Everyone is likely familiar with Tokyo and just how large the city is. We’ve already covered Akihabara in a previous article and while that ward may have seemed large, it and Shinjuku are but one of 23 city wards within Tokyo. While we likely won’t end up covering all the wards that the city has to offer, we will make our way through some of the more popular ones like Shinjuku!
Shinjuku is a major commercial center for Tokyo and administrative center as it not only has the busiest railway station in the world (Shinjuku Station) but also the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building (houses the government of Tokyo). The ward, which is 18.23km² in size, has an estimated 340,000 residents and a population density of 19,000 people per km² . The packed conditions, especially when factoring in tourists, means that the ward itself is very packed.
Shinjuku Station, which as previously noted is the busiest station in the world, has over two million passengers every day. Over a dozen railway and subway lines connect to Shinjuku and the ward is also one of the major stops for long-distance highway buses. All of these forms of transportation are conveniently located right around the main station.
The station itself is surrounded by a slew of department stores, underground malls, and electronics shops. To the west you’ll find the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building as well as a variety of hotels.
Top Places To Visit
Tokyu Hands – Takashimaya
This store, located in the Takashimaya shopping center right next to Shinjuku Station, has a lot of high quality souvenirs that are a bit more expensive than traditional goods, but the quality more than makes up for it. You’ll find more types of goods than you know what to do with. Face masks, bath bombs, candies, figures, books, clothes, and so much more! Making this a stop on your trip though Shinjuku is definitely a must. This store is open from 10am until 9pm.
This Ramen restaurant is very popular in Shinjuku and you can expect to see a line going out the door whenever it’s open. When you walk inside, you’ll see a machine that essentially acts as a menu (English translations are listed). Here you’ll purchase a “ticket” for your order which you then pass onto staff to receive your food. Expect to spend around 1,500 Yen (14 USD) for your meal, which includes both dipping noodles and a hearty bowl of ramen. Staff will ask if you would rather have “Nami” (regular size) or “Omori” (large size). The wait is rather long, up to thirty minutes, but the wait is more than worth it. During lunch, they’re open from 11am to 3pm and for dinner 5pm until 9pm.
Tokyo Metropolitan Building
This structure is composed of two different buildings, each of which house the government of Tokyo. You’re allowed to go up both of the towers (for free) to the observation deck (45th floor) at the top which gives you some beautiful views of both the city and surrounding area.
Shinjuku Gyoen Park
While this park does cost 200 Yen to enter (2 USD), it is for good purpose as it keeps potentially unwanted individuals out of the park. There are a variety of places within the park where you can take some time to enjoy nature and just lay down in the open grassy areas. If you’re looking for some refreshments, there is also a traditional Japanese Tea House that offers matcha tea.. Flowers, greenhouses, ponds, trees, footpaths, and beautiful views of the surrounding skyscrapers makes for a wonderful experience (reminiscent of Central Park in NYC).
This restaurant offers a unique twist in which you can fish for your own food! Of course you don’t have to, but it makes the experience much more memorable. After you’ve caught your meal, you can tell the chef how you’d like it prepared. Don’t pass up the opportunity to experience very fresh fish! During lunch, they’re open from 11:30am to 2:30pm and for dinner 5pm until 11pm.
This narrow walkway is very crowded, but not in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable. Izakayas line both sides of the walkway and while they do offer small portions of ramen and other foods, it is mostly intended for drinking. As this is a local favorite, you’re much less likely to be ripped off as a foreigner compared to other places which are more “tourist trappy”. Whether you’re on your own, with a significant other, or with friends; this is an amazing spot to just sit down and relax.
Shinjuku Capsule Hotel
If you’re looking to spend the night in Shinjuku, there are a lot of options but none are quite as affordable as the capsule hotel. You can expect to spend anywhere from 31 USD to 83 USD (wifi included) for a snug bed that occasionally has a TV. While it is a little tight fitting, there is more than enough room for you to roll around and place your small handheld goods.
There is so much to do in Shinjuku that just like Akihabara, you can easily spend an entire day here and still find more things to do after. While we can’t cover all of the best shops or restaurants, the few we did list are top-notch and more than worth the time to visit. As one of the most popular places within Tokyo, stopping by this ward is a must and even if you aren’t a fan of large crows places like Gyoen Park ensure there’s always something for everyone.