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Shinjuku Station is the world’s busiest station, clocking in more than 3.4 million users daily. It goes without saying that for so many people, the station itself is surprisingly complicated! Here is a complete guide so you can learn how to navigate Shinjuku Station smoothly.
Table of Contents
1. What kind of place is Shinjuku Station? Tokyo’s urban subcenter, Shinjuku
Shinjuku is said to be Japan’s biggest business and entertainment district. Shinjuku Station is the heart of it, and it has many different modes of transportation running through it including the JR, private railways, the subway, and more, so you can easily reach sightseeing spots not just in Tokyo but also further away like Kamakura in the Shonan area of Kanagawa. In the area are plenty of buildings including shopping facilities and offices, so it’s always busy and full of people.
It’s the most crowded station on earth?! Shinjuku Station is a huge terminal station
Since it’s a terminal that functions to connect the city with the outskirts, it’s always full of people! It’s said that 3.4 million people pass through this station daily, and it even has a Guinness World Record. The most crowded time is the weekday rush hour. If you can, try to avoid using this station at that time.
Shinjuku Station is famous not just for being crowded but also for being confusing. Since there are 6 companies with 11 train lines and they are all connected underground, it’s a very huge, confusing place.
Katri Niemi / Flickr
There are underground paths and connections from B3 to B5, and you’ll feel like you’re traveling through a dungeon! It’s a difficult place that confuses even Tokyo natives.
2. If you know this, you’ll be OK! 3 points to know for strategic movement through Shinjuku Station
Since Shinjuku Station is pretty complicated, if you just remember this information, you should be okay. Here are 3 points so you can strategically move through the station even if it’s your first visit.
Point 1： Think of Shinjuku Station as 3 separate areas
Even though Shinjuku Station is rather wide, if you think of it as 3 different areas, then it will be easier to navigate. Break it up into the eastern, western, and southern areas with the JR station in the center, and look up in which area is your destination. If you think of it this way, you’ll be OK even if you’re going within the station or outside of it.
The eastern area is a business area chock-full of well-established department stores, restaurants, and other shops. The Seibu Shinjuku Line and Shinjuku Sanchome Station are also in this area.
★JR ticket gates in the eastern area
- Central east exit
- East exit
The western area is where there are many office buildings including the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building and luxury hotels are lined up. It’s also where the Odakyu, Keio, and Marunouchi Lines are.
★JR ticket gates in the western area
- Central west exit
- West exit
The southern area has plenty of brand new facilities including the highway bus terminal and shopping facilities. The Odakyu, Oedo, Shinjuku, and Keio New Lines are all here.
★JR ticket gates in the southern area
- South exit
- Southeast exit
- New south ticket gate
- Koshu-Kaido gate
- Miraina Tower gate
※3-5 are south, across the street called Koshu-Kaido
Point 2：Remember that south is above and east/west is below
The first step to mastering the station is to not confuse the exits. An ironclad rule to remember when moving from the JR ticket gates to your destination is that south is above and east and west are below! If you remember this, even if you get a little lost, you’ll be able to fix your path.
[If you want to go to the southern area]
To get to the southern exits like the south exit, southeast exit, and new south exit, go up via the stairs.
[If you want to go to the eastern or western areas]
To get to either the east or west exit, go underground. The east exit is on the platform 1 side while west is on the platform 16 side.
Point 3： Avoid using the underground paths as much as possible
While the underground paths and tunnels are convenient if you know how to use them, using them on your first visit is asking for a high risk of getting lost. There are many underground paths, to the point that it goes from B3F to B5F! It’s confusing like a web, so unless the weather is bad, it would be best to use above-ground paths only.
3. Guide to the area around Shinjuku Station
3-a. Representative spots in each area
First, let’s look at the famous spots in each of the three areas.
i. Eastern area
This town that never sleeps is brightly lit in neon no matter how late it is. It’s Japan’s biggest entertainment district, and it’s only about 5 minutes from the station. The Robot Restaurant here that offers an incredibly impressive entertainment show has been gaining popularity among foreign tourists.
Lumine Est is directly connected to the JR east exit. There are many fashion and apparel shops, and it’s a shopping center mostly aimed towards young women. It’s bigger than Lumine Shinjuku, connected to the southern exit, and has a wider variety of shops.
