20 Top Things To Do In Shinjuku, Tokyo’s High-Energy District

Heading to the bustling Shinjuku area of Tokyo and wondering what exactly you can see and do there? I’ve got your back on this one.

Shinjuku is a major business and entertainment district in Tokyo best known for its nightlife and shopping — it’s 100% worth a visit.

Even as someone who’s been to Tokyo a handful of times, I still find myself heading to Shinjuku every time I visit the city. There’s just so much to see and do there!

Shinjuku is an energy-heavy district. It’s a kaleidoscope of fun, modernity, and tradition all intertwined to captivate your senses from the moment you arrive. Imagine towering skyscrapers, neon signs, ramen shops, electronic stores, karaoke bars, arcades, malls, and bustling streets filled with local shoppers, tourists, and lots of commuters!

Ready to explore what this entertainment hub has to offer? Here are the best things to do in the Shinjuku district of Tokyo.

This post may contain affiliate links. You won’t be paying a cent more, but in the event of a sale, the small affiliate commission I receive will help keep this blog running/pumping out useful and free content. Thanks a lot!


TOKYO IN A NUTSHELL

Here’s a quick overview of all the useful info you need to plan an awesome trip!

When To Go: Spring (March to May) for cherry blossoms, Summer (June to August) for festival season, Fall (September to November) for epic fall foliage.

Where To Stay: Choose a hotel along the JR Yamanote Line for the most convenience. We like:

Nearest Airport: Narita International Airport (NRT) and Haneda Airport (HND). NRT is 60 kilometers (37 miles) east of Tokyo’s city center. HND is 14 kilometers (9 miles) south of Tokyo’s city center.

How to Get Around: Public transportation all the way. Don’t even think about renting a car in Tokyo! If you plan on traveling across Japan, a Japan Rail Pass can save you a lot of money on transportation. The pass allows unlimited travel on Japan Railways (JR) trains, buses, and ferries for a set period of time.

Must-Do’s: Immerse yourself in all the digital art at TeamLab Planets, feel the Disney magic at Tokyo Disneyland or DisneySea, eat a crepe in the Harajuku district, try vending machine ramen and conveyor belt sushi, spend your early jet-lagged hours at Tsukiji Fish Market.

Before You Go:

  • Read up on all our tips on how to do Japan on a budget
  • Consider getting the Klook Pass Tokyo — you’ll get up to 48% off your tickets to Tokyo’s popular attractions, including Tokyo Disney, teamLab Planets, Legoland, Sanrio Puroland, Shibuya Sky Deck, and more. Choose from 6+ different combinations, and add on activities based on what you like to do!

‘Hello’ and ‘Thank You’ in Japanese:

  • Hello: こんにちは (Konnichiwa) or おはようございます (Ohayou gozaimasu) in the morning or こんばんは (Konbanwa) in the evening
  • Thank You: ありがとうございます (Arigatou gozaimasu)

Currency: the Japanese yen (¥) – click for current conversion rates


20 Top Things To Do In Shinjuku, Tokyo

Explore Shinjuku Station

If you’re staying outside of Shinjuku, chances are you’ll be taking the train to Shinjuku Station. Once you arrive, don’t leave the station quite yet!

What you’ll notice is that this train station is HUGE. Shinjuku is the busiest train station in the world, with an average daily passenger count of about 3.42 million in 2015, granting it a record in the Guinness Book of Records!

Really, it’s like its own little world. Above the station, there are seven station buildings, including the JR LUMINE department store, Odakyu Department Store, and Keio Department Store, as well as an underground shopping mall.

There are close to 1,000 shops and restaurants in the station’s underground malls and connected department stores, so do spend some time getting lost in the many shops and restaurants before leaving!

Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building

Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building - Top Things To Do In Shinjuku

Once above ground (and once you’ve gotten your fill of shopping), start your Shinjuku exploration with a skyline view of the city from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, for free!

The 243-meter (798-foot) tall building has two twin towers, and each houses an observatory deck at a height of 202 meters (662 feet). Each observatory has a cafe and a souvenir shop.

