18 Best Things to Do in Shinjuku, Tokyo

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Shinjuku is a major business and entertainment district around Tokyo’s busiest train station. This is the Tokyo you dreamed of with towering skyscrapers, neon signs, and noisy arcades.

It’s bustling and vibrant, but it’s also possible to escape the crowds.

In this post, I share the best things to do in Shinjuku from weird shows and unique bars to peaceful parks and stunning views.

Although Shinjuku is most known for its nightlife and shopping, we’re not big fans of either of these, and we still love the area.

There are some fun family-friendly activities, too, where you can learn the ways of the samurai or ninja.

You can visit most of these Shinjuku attractions in a couple of days and the majority are within a 15-minute walk of Shinjuku Station—you’ll find a Shinjuku map at the end.


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Best Things to Do in Shinjuku Japan

1) Picnic in Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden

Spring flowers at Shinjuku Gyone National Garden, one of the best things to do in Shinjuku, Tokyo
If you are wondering where to go in Shinjuku on a sunny day—head to Shinjuku Gyoen for a picnic

We usually stay a short walk from the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden as it’s such a peaceful retreat from the hectic city.

There are French and English gardens as well as Japanese gardens featuring ponds, pagodas, and a teahouse.

There are a few cafes where you can pick up a snack or a cone of matcha soft serve ice-cream. The large lawns are perfect for a picnic.

The spacious gardens are lovely at any time of year but are especially worthy of a visit in spring cherry blossom and autumn leaf seasons.

When we visited in mid-April, we knew we’d missed the main cherry blossom season, so we were delighted to discover that the gardens have lots of late-blooming cherry blossoms.

These are a different variety than the classic five-petal somei yoshino—they are extravagantly puffy in vibrant pink and white—but are just as beautiful.

We ended up returning three times for picnics under the blooms.

Even though it was busy on a sunny weekend, there’s a relaxed atmosphere and there’s plenty of space for everyone.

Late blooming cherry blossoms at Shinjuku Gyone National Garden in Shinjuku, Tokyo

Shinjuku Gyoen is also my favourite place to run in the area. It’s best to arrive as soon as they open at 9am and you must stick to the quieter path around the edge of the park (one loop was around 2km).

Details: 500 yen ($3.50) entrance fee. Open 9am – 5.30pm (4pm in winter). Closed on Mondays. If there are queues at the Shinjuku Gate, walk outside the park to the quieter southern gate. Or use your IC card (e.g Suica or Pasmo) to tap in at the gates and avoid the ticket lines.

A reservation system will be implemented for weekends during cherry blossom season in late March and early April. Check the Shinjuku Gyoen website for details.

Tip: Shinjuku Central Park (Chuo Park) is another green space in Shinjuku. It’s much smaller than Shinjuku Gyoen, but it’s free and is on the western side of Shinjuku train station, near the Park Hyatt and Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building.

2) Stroll Down Memory Lane (Omoide Yokocho)

Memory Lane decorated for autumn in Tokyo
Memory Lane decorated for autumn

Memory Lane (Omoide Yokocho in Japanese) is one of my favourite places to visit in Shinjuku at night.

As vegetarians we can’t eat in the many tiny yakitori restaurants down the narrow alleyways serving meat on skewers, but it’s an atmospheric place to wander.

The bars are decorated with paper lanterns and seasonal flora (autumn leaves or spring cherry blossoms) and smoke billows from the grills.

In the background, you’ll see the bright lights of Shinjuku’s billboards—the perfect contrast of old and new.

Memory Lane, one of the top places to visit in Shinjuku
Memory Lane is a must see in Shinjuku

It can get very busy, though—our visit on a rainy October weeknight was much more enjoyable than on an April Saturday.

The lane is very close to Shinjuku Station so there’s no reason not to wander through at least once and perhaps stop for a meal.

Details: Food stalls open from 5pm to midnight.

3) Enjoy a Free View from Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building

Tokyo free view from Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building in Shinjuku, the best area to stay in Tokyo

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building is one of the best places to go in Shinjuku for a view of the futuristic skyline—and it’s free!

You can visit by day or night—on a clear morning you might have a chance of seeing distant Mount Fuji from the South Tower, but I love seeing Tokyo lit up at night.

The North Tower is the best place to see the skyscrapers and highways, but it’s currently closed.

Details: Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building is free. Open 9.30 am to 10 pm. South Observatory closed first and third Tuesday of the month. North Observatory usually closed second and fourth Monday of the month but currently closed entirely.

It’s located a 10-minute walk from the West Exit of Shinjuku Station.

