Home to both the busiest train station in the world and a great number of Tokyo’s tallest buildings, the idea of tackling the bustling streets of Shinjuku may be a daunting prospect to some. But those who do venture out and explore the abundant sights and spectacles on offer won’t be left disappointed. From parks to skyscrapers, 5-seater bars to Japan’s largest red light district, there is something to be enjoyed by everyone. One of the best ways to check out the different areas is on foot, so put the Pasmo card away, get the camera out and start walking.
To begin, leave the buzzing station behind and head to Shinjuku Gyoen, one of Tokyo’s largest and most popular parks. If you’re lucky enough to be visiting in spring, more than a dozen varieties of cherry blossom can be admired. The park is also a great spot in autumn, for seeing the various reds, browns and oranges before the trees retire into winter. Divided into a Japanese landscape garden, a formal French garden and an English landscape garden, there is a staggering number of contrasting flowers and scenery to appreciate.
Next, leave the park via the Shinjuku gate and walk on towards Kabukicho. For any shopaholics, a stop can be made at Isetan department store, or BIC Camera for technology lovers. While Kabukicho (Japan’s largest red light district) is much more lively at night, there are plenty of sights to enjoy during the daytime, such as the Hanazono Shrine, Godzilla atop the Toho building and glimpses of towering skyscrapers through gaps in the streets. If possible, be sure to visit again after sunset when the hobbit-sized bars and concealed alleyways in the Golden Gai area come to life.
From there, head under the train tracks towards a hidden network of narrow lanes known as Omoide Yokocho. While the literal translation is ‘Memory Lane’, it actually usually goes by the less pleasant nickname of ‘Piss Alley’. Don’t be deterred however, as these lanes are jam-packed with tiny eateries and local watering holes.
After a refuel, head west and be sure to snap the view from the pedestrian bridge looking back towards the station. From there, walk south-west towards Tocho-Mae station, enjoying the growing skyscraper spectacle overhead. The Metropolitan Government Building should be within sight at this point, and a trip to the top costs nothing, so is well worth the walk. If timed just right and the weather conditions allow, sunset can be admired from the 42nd floor overlooking the vast Tokyo landscape. Considering that the view costs nothing, the towers are relatively uncrowded. Nevertheless, turns at the window might have to be taken when trying to capture the perfect photo as the sun goes down. If you’re willing to loosen your purse strings a little, there is a bar at the top in which there are often musical performances to enjoy, letting you unwind after a long day.
As the daylight fades to darkness, the nighttime brings with it a whole new atmosphere in Shinjuku. So if there is any energy remaining in those feet, retrace your steps back to Golden Gai and enjoy a drink or two whilst looking back through the photos of the day.
For more information → http://www.odakyu.jp/english/destination/shinjuku/