I’m often asked about recommendations for awesome places to stay in Tokyo and my answer is always the same- for the love of God stay and visit Shinjuku!!
Located in the western ring of the city, Shinjuku is the central hub for everything a traveller would need- transport, food, entertainment, cultural sites and much more.
I’ve visited Tokyo three separate times, all for extended periods, and Shinjuku was always the natural choice for the above reasons. I now stay here because I love the alleys, backstreets, the small hidden shrines, the local eateries and supermarkets, all of which have become strangely familiar and like my second home.
Here are the 10 reasons I tell my friends why they should stay and visit Shinjuku:
- It’s the hub of Tokyo transport.
Shinjuku is super easy to get to from Narita airport with the N’EX express train, which is in my opinion the fastest and most stress free way of getting there. The station is well serviced by majority of the train lines that you could possibly need- the Tokyo Metro, Keio Corporation, Toei Subway, the Odakyu Electric Railway and JR lines- meaning that you can easily get to anywhere in Tokyo from Shinjuku.
- The Shinjuku Gyoen Gardens.
The perfect retreat from the madness of Tokyo. You can slip into this beautiful park for an afternoon wandering in the manicured Japanese gardens, or French and English inspired gardens or the tropical greenhouse. The cherry blossoms can be viewed here during March and April. Considering how jam packed and densely populated Tokyo is, it’s a real blessing to have a green escape with space available nearby.
- Piss Alley/ Memory Alley
Piss Alley is one of my favourite eating areas in Shinjuku! Unfortunately named Piss Alley, and then rebranded and cleaned up at Memory alley, this district is located next to the Shinjuku train station. The shanty styled area, made up of a few lane ways, is packed with tiny eateries and bars serving the best yakitori in Tokyo. This place is mainly populated with local businessmen stopping past for a bite before catching the train home. These eateries have capacities of under 10 people, making it a fascinating spot to sit back with a cold beer, yummy yakitori and watch the people emerge and then disappear.
- The huge array of accommodation available.
Shinjuku has an impressive array of accommodation, ranging from budget hostels to top of the line luxury. My personal suggestions would be to stay at either the Citidines Shinjuku (for serviced apartment style accommodation) or at the Granbell Shinjuku.
- Drinks at the Park Hyatt. If you are a fan of Lost in Translation like me, then you must have a drink in the bar made famous by the movie. Who doesn’t want to pretend they are Scarlett Johansen or Bill Murray!?
- The local eateries
You will find everything from Izakayas, fast food chains, family run joints and international restaurants. You will never go hungry in Shinjuku. Eating out is a popular past time, and with the business district in the area the demand for high quality food is rampant. You can find something to eat at pretty much every hour of the day. Craving curry at 2am? You can find it in Shinjuku!
- The shopping options
Shinjuku is home to many large shopping malls and popular shopping areas. You’ll find all the major international clothes brands all represented here, as well as home wares and electronics too. I’ve spent many happy days shopping here- especially during sales time!
- It is the part of the city that doesn’t sleep
There is always so much to see and do, and it’s always ‘on’ even during the early/late hours of the night! Some of my favourite memories are going for 2am walks where you will spot people heading home or to work, businesses packing up or starting up for the day. I think you get the best representation of a city at this time of night.
- Golden tai drinking district/nightlife
In the heart of Shinjuku you will find the Golden Gai drinking district. A small square block, made up of four or so tiny laneways have jam-packed dozens of tiny bars in to them. These bars are often not open to visitors, with owners preferring their local clientele, however there are some who welcome you with open arms. Like Piss Alley these places only have space for a few drinkers but still it’s a fascinating place to see even if you don’t drink here. Renowned for being run and the known lair of the Yakuza (the Japanese mafia) many people are hesitant to visit, but I visited on my own and did not for one second feel unsafe. And I’m a girl who was visiting there at 11pm in the middle of summer in a flimsy summer frock!!
- The neon lights.
When people think of Tokyo they think of the neon signs and lights, and Shinjuku is home to the best in the area. Walk along the main roads and around the train station in the evening, look up and you’ll notice the best light display and the newest advertising. It’s fascinating!