Shinjuku An Exploration Guide

Shinjuku is the name used for both the ward and the busy entertainment district in Japan.

Although the name “Shinjuku” is actually the official name of one of Tokyo’s 23 wards, people commonly use the name to refer solely to the shopping and business district within it. This area can be found located near Shinjuku station, which is one of the busiest train stations in the country.

In fact, Shinjuku station is the world’s most busy train station. It sees over two million travelers every single day and serves around 12 main railway lines and 12 metro lines.

Shinjuku is popular and busy not only thanks to the train station but also serves as a major stop for highway buses.

Shinjuku district illuminated at night

So, if you find yourself in or around Shinjuku then know that there is a lot to see and do both in and around the train station itself. Here we’ll explore a little bit more about the area so that you can arrive well-prepared.

The districts

Each of the areas around the train station can be divided into individual districts to help you understand the area better. 

Shinjuku Skyscrapers

This district is located to the west of Shinjuku train station and is home to some of the most impressive skyscrapers. These include the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building and popular hotels such as the Hilton and Keio plaza. 

Shinjuku Skyscapers

Shinjuku Park Hyatt Official Website

The popular film Lost in Translation even featured the Park Hyatt hotel which can be found here. Not only are the skyscrapers impressive to look at but they are also home to many shops, cafes, restaurants, and other amusements. So, if you are not too sure where to head then this district is a good one to wander around.

Lost In Translation Trailer

Golden Gai

If you find yourself in Shinjuku at night then heading to the Golden Gai is a great place to start. It is a small nightlife district that is home to around 200 small restaurants and bars and has its own unique atmosphere. 

Shinjuku Golden Gai Neighborhood

Golden Gai Attractions Via Tripadvisor

However, many of these restaurants are very small and only have enough room to seat a small group of customers. Many of these spots are normally taken by locals and regular customers. Despite this, there are some restaurants here that openly welcome tourists and have their menus in English outside on the street.

Kabukicho

This area is named after the kabuki theater, the building of which has still not come to fruition. However, this is not what the Kabukiho area is now known for.

When you visit Kabukicho you will be transported to Tokyo’s red-light district and this is the place to find love hotels, bars, restaurants, and clubs. 

Kabukicho

If you are visiting this district then be sure to keep your wits about you as a few pickpockets and thieves operate here. Always keep an eye on your wallet as well as your drink as thieves will use many different tricks. However, if you do not identify yourself as a nieve tourist then you lower your risk of being taken advantage.

Omoide Yokocho

Although its translation literally means “memory lane” this district has become known by a more popular, although rather more unpleasant, nickname “Piss Alley”. Here you will find lots of small narrow streets lined with restaurants selling traditional Japanese food.

Most of the restaurants here are only able to serve one or two customers due to their small size.

Japanese local street food at Omoide Yokocho

Shin-Okubo Koreatown

Although you find yourself in Shinjuku in Japan you can quickly and easily transport yourself to Korea. Koreatown is located just north of Shinjuku station (one stop north to be exact) and is filled with Korean restaurants and shops. 

Shinjuku Station Via JR East Official Website

Many of the shops and restaurants are run by Korean immigrants so you can rest assured that they are authentic. Here you can buy Korean clothes, food, and entertainment media.

Shin-Okubo Koreatown

Shopping

If you are in the mood to go shopping then Shinjuku is a great place to find yourself as not only are there many individual shops around the train station but there are also a large number of shopping centers. 

Isetan

Isetan is one of Shinjuku’s oldest shopping centers and dates back over 100 years. This shopping mall has more locations throughout the country, but the center in Shinjuku is the company’s flagship location. 

The shopping mall has over 10 floors that are filled with interesting shops to wander around as well as having a food market in the basement and restaurants spanning the top few floors. 

Isetan Official Website

Isetan Shopping center

Takashimaya

This shopping center was first opened in 1996 and is home to many different shops and restaurants. On its 15 floors, you can find many different types of shops and restaurants, including a food market in the basement. 