▼Lumine Est official homepage
http://www.lumine.ne.jp/est/ (Automatic translation available)
Shinjuku Marui is about a 5 minute walk from the station. It’s split up into 3 buildings, the main, men’s, and the annex, and the main building targets women in their 20s and 30s. The men’s building features many men’s brands. The annex offers more casual clothing than that of the main building. You can enjoy shopping for all kinds of fashionable items here.
▼Marui Group Official Homepage
https://www.0101.co.jp/ (Automatic translation available)
ii. Western area
[Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building]
The Tokyo Government Metropolitan Building is the symbol of the government and is made up of two central government offices, one of 48 floors and one of 34, and it includes the hall where the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly meets. The bilateral symmetry of the building makes it seem like twin towers. The taller side has an observation deck on the 45th floor, so you can see the Tokyo scenery from about 202m high. On clear days, you can even see Mt. Fuji! It’s only 10 minutes away from the station.
▼Tokyo Metropolitan Government Official Homepage
This street full of drinking spots is in the west area slightly towards the east, and retains a traditional atmosphere. The official name is “Shinjuku Nishiguchi Shoutengai,” but it’s well-known as “Omoide Yokocho” (“Memory Alley”). It was a black market area in the period after WWII, and now there are more than 70 shops in an area of about 330 square meters. There are many unique shops where you can have cheap, delicious food.
▼Omoide Yokocho Official Homepage
iii. Southern area
This lush oasis in the middle of the city is about 10 minutes away from the station. It was originally built as an Imperial garden, and there are still structures built from that time remaining in the park. Now it’s a public park where you can leisurely enjoy the four seasons. It’s famous for its cherry blossoms.
▼Shinjuku Gyoen Official Homepage
http://fng.or.jp/shinjuku/ (Japanese only)
This shopping center is inside the station building. It’s split up into Lumine 1 and Lumine 2, and both of them are full of shops offering apparel and accessories aimed at young people. It’s the same group as Lumine Est at the east exit, but Lumine Shinjuku has many select shops, which distinguishes it from Lumine Est.
▼Lumine Shinjuku Official Homepage
http://www.lumine.ne.jp/shinjuku/ (Automatic translation available)
In 2016, a new Shinjuku landmark opened: a multi-use facility inside JR Shinjuku Terminal Tower. It has not just fashion, but also focuses on cuisine and lifestyle. It’s targeted mainly towards women in their 30s and 40s. There are cafes and beauty brands that are popular both in and outside of Japan.
▼NEWoMan Official Homepage
Japan’s largest highway bus terminal opened in 2016. You can board or alight from buses here or even buy and print bus tickets, but there are also plenty of convenient services for people not riding buses as well. There’s a tourism information center, a taxi stand, coin lockers, and free Wi-Fi available for use. Using the escalator by the new south ticket gate connects the JR lines to the bus terminal.
▼Busta Shinjuku Official Homepage
3-c. Recommended spots by genre
There are plenty of other recommended spots in this area outside of just these! Here are more recommendations, based on whether they’re categorized as shopping, cuisine, lodging, or activities.
Bicqlo, right by the east exit, is a shopping building that mixes the appliance store Bic Camera with the fast fashion brand Uniqlo. They offer not just electronics and clothes but also daily necessities, outdoor goods, and toys.
▼Bic Camera Official Homepage
http://www.biccamera.co.jp/shopguide/index.html (Automatic translation available)
This discount store offers anything that you can think of, including food, cosmetics, daily necessities, and more, for bargain prices. It’s full of great services that will make foreigners happy, such as announcements in multiple languages and the helpful staff. It’s a 5 minute walk from the station in the east area.
▼Don Quijote Official Homepage
Isetan is considered one of the strongest department stores in Japan for fashion. Shinjuku Isetan has the concept of “the world’s best fashion museum,” and they offer the latest fashions and Tokyo trends. It’s five minutes away from Shinjuku Station in the east area. The closest station is actually Shinjuku Sanchome Station, from which it is just a minute away.
▼Shinjuku Isetan Official Homepage
http://isetan.mistore.jp/store/shinjuku/index.html (Official translation available)
[Shinjuku Sumitomo Building]
If you want to enjoy a nice dinner while gazing out at nice scenery, this cuisine spot a ten minute walk away from the station in the west area is recommended. It’s the restaurant area of Shinjuku Sumitomo Building, and on floors 48-52, you can eat while looking out at the city from a height of 200m! There are various restaurants, including Japanese, shabu shabu, and Italian.
http://www.gnavi.co.jp/sumitomobldg/ (Japanese only)
Shinjuku Goldengai in the east area is currently popular with visiting foreigners. It’s an alley full of tiny wooden shops crammed together. There are lots of unique shops, from retro ones to shops popular with young people. They’re all pretty small, so you can enjoy conversations with the people around you.
