What to Do at Shinjuku Tokyo, Japan?
Firstly, we stayed in Shinjuku
We were contemplating where to base ourselves in Tokyo — Shibuya or Shinjuku? Many advice pointed us to stay in Shinjuku because Shinjuku train station has many train lines, belonging to different train companies, that will conveniently bring us around Tokyo. This definitely saves much time and money.
We ended up in an airbnb that is about 10-15 minutes walk to Shinjuku station. It’s not as near as we thought, but most accommodation in Japan isn’t that near to a train station, so this airbnb is considered relatively near.
One good thing about this airbnb is that we would walk through Southern Terrace to the train station, and passed by Gontran Cherrier for breakfast everyday! Yums~ You can also find more information about the popular ramen and udon eateries near the airbnb in ‘What to Eat in Shinjuku Tokyo? (Part 1)’. You can also check out our airbnb review.
Around Shinjuku Southern Terrace
The Southern Terrace is a 350 m stretch of walkway from Shinjuku train station’s south exit towards Yoyogi. Here, you can find many cafes such as Gotran Cherrier, Krispy Kreme and Starbucks.
From Shinjuku Southern Terrace, you’re able to walk to one of the entrances of Times Square, a mega-mall complex which houses Takashimaya department store and Tokyu Hands. Tokyu Hands sells all kinds of goods from snacks to bags to stationery to home DIY to beauty products. Otherwise, head to Kinokuniya next door and bury yourself in Japanese manga that have been translated into English.
If you are looking for a quick bite or delicious takeaway food, then go the basement of Takashimaya and buy your food around the 2,700 sqft food hall. Grab some food and have a picnic at the nearby Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. But if you prefer a sit down restaurant, head to the upper floors and pick from over twenty restaurants selling a variety of cuisines. For more, read What to Eat in Shinjuku Tokyo? (Part 1, Part 2).
Shop Info: Takashimaya Shinjuku
- Department Store: 10:00am – 8:00pm; Restaurants: 11:00am -11:00pm
- Times Square Building, 5-24-2 Sendagaya, Shibuya-ku
- New South Gate of JR Shinjuku Station
Shop Info: Tokyu Hands Shinjuku
- Department Store: 10:00am – 9:00pm
- Times Square Building 2-8F, 5-24-2 Sendagaya, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
- New South Gate of JR Shinjuku Station
View as we walk from our airbnb through Southern Terrace to Shinjuku Station
Shopping around Shinjuku Station
Around Shinjuku Station itself, you can find many department stores for shopping and eating. Usually there will be a food hall in the basement and restaurants on the upper floors.
- Odakyu Department Store
- Directly connected to the Shinjuku Station’s West exit. 16 floors.
- 10:00am to 8:30pm (Sun until 8:00pm) | Restaurants: 11:00am to 10:30 pm
- Keio Department Store
- Shinjuku Station’s West exit. 11 floors.
- 10:00 am to 8:30 pm (Sun and hols until 8:00 pm) | Restaurants: 11:00am to 10:00pm
- Lumine 1 and 2, Lumine Est (by JR East)
- Lumine 1 and 2 is on both sides of the South exit, while Lumine Est is above the East exit.
- 11:00am to 10:00pm | Restaurants: 11:00am to 11:00pm
- Mylord (Odayku group) and Mosaic Dori
- Shinjuku Station’s West or South exits. Can also be accessed via a pedestrian overpass from the 2nd floor of Shinjuku Southern Terrace. 7 floors.
- There’s also “Mosaic Dori”, a narrow pedestrian street between Keio and Odakyu department stores.
- 11:00am to 9:00pm (Mosaic Dori from 10:00am) | Restaurants: 11:00am to 11:00pm
As you step a little further away from Shinjuku’s exits, you will find Japan’s two leading discount electronics retailers.
- Yodobashi Camera
- The main store is divided up into a few buildings near West exit, while a smaller branch is located at the East exit. Look out for its camera equipment.
- 9:30am to 10:00pm
- Bic Camera
- It’s near Odakyu Building at station’s West exit. There’s another large store around East exit, near to Isetan department store.
- 10:00am to 9:00pm
The Bigger Picture of Shinjuku
Shinjuku is much bigger than Shinjuku Station and the area around South exit. Let’s see what other places Shinjuku has to offer.
