Buzzing with activity all day and all night, there is always something to do in Shinjuku.
People tumble out of bars and into the eclectic, lantern-lit alleyways, where the smell of grilled skewers wafts onto the street. Department stores beckon the sleek and stylish with their pristine wares, glimmering under impossibly attractive lighting. Meanwhile, luminous skyscrapers indicate salaried workers are still hard at work, toiling at keyboards under a fluorescent glow.
One of Tokyo's 23 wards, Shinjuku comprises several neighborhoods, including residential areas like Yotsuya and the college town of Takadanobaba. But when people talk about Shinjuku, they often refer to the immediate area around Shinjuku Station, the world's busiest train station.
Want the low-down on the best things to do in Shinjuku? Whether you're an art-lover, bar-hopper, nature-seeker, or food fiend, we've got you covered.
Looking for some restaurant recommendations? Check out our list of the best restaurants in Shinjuku.
17 Things To Do in Shinjuku
Want the low-down on the best things to do in Shinjuku? Whether you’re an art-lover, bar-hopper, nature-seeker, or food fiend, we’ve got you covered.
Here are 20 of the best things to do in Shinjuku, Japan.
- Have a Picnic in Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
- Stroll Down Omoide Yokocho
- Bar Hop in Golden Gai
- Eat Your Way Around Shin-Okubo, Tokyo's Korea Town
- Party in Shinjuku Nichome, Tokyo's LGBTQ District
- Step Into the Mind of Yayoi Kusama
- Shop Some Stationery at Sekaido and Odakaya
- See Van Gogh's "Sunflowers" at the Sompo Museum of Art
- Make a Wish at Hanazono Shrine
- Relax at Shinjuku Chuo Koen (Shinjuku Central Park)
- Visit the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building Free Observatory
- Have a Drink at Park Hyatt Tokyo, à la Lost in Translation
- Check Out the Giant Godzilla Above Toho Cinema
- Marvel at the Artifacts of the Samurai Museum
- Fish for Your Dinner at Zauo
- Shop at Shinjuku's Numerous Department Stores
- Explore Japan's Marvelous Department Store Food Basements
1. Have a Picnic in Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
One of Tokyo's top cherry blossom viewing spots, Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden is an oasis in central Shinjuku, with stunning florals and foliage in every season. The grounds feature a Japanese garden, English and French gardens, a greenhouse, Taiwan Pavilion, and a Starbucks. For an admission fee of ¥500, come and take a stroll around or park yourself on the lawn and enjoy the fresh air.
2. Stroll Down Omoide Yokocho
Wondering what to do in Shinjuku at night? For speedy service and no-frills dining, park yourself at one of the hole-in-the-wall eateries at Omoide Yokocho, located north of Shinjuku Station. Famous for yakitori (grilled chicken skewers), the glow of lanterns and the aroma of grilled foods beckon pedestrians down the narrow alleyway. Literally translating to something like "Memory Lane," Omoide Yokocho has a less charming nickname: Piss Alley, so-called due to its abundance of cheap drinks and lack of public toilets.
3. Bar Hop in Golden Gai
Tucked away within the red-light district Kabukicho, Golden Gai has over 200 boisterous bars crammed into six alleyways. Metalheads and horror film fans should stop by Deathmatch in Hell, which has drinks for ¥666, while Albatross is a cozy speakeasy-style bar with two floors and a loft and offers a unique selection of drinks made with house-made infused spirits. Be aware that many bars in Golden Gai have a table charge of around ¥500.
Not every bar in Golden Gai is tourist-friendly, though, and navigating these tiny, intimate bars can be difficult if you don't speak Japanese. To get the full, unfiltered experience, sign up for a Shinjuku food tour. Alternatively, check out other popular Tokyo bar-hopping tours!
4. Eat Your Way Around Shin-Okubo, Tokyo's Korea Town
Located just one station over from Shinjuku Station on the JR Yamanote Line is Shin-Okubo, Tokyo's Korea Town. Come stock up on Korean skincare and cosmetics, pick up goodies at the local Korean supermarket, and eat through the street food shops selling everything from Korean-style cheesy hotdogs to colorful macarons. Opened in 2022, the Kankoku Yokocho food hall features two floors of Korean restaurants serving up piping hot Korean fried chicken, sweet and spicy tteokbokki rice cakes, and jajangmyeon noodles with a thick black bean sauce. And, of course, it wouldn't be a Korea Town without plenty of Korean barbecue restaurants.
5. Party in Shinjuku Nichome, Tokyo's LGBTQ District
Tokyo's LGBTQ district, Shinjuku Nichome, is said to have the highest concentration of gay bars in the world. Dance all night at Arty Farty, a small club where Top 40 pop tunes and a friendly, inclusive crowd keep things upbeat, or visit Eagle Tokyo Blue for live drag shows and viewings of Ru Paul's Drag Race. Saturdays are women-only nights at Bar Gold Finger. Despite being such a small space, Gold Finger has been visited by big-name celebrities like Kiko Mizuhara and Elliot Page.
To learn more about the neighborhoods built for and by the LGBTQ community in Japan, book the LGBT Tokyo Eating and Drinking Tour.
6. Step Into the Mind of Yayoi Kusama
Opened in 2017, the Yayoi Kusama Museum is dedicated to the prolific artist whose surreal, vivid, and often playful work conveys Kusama's expansive imagination and inner world as she battles the stigma around mental health. Her art, with motifs of polka dots and pumpkins, is now world-famous, yet the only permanent gallery of her work is in Shinjuku. Come see her current exhibition, visit the psychedelic mirrored Infinity Room, and stop by the rooftop to gaze upon Kusama's reflective tiled pumpkin sculpture and take in some fresh air.