The shopping mall is normally open between 10 am and 8 pm, although this is extended until 8:30 pm on Saturdays. The mall is open every single day of the year with the exception of New Year’s Day.

Takashimaya Shopping Center Official Website

Takashimaya Shopping Center

Yodobashi camera

If you are in search of electronics then make sure to visit Yodobashi Camera which is a popular electronics discount store in Japan. As its name would suggest here you can find many different pieces of camera equipment for a great price, but the store contains a myriad of electronic devices.

The main store in Shinjuku is actually spread out over six different buildings and can be found toward the west exit of the Shinjuku train station. However, if you do not want to be overwhelmed then there is also a much smaller store to the train station’s east exit.

Yodobashi Camera Official Website (Google Translate Needed)

Yodobashi camera Shinjuku

Bic Camera

Bic Camera is another major electronics store in Japan. It is also a good location to hunt for discounted electronics and camera equipment. There are two stores in Shinjuku, one of which can be found near the west exit of the train station and the other near Isetan shopping mall.

Bic Camera

Parks In The Shinjuku District

If you want to go out and stretch your legs there are plenty of beautiful parks located near Shinjuku station. These will be more or less busy depending on the time of year, as cherry blossom season draws in people from around the world.

The opening and closing times of the parks will also be dependant on the season so it is best to check these before you go. 

Shinjuku Gyoen

Shinjuku Gyoen is one of the most popular spots in Tokyo to watch the cherry blossoms bloom, but it also makes a very pleasant place to walk, run or simply relax during the rest of the year. It is one of the largest parks in Tokyo. 

The park was originally opened up to the public in 1949 but had existed for many years before this as the Imperial Gardens since 1903.

Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden Official Website

The park is open from 9 am to 6 pm but these hours change to 9 am to 4:30 pm in the winter months and 9 am to 7 pm in the summer. Please note that it is also closed on Mondays.

Shinjuku Gyoen Garden

Central Park

Central Park is a public park that is located just behind the government twin towers. In this park, you will find the Kumano shrine but the park also serves as home to many of the city’s homeless, with tents set up throughout the park.

Central Park is always open and admission is free.

Tokyo Metropolitan Government Towers

Shinjuku Central Park Official Website

How to get to Shinjuku

Because it is home to the world’s busiest train station, getting to and from Shinjuku is relatively easy as it serves as a major hub for both trains and buses. Both locals and tourists will become quickly familiar with the area of Shinjuku.

If you find yourself in Tokyo station and want to head to Shinjuku then you can jump on the JR Chuo line which, if you take the rapid service line, will take you only 15 minutes and will cost around 200 yen.

Local Train In Central Tokyo

If your starting location is Ueno train station then your journey to Shinjuku station will take you slightly longer, around 25 minutes, and will cost you also 200 yen if using the JR Yamanote rail line. However, there is also a slightly faster option which is to change at Kanda station.

Final Thoughts On Exploring Shinjuku

If you are traveling to Tokyo then consider spending a day in the Shinjuku area where there are many different activities to explore. You can take in everything that the area has to offer from shopping to great parks and even intimate, authentic restaurants. 

Shinjuku Attractions And Points Of Interest Via Tripadvisor

You can easily spend several days taking in everything that Shinjuku has to offer. Luckily, if you do not manage to fit everything into one day the station is very well connected so you can easily go back for another visit to tick off all of the other things that you did not manage to do on the first day.

Shinjuku Virtual Tour

MT Lee
My fascination with Japan began several years back at a roadside bonsai stand while on vacation. I became more interested in the where and why's more than the trees themselves. My love of Bonsai led me to further research my interest in the gardens where they originated from and the places and people that surrounded those little trees. My curiosity was well rewarded upon visiting Saitama where the National Bonsai Museum was located and Omiya Village the bonsai mecca for lovers of this ancient art form. Exploring many towns and villages and even making my way to Japan's furthest southern prefecture of Okinawa. I hope to share my love of this wonderful and exotic place with all those who want to know more about Japan.