To the West of Shinjuku Station, it’s the office and skyscraper district. Firstly, head to Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office and enjoy the panoramic city view for free! Find out more about this awesome view, along with those at Tokyo Tower and Skytree in my other post.
In this West district, you can also dine in one of the restaurants located at the top floors of some tall buildings. Enjoy the great city views while eating! If you like this area, you can stay in a luxurious hotel such as Hilton, Hyatt Regency and Park Hyatt.
However, if you are less interested in the bling but more of the city’s secret stories, walk on to the central public park behind Tokyo Metropolitan Government Towers. You’ll find Kumano Shrine (Kumano Jinja) and a sizable homeless population.
As you travel from the East to the West via the North, you may come across a pedestrian overpass. More specifically, it’s at the northwest of Shinjuku station. Walk across this elevated walkway and have a view of the Shinjuku area. Walk on and you will come to Piss Alley at the North of Shinjuku Station.
Omoide Yokocho (memory lane), nicknamed as the Piss Alley, is a network of narrow alleys filled with tiny eateries known for their unique dishes and yakitori pubs. A few minutes walk from Shinjuku station and you will find this cramped, run-down place that’s filled with a nostalgic atmosphere of old-style Japanese drinking experience.
Piss Alley was nicknamed as such because of its early days. It used to be a place with no toilet facilities, so patrons had to relieve themselves against nearby train tracks or wherever they could. Most of the ramshackle post-war infrastructure was destroyed by a fire in 1999 and rebuilt with toilets.
Find out more about the food you can find at Piss Alley in my other post, “What to Eat in Shinjuku Tokyo? (Part 2)”
- Piss Alley’s Map; Or search by catergories shinjuku-omoide.com/english/shop/index.html
- Typically from 5:00pm to 12:00am (some are open for lunch); Irregular closing days
- Near to Shinjuku Station: Google Map
On Shinjuku train station’s East exit is the prominent entertainment district around Kabukicho. Yes, you can find many shopping such as Isetan department store. However, Kabukicho is still the highlight of the East side. Kabukicho is Japan’s largest red light district with many restaurants, bars, nightclubs, love hotels, etc.
And if you have heard about the robot restaurant, it’s at 1-7-1 Kabukicho. You have to reserve in advance with the admission fee at ¥8,000 (S$100.40). If you want to eat the-reviews-not-so-good meal, it’s ¥1,000 (S$12.55) per pax. If I’m not wrong, it was only S$80+ when we wanted to go in Feb 2016, but still decided it was too expensive. Moreover, seeing video clips of the robot show, we decided it wasn’t our cup of tea.
If you want only a drink or snacks, head to Golden Gai (“Golden District”), a sub-section of Kabukicho. The place is packed with small bars and eateries, seating only a few customers. A few shops cater to regular customers and so you might be turned away even though there are empty seats. Otherwise, just go to those bars with English menus set outside.
Otherwise, if you simply want to walk the streets and explore Kabukicho, be sure not to go alone. Our airbnb host didn’t recommend us to explore this area, for she thinks it’s a dangerous place. If you must go, then be prepared to get bugged by the touts. However, of some whispering about the place, certain shops only cater to Japanese patrons.
We didn’t head to Kabukicho and Golden Gai because it was already too late and we didn’t want to venture into such a place late in the night. So can’t give any comment!
Another idea for you is to wash, cut, perm or dye your hair at the East of Shinjuku. I almost went to miel hair Shinjuku for a cut but my dinner appointment overran. :( Anyway, you can check out their website and special promotion on rakuten. If you do go, tell me how is it! I was really keen to try Tokyo’s hair salon. >.< If you have JCB card, ask the JCB concierge to help you book an appointment. :)
However, if you want a respite from the crowd, there’s the Shinjuku-gyoen National Garden as you move southward from East exit’s downtown area. The garden was where hubby and I first saw our first sakura bloom! We thought we were too early to see any in early March, but boy were we surprised! :)
Do you have other recommendations of where to go in Shinjuku? Tell us below or on our Facebook Page or Instagram. Moreover, bookmark this page > Overview Itinerary: Hokkaido and Tokyo (Winter/Spring 2016).