Since this is a government building, you may be subjected to bag checks before boarding the elevators as part of their security measures.

After soaking up the views, you can head to the second story of the building if you need the tourist information center. They’ve got lots of information about Tokyo as well as other destinations within Japan.

👉 Fun Fact: The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building had been the tallest building in Tokyo… until it was overtaken by the Midtown Tower in 2007.

See the Godzilla

Godzilla in Shinjuku Tokyo

Prepare to witness the colossal might of Godzilla reigning over Shinjuku! Located atop the Toho Cinema in Kabukicho, this larger-than-life Godzilla head is an iconic and unmissable sight in the heart of Tokyo’s bustling district.

Perched menacingly on the eighth floor of the Shinjuku Toho Building, the Godzilla head is a tribute to the legendary monster that has captured the imaginations of generations.

Standing at over 40 feet tall, you really can’t miss it. It’s such a fun and whimsical little addition to the city skyline.

It’s not every day you come face to face with a cultural icon like Godzilla, so snap up those pics while you can!

Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden

Head over to Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden for an afternoon picnic lunch on one of the massive lawns. You can buy a variety of takeaway items at the gourmet food hall in the basement level of the Takashimaya department store or the Isetan Shinjuku department store, both of which are near Shinjuku Station.

Once inside the garden, grab a map and check out all the major gardens, such as the French and English gardens as well as the Japanese Traditional gardens featuring ponds, pagodas, and a teahouse. There’s also a charming Taiwan Pavilion that you can go inside and look out the second-story windows.

This was by far one of my favorite gardens in all of Tokyo, so I’d highly recommend you visit!

Shinjuku Central Park

Shinjuku Central Park (Chuo Park) is another lovely green space in Shinjuku that you can visit. Unlike Shinjuku Gyoen, this one’s free!

It’s much smaller, yet still very pretty to visit and stroll through. Shinjuku Central Park is on the western side of the Shinjuku train station, near the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building.

Eat yakitori at Golden Gai

Golden Gai Shinjuku Tokyo

Golden Gai is a small set of narrow alleys in Shinjuku, Tokyo. The main thing to do here? DRINK!

This historic area is home to lots of tiny, unique bars that have been welcoming locals and travelers alike for decades. Each bar has its own character, making it a perfect place to soak in the authentic Tokyo vibe!

Either before or after enjoying a drink here, get in line to eat ramen at one of my favorite ramen spots in Tokyo, Ramen Nagi!

This is NOT the same Ramen Nagi that you can find in some parts of the US. It’s completely different and a million times more unique. Expect ramen in fish broth with 2 types of noodles and lots of fragrant, fresh onions!

The best time to visit Golden Gai for actual drinking is after 8pm when the establishments actually open. Having said that, as a non-drinker, I actually enjoy it a lot more in the daytime!

The daytime atmosphere is completely different (and pictured above) — the cluttered alleys are quiet and peaceful, and the whole place is SO charming when the sun’s just beginning to set.

Omoide Yokocho

Omoide Yokocho - Top Things To Do In Shinjuku Tokyo

Another really cool spot to check out during the nighttime is Omoide Yokocho, also known as “Memory Lane” or “Piss Alley”.

This narrow alleyway is located in Shinjuku just an 8-10 minute walk from Golden Gai, and is known for its unassumingly chill atmosphere, traditional architecture, and delicious street food.

You’ll find that Omoide Yokocho is lined with a variety of small bars and restaurants, many of which have been in operation for generations.

You can sample a wide range of affordable and traditional Japanese foods, including yakitori (grilled chicken skewers), ramen, and oden (a hot pot dish featuring things like fish cake in broth). I recommend Kameya if you like soba!

Yakitori - Japan On A Budget - www.TravelsWithElle.com

Many of the storefronts only have about ten seats, so if you want to experience a meal here without having to wait too long, try to get here before (or after) the dinner rush which usually takes place from 6 – 8pm.

Food stalls are usually open from 5pm to midnight.

After dark, the alleyway is almost always filled with locals and tourists alike enjoying food and drinks late into the night. You’ll definitely want to visit this area during one of your nights in Tokyo!

