Tokyo - Shinjuku
Shinjuku is one of the busiest neighborhoods in Tokyo. This is a must-see to experience the hustle and bustle of the big city. It’s chaotic, it can be dirty, and it can also be a lot of fun. Along with Shibuya and Ginza this is also a major shopping place.
See: Shinjuku Station
Shinjuku Station is a major railway and subway station connecting central Tokyo and its western suburbs. It holds a 2007 Guiness world record for being the world’s busiest transport hub. It has 36 platforms and well over 200 exits.
An offbeat tip is to go to Shinjuku station to people-watch on a Friday or Saturday night after 22pm and enjoy the staggeringly drunk Japanese salarymen trying to get home.
Shop: Kinokuniya books
On Shinjuku Dori there is a branch of the famous Kinokuniya bookstore. Go to the 7th floor for a nice selection of English language books, translated manga and magazines. Savour the moment there - you are unlikely to see this amount of English books in Japan again.
- Address: 3-17-7 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
- Transport: Shinjuku station (Yamanote, Chuo lines), east exit; (Marunouchi line), exits B7, B8; (Oedo, Shinjuku lines), exit 1.
See: I-Setan rooftop garden
If you go out of Shinjuku East and follow the main street (Shinjuku dori) you will soon see a big white building labelled I-setan. This is a department store - nothing special, but you can go to the top of the building and enjoy a rooftop garden.
Brooklyn Parlor is a restaurant, book shop and bar in one. They have WiFi. There is a smokers area and a non-smokers area. You can lend the books from the bookstore while you enjoy a drink. Unfortunately almost all the books are Japanese, but don’t let that spoil the fun! Of course, with a name like Brooklyn Parlor the house beer is Brooklyn Lager.
Going out: Kabukicho
Kabukicho is Shinjuku’s soapland area. It’s regarded as a bit of a dangerous area, so be careful here.
Soapland area refers to an area which has many bathhouses where women wash men (and definitely do more) for money. Basically they are brothels, but because prostitution involving penetrative sex is illegal in Japan it’s circumvented by a method where clients engage in a ritual involving a lot lube and rubbing.
Golden-gai is a unique collection of about 200 tiny bars near Shinjuku’s Kabukicho entertainment district. The bars sometimes seat as little as 3 people. The bars tend to be tiny and the area looks like it’s run down. The bars don’t really try to attract people - sometimes a bar is behind a door that is just marked with a single sign.
Don’t expect too much friendliness here - some bars are members only, some Japanese only. Some are hard to find, on second floors with steep staircases. Some bars have unique themes, for example there is a bar that only plays slasher horror movies.
Shop: Don Quichote
There is a Don Quichote in Shinjuku, and it’s one of the weirdest ones.
Shinjuku Gyoen (National park)
If you want to escape the business of Shinjuku, take a trip to Shinjuku Gyoen. This large park is located a short walk from Shinjuku-gyoemmae Station on the Marunouchi Line or Sendagaya Station on the Chūō-Sōbu Line. The entry price is ¥200.
The park contains a greenhouse with over 1700 tropical plants, and three gardens in distinct styles: a Japanese garden, an English Landscape garden and a French Formal garden.
The 2013 anime Garden of Hope has many scenes set in Shinjuku Gyoen.
Be aware that the park closes at 16:00. If you want some time to see the park don’t go later than 14:00.
- Robot show: The robot show is a crazy show where girls dance in robot suits. Apparently it’s the pet project of a Japanese billionaire. It’s in Shinjuku and lasts about an hour. I didn’t go there because it seems like a big tourist trap. Some people have reported it as great fun though.