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︎Shinjuku Station (JR Yamanote Line, Tokyo Metro Marunouchi Line, Toei Oedo Line, Shinjuku Line and more...),
Shinjuku Sanchome Station (Tokyo Metro Fukutoshin Line, Marunouchi Line, Toei Shinjuku Line

︎Google Maps
︎Best time to visit: late afternoon/ evening
︎Time needed: half a day (and definitely all night)


        If Blade Runner-style neon signs, rooftop bars, crazy nightlife and drunk-salaryman-watching are your thing, Shinjuku might become your new hub of choice. With a vast area that stretches to the west and east of the world’s busiest train station, Shinjuku boasts everything from fine dining, shopping, gritty backstreet alleys, adult entertainment, ant-like masses of people, to a huge Godzilla statue towering over a massive cinema.

As with many things, the best way to experience Shinjuku is from above. 

At the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building Observatories on the West Side of Shinjuku Station, you can get some of the most stunning (and most importantly free) views of Tokyo up until 10:30pm at night (North Observation Deck) and, if you are lucky, you might even catch the majestic outline of Mount Fuji if you are visiting on a clear day during the cold season.

        Over on the east side of Shinjuku Station lies Kabukicho, frequently documented by photographers and filmmakers, and the home of host(ess) clubs, love hotels, nightclubs and izakayas (Japanese pubs). Kabukicho is not just legendary for its grittiness and secrecy, but also a curious place to learn more about the darker and hidden sides of Tokyo.

While many of the shops and restaurants in the Kabukicho area and the Shinjuku Sanchome Shopping District are open throught the day as well, it is only at night when this part of Tokyo really comes alive and the streets of eastern Shinjuku get flooded with the lights of shrill LED. 

        Before you head for an unforgettable night-out in Kabukicho however, you might want to stretch your legs or have a picnic at one of Tokyo’s most beautiful parks - Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden - which, during cherry blossom season in spring, turns into a wonderland of pink pedals. 

Nearby Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden you will find Sekaido, perhaps Tokyo’s largest art supply store, selling anything from paints, brushes, stationary, picture frames and pretty much any thinkable art and design tool to Tokyo’s artist and hobby artist community.

At vegan restaurant Ain Soph., you can get Tokyo’s undisputedly best dairy and egg-free fluffy pancakes, which will win even non-vegans’ hearts over with their smooth texture and to-die-for homemade vegan ice cream.

        While Shinjuku certainly isn’t short of bars and restaurants, try and seek out one of the world famous backstreet alleys (or “yokocho” in Japanese) which are gritty, yet perfectly safe clusters of small side streets lined with tiny bars and pubs serving late-night grub to the local crowd. Some of these establishments might not have English menus and many will charge a cover charge per person (usually between 300-500 yen), but few other places will give you that one-of-a-kind experience of an authentic but slowly disappearing nighttime culture. 

While Golden Gai (East of Kabukicho) and Omoide Yokocho (West of Shinjuku Station) are the most famous of such yokocho backstreet alleys and therefore attract a good amount of tourists, check out the small, and fairly unknown Omoide Nukemichi with its unmissable red lanterns, which makes both for a perfect photo spot and great off-the-beaten-track pub experience. 

        If you feel like you got yourself Lost in Translation like Scarlett Johansson’s character in Sophia Coppola’s acclaimed movie, and you prefer a more quiet night out, head for the 52nd floor of the Park Hyatt Tokyo on the west side of Shinjuku Station and enjoy a cocktail and jazz entertainment at the New York Bar & Grill which has been forever immortalized by Coppola’s film.  

While you are on the west side of Shinjuku Station, you might want to head for Yodobashi Camera’s Shinjuku West store, which is not just famous for being one of the world’s largest electronics stores but also one of Tokyo’s most iconic neon light spots and often featured in photographs and documentaries. 

Shinjuku Extra — Rooftop Gardens

Although it’s home to some of Tokyo’s best nightlife, Shinjuku also features two of the city’s best rooftop terraces, both located in front of and on top of JR Shinjuku’s New South Exit.

After exploring the terrace space in front of the JR New South Exit, take the elevator up to the 6F and discover a quiet, but expansive rooftop garden that spans over the 6th and 7th floor as well as the South and East Terrace of the NEWoMan shopping mall. The breathtaking views over Shinjuku station and the skyline of downtown Shinjuku make for a perferct stop from a shopping spree, or an impromptu picnic spot over the roofs of Tokyo.

After discovering the upper deks, make your way down the stairs on the outside of the building and you will find that this rooftop garden continues downwards across several levels until you reach the 4th floor of NEWoMan.

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