👉 Want to experience nightlife in Shinjuku but don’t know where to begin? We recommend this super popular tour – Tokyo Bar Hopping Night Tour in Shinjuku. Take the guesswork out of your trip on this guided tour that takes you barhopping to Izakaya bars in two different alleyways—a small group of no more than 8 people means that you can easily access even the tiny local bars with just a few seats!

Go on a nighttime Go-Kart tour

Nighttime Go-Kart Tour In Shinjuku

A well-lived life is largely based on a collection of memories, and in Shinjuku, you’ll have the chance to add some truly quirky ones to your memory bank!

In Shinjuku, you and up to five other people have the chance to tour the streets of Tokyo by go-cart — dressed up in fun costumes such as Mario, Luigi, and other Super Nintendo characters.

While these street go-kart tours happen all day long, we prefer saving your excursion for nighttime. You’ll get a close-up look at Tokyo’s illuminated cityscape and nightlife that way! 

If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, slip on the costumes they provide of popular characters like Mario & Luigi, Superman, or Kirby, and let your inner child enjoy every minute of the ride!

The tour is great for experiencing Tokyo in a unique way and fun way, taking you to places like Roppongi District, Harajuku Station, Shibuya Crossing, Shinjuku Golden Gai, and the Tokyo Tower.

If this sounds like your idea of fun, you’ll definitely want to book your tour in advance! The tours can be quite popular, especially during peak tourist season, so I recommend booking early.

Talking a free walking tour of Tokyo’s red light district

Shinjuku Tokyo - Best Of Japan: The Ultimate Two Week Itinerary

While Tokyo is known for its bright lights and bustling energy, one of the more controversial and interesting experiences to have in Tokyo at night is to explore Kabukicho (Kabuki-chō, 歌舞伎町), Tokyo’s red light district.

Kabukicho is located in Shinjuku and is known for its nightlife options (including casinos and other forms of adult entertainment). Namely, this area is famous for its Japanese-only host and hostess clubs.

Not sure what these clubs are all about? Don’t worry, I didn’t know a thing about them either before the walking tour!

In a nutshell, host clubs cater to male customers only, while hostess clubs are for female customers.

While they carry the name club, they are moreso social establishments where you go only to have drinks, converse, and make a temporary emotional connection with attractive men or women. No romantic interests exist, and relationships do not extend outside the clubs. Sounds intriguing right?

While you probably won’t be partaking in a night at a host/hostess club, you can learn a lot more about these clubs with a free night walking tour of Shinjuku (we did the one with Tokyo Localized and it was so good and informational!).

Not only will you learn about Kabukicho’s host/hostess club culture, but you’ll also hear all about love hotels! Crazy!

Love hotels are places where couples can pay a small fee and gain access to a room filled with heart-shaped pillows and beds, dim lighting, and other features that make it romantic to set the mood. Ooh la la!

Enjoy cheap eats at Isetan Department Store

Department store bento boxes at Isetan Shinjuku

Eating? At a department store? Yep, you read that right.

One really intriguing thing about Japan’s department stores is that they’re massive, which means they can fit all kinds of cool stuff within each building. Typically, the basement floors are home to confectioneries, grab-and-go meal counters, and more!

One prime example and the best place to experience this? At the Isetan Department Store!

The massive food hall in the Isetan Department Store has a multitude of outlets from some of the country’s top restaurants. Customize your meal of sushi, dumplings, tonkatsu sandwiches, and even dessert — then take it upstairs to eat on the roof garden (which is above the 8th floor of the building)!

Department store bento box in Shinjuku Tokyo

During my last visit, I got myself a salmon bento meal that had at least 12 different mini dishes for me to enjoy. It was amazing. And super affordable too!

Shop at Donki

Don Quijote - Shinjuku Tokyo

My absolute favorite store to visit and spend a few hours hunting for souvenirs and snacks? Don Quijote!

Don Quijote, Donki for short, is a massive discount store chain instantly recognizable by its mascot – the adorably kooky blue penguin above its doors.

