Shinjuku is a multi-faceted district and can be considered the most "central" and one of the most interesting between the districts of Tokyo.
Shinjuku is really one of the 23 special wards, is very extensive and includes areas such as Kagurazaka the geisha district, or other unimportant, of which I will not talk about on this page.
With "Shinjuku" in this site (and in all the Tokyo guides) I mean the area that develops around the Shinjuku station
Shinjuku station, East exit
Taking the east exit of Shinjuku station you arrive in the commercial heart of Shinjuku. In this area there is Studio Alta, a "symbol" used by many people as a meeting point, a bit like the dog Hachiko for Shibuya, and numerous shops and malls. Not far from the East exit there are the ultimate areas of Shinjuku nightlife that I will delve into in the next paragraphs.
The red light area where concentrates most of the night-life in Shinjuku, this area virtually never sleeps.
You enter the area through a luminous red sign which is located about ten minutes walk from Shinjuku Station.
This is a very special area in which many particular places are focused: packinko parlors, various centers of prostitution, escort agencies, nightclubs, love hotels, but also restaurants and other places.
It is known that many of the activities of Kabuki-cho are managed by the Japanese mafia, the Yakuza, and for this reason, the district hasn't a good reputation.
However, there is no danger if you take some simple precautions, completely ignoring certain blacks (or anyone else) trying to invite you into their nightclubs offering you beautiful girls, because it's just a way to extort money.
The area is also very popular among "Nanpashi", those who practice "Nanpa", men who put themselves in the streets trying to approach unknown girls who are walking maybe inviting them to drink together. But their goals are only Japanese girls, so if you have a European face, you can rest assured.
if you're going to look for some prostitute, the various agencies that you can see on the streets in Kabuki-cho with inviting pictures of "innocent" Japanese girls, are almost always not the right place, because they only accept Japanese customers or that speak good Japanese. I don't know the reason.
This small neighborhood is close to Kabuki-cho. This is the most famous gay area
in the city with about 300 bar/nightclub frequented by homosexuals.
This is an area completely anonymous during the day and that is charged with a special atmosphere, surreal, charming, when darkness falls.
This area consists of narrow streets, close to Kabuki-cho, full of tiny cafes, and with the word "tiny" I mean no more
than a dozen seats, where you go for a drink.
I have never entered into one of these cafes and I think many of them are frequented almost exclusively by Japanese, I read that some accept only regular customers or people presented by them, but I have also seen some showing english menus outside. Going there with a Japanese friend I think is the ideal thing.
Okubo is the Korean district of Tokyo, in fact it is also called Koreatown
The area, as well as residential area for many Korean immigrants in Japan, and lately by many Chinese, is characterized by the presence of many shops, grocery stores and restaurants of Korean cuisine and has its center in Okubo Dori
Stazione di Shinjuku, West Exit
In this area are concentrated some department stores and shops (though much less than in the east part), several hotels and the area of Nishi-Shinjuku
You arrive in this area through a shorter tunnel that leads from the Shinjuku station just below the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, or on foot from the West Exit.
There are a lot of skyscrapers and modern buildings.
In particular there are the twin towers designed by Kenzo Tange, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office Building
, two towers 243 meters high, a very popular tourist attraction because you can get to the top for free
and enjoy a beautiful view of the city.
Other architecturally interesting skyscrapers are the Cocoon Tower
and the NS building
At the foot of the Sumitomo building
there is the bus station (daytime and night buses) of Willer Express
This is an area predominantly directional and rather "dead", but having a walk during the day but especially at night in the silence of the large streets of Nishi-Shinjuku, surrounded by gigantic illuminated buildings can be very impressive.
Stazione di Shinjuku, south and new south exit
In this are there is the Takashimaya Times Square
, a complex that includes a 15-storey shopping center (Takashimaya), a subsidiary of Tokyu Hands, a chain of big stores specializing in household goods and leisure, and the big Kinokuniya bookstore
, well stocked with foreign language books.
South of Shinjuku station there is also a bus station of JR where night buses depart.
A large public garden in the middle of the chaos of Shinjuku.
The park is open until 4.30pm and is closed on mondays except for the cherry blossoms period. Shinjuku Gyoen is in fact one of the most famous parks for its cherry trees.
You have to pay to enter (200 yen, 1.80 ¤ - 50 yen for children), and perhaps for this reason is one of the generally less crowded parks in Tokyo into which you can spend some relaxing time after a "destructive" day in Shinjuku.
From Shinjuku station the shortest way to get there, rather than taking the south exit, perhaps is to follow the underground tunnel to Shinjuku-Sanchome station, out of which the park is located 3 minutes walk.
Eating in Shinjuku
Recommending this or that restaurant in Shinjuku in my opinion is a bit useless, because (perhaps I exaggerate) there are at least 1,000 restaurants in all Shinjuku so you are spoiled for choice.
But I want to spend a few words about a particular place, known as Omoide Yokocho
, an alley along the tracks near the West exit of Shinjuku station. Here you will find little restaurants frequented by the typical japanese salary-men. The most common dishes are ramen, soba and yakitori.
It might seem a "dirty" place but put aside any hesitation because eating there is truly an experience
Sleeping, where to stay in Shinjuku, recommended accommodation
As I've written in many pages, Shinjuku is the best area to stay.
In the area of skyscrapers (Nishi-Shinjuku) I highly recommend the Washington hotel
, Sunroute Hotel
and Rose Garden hotel
for excellent value for money, especially with special offers available a few months before through sites like expedia.
Some famous luxury hotels of Tokyo center on Nishi-Shinjuku: the Park Hyatt
, the Keio Plaza
, the Hilton hotel
Kabukicho is also an area of hotels, in this area I can recommend the Prince Hotel
, just behind the red light district.
Also in Kabuki-cho there is a capsule hotel that can be booked through Expedia, the Kuyakushomae Capsule Hotel
where you can sleep with 30 ¤ per night, and several internet cafes where you can sleep with 2,000 yen.
Pratical guide, how to get to Shinjuku y map
Shinjuku station has over 3 million and a half passengers a day and is the busiest station in the world.
It is served by several subway and railway lines (including the Narita Express to Narita airport), reaching it from anywhere in Tokyo is very easy, what is more difficult is getting out alive from the station, that at certain times of the day is a bedlam.
Be careful to take the correct exit because you can end up somewhere very different from where you wanted to go.
All the places I mentioned are accessible without too much walking from Shinjuku station, but some other station could be useful.
For example, to reach Okubo, Shin-Okubo station is better because is nearer to the shopping area and also easier to reach (it is served by the JR Yamanote line) rather than Okubo Station (JR Chuo Sobu-line) which is located in a residential area.
In Nishi-Shinjuku, Tochomae station can be useful, served by the Toei Oedo line.