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.
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.
The Robot Restaurant, which is more an entertainment show than a restaurant, has been one of Tokyo’s largest tourist attractions and while perhaps not exactly a hidden gem, it is still the place to experience the bright, frilly, loud and exaggerated sensory overkill of “Japaneseness”, that so many of us love.
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 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.
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.
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