They sell just about everything you can think of — Japanese snacks, souvenirs, makeup products, bath and body products, toys, alcohol, luggage, clothing, you name it.

Do yourself a favor and step inside if only for a few moments. It’s such an experience! The location in Shinjuku is a lot smaller/tighter than other locations, but you’ll find the same great products there.

Sing your heart out at karaoke

Karaoke is a pastime that pretty much all Asian people enjoy — including us Asians in the western world too! If you’ve never tried karaoke, your trip to Shinjuku is the time!

There are many great places to go karaoke in Tokyo, ranging from small and intimate bars to large and flashy karaoke centers that offer private rooms for just you and your squad. Here are a few popular options:

  • Karaoke Kan: This popular karaoke chain has locations throughout Tokyo (there’s one in Shinjuku too), and is known for its extensive song selection and private karaoke rooms.
  • Big Echo: Another popular karaoke chain with a Shinjuku location, Big Echo offers a wide range of private karaoke rooms and a large selection of songs in multiple languages.
  • Joysound: This karaoke chain is known for its all-you-can-drink feature during your room rental time, and for a reasonable price. They have a good selection of English and anime songs.

Do an escape room at Tokyo Mystery Circus

Tokyo Mystery Circus, or TMC for short, is packed with fun games and events that you can participate in! They offer several different types of games, such as their Real Escape Game, Real Stealth Game, and a projection map table game. Their bread and butter? Escape games.

You can choose between 15-20 different escape room themes at Tokyo Mystery Circus, which is an insane amount of options — but it’s Shinjuku. If anywhere in the world has a venue with this many escape room options, it’d be Shinjuku!

While browsing, I noticed a good amount of horror-themed rooms, which would be great for groups who enjoy that kind of thing. Japanese horror is way too scary for me, so I’ll pass!

For non-Japanese speakers: they offer rooms in English! Just be sure to look for rooms that aren’t marked with “Only In Japanese” when you make your reservation online.

You’ll also find a goods shop where you can purchase TMC original merchandise, and a cafe that offers a limited edition menu depending on what games they are currently hosting.

It is completely free to enter the venue. However, for guests who wish to participate in any of the games or events, you’ll need to purchase a ticket. Tickets can be purchased online or at the facility itself.

Nightlife at Tokyu Kabukicho Tower

Tokyu Kabukicho Tower - Best Things To Do In Shinjuku Tokyo

As of April 2023, there’s a new sheriff in town when it comes to entertainment — the Tokyu Kabukicho Tower! This is now Japan’s largest hotel and entertainment complex, featuring restaurants, bars, hotels, an arcade, a club and more.

Once you enter the dazzling 48-story skyscraper (with five additional basement floors), you’ll find your ticket to an immersive experience like no other.

First off, there’s the Kabuki-Yokocho Food Hall, a culinary haven boasting ten restaurants serving up classic Japanese cuisine like Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki to Okinawa soba and Hamamatsu gyoza. Bring your friends and because this one is great for groups!

There’s also Jam17 Dining & Bar on the 17th floor, a swanky panoramic restaurant and bar offering breathtaking city views.

Then there’s Namco Tokyo, a high-energy venue that combines a gaming arcade with a cocktail bar, offering not only all your favorite arcade games but also a gachapon area with 250 capsule toy machines.

Feel like watching a play or show? Elevate your entertainment quotient at Theater Milano-Za on the sixth to eighth floors. With around 900 seats and a stage designed for versatility, this theater promises an intimate and immersive experience when it comes to stage adaptations of iconic franchises to Oscar-winning productions like ‘Parasite’.

Is a movie more your vibe? Indulge in luxury at 109 Cinemas Premium Shinjuku, located on the ninth and tenth floors. With extra-large seats, all-you-can-eat popcorn, and bottomless soft drinks, this cinema takes your movie night to new heights.

Dance all night long at ZeroTokyo

Descend to the basement levels of Tokyu Kabukicho Tower to discover Zepp Shinjuku, a live music venue that transforms into the electrifying nightclub ZeroTokyo in the evenings.