▼Shinjuku Goldengai Official Homepage
http://www.goldengai.net/ (Japanese only)
[Odakyu Department Store]
When you want to easily and quickly eat something, head for a department store connected to the station. There are various types of restaurants in the food area, so you don’t have to run back and forth looking for something. If you choose this department store connected to the west exit, they have various types of cuisine including sushi, tempura, tonkatsu, Chinese, and western food, so it’s great if you’re unsure of what to eat.
▼Odakyu Department Store Official Homepage
http://www.odakyu-dept.co.jp/shinjuku/index.html (Automatic translation available)
[Keio Plaza Hotel]
There are various lodging facilities in Shinjuku, from luxury hotels to reasonably priced hostels. Keio Plaza Hotel is a high-rise hotel in the west area. You can enjoy top-class service and a friendly atmosphere. It’s just 5 minutes away from the station, so it’s easily accessible.
▼Keio Plaza Hotel Official Homepage
[Imano Tokyo Hostel]
If you want to truly experience Tokyo, check out this new style of hostel. The first floor has a cafe and bar that anyone can use. You can enjoy mingling not just with travelers from all over the world, but also local Japanese people as well. The lodging facilities include dormitories and private rooms, so you can choose the one that fits best with your traveling style. It’s 9 minutes away from Shinjuku Station in the east area. The closest station in Shinjuku Sanchome Station.
▼Imano Tokyo Hostel Official Homepage
[Booth Net Cafe & Capsule]
For people who want to keep lodging costs down, try a capsule hotel. It’s just meant for sleeping, so it’s simple and cheap. Booth Net Cafe & Capsule is an Internet cafe but there are also capsule booths. There’s a women’s only floor as well, so you can use it safely. It’s 5 minutes away from the station in the east area, in the center of Kabukicho.
▼Booth Net Cafe & Capsule Official Homepage
[Cat Cafe Kyariko]
There is plenty to enjoy in Shinjuku outside of shopping and cuisine. Something recommended to check out is the cat cafe Kyariko. Sometimes the cats even come to sit in your lap! This cafe is the biggest in the city and also has the largest number of cats. You can spend a leisurely time here being healed by around 50 cats.
▼Cat Cafe Kyariko Official Homepage
http://www.catcafe.jp/ (Japanese only)
4. How to move between the different areas of Shinjuku Station
Being able to move smoothly between areas is a big factor in being able to master Shinjuku Station. Here are the shortest areas between each area so you can travel without getting lost! Here is how to navigate the station using the west, east, and south exits as your starting points.
i.Underground route between the west and east exits
Using the underground route that connects the west and east exits is relatively easy.
(1) From in front of the JR west ticket gates, take a left.
(2) Go down the stairs.
(3) Head towards the ticket gates for the Marunouchi and Oedo Lines.
(4) Take a right when you reach the Marunouchi Line gates.
(5) Continue down the straight path that stretches to your right.
(6) When you see the sign for the A9 exit, take a right.
(7) Take the stairs in the back and you’ll reach the east exit.
*This is the shortest route as of February 2017. Construction is currently underway for a simple path connecting the east and west exits called the Oome Road, scheduled to open in 2020. When it’s opened, that will be the shortest route to take.
ii. Above-ground route between the west and east exits
Here’s how to go between the west and east exits without using underground routes.
(1) Go straight out from the JR west ticket gates.
(2) When you see Godiva to your right, keep going towards the stairs to the right.
(3) Take those stairs.
(4) After you climb the stairs, go straight.
(4) At Uniqlo, take a right, and you’ll enter an alley.
(5) Keep going straight and when you hit a dead end, take a right.
(6) Go straight.
(7) You’ll enter a small tunnel.
(8) When you exit the small tunnel, you’ll be at the east exit.
iii. Between the south and east exits
You can travel between the south and east exits above-ground. You have to exit the station building once. You also go through the southeast exit.
(1) Head right facing the JR south ticket gate.
(2) Enter Lumine 2.
(3) When you exit Lumine 2, you’ll reach the southeast exit with the ticket gates to your left.
(4) Take the stairs directly facing the ticket gates (will be to your right when you exit Lumine 2).
