8 Useful Tips for Exploring Shinjuku!

8 Useful Tips for Exploring Shinjuku!

Shinjuku is one of the most densely populated areas of Tokyo, offering an essential panoramic snapshot of Japanese urban society for all travelers to explore. My 8 tips are more landmarks on a broad arc that I’ll describe, so please print off a Google street map of the area to refer to. There are several routes into Shinjuku but I’m going to use JR Shinjuku Station as our starting point – I won’t go into detail on that particular edifice, as it’s worthy of an article in itself – so, let’s leave the station via the ground floor of the West exit.



 

8 Useful Tips for Exploring Shinjuku!

 

1. West Side Shopping

8 Useful Tips for Exploring Shinjuku! west

Actually, the whole of the Shinjuku area is peppered with shops and department stores to suit every purse, but many of the smarter outlets are on on the West side. The West side is dominated by the Odakyu department store, but Keio department store, Shinjuku MYLORD and Yodobashi Camera can also be found there. But this stroll isn’t just about shopping, so let’s keep going West to view the architecture.

 

2. Skyscrapers

8 Useful Tips for Exploring Shinjuku! tocho

Before long, you’ll find yourself among the Famous Shinjuku skyscrapers, some of the tallest buildings in Japan. Look for the 204m high Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower with its sensual curves, then the 223m Shinjuku Center Building. Eventually, you’ll come to the impressive Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building with its twin 243m towers, the tallest in Shinjuku. Enjoy spectacular views from the 45th floor of the main building, free of charge! Returning towards Shinjuku station, veering slightly North, you’ll see Shinjuku L Tower, home of the Nikon Plaza on the 28th floor, so why not pop in to handle the display cameras, pick up some brochures for your coffee table, or get that dirty sensor cleaned professionally!

 

3. Omoide Yokochō and Underpass

8 Useful Tips for Exploring Shinjuku! omoide

Past the L Tower you’ll find the Odakyu HALC shopping complex, and beyond that the Shinjuku Uniqlo Shop. Directly North facing Uniqlo is Omoide Yokochō (lit. Memory Lane), a narrow alley of cramped, ramshackle bars and traditional Japanese eateries, mostly yakitori (grilled chicken) offering a taste of the Tokyo nightlife of yesteryear, and best enjoyed after dark! Backtracking to Uniqlo, you’ll find another alley, lined with t-shirt and jewelry stalls that curves into an underpass beneath the railways tracks.

 

4. Studio ALTA and Beyond

8 Useful Tips for Exploring Shinjuku! omoide

Exiting the underpass puts you close to the East exit of JR Shinjuku Station. Across the road, you’ll see the Studio ALTA building with its huge TV screen facade. Though its 8 floors specialize in girly fashions, it is best known as a meeting spot for dating couples. From here, all roads lead to shops and eateries, but we are going to take the street to the left of the ALTA and walk North-East, and across Yasukuni Dori, into Kabukicho.

 

5. Kabukicho

8 Useful Tips for Exploring Shinjuku! hanazono

Now we’re in Shinjuku’s red light district, but fear not, overt prostitution and lewdness is NOT a part of the Kabukicho scene. Mizu-shōbai (Water Trade) is the traditional word for night time entertainments in Japan, where hostess bars and bawdy cabarets provide weary businessmen and travelers with a little erotic entertainment. But for most visitors, strolling around and soaking up the atmosphere is fun enough, so let’s move on and walk South-East towards the Shinjuku Ward Office.

 

6. Golden Gai

Sandwiched between Shinjuku Ward Office and Hanazono Shrine, is another area of narrow streets with small bars and eateries known as Golden Gai. Rather like a thinking man’s Omoide Yokochō, the clientele here is of a more bohemian nature. It can be pricey to drink here, but you’ll be rubbing shoulders with an arty set!

 

7. Hanazono Shrine

8 Useful Tips for Exploring Shinjuku! hanazono

Hanazono Shrine might seem a bit of an oddity, tucked away as it is amid the concrete and bustle of East Shinjuku, but this 17th Century shrine has a long history. You may see businessmen here praying to Inari, the androgynous fertility god who bestows prosperity and worldly success. Try it yourself… who knows, it might work!

 

8. Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden

Further South from Hanazono Shrine, you’ll finally reach Shinjuku Gyoen, Tokyo’s most beautiful park. Stroll around the English Landscape and French Formal gardens, and the Japanese garden with teahouse. In late March and early April, when the park’s 1,500 or so cherry trees blossom, the areas around the central lawns and pond are gorgeous. Admission is only ¥200!

 

Conclusion

How you join the dots on this course, and when, is up to you. Certainly, Omoide Yokochō, Kabukicho and Golden Gai are better seen at night, whilst many prefer to use the warren of Shinjuku Station’s subterranean passages to get from place to place, but where possible, Shinjuku is better experienced at street level.

 

8 Useful Tips for Exploring Shinjuku!

1. West Side Shopping
2. Skyscrapers
3. Omoide Yokochō and Underpass
4. Studio ALTA and Beyond
5. Kabukicho
6. Golden Gai
7. Hanazono Shrine
8. Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden