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.
Ascend to the top of the Park Hyatt Tokyo for drinks in the sky
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Rediscover nature at Shinjuku Gyoen (Shinjuku National Garden)
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.
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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.
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.
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.