Shinjuku is a massive, colorful, and busy city within Tokyo around its most occupying train station in the world. It is the part of Tokyo which you imagine the capital to be – neon signs, overwhelming skyscrapers, noisy shopping areas, and more.
The city has so much to offer that you can spend days discovering a myriad of activities, that too within proximity from the Shinjuku Station.
15 Best Things to Do in Shinjuku
Shinjuku is the center of Japan’s business and entertainment industry. Covering just a few square miles, the city is a great portrayal of the whole country. However, there’s so much going on in this packed city that it’s very easy to get lost in the buzz.
To help you get the most out of your stay in Shinjuku, we are here with a guide on the top things you must do.
1. Visit the Hanazono Jinja Shrine
The Hanazono Jinja Shrine is a small one of its kind, and one of the oldest shrines in Tokyo. Often visited to pray for the success of a business, this shrine is a perfect contrast to the lively city that Shinjuku is.
Hanazono is open round the clock so you can pop in any time of the day to check it out. If you are there on a Sunday, you should also visit the antique market which remains open from 8 am to 4 pm.
Moreover, throughout the year, multiple festivals are going on that are worth checking out. Especially, if you are there in November, you must check out the Tori no Ichi festival. Although you can collect amazing souvenirs all year round, this festival holds the most unique items that you can take back home.
2. Picnic in the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
Shinjuku Gyoen is a perfect escape from the hectic city. The National Garden is a beautiful accumulation of various types of gardens including Japanese, English, and French. A contrasting landscape is ensured with a calm lake and multiple ponds. It also features a greenhouse where you can come across the exotic plants, such as Okinawa.
For cherry blossom lovers, Shinjuku Gyoen is the perfect place especially if you are in the area during spring. However, you can also witness camellias in winter, hydrangeas in summer, and chrysanthemums in autumn. The relaxed atmosphere at the park is a great option for a family picnic or even by yourself since even the silence in the greenery will bring you peace.
Make sure to allocate at least 3 to 4 hours for the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden so that you can make the most out of the magical experience. The park is open from 9 am to 4 pm every day, except Mondays.
3. Take a Walk in the Memory Lane (Omoide Yokocho)
Home to a network of small bars and restaurants, the Memory Lane is an alleyway that perfectly portrays the Old Tokyo. The tiny bars in the colorful street are decorated with seasonal flowers and paper lanterns. A contrast is created between the old and the new by the Shinjuku billboards that act as a backdrop in the Omoide Yokocho alley.
The street is quite near the Shinjuku Station which gives it even more of a legit reason to visit at least once. All the restaurants and bars in the Memory Lane serve delicious food and ice-cold beers. Some of these restaurants allow smoking, while others take a cover charge. Therefore, if that’s your requirement, the Memory Lane has got it covered too.
The micro-restaurants are open from 5 pm to midnight every day. So even if you don’t have time to grab a bite, make sure to take a stroll through the unique street.
4. Explore the bars at Golden Gai
Covering the smallest imaginable area of narrow alleyways, Golden Gai is another spot in Shinjuku that paints the older Tokyo. It’s located next to the Hanazono Shrine and dominates the streets with over 200 tiny bars.
With opening hours from 8 pm to early morning, these bars are quite different from what you’d expect it to be – they accommodate only a few seats that are closely packed so there’s a high chance you’d have to communicate with the person next to you.
That being said, not all of these bars allow foreigners, while some take a cover charge for it. Therefore, it’s important that you locate the ones which have signs in English, and are outsider-friendly. Also, if you still feel a little bit overwhelmed to drink in intimate spaces like these, you can choose to explore it with a local. Check this out to find a guide.
5. Visit the TOTO Showroom
Japan is known for its high-tech equipment especially its electronic toilets. To witness the best of its kind in the most hygienic way, you should visit the TOTO showroom located on the 7th and 8th floor of the second building past the Sunroute Plaza Hotel. The showroom boasts not only the high-tech Japanese toilets but also unique and eco-friendly baths that save water.