Boasting one of the largest capacities in Shinjuku, Zepp Shinjuku and ZeroTokyo hosts a variety of DJs and artists, complemented by a top-notch sound system and mesmerizing lighting from Cosmic Lab.

Be sure to check out their events calendar to see who’s spinning or performing during your visit.

Play arcade games at Taito Station or GiGo

Arcade games in Shinjuku, Tokyo

Traveling with people who love arcade games and crane games? Shinjuku will keep ’em entertained for hours on end!

Within the Shinjuku area, you are spoiled with choice when it comes to arcades. Some super centrally located ones include Taito Station, GiGo, Shinjuku Sports Land, and namco TOKYO.

In 2021, the GiGo arcade in Shinjuku Kabukicho surpassed the previous Guinness World Record for game center with the most number of crane games, also known as ‘UFO catchers’ in Japan. There is a whopping 477 crane games inside of GiGo!

The GiGo arcade complex is spread out over several colorful and bright floors, each with its own unique theme and selection of games. Claw games are mostly priced at 100 yen, and there are lots of machines with different prizes to choose from. Think stuffed toys, anime items, gachapon collectibles, and keychains — they’ll have it.

Try conveyor belt sushi at Kaiten Sushi Numazuko

Katsu Midori Tokyo Conveyor Belt Sushi

Kaiten-zushi ( or conveyor-belt sushi) restaurants are all the rage in Tokyo! They’re a super fun way to enjoy fresh sushi while experiencing something uniquely Japanese.

Two of my favorite kaiten sushi spots in Shinjuku are Kaiten Sushi Numazuko and Kura. They’re a bargain for the quality and it’s always crowded, so you know the plates are fresh!

Because there is usually a line of hungry diners waiting for seats, try to show up a bit before the dinner rush to avoid a long wait.

Shop for electronics at Bic Camera

Shopping for electronics at Bic Camera in Shinjuku is fun because it offers a vast selection of gadgets, appliances, and tech accessories at competitive prices.

Whether you’re looking to add to your tech collection or just browsing the latest gadgets, Bic Camera provides a one-stop-shop experience with diverse options and deals, making it a convenient and enjoyable destination for electronics enthusiasts.

They have all kinds of electronics, camera gear, tripods, content creator gear, phone cases, washing machines, rice cookers, kettles, scalp massagers — you name it, they got it.

Not into electronics? Not a problem. Bic Camera’s got all sorts of random things to buy including top-of-the-line water bottles, coffee-making items, Japanese souvenirs and food items, bath and body products, health/medicine items, and lots of other lifestyle goods.

It’s got a Don Quijote feel to it when it comes to the amount of products sold, but of course the emphasis is on the electronics.

Pro Tip: Look out for tourist coupon books — they’ll often have coupons in them that’ll give you an additional discount off products from megastores like Bic. On my last visit, I got an additional 7% off my electronics purchase (which ended up being a Zojirushi rice cooker that I towed home with me). It was a goooood deal.

Tokyo Toy Museum

Exploring the Tokyo Toy Museum in Shinjuku is a fun experience for both families with kids and groups of just adults too. The museum features interactive exhibits showcasing a wide range of toys from different cultures and eras.

You can engage in hands-on play with traditional Japanese toys, international games, and even vintage toys, creating an enjoyable and nostalgic atmosphere that’s hard to find anywhere else.

Spend some time exploring the rich heritage of Japanese toys, such as Kendama (cup-and-ball game), Daruma dolls, and Kokeshi dolls.

Then, travel the globe through the collection of toys from around the world. From classic board games to iconic action figures, this exhibit provides a global perspective on the universality of childhood enjoyment.

The Tokyo Toy Museum is both an entertaining and educational destination suitable for all ages, making it a great option for families or adults looking to relive childhood memories!

Try as much ramen as you can

Ramen - Foods To Try In Japan

Shinjuku is a fantastic place to savor some delicious ramen. There are dozens of ramen shops in just this district alone! Here are a few must-try ramen spots in Shinjuku:

Fuunji: If you’re a fan of tsukemen (dipping ramen), Fuunji is a must-visit. The dipping broth is incredibly flavorful, and the noodles are thick and firm. Be prepared to wait in line, as this popular spot is often bustling!

