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).

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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.

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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

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”

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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.

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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.

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Shinjuku West

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.

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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!

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Opening hours:

09:30am – 10 pm

Admission:

free

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.

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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)

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Shinjuku Gyoen

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.

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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.

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Admission:

200 Yen (kids : 50 Yen)

Opening hours:

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.

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Spring
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Summer
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Autumn
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Winter

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.

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