(5) At the bottom of the stairs take a left and go straight towards the east exit.
iv. Between the south and west exits
The hardest path to figure out is how to get between the south and west exits. Near the west exit is the above-ground west exit, the Keio Line platform, and the Shinjuku/Oedo/Keio New Line platforms. Here are the different routes to them.
① Between the south and above-ground west exits
(1) Face the JR south ticket gates and take a left.
(2) Pass in front of the Odakyu Line ticket gate.
(3) The path will diverge into 3.
(4) Take the path to the right and go up the stairs.
(5) You’ll come out at Mosaic-dori. Go straight.
(6) Keep going forward up the gentle slope.
(7) When you come down, you’ll have arrived at west exit.
② Between the south exit and the Keio Line platform (Keio west exit ticket gate)
(1) Facing the JR south ticket gate, take a left.
(2) Pass in front of the Odakyu Line ticket gates.
(3) The path will split into 3.
(4) Take the center route and go down the narrow stairs.
(5) You’ll reach a sign pointing to the Keio Line platform. Go along that path.
(6) Go down the escalator.
(7) Follow the signs pointing to the Keio Line platform.
(8) When you go down the second set of stairs, you’ll reach the Keio west exit ticket gates.
③ Between the south exit and the Shinjuku/Oedo/Keio New Line platforms
(1) Face the JR south ticket gates and take a left.
(2) Pass in front of the Odakyu ticket gate.
(3) The path will break into 3.
(4) Take the path on the left and go up the stairs.
(5) Go down the stairs directly in front.
(6) When you go up the stairs, go straight.
(7) Go down the next set of stairs.
(8) Finally, go down the small set of stairs.
(4) You’ll reach a plaza with the ticket gates for the Shinjuku, Oedo, and Keio New Lines.
5. Move between Shinjuku Station and nearby areas
Since there are so many lines and modes of transportation at Shinjuku Station, mastering them is almost a Herculean task. Here are some points to know about riding trains, taxis, highway buses, or renting a car here.
5-a. Travel via train
If you’re going to use the train, first check in which area is the train line you’re aiming for. The non-JR lines are all over the place, so please check the following chart to figure out where they are.
i. Train lines broken up by area
Odakyu Line ※１
Keio Line ※２
Odakyu Line ※１
Shinjuku Line ※３
Keio New Line ※２・３
Seibu Shinjuku Line ※４
Shinjuku Sanchome Station※４
※１：The JR lines and the Odakyu Lines are connected.
※２：Please be aware that the Keio and Keio New Lines are different even though they have similar names.
※３：The ticket gate for the Shinjuku Line and Keio New Line platforms are the same.
※４：They are relatively separated from the other lines.
ii. Double-check the colors of the train lines you’re going to ride
All of the trains have their own color, so check them beforehand. All the maps and signs use the same color for that specific line, so it’ll be easy to find if you’re looking for it.
5-b. Travel via taxi
While it’s more expensive than traveling via trains, taxis are much more comfortable to travel in if you have luggage. However, there are high chances for traffic jams. There are taxi stands in each area.
The east exit taxi stand is by Lumine Est. You’ll find it smoothly by passing through Lumine Est from the central east exit.
For the west area taxi stand, head to the rotary or to the Keio Department Store. The one closest to the Odakyu and Keio Lines is this one:
Busta Shinjuku has a taxi stand on the 3rd floor. Unlike the east and west exits, you can go via elevator, so it’s very easy to reach even if you have a lot of luggage.
5-c. Travel over long distances via highway bus
Highway buses are a reasonably priced way to travel long distances. To use them, just head to Busta Shinjuku in the south area. You can board or alight from buses there, buy and print tickets, and it includes a meeting room. The information desk can handle English and sometimes Chinese.
5-d. Rent a car
Renting a car is convenient because you can directly reach your destination without unwanted stops. Like taxis, you may get caught in traffic jams and you might not be able to find parking, so please keep that in mind when deciding your mode of transportation.
Just a minute away from JR Shinjuku Station west exit, inside the parking lot. It’s directly connected to the B2F floor of the Odakyu Department Store.
▼Nissan Rent-A-Car Official Homepage
Just 2 minutes from Shinjuku Station south exit. Cross the Koshu Kaido street and head to the right. Take a left on the corner with Yoshinoya and it’ll be just ahead.