Ichiraku Ramen: A popular ramen joint known for its rich and flavorful broth. Ichiraku Ramen offers various ramen styles, including shoyu (soy sauce) and shio (salt) ramen. The cozy atmosphere and quality ingredients make it a favorite among locals.

Afuri: Afuri is known for its refreshing yuzu-flavored ramen. The citrusy twist adds a unique element to the dish. The menu also includes a variety of ramen options, ensuring there’s something for everyone.

Ippudo: A well-known chain both in Japan and internationally, Ippudo offers a modern take on traditional ramen. The tonkotsu (pork bone) broth is creamy and satisfying, and the noodles are of excellent quality. The customizable toppings allow you to create your ideal bowl.

Nagi Golden Gai: Nagi is a small and cozy ramen shop loved by locals for its innovative flavors. The broth is what makes it so unique! It’s a niboshi ramen (broth made from dried baby anchovies). Noodles are thick and chewy, and your bowl comes with giant chunks of fresh green onion!

Ramen Nagi - Shinjuku Tokyo
Ramen Nagi is SO good — it’s not your typical tonkatsu broth!

WHERE TO STAY IN TOKYO

Choosing where to stay in Tokyo can be confusing because it’s just such a massive city. We can help with that.

In terms of neighborhoods to choose from, Shinjuku is our favorite area to stay in Tokyo because it’s so central and has many attractions within walking distance. Shibuya is another convenient base but can be too crowded for some people.

No matter where you choose to stay, just make sure it is within walking distance from the JR Yamanote Line (loop train line that hits all the major attractions and parts of town).

Staying around this train line will save you so much time and money, trust me. You won’t have to transfer to buses or taxis after hopping off the train or walk for days to get you back to your lodging.

SHINJUKU HOTELS

Tokyu Stay - Where To Stay In Tokyo
Tokyu Stay Shinjuku | Booking.com

JR Kyushu Hotel Blossom Shinjuku ($$) – has an awesome breakfast buffet, and in the most perfect location (just a 3-minute walk from JR Shinjuku Station); twin and full-sized bed options.

Mimaru Tokyo Shinjuku West ($$) – offers apartment-style hotels that are perfect for people traveling with family members; 6-minute walk from JR Shinjuku Station.

Tokyu Stay Shinjuku East ($) – super affordable and modern hotel with delicious breakfast options; 11-minute walk from JR Shinjuku Station; twin and queen-sized bed options.

Kimpton Shinjuku Tokyo, an IHG Hotel ($$$) – features facilities inspired by New York-themed designs, such as a restaurant, a fitness center, terrace and an onsite bar. 7-minute walk from Shinjuku Station; king beds are available here!

SHIBUYA HOTELS

Hyatt Regency Tokyo - Where To Stay In Tokyo
Hyatt Regency Tokyo | Booking.com

The Millennials Shibuya ($) – For adventurous travelers who want to try sleeping in a capsule bed, this hostel is hard to beat! While not the most varied breakfast, it is free. 4 min walk from Shibuya station.

Shibuya Stream Excel Hotel Tokyu ($$) – Great location surrounded by restaurants and close to Shibuya Station (train station is just under the building). Hotel is modern and spacious; king-sized beds are available here!

Hyatt Regency Tokyo ($$) – Awesome location (Shinjuku station is right in the hotel basement), awesome city views, and even more awesome breakfast. King-size beds are available here!


Planning Your Trip To Japan?

Here are some of our other Japan travel guides to help you plan an incredible trip!

Tokyo

Kyoto

Osaka

Japan In General

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AUTHOR

Elle Leung

My name is Elle and I'm a travel blogger and adventurer based in California. I love helping people plan trips and create unique itineraries based on their interests and their budgets. I'm a huge fan of outdoor adventures and doing off-the-beaten-path things in my state (and all around the world too)!

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