Shinjuku (新宿) is a major transportation hub and commercial district in western Tokyo and, along with Shibuya, one of the most famous areas of the capital for tourists. It is truly a city within a city. The station itself, through which almost 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.
The east area is the main commercial district where you can find all the major department stores of Japan, along with brands like Zara, Uniqlo, and H&M. The area has two main roads running through it: Shinjuku Dori and Yasukuni Dori. Kabukicho is the area to the north of Yasukuni Dori.
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.
Crossing the main road from the South Exit of JR Shinjuku Station will take you out onto Shinjuku Southern Terrace, a commercial zone with a footbridge across to the department stores Takashimaya and Tokyu Hands.
The History of Shinjuku
In 1601 five routes leading out of Nihombashi were marked for construction. At certain intervals along each, lodges with shelters for horses were built so that travelers 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 weary travelers, and so in 1698 a new post was built in what is today Shinjuku (shin means “new” and juku means “lodgings”).
Things to Do
Tucked in behind the buildings of Yasukuni Dori, Hanazono Shrine is an Edo period shrine that acts as protector of the area. The Tori no Ichi Festival is held at the shrine every year in November.
A small warren of yakitori and ramen restaurants located just north of Shinjuku Station which translates as “Memory Lane” but is more commonly known as “Piss Alley” in English.
One of the most famous gardens in central Tokyo covering an area of almost 60 hectares. It opened to the public in 1949 and today is home to three gardens (traditional Japanese, French formal, English landscape) and a rock-landscaped greenhouse.
Museum in Kabukicho with displays of the swords, matchlock guns, and armor used by the samurai over the different periods of Japanese history. You can also dress in samurai attire and have your photograph taken.
Run-down rows of drinking alleys filled with dilapidated bars that has become icon of the Showa era. This places is not just for tourists: many Japanese musicians and celebrities also frequent the cubbyhole-sized establishments.
Free observation decks on the 45th floor of the government buildings with excellent views over Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden and Yoyogi Park.