4) Experience Sensory Overload at the Robot Restaurant (or Samurai Restaurant)

Swinging guitarist at the Robot cafe in Tokyo
The insane Robot Restaurant show

Update: The Robot Restaurant has been closed since March 2020. It is due to reopen but no date has been announced yet. In the meantime, the new Samurai Restaurant opened in Shinjuku in 2023 and offers a similar over-the-top experience (over 18s only due to the location not content). Buy tickets on Get Your Guide.

Our head and ears ached afterwards, but there’s no denying that the Robot Restaurant is one of the craziest Shinjuku activities.

It’s a highly energetic show, not a restaurant (don’t get food there), and features robots, dragons, ninjas, blue-haired dancers, creepy clowns, guitarists on swings, drums, a whole lot of neon lights, and really loud music. It’s full-on.

The Robot Restaurant is one of most popular things to do in Kabukicho, Shinjuku’s entertainment and red light district.

This is a slightly seedy but lively area with hostess bars, love hotels, and lots of bright lights.

We found it very safe to wander, but you might get ripped off in some of the bars (don’t go anywhere with a street tout luring you in).

Read Simon’s Robot Restaurant review to find out if the show is for you.

More Tokyo tips: If you want to explore beyond Shinjuku, check out our guide to the coolest things to do in Tokyo.

5) Drink in a Tiny Bar on the Golden Gai

Golden Gai, a street of tiny bars and one of the best things to do in Tokyo

Like Memory Lane, the Golden Gai is another atmospheric network of narrow alleyways.

This area is focused on bars rather than food stalls and doesn’t get going until later at night (at 8pm it was still fairly quiet).

Many bars have cover charges and don’t allow foreigners, but you’ll see signs in English for the ones that are more welcoming.

Details: Bars on the Golden Gai open from 7pm or 8pm until early morning.

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6) Recreate Lost in Translation at the New York Bar at Park Hyatt

View from Park Hyatt New York bar in Tokyo

I highly recommend watching the Lost in Translation movie with Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson before visiting Tokyo.

The characters stay at the Park Hyatt Tokyo hotel in Shinjuku and meet for the first time in the 52nd floor bar which has stunning views over the city. 

We are not the only fans of the movie who wanted to recreate the scene. It’s one of the top Shinjuku tourist spots and hard to get in, but the views are superb.

We arrived at 6.15pm on a Saturday night and waited 30 minutes to get in. Unfortunately, we were then seated at the bar with our backs to the view.

I actually got better photos from the waiting area outside the bar as I didn’t feel comfortable standing next to people’s tables to take photos by the windows inside.

View from Park Hyatt New York bar in Tokyo

Drink prices are high, as you’d expect (although the current weak yen makes it more affordable than a few years ago). A cocktail is 2400 yen ($17) and beer is 1300 yen ($9), and there’s 15% tax on top.

Food is also available.

If you’re on a tight budget, just enjoy the view from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building instead. If you do want the bar experience, arrive early to avoid the crowds and request a table by the window.

Keep your expectations realistic, but it can be one of the best things to do in Shinjuku at night.

For the ultimate experience, splurge on a stay at the Park Hyatt Tokyo and then you don’t have to pay the cover charge and can even enjoy the view from your room.

Details: The New York Bar is open 5pm – 11pm (midnight on weekends). Shorts, beach sandals, and sportswear are not allowed.

It has a 2750 yen ($19) cover charge from 6.30pm when live jazz is played. You could arrive earlier to avoid the charge. No reservations are taken.

The bar can be surprisingly hard to find within the massive building and requires a few different elevators. See the directions in this post on visiting the New York Bar

Our Favourite Hotel in Shinjuku – If the Park Hyatt is out of your price range, you can still get an amazing view at Hotel Century Southern Tower and it’s only a few minutes’ walk from Shinjuku Station. Our Panoramic King room was more spacious than most Japanese hotel rooms. See our guide to the best area to stay in Tokyo for more details.

7) Sing Karaoke in a Private Booth

Singing at Karaoke no Tetsujin in Shinjuku, Tokyo

After our drink at the New York Bar, we walked to the neon heart of bustling Kabukicho for our first Japanese karaoke experience.

The Japanese absolutely love karaoke and visiting one of the many huge karaoke centres is one of the best things to do in Japan for a fun local experience. 

We went to Karaoke no Tetsujin, an affordable karaoke chain.

You rent a private booth with comfortable seating and a tablet where you can choose from plenty of English songs. Use the microphones to sing along with the laughably dated videos.

There are a bewildering array of packages available, but choose how long you’d like to sing for and the staff will help you out.

It’s cheaper on weekdays before 7pm but even on a Saturday night we thought it was reasonable—400 yen ($3) per person for 30 minutes including an alcoholic drink.

