Shinjuku feels like being the center and heart of Tokyo. The station (Shinjuku Station) is a giant, labyrinthe colossus with dozens of exits. More than 3 million people are using this station every single day, turning it into one of the most busy and congested stations in the world.
There´s also the highway bus hub to be found (between East and West side), from which you can take long-distance busses, e.g. to Osaka over night. It´s cheaper than taking the Shinkansen, but takes much longer as well (bus = 8 hours vs. Shinkansen = 3 hours).
If you´ve watched “Lost in Translation,” you might remember this street (Shinjuku East) from the opening scene where Bill Murray is sitting in his cab.
To make it easier to navigate, visualize Shinjuku having an East and West part, both divided by the giant station. Whilst Shinjuku East is a district aiming for leisure, entertainment and such, Shinjuku West looks much different, almost sterile, as you´ll find business centers, high class hotels, expensive restaurants and administrative buildings being located there.
Shinjuku East is a popular meeting point. Every evening, many people gather in front of the East exit to meet friends, e.g. at the famous TV “Studio Alta”
Behind of it, there´s a rather newly built Labi, to the right a Bic Camera (both consumer electronics retailer), UniQlo (clothes), Game center, a cinema (Tohu Cinema, on its top there´s a Godzilla head, can´t miss it), hotels, karaoke bars, pachinko, love hotels…all situated around Shinjuku East.
Shinjuku Prince Hotel
The hotel´s shape somehow reminds me of an old Playstation 2. It´s a great hotel, including this excellent location, in between even got its own metro station (Seibu Shinjuku Line). Even if you won´t have a room in there, you may want to have a look at some of the shops located on its top floors, including a huge 100 Yen shop!
In general, I can just recommend Japanese hotels, which all offer a high quality standard. However, you should always be aware that space is luxury (thus expensive) in Tokyo, so hotel rooms will be much smaller than its American / Western counterparts.
The Western part of Shinjuku looks and feels much different to Shinjuku East.
I strongly ecommend you to visit is the observatory deck on the 45th floor of the
Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building (202 m / 662ft)
The giant building with its characteristic two towers and unique design was built according to a controversial concept design by architect Kenzo Tange.
It´s a public administration building (City hall), so you can use the elevators to its top for free. There´s always at least one of the two observation decks accessible, and you´ll have an amazing view over the city, no matter if day or at night. You´ll realize how big the city is, a fathomless, almost organic beacon of life, witnessing a vastness of concrete merging with the horizon. Faszinating!
09:30am – 10 pm
Closed on Dec. 29th, Jan. 2nd, 3rd. On January 1st, the observation decks are accessible very early already, for people to witness the first sunrise of the year.
The elevator will take you to the top floor in only 55 seconds. There´s a café located on the 45th floor as well as a souvenir shop. Just follow the signs from Shinjuku station (-> “Tokyo Metropolitan Governm. Building”), which takes around 10 minutes by foot.
There are small boards telling you more about the buildings and direction you´re just looking at. In this picture, it´s the Shinjuku Park Tower (foreground, 235m), the Landmark Tower (foreground, 296m) as well as the NTT Shinjuku Building (background, small, 127m) and the Tokyo Opera City Building (background, tall, 235m)
You can access Tokyo´s biggest park via the “New South Exit” of Shinjuku station, or via Shinjuku-gyoenmae station (Marunouchi Line) or Sendagaya station (Chuo-Sobu Line).
With the city skyline in the background, it may remind you a bit of Central Park in New York, just that this one here is by far more safe and well kept, including a Japanese teahouse and greenhouse. You´ll have to pay a small admission fee (see below), but you´ll get a lot for what you pay. This park is really beautiful.
Indeed, Shinjuku-gyoen is a huge park – with over 58 hectare and a circumference of 3.5 kilometers (2.1 miles) it houses more than 20.000 trees and 1500 cherry trees, turning it into a popular sightseeing spot especially during sakura in spring. You should take some time in order to enjoy its beauty. Personally, I like to go there so much, taking a break from the stressful city, settle down either on the lawn or on one of the benches, have some snack or drink and just relax.
200 Yen (kids : 50 Yen)
09:00am – 4:30 pm
Closed on Mondays, last admission at 4pm
No matter when you are visiting Tokyo, Shinjuku Gyoen is always worth a visit throughout all seasons.
All the noise and hecticness of the city…vanish into nonexitence. It´s as if you step into another world when crossing the park entrance. An oasis of peacefulness and beauty. The silence is a benefaction, even when the park is filled by people on the weekends, and families doing picnics or visiting one of the festivals held in the park.