are home to cafes and souvenir stands, making them perfect for taking a break while on your travels. You will also be glad to hear that it is open on weekends and that entrance is free. The building is often visited by tourists from around the world and those bringing children with them.
2. Shinjuku Golden Gai
When Japanese people hear the name Shinjuku, they are most likely to think of the entertainment district Kabukicho. For drinking and merriment you simply can't forget about Shinjuku's Golden Gai. For some people it may have the image of being a bit scary or price gouging but there are a lot of places that are welcoming even to newbies on the scene. There are also many establishments that have been frequented by cultural icons and famous personalites in the entertainment industy, with many places retaining features of the Showa period (1926-1989). Once you have found a place that you like, ask the owner or other staff for their recommendations to get you on the right path for your next stop. Let yourself be carried away by the intoxicating alure of this rich drinking culture.
3. The Samurai Museum
This museum, showcasing swords, helmets, and other paraphenalia associated with samurai, is, perhaps surprisingly, located in the entertainment district of Kabukicho. It is visited by many tourists from overseas and therefore the surroundings can be very busy with both locals and tourists. At the museum you also have the chance to enjoy putting on a samurai helment, as well as wearing armor and grasping a sword, perfect for all samurai fans. For the 1,800 JPY entrance fee, it may seem quite small at first, however, the value of the collection of goods on offer is quite high, so this spot is definitely not to be missed for history enthusiasts!
4. The Kumano Shrine
This shrine is located in the second district of Nishi-shinjuku, at the heart of the bustling metropolis. In the Muromachi period (1333-1573), the main enshrined deities at the three great shrines of Kumano in the historical province of Kishu were re-enshrined here. The shrine now acts as the host of a local deity of Shinjuku. The thick tree coverage gives rise to the feeling of being in a sanctuary in the middle of the metropolis. The depictions of Yatagarasu (a mythical raven who is said to have served the deities) found at this shrine are famous, and it is said that the Japanese women's national socccer team were spurred to win after praying here. This site of mystical power in the center of the city could bring good fortune to those who are looking to be inspired to victory.
5. Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
This vast garden stretches from the ward of Shinjuku to that of Shibuya. Despite being only 10 minutes walk from Shinjuku Station, this garden offers a respite from the busy metropolis with its beautiful natural landscape. Why not enjoy a leisurely stroll through the park, admiring the flowers that change with each season? Or, how about a spot of jogging? It is also recommended for dates. On these enormous grounds, there are also British gardens and French gardens, so you can enjoy a different aspect of the park every time you visit. If you find yourself tired from the hustle and bustle of the big city, why not stop by?
6. Shin-Okubo Korean Town
When you get off of the train at JR Shin-Okubo Station you will be greeted by a somewhat exotic atmosphere. This Korean town was formed when a large number of Korean nationals moved to the area, so you can be assured that the Korean BBQ that you eat here, from the wealth of options available, is the real deal. There are also a number of businesses dotted throughout Shin-Okubo opened by different people from all over Asia, from restaurants selling Indian and Nepalese food to shops where you can buy ingredients and other items used in the making of this cuisine. In Shin-Okubo you may be able to find rare ingredients from other Asian cuisines that you won't be able to get at a traditional supermarket. This makes Shin-Okubo not just recommended for lovers of all things Korean but also for fans of Asian cuisine.
7. The Hanazono Shrine
The Hanazono Shrine is located quite close to the Shinjuku City Offices. It is known for the Rooster Market that takes place here in November. This shrine has been treasured by the people of Shinjuku since times gone by as the home of a local deity. It is now popular with those involved in the entertainment industry and the restaurant business. The shrine is said to bring luck to entertainers and merchants and therefore you will also see businessmen and managers dotted around the shrine. Other dieties enshrined here seek to help guard against bouts of anger, as well as helping with matchmaking and conception. Both locals and tourists bring a buzz to this shrine. Why not take a stroll to the shrine to bathe in its energy before taking it home with you?
8. Camera Town, Shinjuku Station's West Exit
If you exit through the West Exit of JR Shinjuku Station, Camera Town will be located in the vicinity of Yodabashi Camera. This electronics district is home to everything from household appliances to individual parts of cameras, meaning that you could say that if it isn't here than it isn't anywhere. Even if there is a particular part that you are looking for that only true enthusiasts would know about then you are sure to find it in Camera Town.There are also fancy restaurants located in the area so even if you are not particularly interested in electronics you can get some enjoying from taking in a cup of tea and people watching out the window. In recent times, the area has become popular with visiors from overseas looking for Japanese electrical goods.