8) Spot Godzilla at Shinjuku Gracery Hotel 

The Godzilla head at Hotel Gracery is one of the top Shinjuku attractions in Tokyo

Near Karaoke no Tetsujin is one of the most famous Shinjuku sights—a giant Godzilla head that towers above the Toho Building and the neon signs of Kabukicho.

The building also houses the Shinjuku Gracery Hotel and if you stay there you can see Godzilla up close in reception—it even roars! 

9) Dress Up as a Samurai at the Samurai Museum (Temporarily Closed)

We still haven’t made it to the Samurai Museum, but it gets excellent reviews and is a fantastic family-friendly activity. 

The small museum has a display of costumes, swords and other articles from these honour-bound warriors.

A guided tour is included in the price and is recommended to understand the samurai spirit and how it permeates into modern Japanese lives.

You can try on the costumes for a fun photo opportunity.

Details: The Samurai Museum closed due to Covid and it’s unclear when or if it will reopen. Previously it was 1800 yen ($13) entry. Open 10.30am to 9pm.

10) Learn to be a Ninja at Ninja Trick House

Swordplay at Ninja Trick House in Shinjuku, Tokyo
Simon and I with our Ninja guide at Ninja Trick House

Another good option if you are wondering what to do in Shinjuku with kids is the Ninja Trick House.

Here you learn about ninja weapons and try some of their skills yourself including throwing shurikens and swordplay. The experience lasts for 30–45 minutes.

We visited on our last trip to Shinjuku. As two adults we felt a bit awkward being there with two families—it really is more of a kids’ attraction—but there were some fun moments (especially throwing shurikens) and plenty of photo opportunities.

Wear black for maximum impact in the photos as they don’t have costumes for guests, unfortunately.

Details: Ninja Trick House has an entry fee of 3200 yen ($22) for adults, 1000 yen for kids aged 1-3, and 2800 yen for kids 4-17.

Open 10am – 5pm (4pm final admission). Closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Reservations are highly recommended.

Note it’s on the 4th floor and there is no elevator. You’ll need to take off your shoes.

11) Ride a Go-Kart Through the Streets

Simon dressed up as Yoshi on our Maricar experience in Tokyo
Go-karting is one of the most fun Shinjuku activities

One of the most fun things to do in Shinjuku is ride a go-kart on the real roads dressed as your favourite character!

You’ll need an international driving permit for this, so make sure you get one before leaving your home country.

You’ll drive past iconic destinations in Shinjuku and Shibuya, while passers-by wave and take your photo.

I found it a little scary at first but then just so much fun. It’s a unique way to see Shinjuku.

You can choose a day or night tour—around sunset is ideal to see the golden hour then neon lights after dark.

Details: This one-hour Go-Kart Tour with Monkey Kart costs $131 including costume rental and photos. Each person drives their own kart. Make sure to book well in advance and bring your international driving permit. The meeting place is in Shibuya.

Alternatively, if you don’t mind travelling further afield, the similar go-kart tour to Asakusa and Skytree is often more affordable.

12) Visit the Yayoi Kusama Museum

The Naoshima pumpkin or Yellow Pumpkin sculpture by Yayoi Kusama on Naoshima Art Island in Japan
An example of Yayoi Kusama’s art on Naoshima Island

This contemporary art museum is a Shinjuku must see for fans of Yayoi Kusama’s art.

It’s a small space with changing exhibitions featuring her signature vibrant colours, polka dots, and usually plenty of pumpkins.

The museum is further from Shinjuku Station than the other Shinjuku attractions on this list, but it can be reached by metro to Waseda or Ushigome-Yanagicho Stations in about 15 minutes.

Details: You must book in advance for a specific 90-minute time slot on the Yayoi Kusama Museum website.

Entry is 1100 yen ($8) and it’s open Thursdays to Sundays and on National Holidays from 11am – 5.30pm. There’s no waiting area so don’t arrive before your allocated time.

13) See the Adorable 3D Cat Billboard

Calico cat on the 3D Cat Billboard outside Shinjuku Station in Tokyo

One of the quickest and cutest things to see in Shinjuku is the 3D Cat Billboard (aka Shinjuku Cat).

Located outside Shinjuku Station, this digital advertisement features a playful calico cat that seems ready to jump right out at you.

Watch for a few minutes to see the cat’s various poses as it stretches, meows, yawns, rolls, and waves its tail around. The animations change at different times of the day.

Details: You can find the 3D Cat Billboard at an intersection outside the East Exit of Shinjuku Station. Look for Cross Shinjuku Vision on Google Maps and it’s on that building (best viewed from across the road).

