Shinjuku is a microcosm of Tokyo, containing everything from upmarket hotels and offices to universities, from discount electronic stores to department stores. And then there’s Kabukicho—Tokyo’s largest and seediest red-light district.
Where to eat and drink in Shinjuku
Shinjuku is a great place if you’re looking for good eats (like, really good). It’s home to 39 of Tokyo’s 500+ Michelin restaurants. Since they tend to run on the higher price end, we’ll stick to our Cheapo mantra and advise you to go for lunch when the prices are easier to stomach, or to dine at cheaper ones to begin with, like Kyourakutei.
Shinjuku has good ol’ Japanese favorites like udon and tempura, and you can also find good options for specialties from outside Tokyo/Kanto such as okonomiyaki, which is something like a Japanese pancake, but we’ll let this article do the talking. There is also Hakata Tengin, a good place for tonkotsu (pork broth) ramen amid a city of shoyu (soy sauce) ramen lovers. But there are other rare finds like vegan burger restaurant Ain Soph.Ripple.
If you want to go deep into Shinjuku’s dining scene, our Top Hidden Spots for Drinking and Eating in Tokyo features several in and around the area. And Kabukicho, which probably tops the list of sketchy red-light districts, is filled with dining options, especially in Golden Gai and Omoide Yokocho (also affectionately known as “Piss Alley”). Proceed with caution so you don’t end up losing any cash or credit cards to shady figures or establishments you pass by in the night.
You could always book a bar-hopping tour with a local guide and let them show you the best watering holes Shinjuku has to offer.
What to do in Shinjuku
As Tokyo’s center and a major business hub, Shinjuku sees some million passengers go through its station every day—making it the world’s busiest station.
But that doesn’t mean Shinjuku is all work and no play. Of course we Cheapos have a super handy guide to free Shinjuku entertainment. Among our picks, one of the highlights is definitely the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building Observatory (#7). You may have been planning to look at the view of Tokyo from Sky Tree or Tokyo Tower, but the Metropolitan Government Building gives you the same 360-degree view for FREE. Shinjuku’s got great architectural highlights including high-rise offices, Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower, and Hanazono Shrine (#4), so make sure to enjoy them from above and on the ground.
…Speaking of on the ground, tourism-wise Shinjuku doesn’t have too much compared to other parts of Tokyo. However, there are tours (#4 in the link) offered at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building we were just singing praises about. And there are a few museums, including the Samurai Museum. It’s a fraction of the size of Tokyo’s more famous museums like the National Museum in Ueno, but in true Japanese fashion, it does well at making the best of a small space, offering 800 years’ worth of samurai history. There was also the legendary Robot Restaurant which was closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
What Shinjuku lacks in tourism it makes up for with shopping. We are talking just about every department store—Takashimaya, Isetan, Lumine, Mylord, we could go on…and not just fashion, but also tech. Bic Camera and pretty much every other major electronic store has a location in Shinjuku. Book stores and ideal shops for buying souvenirs can be found here too. Some of Tokyo’s rare flea markets are also held in Shinjuku, and you never know what cheapo treasure you might find. And once you’re tired from all the shopping, you can stroll over to Shinjuku Gyoen and relax in the beautiful serene gardens.
Where to stay in Shinjuku
Like we mentioned earlier, Shinjuku’s Kabukicho is a red-light district, so if you’re looking for a love hotel to stay in for the night, that would be a good place to find one. As for other types of accommodation, Shinjuku has all of those bases covered too. We often have good discounts on the district’s major hotels, which can be found here. There are also nice traditional ryokan-style accommodations, some options for those capsule hotels you’ve heard so much about. And many of the recommendations you see popping up in our articles feature Shinjuku-based hotels and rentals. These places have earned our Cheapo-seal of approval, so you can make those reservations without worry for your wallet.
For Shinjuku’s other Michelin restaurants.