Kabukicho? Golden Gai? Shinjuku Gyoen?
Many tourists are familiar with these names. However, the Shinjuku ward is certainly more than that! The Shinjuku ward still comprises of many charming neighborhoods, and they are distinctly identified as East Shinjuku and West Shinjuku. Explore the hidden charms of these neighborhoods for the best local experiences!
1. Kagurazaka (Nearest station: Kagurazaka Station of Tokyo Metro Tozai Line)
Although Kagurazaka is a little less popular than the “glamorous” part of Shinjuku, this district has its hidden charm. Kagurazaka is most well-known for its slopping street, its home to the French community in Japan and a large concentration of French restaurants. In the early days, many geisha houses were set up in Kagurazaka and the town functioned as Japan’s premier pleasure quarter (or Hanamachi in Japanese). Today, many geisha houses, traditional restaurants and confectionary shops still exist, retaining their nostalgic flavor. Take a leisurely walk down Kagurazaka’s alleys and walkways to explore this beautiful town.
You can reach Kagurazaka through the Lidabashi Station (served by the JR Chuo Line and the Oedo, Tozai, Yurakucho and Namboku subway lines). From there, the bottom of the Kagurazaka slope is just a short walk away. Alternatively, you can stop at the Ushigome-Kagurazaka Station, and it will lead you to the top of the Kagurazaka slope. The Kagurazaka Station is located near the Akagi Shrine. The French Institute in Tokyo is a place worth visiting. The French library and courtyard give visitors a taste of Paris with its laid back setting that you would surely fall in love with!
French Institute in Tokyo
Address: 15 Ichigaya Funagawaramachi, Shinjuku Ward
Opening Hours: 10am - 10pm from Monday to Friday. 11.30am to 10pm on Saturday
Access: 7-minute walk from JR Iidabashi Station
Apart from that, we also recommend visiting the Akagi Jinja. Built in the Edo period, this shrine is a branch of the shrine at Mount Akagi Gunma prefecture. It was renovated by the famous Japanese architect, Kuma Kengo, who also designed other key landmarks like the Suntory Museum in Roppongi and the Asakusa Culture Tourist Info Center. Also, what makes this shrine stand out is that it has its very own Akagi café!
Akagi Shrine (赤城神社）
Address: 1-10 Akagi Motomachi, Shinjuku Ward
Contact: +81 332605071
Access: 2 minute-walk from Kagurazaka Station Another unique café in Kagurazaka is the Manju Café (Manju is a traditional Japanese confection). Here, you can taste manjus of a variety of flavors, from anko (red bean) to cheese! A cup of hojicha, green tea and coffee would definitely make your snack better. Do look out for the resident cat!
Manju Cafe Mugimaru 2
Address: 5-20 Kagurazaka, Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo
Opening Hours: 12pm - 9pm. Closed on Wednesday
Access: 5 minute-walk from Kagurazaka Station
2. Lidabashi (Nearest station: Lidabashi Station of the JR Sobu Line)
Iidabashi is the place to go to visit the Tokyo Dome, a multipurpose stadium that hosts a variety of events throughout the year. Having a capacity of 55,000, the Tokyo Dome is nicknamed the “Big Egg” to replace the former Korakuen Stadium. The area around the Tokyo Dome is Tokyo Dome City - a large scale leisure complex that has an amusement park, a spa, restaurants, and shops and admission to Tokyo Dome City is free.
Iidabashi is a station along the JR Chuo Sobu Line. It is also served by the Tokyo Metro Tozai Line, Yurakucho Line, Namboku Line, and Toei Oedo Line.
Tokyo Dome City
Address: 1-3-61 Koraku, Bunkyo Ward
Opening Hours: 11am - 9pm on weekdays. 10am - 9pm on weekends
Access 1 minute walk from JR Iidabashi Station
Contact: +81 338176001
Tokyo Dome City Just a stone’s throw away is the Koishikawa Korakuen. This is one of the best Japanese gardens, well preserved since the Edo period. The garden initially followed the Kyoto style and was later remodeled to follow Chinese gardens. Quiet and tranquil, this park is a true gem in the city.
Address: 1-6-6 Koraku, Bunkyo Ward
Opening Hours: 9am - 5pm
Access: 5 to 10 minute walk from Lidabashi Station
Contact: +81 338113015
3. Ichigaya (nearest station: Ichigaya Station of JR Sobu Line)
Ichigaya is an old residential and business district in Tokyo that lies just beside the Imperial Palace. Various institutions such as Hosei University, Chuo University and Japan’s Ministry of Defense are located there. Ichigaya is also close to the Yasukuni Shrine, one of the most controversial shrines in Japan regarding WWII.
Ichigaya Station is served by the JR Chuo-Sobu Line, Tokyo Metro Yurakucho Line, Tokyo Metro Namboku Line, and Toei Shinjuku Line. Chūō Line (Rapid) services pass the station as well. The Ichigaya Fish Center is a great place to enjoy some good fishing (as Ichigaya is comfortably located on the outer moats of the Imperial Palace)! They have a variety of packages and two pools for fishing. Once you’ve got your catch, you will receive points based on the weight of the fish caught. The fish will then be released to the pool to be “caught again”. Using your accumulated points, you can redeem prizes or get your next fishing session free! Ready for a good catch?