7. Shop for Some Stationery at Sekaido and Odakaya
Interested in Japanese crafts? Here are two stationery and craft supply megastores in Shinjuku that can get you started.
Sekaido is a paradise of stationary and art supplies in Shinjuku, with an art gallery on the 6th floor. Here, you can find Japanese art supplies like stationery, Japanese calligraphy tools, manga drawing supplies, a whole floor of picture frames, and even Japanese fans and scrolls. If your interests lean more towards sewing projects, visit Odakaya Shinjuku for fabric, buttons, ribbon and lace, embroidery supplies, yarn and knitting tools, dyes, and more. Come pick up a Japanese sashiko embroidery kit or aizome (indigo) dyed fabric and start your next project.
8. See Van Gogh's "Sunflowers" at the Sompo Museum of Art
The Sompo Museum of Art is a small museum that features work by Japanese and European artists. It opened in 1976 as the Seiji Togo Museum of Art but was renamed when it moved to its current location in Shinjuku, a building whose architecture features soft curves inspired by Togo's work. Notably, the Sompo Museum of Art is the only place in Asia where you can view a painting from Vincent Van Gogh's Sunflowers series.
9. Make a Wish at Hanazono Shrine
An Edo-era Shinto shrine in the center of Shinjuku, Hanazono Shrine is dedicated to Inari Okami, the Japanese god of trade and success in business. Several smaller shrines within the grounds are devoted to other deities, like a kitsune fox shrine with a tunnel of torii gates and the Geino Asama Shrine, where actors, singers, and entertainers come to pray before a big performance. The shrine holds several festivals throughout the year, notably the Reitaisai Festival in late May.
10. Relax at Shinjuku Chuo Koen (Shinjuku Central Park)
Shinjuku Chuo Park offers seasonal greenery and a refreshing breather for locals in the very center of the city, with the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building and Park Hyatt looming overhead. The sprawling lawns are prime picnicking spots, while skaters can enjoy the concrete square by the fountain (the so-called "Shinjuku Niagara Falls"). Parkers Tokyo houses a bouldering gym, yoga studio, and a casual restaurant, with a Starbucks just next door. Come soak up some rays and people-watch from the terrace seating.
11. Visit the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building Free Observatory
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building is the city hall of the 23 wards of Tokyo. An imposing structure designed by architect Kenzo Tange, it boasts free-to-enter observatories in both the north and south towers. Head to the 45th floor to pick up some souvenirs and take in the view of Tokyo. On a clear winter day, Mt. Fuji is often visible in the distance. At nighttime, an expansive, twinkling nightscape comes to life.
12. Have a Drink at Park Hyatt Tokyo, à la Lost in Translation
Park Hyatt Tokyo has three restaurants and two bars, including the famous New York Grill & Bar, which features a 360-degree panoramic view of the city from the 52nd floor. You might recognize this hotel from Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation as the place where Bill Murray and Scarlett Johannson's characters first meet during a serendipitous nightcap.
For modern Japanese cuisine, visit Kozue on the 40th floor. Or, Girandole offers all-day dining, including both Japanese and Western breakfasts for hotel guests (though you can also check out these other Shinjuku breakfast spots).
13. Check Out the Giant Godzilla Head Above Toho Cinema
Godzilla looms over the Shinjuku Toho Building from 52 meters high, glaring down at passers-by. Catch a film at Toho Cinema on the 3rd floor, or get a closer view of the scaly King of the Monsters while indulging in the Godzilla-themed cake set at Cafe Terrace Bonjour.
14. Marvel at the Artifacts of the Samurai Museum
If you have a spare hour or two and are wondering what to do in Shinjuku, why not visit the Samurai Museum? Viewing the armor, swords, and other artifacts of Japan's warrior class, you'll gain insights into Japan's samurai culture, which ruled the nation for around 700 years. With tours available in Japanese and English and signage written in Japanese, English, Chinese, and Korean, the Samurai Museum is a foreigner-friendly add-on to any Shinjuku itinerary.
15. Fish for Your Dinner at Zauo
Fishing Restaurant Zauo is one restaurant in Shinjuku where you must work for your meal. Grab a fishing pole and see what you can catch! Then, ask the staff to prepare it however you want: grilled or boiled, deep-fried into tempura, as sashimi or sushi. You can even have a single fish prepared in two ways!
If you feel like ramen, Shinjuku has tons of options. Make a note of the best ramen shops in Shinjuku before you visit.
16. Shop at Shinjuku's Numerous Department Stores
Shinjuku is one of the best places to shop in Japan. With several department stores in one concentrated area, you're sure to find what you're looking for. High-end department stores like Isetan and Odakyu offer luxury fashion brands like Gucci and Prada. Meanwhile, Lumine 1 and 2 and MyLord are geared toward the fashion-focused younger crowd. Feeling peckish? Takashimaya and NeWoman have various restaurants with outdoor terrace seating and fantastic city views.
17. Explore Japan's Marvelous Department Store Food Basements
Almost every department store in Japan has a depachika (underground food hall) on the basement floor, and Shinjuku's Isetan depachika is considered one of the best. They have shops selling fresh produce, fish and meat, dessert and snacks, tea and sake, and ready-to-eat foods like sushi. In this paradise of food, marvel at the expensive gift melons and a huge array of pastries gleaming from inside their display cases.
This list is a good starting point for Shinjuku sightseeing, shopping, nightlife, and museums. This neighborhood is one where you'll find something new and exciting with every visit. You never really run out of things to do in Shinjuku. The city changes constantly, so get out there and find your favorite spots!