▼Toyota Rent-A-Car Official Homepage
6. Master Shinjuku Station! Convenient spots around the station
Here are convenient services and places both inside and outside Shinjuku Station for travelers. This is all information that will be useful to know beforehand just in case, so please use this to completely master Shinjuku!
[Shinjuku Tourist Information Center]
The Shinjuku Tourist Information Center opened in December 2016 near the plaza at the southeast exit under the overpass of the Koshu Kaido road. While they only offer help in Japanese and English, they have interpretation services via tablet for English, Chinese, Korean, Portuguese, Vietnamese, Tagalog, and Thai.
They have the following services:
- Tourist information services (Japanese, English)
- Free pamphlets and maps
- Tourism information search
- Free Wi-Fi
- ATM and currency exchange service
- Other (coin lockers, etc)
▼Shinjuku Tourism Promotion Association Official Homepage
[Tokyo Tourism Information Center]
This tourist information center on the 3rd floor of Busta Shinjuku is just a 4 minute walk from the south exit and is directly connected to the new south ticket gates, so it’s easily accessible. It’s on the first floor of the No. 1 tower of the Tokyo Government Building, and it’s very easy to stop by, so please do so if you can.
- Tourism information in Japanese, English, Chinese, and Korean
- Free Wi-Fi
- Ticket reservations
- Travel reservations for Busta Shinjuku
- Currency exchange
- Left luggage and luggage delivery service
▼Tokyo Tourism Foundation Official Homepage
6-b. Places with currency exchange
You can exchange currency at banks, currency exchange centers like Travelex, ticket shops, and more. Here are 2 places near Shinjuku Station where you can exchange currency easily.
Travelex Shinjuku is by the Odakyu Line, near the above-ground west exit ticket gates. They offer exchange for 33 types of currencies. It’s directly connected with the Odakyu Foreigner Travel Center.
▼Travelex Official Homepage
[World Currency Shop]
This is a currency exchange shop managed by Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Japan’s largest financial group. Mitsubishi Tokyo UFJ Bank is on the B2 floor of the west area, and they can exchange 19 different types of currency.
▼Tokyo Credit Service Official Homepage
6-c.Wi-Fi hot-spots and charging areas
[Keio Free Wi-Fi]
If you’re registered with docomo Wi-Fi, Wi2 300, or au Wi-Fi SPOT, then you can use the Keio Free Wi-Fi within the Keio Line area of the station. You can also use it in other places like shops that offer it. You need to register with the different hot spots, but if you download and register with the app Japan connected-free Wi-Fi, then you can use all of the supported types of hot spots. Very convenient!
You can use this cafe when you need to charge your phone. It’s about 1 minute from the east exit, and is near Shinjku Alta. You can charge your phone and use their Wi-Fi for free. There are a few branches of Renoir in Shinjuku, and most of them have outlets available. Other chain cafes like Starbucks and Dotour also often have outlets available.
▼Ginza Renoir Official Homepage
https://www.ginza-renoir.co.jp/ (Japanese only)
6-d. Left luggage services
Inside the JR ticket gates, there are many coin lockers by both the east and southern exits. They have various sizes, from small to suitcase-sized (843×355×575mm) lockers available. If you use the Suica locker search near the south exit ticket gates and the central east ticket gates, you can search for lockers that are currently available, so it’s very convenient.
While there are plenty of lockers outside of the ticket gates as well, it’s often very hard to find open lockers by the ticket gates. The lockers that are relatively open are those in the Shinjuku Station west exit parking lot entrance beneath the west exit plaza or the lockers by the east exit taxi stand.
[Keio Nekonote Counter]
If you can’t find a coin locker, it’s also convenient to use the Keio Nekonote Counter by the Keio New Line ticket gate. You can leave your luggage there for the day, or have it delivered to or from your hotel or Haneda Airport via express delivery.
▼Keio Nekonote Counter Official Homepage
Check out this article for more information about conveniently dropping off your luggage for a comfortable sightseeing experience.
6-e. Prayer room
The prayer room is just 2 minutes from the JR new south ticket gates or the Miraina Tower ticket gates on the 11th floor of the Shinjuku Takashimaya in the south area. There’s a carpet and a washing area for hands and feet available.
▼Shinjuku Takashimaya Official Homepage
It’s difficult to navigate an unfamiliar area smoothly, and for a large, confusing place like Shinjuku, it’s an even tougher challenge. But if you read this article beforehand and double-check what you need, you can definitely navigate your way through the labyrinth of Shinjuku Station easily without getting lost!