Ichigaya Fish Center
Address: 1-1, Ichigayatamachi, Shinjuku Ward
Opening Hours: 9.30am - 8pm on weekdays. 9am to 8pm on weekends
Access: 1 minute walk from JR Ichigaya Station
Contact: +81 332601325
4. Yotsuya (nearest station: Yotsuya Station of JR Chuo Line)
Yotsuya is a pleasant neighborhood with rich history. Akasaka Palace, aka, Akasaka State Guest House is located here, a building closely modeled after the Palace of Versailles in France. It is used to accommodate overseas diplomats during their time in Japan. Also, Yotsuya is also home to Sophia University, another prestigious institution in Japan founded in 1913.
Yotsuya Station is served by multiple lines, including the JR East Chūō Main Line, Chuo Line (Rapid) and Chuo-Sobu Line, Tokyo Metro Marunouchi Line, and Tokyo Metro Namboku Line.
Akasaka Palace/ State Guest House
Address: 2-1-1, Motoakasaka, Minato Ward
Price: Front garden is free but entrance through west gate will cost JPY 1000 (8.80 USD) per adult
Opening Hours: 9am - 6pm. Closed on public holidays
Access: 10 minute walk from JR Yotsuya Station
Contact: +81 357287788
5. Nishi Waseda (nearest station: Nishi Waseda Station of Tokyo Metro Fukutoshin Line)
Nishi Waseda is home to the Waseda University, one of Japan’s oldest and most prestigious universities. Take a relaxing stroll in the campus and discover its unique architectural features and designs. Also, do drop by its university cafeteria, Okuma Garden House, for an affordable meal. They serve other food as well such as the Chef’s Special Set, pasta, ramen, sushi, katsu-don and more! The nearest train station is the Nishi-Waseda Station on the Tokyo Metro Fukutoshin Line.
Okuma Garden House in Waseda University
Address: Inside the Waseda University campus, Bldg 25, 3F.1-6-1 Nishi-Waseda, Shinjuku Ward
Opening Hours: 11.15am - 7.50pm from Monday to Friday. Closes at 3.15 pm on Saturday. Closed on Sunday
Access: 10 minute walk from Nishi-Waseda Station on Tokyo metro Tozai Line
6. Takadanobaba (nearest station: Takadanobaba Station of the JR Yamanote Line, Seibu Shinjuku Line, Tokyo Metro Tōzai Line)
The name “Takadanobaba” has an interesting origin. In the past, Shogun Tokugawa Iemitsu (the head of the government during the Edo period) frequently used the place for horse racing and horse riding, hence earning the name “baba” (which means “horse place” in Japanese). Located near the Waseda University, Takadanobaba has quite a number of affordable shops and eateries specially catered to the students in the vicinity. Also, Takanobaba is a major transport hub for commuters in Tokyo – commuters on the Seibu Shinjuku Line, Jr Yamanote Line and Tokyo Metro Tozai Line can easily transfer at this station.
You can’t possible miss the two large Astro Boy murals just outside Takadanobaba Station! Astro Boy is one of the earliest cartoon characters in Japan and many people are familiar with this anime character. Amazingly, Takanobaba is the supposed birthplace of Astro Boy. If you pay close attention to the train melody played at Takadanobaba Station, you’ll notice it is a song from Astro Boy!
Astro Boy Murals
Access: 1 minute walk from JR Takadanobaba Station. One mural is located underneath the JR railway right in front of the bus stop. The other mural is close to the road intersection.
7. Shin-okubo (nearest station: Shin-okubo Station of JR Yamanote Line)
Shin-okubo is famously known to be the “Korean Town” in Tokyo with a large number of Koreans residing in the neighborhood. At Okubo-dori, you can find everything from Korean restaurants and Korean supermarket, to K-dramas and Kpop. Shin-okubo is a station on the JR Yamanote Line. It is a 3-minute walk to the Okubo Station on the Chuo Sobu Line.
If you’re looking to have some good Korean BBQ in Tokyo, then Shin-okubo is definitely the right place to go. Don’t miss Korean street snacks such as Hotteok (sweet Korean pancake), gimbap (Korean sushi roll) and fried chicken!
One popular Korean restaurant you cannot miss in Shin-okubo is Tonchan. It serves amazingly delicious Korean grilled barbecue and other dishes such as Korean pancakes. The best way to enjoy Korean-style barbecued meat is, of course, to use a piece of lettuce to wrap the meat with some rice and some side dishes. Great food that hits the spot!
Address: Lisbon Building 1F, 2-32-3 Okubo, Shinjuku Ward
Opening Hours: Open 11am - 4am daily. Lunch hours 11am - 4pm
Access: 2 minute walk from JR Shin-okubo Station
Contact: +81 351557433
8. Nishi Shinjuku (nearest station: Nishi Shinjuku Station of Tokyo Metro Marunouchi Line)
West Shinjuku is Tokyo’s biggest skyscraper district sitting on the quiet side of the urban jungle known as Shinjuku. The area is first and foremost a business district that’s home to many of Japan’s largest companies and Tokyo City Hall. As with many business districts, much of West Shinjuku is quiet at night and on weekends.
Several of the tallest buildings in Tokyo are in Nishi-Shinjuku, including many great examples of modern Tokyo architecture. The most prominent building with unique architecture is none other than the Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower. Its sleek, modern and futuristic exterior is truly an art in itself!
Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower
Address: 1-7-3 Nishi Shinjuku, Shinjuku Ward
Access: 3 minute walk from Shinjuku Station West Exit
See the best of Shinjuku
Many tourists recognize Shinjuku as a bustling and glamorous area packed with entertainment centers, shopping malls and high-rise skyscrapers. However, this article aims to shed light on the different side of Shinjuku, that offers many points of attraction worth visiting. Visit East and West Shinjuku today! Taking the road less travelled might give you a pleasant surprise!
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