Buzzing with activity throughout the day and deep into the evening, there is always something to do around Shinjuku.
People tumble out of bars and into the eclectic, lantern-lit alleyways, where the smell of grilled skewers wafts out onto the street. Department stores beckon the sleek and stylish with their pristine wares, glimmering under impossibly attractive lighting. Meanwhile, luminous skyscrapers indicate that salaried workers are still hard at work, toiling at keyboards under a fluorescent glow.
One of Tokyo’s 23 wards, Shinjuku-ku (Shinjuku ward) comprises several neighborhoods, including residential areas like Yotsuya and the college town of Takadanobaba. But when people talk about Shinjuku, they’re often describing the immediate area around Shinjuku Station, the world’s busiest train station.
20 Best 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
- Join a Shinjuku food tour
- Stroll down memory lane at Omoide Yokocho
- Bar hop in Golden Gai
- Shop and eat at Tokyo’s Korea Town, Shin-Okubo
- Party in Tokyo’s gay district, Shinjuku Nichome
- Immerse yourself in Yayoi Kusama’s inner world
- Pick up stationary and craft supplies at Sekaido and Odakaya
- See Van Gogh’s Sunflowers at the Sompo Museum of Art
- Make a wish at Hanazono Shrine
- Take a break at Shinjuku Chuo Koen (Shinjuku Central Park)
- Visit the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building free observatory
- Have a drink at Park Hyatt Hotel, à la Lost in Translation
- Catch a movie and check out the giant Godzilla above Toho Cinema
- Get lost in Shinjuku Station, the world’s busiest train station
- Marvel at the artifacts at Shinjuku’s Samurai Museum
- Fish for your dinner at Zauo
- Buy souvenirs at Don Quijote
- Browse Shinjuku’s numerous department stores
- Explore Japan’s marvelous department store food basements
1. Have a picnic in Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
One of the top cherry blossom viewing spots in Tokyo, Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden is an oasis in central Shinjuku, with stunning florals and foliage in every season. The grounds feature a Japanese garden, Momijiyama (“maple mountain”), English and French gardens, a greenhouse, Taiwan Pavilion, and a Starbucks. For an admission fee of 500 yen, come and take a stroll around or park yourself on the lawn and enjoy the fresh air.
2. Join a Shinjuku food tour
Spend a day with a local expert in Shinjuku. From the best bowls of ramen in Shinjuku to the coolest nightlife spots, they’ll show you a new side of Tokyo that few foreign tourists get to experience. Check out these food experiences in Shinjuku and make your Shinjuku trip memorable!
3. Stroll down memory lane at 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 to the 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.
4. 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 yen, 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 500-700 yen, so as not to be alarmed when your bill comes and it’s a bit more than you expected.
Not every bar 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, accompanied by a local, book the Shinjuku Food Tour: Omoide Yokocho, Kabukicho, and Golden Gai.
5. Shop and eat at Tokyo’s Korea Town, Shin-Okubo
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 your way 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 barbeque restaurants.
6. Party in Tokyo’s gay district, Shinjuku Nichome
Tokyo’s LGBT 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, one of the few bars geared toward women-loving women in Tokyo. Despite being such a small space, Gold Finger has been visited by some big-name celebrities like Kiko Mizuhara and Elliot Page.
To learn more about the neighborhoods built for and by the LGBT community in Japan, book the LGBT Tokyo Eating and Drinking Tour.
7. Immerse yourself in Yayoi Kusama’s inner world
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 kabocha pumpkins, is now world-famous, yet the only permanent gallery of her work is located 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.
8. Pick up stationary and craft supplies at Sekaido and Odakaya
Interested in Japanese crafts? Here are two stationary and craft supply megastores in Shinjuku that can get you started.
Sekaido is a five-floor paradise of stationary and art supplies in Shinjuku, with an art gallery on the sixth floor. Here, you can find Japanese art supplies like stationary, 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 get started on your next project.
9. 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 was originally 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 is the only place in Asia where you can view a painting from one of Vincent Van Gogh’s Sunflowers series.
10. 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 dedicated to other deities, like a kitsune fox shrine with a tunnel of torii gates and the Geino Asama Shrine where actors, singers, and entertainers pray prior to performing. The shrine holds several festivals including the Reitaisai Festival in late May which features a plethora of street food stalls, and portable mikoshi shrines carried around the neighborhood on the backs of white-robed participants.
11. Take a break 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 large overhead. The sprawling lawns are prime picnicking spots, while skaters can enjoy the concrete square located by the fountain (the so-called “Shinjuku Niagara Falls”). Parkers Tokyo houses a bouldering gym and yoga studio, as well as a casual restaurant; with a Starbucks just next door. Come soak up some rays and people-watch from the terrace seating.
12. 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 observatories in both the north and south towers—and they’re completely free to enter. 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.
13. Have a drink at Park Hyatt Hotel, à la Lost in Translation
The 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 it from 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).
14. Catch a movie and check out the giant Godzilla 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 third 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.
15. Get lost in Shinjuku Station, the world’s busiest train station
Recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s busiest station, an estimated 3.5 million people use Shinjuku Station each day. With over 200 exits, you too can experience the madness of the typical Tokyo commuter, pushed by the tide of the crowd.
16. Marvel at the artifacts at Shinjuku’s 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.
17. Fish for your dinner at Zauo
Fishing Restaurant Zauo is one restaurant in Shinjuku where you have to 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 different ways—just ask.
18. Buy souvenirs at Don Quijote
Get sucked into the aisles at Don Quijote (a.k.a. Donki), Japan’s largest discount store chain. From snacks and alcohol to electronics and cosmetics, and even cosplay goods, you could spend an hour just browsing their selection (after which the Don Quijote jingle will inevitably be etched in your brain for all eternity).
19. Browse 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 has an array of restaurants with outdoor terrace seating and fantastic city views on the 13th floor.
20. 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 huge array of pastries, gleaming from inside their display cases.
Hopefully, this list is a good starting point for Shinjuku sightseeing, shopping, nightlife, and museums. After living in Tokyo for four years and counting (including two years in Shinjuku ward), I still haven’t run out of things to do in Shinjuku. The city is always evolving, so get out there and find your own favorite spots!