Shinjuku Area Guide

Shinjuku (新宿) is the most major transportation hub in western Tokyo and one of the most famous areas of the capital for foreigners. Shinjuku is truly a city within a city. The station itself, through which 4 million commuters pass every day, is a huge warren of passageways, underground shopping malls, and restaurants. And once you have made your way outside via one of the 60 or so exits you will find department stores, cinema complexes, the red-light district of Kabukicho, along with the dilapidated drinking alleyways of Omoide Yokocho and Golden Gai, waiting to be explored.

Shinjuku is basically divided into three areas: east, south and west. The east area is the busiest owing to Shinjuku Dori, which is home to many of the major department stores, and Yasukuni Dori, north of which you can find Kabukicho. The area to the south of Shinjuku Dori (and immediately facing you as you come out of the Central East or Southeast Exit) is Shinjuku’s main commercial district.

Crossing the main road as you come out of the South Exit will take you out onto Shinjuku Southern Terrace, a commercial zone with a footbridge across to the department stores Takashimaya and Tokyu Hands.

The west area contains another commercial district, smaller than the one to the east of the station and with more of a focus on cheap restaurants and bars rather than shopping.

History of Shinjuku

In 1601 five highways leading out of Nihombashi were marked for construction. At certain intervals along each, station posts with shelter for horses were built so that travellers could rest overnight on their long journey. One of these highways, Koshukaido, connected Nihombashi with Shimosuwa in Nagano Prefecture. However, the distance between Nihombashi and the first station post was too far, resulting in complaints from travellers, and so in 1698 a new post was built in what is today Shinjuku (shin means “new” and juku means “lodgings”).

Shinjuku was devastated during the air raids of World War II. Records show that of the 63,000 buildings recorded pre-war just under 7,000 remained after 1945. What was once a lively area of trade was turned to rubble and the people were faced with a monumental struggle to rebuild.

Things to Do in Shinjuku