The Best Things to Do and See in Shinjuku, Tokyo

The famous Piss Alley Shinjuku
The famous 'Piss Alley' Shinjuku | © aon168 / iStock
Kaitlyn McInnis

Heading to Shinjuku for the first time? Tokyo’s colourful district is well-known for its shopping and intimate nightlife, but the busy district has something for every type of traveller. These are the top things to do and see in Tokyo‘s Shinjuku district.

Home to the busiest train station in the world, the technicolour Robot Restaurant, and a myriad of great bars and eateries, Shinjuku has become one of the most popular neighbourhoods for nightlife in the city. It’s certainly a popular destination for the city’s young professionals looking to hunker down with a drink, but it’s also a tried-and-true hotspot for tourists hoping to uncover the beating heart of the city.

The centre of the ward can be found just outside Shinjuku Station and can easily be explored entirely on foot. We’ve put together a guide to help you make the most of your time in this unforgettable neighbourhood.

1. Ascend to the top of the Park Hyatt Tokyo for drinks in the sky

Suite Hotel

Tokyo city scape with Park Hyatt Tokyo building
© Ruben Earth / Getty Images

The architecture of the Park Hyatt Tokyo is in and of itself a sight to see – but take a series of lifts to the 52nd floor and you’ll find floor-to-ceiling glass windows that offer some of the most breathtaking views in all of Tokyo. While you might recognise the New York Bar from Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation, the creative cocktails and vast array of wines alone are worth a visit.

2. Go window shopping at Daikokuya


© Kirstin Sinclair / Getty Images

If you’re looking for a high-end handbag or accessory to commemorate your time in Tokyo, you could take to the shopping streets of Roppongi or Ginza, but we recommend heading to the vintage shops scattered around the city, like Daikokuya Inc in Shinjuku. Founded in 1947, this second-hand boutique chain has made a name for itself for its abundance of rare and vintage authentic brand-name products, including Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Supreme and Comme des Garçons. There are 26 stores across Japan, but the Shinjuku location often has the best selection.

3. Sing your heart out at one of the district's many karaoke bars

Bar, Nightclub, Pub Grub, Japanese

Neon sign for a karaoke bar in Japan
© Richard Watkins / Alamy
You’ll find great karaoke bars at virtually every major metro station in Tokyo – it’s a very well-loved alternative to clubbing for Japanese co-workers and friends. While Karaoke Kan is one of the most popular chains in the country thanks to its decorated private rooms, costumes and fair all-you-can-drink prices, the Shinjuku branch in particular is worth a visit. Here, you’ll be met with large windows that offer sweeping views of the city below – some rooms can even fit up to thirty people if you’re planning on meeting a lots of friends.

4. Enjoy a live jazz show at Shinjuku Pit Inn

Music Venue

This world-class venue is widely regarded as Japan’s most important jazz club – and for good reason. The original Pit Inn opened in 1966 and has been hosting local and international jazz musicians ever since. Unlike most modern jazz clubs, this subterranean spot zeros in on the music by facing all bar stools and chairs toward the stage – to encourage patrons to enjoy the show rather than making conversation.

5. Get lost in the organised chaos of Don Quijote


Japan Raises Sales Tax
© Tomohiro Ohsumi / Getty Images
Lovingly referred to as Donki (ドンキ), by most Tokyoites, one must experience Don Quijote to truly understand its wonder. The multi-storey general store has everything from drug-store cosmetics, souvenirs and candy to high-end luxury handbags and electronic devices. The Shinjuku location is open 24 hours a day and is best visited after knocking back a few beers – the quirky shop is packed with goods from floor to ceiling and you never know what you may find.

6. Mull over fine art, science and history at one of Shinjuku's world-class museums

Art Gallery, Museum, Shop

Portraits Of Japanese Artist Yayoi Kusama
© Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert / Getty Images

While Shinjuku may not be widely known as an arts and culture district, it’s actually home to a handful of renowned museums and galleries. A visit to the Yayoi Kusama Museum is a must – but make sure to book, as the contemporary art gallery usually sells out weeks in advance. The Samurai Museum is also worth ducking into – at the intersection of historic and interactive, here you’ll learn all about the ancient military nobles while engaging in workshops and even sword battles.

7. Spend the evening getting lost in the narrow passageways of Golden Gai

Architectural Landmark

japanese street food at omoide yokocho shinjuku tokyo japan ,piss alley
© aon168 / iStock
Shinjuku’s Golden Gai is one of the area’s most well-known attractions and extremely popular with visitors. This block of narrow alleys near Kabukicho is filled with tiny, two-storey bars, most of them with barely room for six people. The old-fashioned bars juxtaposed with Shinjuku’s ultra-modern entertainment district is part of the reason the area remains popular and has avoided redevelopment.

8. Rediscover nature at Shinjuku Gyoen (Shinjuku National Garden)


The blossom and bushes sitting around the pond with people wandering at the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
© nobleIMAGES / Alamy
Shinjuku Gyoen is a large park in Shinjuku that was once the sprawling estate of the Naito family during Edo times. Visitors can check out three distinct gardens – Japanese, English, and French – as well as the large greenhouse for even more variety. The garden is open from 9am to 4.30pm daily and closed on Mondays.

9. Explore the technicolour whimsy of the Kabukicho entertainment district


Kabuki-Cho district, Shinjuku,Tokyo, Japan.
© MasterLu / Getty Images
Kabukicho is Shinjuku’s main entertainment district. It’s known for its large concentration of hostess and cabaret clubs, but there are also shops and boutiques, live music venues, restaurants including the Shinjuku Robot Restaurant, and even a small museum located here.

10. Commute to Shin-Okubo for shopping, K-pop and Korean barbecue


© James Chan / 500px
Shin-Okubo is also known as Tokyo’s Koreatown. With K-pop and Korean pop culture popular as ever among the city’s youth, Shin-Okubo has become a favourite spot for them to hang out. Pick up the latest cosmetics and fashions straight from Korea and the largest concentration of Korean restaurants in the city.

11. Take in the views at the top of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building


Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building in Twilight Hour
© Duane Walker / Getty Images
Visitors to Tokyo love the two free observation decks at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, which look out over the city and Shinjuku Chuo Park. There’s also a small café and souvenir shop.

12. Spend the day at Toyama Park – the city’s most popular cherry blossom viewing spot


Cherry blossoms/Sakura 2017 at Toyama Park, Hakoneyama and surrounding areas (Set 1)
© N. Kwasam / Getty Images
Toyama Park includes the popular cherry blossom viewing spot Mount Hakone, not to be confused with Mount Hakone in Kanagawa Prefecture. The small hill and rugged, woodsy park are a perfect escape from the concrete jungle that surrounds it.

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