Moreover, the spacious two-floored showroom also features kitchen and sink tools that fit modern Japanese homes perfectly. The free-visit to this showroom will give you an idea of how the advanced technology in Japan has helped to increase efficiency in daily life.
Plus, you get to grab free tea or coffee while you roam around the showroom. The opening hours are from 10 am to 5 pm every day, except Wednesdays.
6. Get Dinner at the Park Hyatt Hotel
The Park Hyatt Hotel in Shinjuku is one of the best luxury hotels in Japan which, apart from its accommodation, holds fine dining and a huge collection of wines and art. The top floor is covered with glass from the walls to the ceiling, ensuring a 360-degree view of the vibrant city below.
One of the most popular places in the Park Hyatt Hotel is the Kozue Restaurant on the 40th floor that serves authentic Japanese dishes including hot pot and grilled fish. If that’s not up your alley, you can choose to devour the finest beef cuts at the New York Grill on the 52nd floor.
You might recognize this bar from the famous movie “Lost in Translation” where Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson meet for the first time. After having a meal in either of these restaurants, you can check out the best selection of wine on the 41st floor which has three bars.
7. Shop at Shin-Okubo
Known as Tokyo’s Koreatown, Shin-Okubo screams K-pop and Korean culture that attracts the youth the most. It is one of the top hangout spots in Shinjuku as it is a hub for the latest Korean fashion, along with the largest network of restaurants in the city.
Two shops that K-pop lovers must check out at Shin-Okubo are the Star Shop and IDOLPark. The former is a two-floored shop with a vast collection of calendars, posters, clocks, coffee mugs – all devoted to Kpop stars, while the latter is a combination of a store and a café that sells postcards, key chains, and charms.
You may also check out KStar Plus that has 3 floors with an array of items including CDs, DVDs, jewelry, band hoodies, etc. Lastly, you must go to the PLAZA where you can find the best Korean snacks in bulk, along with the common items in the other stores mentioned here. However, they might be a little bit pricier in comparison to the other three.
8. Go to Shinjuku Pit Inn to Absorb the Jazz Scene
Check out the most important jazz club in Japan that hosts both local and international jazz musicians. If you are a jazz lover, you will enjoy the ambiance at the Shinjuku Pit Inn where most of the guests are extreme jazz fans so there’s hardly any chance for you to be distracted by any chitchat.
The stage, however, is set up in a way that allows the musicians to face the audience thereby, encouraging full concentration on the show rather than the person sitting next to you. This is also supported by the beautiful posters and dim lights. The jazz shows last around 2.5 hours starting from 8 pm every day, with a charge of 3000 yen (27 USD) that includes your first drink.
9. Experience the Future at the Robot Restaurant
Go through one of the craziest experiences at the Robot Restaurants that will leave your senses overloaded (in a good way). Often mistaken for a restaurant, this isn’t a place you come with your family to enjoy a meal. It’s a highly-energetic show that features few snacks to grab.
In the energetic show, you’ll come across robots, ninjas, scary clowns, dinosaurs, dragons, colorful-haired dancers, guitarists on swings, and more! All these are heightened with neon lights and loud music. In the show, something is bouncing or illuminating anywhere you look. That’s what makes it chaotic and interesting at the same time.
Although it sounds like a show that children will heavily enjoy, keep in mind that the Robot Restaurant is located in the red-district of Kabukicho, which, by no means is kid-friendly. Also, the show is definitely on the higher side of the price spectrum therefore, you may check out Voyagin for a discount of 38% on e-tickets.
10. Enjoy the organized chaos at Don Quixote
Looking for highly affordable items starting from souvenirs and cosmetics, to electronic devices an Halloween costumes? Don Quixote has everything you need, and by that, it means you can find any item you are in search of in this multi-storied general store.
