Shinjuku // Neon City
If you’re looking for the busiest, liveliest, brightest, craziest area to stay while visiting Tokyo, there is no other option for you other than Shinjuku. Shinjuku is home to the world’s busiest railways station, where more than two million passengers flow through their hallways each day.
Hundreds of bikes hang out outside the station, awaiting their owners to pick them up after work to use as their final means of transit on their way home.
Shinjuku is the Japan that many people envision when first thinking about visiting. It’s modern, it’s bright, and it’s the location used in "Lost in Translation" (which for some people is their only vision of Japan).
Shinjuku was originally several different towns that throughout the years eventually joined to make up the area we now refer to as “Shinjuku”. Each of these district does however still retains some part of their original distinctions despite now being lumped into the one title.
As you exit the train station, through an almost constant stream of people, you enter Nishi-Shinjuku. You’re immediately struck with the height of the skyscrapers surrounding you and the almost blindly bright lights of the neon signs which adorn the facades. If you’re looking for a great view of Tokyo, some of the tallest buildings have observation decks open to the public which offer incredible views completely free of charge. Take that Tokyo Tower! Surrounding the station, you’ll also find huge department stores, suburban malls and electronic shops. If you’re looking for pretty much anything, this is the place to come to shop!
To the northeast is Kabukicho, the wild, red light district. Down these alleyways, you’ll see large light up signs advertising women and men of all varieties, casinos and rowdy bars. The name comes from the word “Kabuki”, a classical Japanese dance-drama that was once performed in theatres across Japan.
Once the most popular form of entertainment of it’s kind, Kabuki has now been replaced with nightclubs, love hotels and red light establishments. Some of these places are notorious for charging huge entry fees, spiking drink prices and targeting tourists so proceed with care.
For slightly more PG type of fun, explore "Omoide Yokocho" (Memory Lane). The network of side streets to the north-west of Shinjuku station are dotted with tiny restaurants serving up ramen, yakitori and kushiyaki. Cheap, quick eats that pair perfectly with a cold glass of beer.
The later it gets in the evening, the more and more exciting this place gets. It can get a little intense for some people (me included) although I never felt unsafe. But if you’re a bit shy and don’t like hanging out in HUGE crowds of intense people this might not be your cup of tea. But if you’re up for some fun, wander these streets, and you’re bound to walk right into one of the craziest nights of your life.
You might notice as you walk, that above the skyscrapers is a life-size replica of Godzilla just hanging out. His head peers down over the buildings, red eyes piercing and teeth ready to chomp. This monster is a giant advertisement of Toho's newest cinema. Toho is a film production company most famous the movie Godzilla.
Constructed around Godzilla is the Hotel Gracery Shinjuku where you can rent a room with a view of the monster’s head. There's nothing quite like it.
Along the streets are also some of the best eateries that Tokyo has to offer. The sushi conveyor belt chain, “Genki” sushi is one of the most popular, and if you can manage to wait in line, you’re sure to have a great experience once you get inside.
But what might be the strangest thing in all of Tokyo is the fabled Robot Restaurant, right in the heart of Shinjuku. For many tourists, this is the only reason they might come to this area. (More details about the experience in another post). The insanely bright colours and robotic cyborg, large chested woman, outside the entrance to the theatre are enough to draw anyone’s eye. Despite its popularity, this is truly one of the best things we experience while in Japan and is unlike anything you'll ever see anywhere in the world. Worth the price if you're looking for a truly unique night.