9. Meiji Jingu Gaien
This massive park is used to host different competitions and sporting events, as well as being home to an ice rink. It spreads from Shinjuku Ward all the way to Minato Ward. It is popular not just with those looking to watch or practice sports but also as a walking spot. There are also art galleries and classrooms in the park also, with the park acting as something of a hub of cultural practice and tradition, with tea ceremonies, flower arrangement, calligraphy, traditional dance and painting all being found here. While the park may be strongly associated with sports, it can be enjoyed by people with a large range of interests and from across the age spectrum. There are also restaurants and cafes located in the park, meaning that if you are tired from your walk, you can find a spot to take a break. You could occupy yourself for a whole day at Meiji Jingu Gaien.
10. LOVE Statue (Shinjuku Island Tower)
One of the newest attractions in Shinjuku is the LOVE statue, a statue comprised of the letters of the word "love" spelled out in red. Its popularity has increased due to its appearence in TV dramas. It can be reached by leaving Shinjuku Station via the West Exit and proceeding to Shinjuku Island Tower. It is often used as a meeting point. There are also a number of urban legends surrounding the statue; for example, if someone single passes through the V and E of the statue then their luck in love is said to increase! If a couple passes through this point holding hands then it is said that they will marry. While it might be a little bit embarrassing to visit this spot with a significant other, if your visiting as a tourist it can simply be a little bit of fun.
11. Raiden Inari Shrine
This shrine is located in Shinjuku's 4th district. While it has now been amalgamated with the Hanazono Shrine, the shrine gate and shrine hall remain. It is said that when samurai Minamoto no Yoshie was advanicing on Oshu, he was caught up in a thunderstorm. He subsequently took refuge in the shrine building here when a white fox is said to have appeared and the thunderstorm dried up. Shrines to the diety of lightning are found across Japan in the hope of protecting people from lightning. This shrine is found at the end of a narow path at the rear of Shinjuku High School, but its red shrine gate means that it stands out and therefore you are unlikely to get lost looking for it.
12.The Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum of Waseda University
Ask anyone to name a university in Shinjuku and they are likely to come up with Waseda Univeristy in Takadanobaba. On the grounds there is a theater museum that is also open to the general public. It also goes by the nickname "Enpuku." The museum has a long history and was opened in 1928 to comemorate the 70th birthday of Tsubouchi Shoyo, who contributed to the foundation of the Waseda Bungaku Journal, an academic jounral. It is also home to drama workshops and events across a number of genres with something for everyone, from fans of Shakespeare to Bunraku.
13. Omoide Yokocho
If you leave Shinjuku Station via its West Exit, you may be greeted by the retro-tinged atmosphere emanating from Omoide Yokocho. Owing to the large number of places selling chicken on skewers (yakitori), this street has also been dubbed Yakitori Yokocho. Arising from the black market that appeared after World War 2, the street is full of rough and ready bars selling cheap drinks. Its location is perfect for those looking to relax with a quick drink while nibbling on some chicken skewers. Omideyokocho is usually populated with businessman on the way home from work and domestic tourists nostalgic for the Showa period (1926-1989).
14. The Anahachimangu Shrine
The Anahachimangu Shrine is located in the Nishi Waseda area of Shinjuku. When Minamoto no Yoshiie returned triumphant from Oshu, he donated his helmet and armor here, leading to the foundation of this shrine. In the Edo period (1603-1868), a number of remarkable incidents such as the discovery of a golden statue of a deity on an architectural dig established this site as the place of worship of the feudal shoguns, which in turn lead to it developing the extravagant appearance that it has today. The shrine itself is situated on an elevated slope and a rather steep stone stair case extends from the red shrine gate to the main shrine hall. Owing to the number of treasures found on its grounds, it is thought that this site may have been home to an ancient Imperial grave. This shrine is situated in a residential district, however, once you have passed under the shrine gates you will be transported to a place where tranquility and serenity surround you. The shrine is said to bring good luck in one's career and general good fortune.
15. Robot Restaurant
This restaurant is located in the Kabuki-cho area of Shinjuku and offers customers the chance to see a performance by robots that cost 1 billion yen (9.2 million USD) to produce! This spectacular performance features dancing robots decorated in colorful illuminations, with the show taking precedence over the accompanying meal. This particular show is more popular with overseas guests than Japanese patrons, with people from all over the world filling the seats at this restaurant. The Robot Restaurant fills up even on weekdays so if you plan on making the trip then be sure to make a reservation. This spot is particularly recommended for people who want an experience befitting of the reputation of Kabuki-cho but who may lack the necessary funds. Get ready to forgot about everything else and enjoy an over-the-top experience.
This article featured the newest attractions that Shinjuku has to offer, but also some sites that have been there for some time but which may be unknown to foreign visitors. One of the biggest selling points of Shinjuku is that while it does maintain the look of a major metropolis, it also is home to vast swathes of natural beauty as well! When in the region to transfer trains, why not take the opportunity to leave the station and visit the spot of the list that has taken your fancy?
Translated and republished with permission from: Relux Magazine
Title Image: Page Light Studios / Shutterstock
The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.