Moreover, you will find a ridiculous amount of food items here, especially sweets that would take you hours to go through and select. So it’s advisable to go to Don Quixote when you have at last 3 to 4 hours at hand. If you can down a few beers before you visit the location, that’s even better because it’s filled with weird and unique items from floors to ceilings.
The shop is often referred to as Donki by most Tokyoites, and it surely represents the strange, yet a wonderful side of the city. Also, conveniently, the shop is open 24 hours so you can choose to visit it at the end of the day before you unwind.
11. Get the ultimate Samurai attire and the Samurai Museum
Here’s an option for an excellent family-friendly activity that everyone will enjoy. The Samurai Museum has a unique display of swords, costumes, and other tools from the warriors.
To learn more about the history of the origination of Samurai, you should take a guided group tour that comes in multiple languages – Japanese, Chinese, English, and Korean. You will get to see the vintage weapons and armors throughout the tour.
At the end of the tour, you can either choose to dress up in full Samurai attire including the full set of weapons and shields, or just wear a kimono which is a Japanese traditional clothing. Wait, there’s more! You can also learn performance techniques from the instructor and try them out in your Samurai attire to gain the ultimate experience.
The entry ticket is 1900 yen (17.6 USD), and the opening hours are from 10:30 am to 9 pm every day.
12. Walk through Kabukicho
Kabukicho is Asia’s biggest entertainment district which should not be missed if you are in Shinjuku. Also referred to as the “Sleepless Town”, Kabukicho is an area filled with neon lights and bright streets with the most interesting visuals. It’s packed with shops, karaoke bars, cinemas, restaurants, massage parlors, and more.
Walk through the edgy streets and find what appeals to you the most, but one activity that should be included in your plan is singing at a karaoke bar. You can go to Karaoke no Tetsujin which offers a myriad of English songs to choose from. It’s reasonable as well – for 30 minutes, you have to pay 400 yen (3.7 USD) which includes a free drink.
That being said, it’s advisable to let a friend tag along especially if you are roaming in the streets of Kabukicho at night, as most of the places in this area are run by Yakuza. However, it’s still safe but it’s important to keep your guard high. Also, make sure you carry cash with you since most of the restaurants, shops, or bars here do not accept credit cards.
13. Go All Out on Japanese and International Restaurants at Takashimaya Times Square
Takashima Times Square has three floors allocated to restaurants that serve delicious food in multiple cuisines. Food lovers should have at least one or two meals in the array of restaurants depending on what they prefer. Starting from dim sums to sukiyaki, they have got it all. Sweet lovers can also check out the cafes there that serve high-quality desserts to satisfy your taste buds.
After you’re done devouring the delicious food, you can easily wander through the variety of shops in Times Square and check out the world’s high-end fashion brands.
14. Get a Magnificent Top View at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building
Located in West Shinjuku, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building is the best place to get an incredible view of the city. The 273 meters tall building with two towers ensures a panoramic glimpse of a vibrant stretch of the concrete jungle. The elevator allows you to reach the top floor (45th) of the building in just 55 seconds.
Moreover, what’s amazing about it is you get to experience the 360-degree view for free! However, anything free may have a drawback and cheap tourists fall under this one especially on weekends. So it’s better if you can make a short trip to the magnificent building on a weekday. The opening hours are from 9:30 am to 11 pm, and the ideal time is to go just before the sunset as the view is out of the world.
15. Relax at the Shinjuku Central Park
The Shinjuku Central Park is a place of tranquility where you will be surrounded by cherry blossoms, sakura trees, artificial waterfalls, and a shrine. The greenery is worth a visit especially due to its drastic contrast from the busy city.
The park is popular for family picnics as well, especially during the weekends. Shinjuku Central Park (Chuo Park) can be visited at the end of your trip to create the perfect memory that you can take back home.
As you can understand from our review, Shinjuku is a multifaceted city that has something in store for any type of traveler. Starting from clubs and museums, to gardens and malls, Shinjuku has got it all.
So if you have a few days in hand to explore the city, include the things that look the most interesting to you and make the trip a memorable one.