14) Find Peace at Hanazono Shrine

The torii gate and red main building of Hanazono Shrine in Shinjuku, Tokyo

Shinjuku is known more for its shopping and nightlife than historic buildings, which makes the Hanazono Shrine a surprising pocket of peace near the Golden Gai.

While it’s not the most stunning shrine in the city, it does have an attractive red building with torii gates leading to it.

This Inari shrine, founded in the 17th century, is a popular spot for business people to pray for success.

It’s worth passing by if you are in the area, as it feels so different from the surrounding hustle and bustle.

There is also an antiques market at Hanazono Shrine on most Sundays.

Details: Hanazono Shrine is free entry, open 24 hours and located at 5 Chome-17-3 Shinjuku.

15) Snack on Taiyaki

Naruto Taiyaki Honpo stand in Shinjuku, Tokyo
Pick up a delicious taiyaki from Naruto Taiyaki Honpo in Shinjuku

Our favourite street snack in Shinjuku is taiyaki, a Japanese fish-shaped dessert that’s a cross between a cake and a waffle.

We love the ones from the Naruto Taiyaki Honpo stand, close to Hanazono Shrine and Golden Gai.

Choose between fillings like red bean, sweet potato, and custard (our favourite). Fresh off the grill, they are crispy, warm, and delicious.

Details: The Shinjuku branch of Naruto Taiyaki Honpo is at 3 Chome-14-17 Shinjuku. Open every day from 10am – 11pm.

16) Relax at Thermae-Yu Onsen

We haven’t visited Thermae-Yu yet, but this public bath close to Golden Gai sounds like an excellent option for Shinjuku visitors looking for a place to relax (perhaps before being able to check into your hotel).

The spacious complex features several onsens, saunas, and lounges (including a nap area—perfect for the jet-lagged).

They sell covers for tattoos (only for those with foreign passports), but you must be able to cover them with four sheets (10cm x 14cm each).

If you haven’t used a Japanese onsen before, remember you must be naked (baths are divided by gender) and wash thoroughly before entering the water. See our guide to Kinosaki Onsen for more etiquette tips.

Details: Thermae-Yu is open 24 hours and costs from 2700 yen ($18) including towels, pyjamas to wear around the facility, lockers, and toiletries. It’s located at 1 Chome-1-2 Kabukicho.

17) Go Shopping

Shinjuku is one of Tokyo’s main shopping areas. Even though we’re not fans of shopping, we still always end up in some of the stores.

Here are just some of the shops to check out:

  • Uniqlo – Affordable but good quality basic clothing items. Ideal if you need some winter clothes. I love their Heattech base layers.
  • Bic Camera – A massive electronics store with everything tech you could possibly need. Take your passport and spend more than 5000 yen to get it tax-free. I bought my Sony a7 III camera from the Kyoto store and got extra discounts and freebies. It’s also good for picking up a SIM card (although we prefer e-SIMs these days).
  • Bicqlo – This branch handily combines Uniqlo and Bic Camera in the same mammoth building.
  • Isetan and Takashimaya department stores – The food halls in Japanese department stores are not to be missed and these are two excellent ones. Whether you are looking for a picnic lunch, foodie gift, or just browsing, there’s a huge array of choice from bento boxes to beautifully packaged seasonal sweets, weird flavoured kitkats to $100 melons.
  • Tokyu Hands – Brilliant for stationery, household items, and creative souvenirs.
  • Don Quijote – A chaotic discount store perfect for cheap souvenirs.

Here’s a more detailed Shinjuku shopping guide

18) Eat!

Spicy vegan ramen in Tokyo at Shinjuku Gyoen Ramen Ouka

Of course, one of the top things to do in Shinjuku (and all of Tokyo), is eat!

We’re vegetarian so our experience is a little different. Our favourites include Tsunahachi for tempura, Zen for okonomiyaki, and Kakekomi for gyoza (all have meat options too). Isetan also has a vegan bento box.

See my Tokyo vegetarian restaurant guide for more details.

If you do eat meat, check out this list of the best restaurants in Shinjuku from ramen to sushi. 

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Map of Shinjuku Things to Do

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Is Shinjuku Worth Visiting?

Yes, Shinjuku is absolutely worth visiting—perhaps more so than anywhere else in Tokyo.

Its neon lights, fun attractions, excellent food and shopping, and atmospheric bars make for a classic Tokyo experience.

The transport links are excellent if you decide to base yourself here (as we usually do). You can read my post on why I think Shinjuku is the best area to stay in Tokyo—it includes recommended accommodation options.

I hope this guide gives you some ideas of what to see in Shinjuku and helps you explore this vibrant neighbourhood.

Let us know in the comments below if you have any other recommendations of things to do in the area.

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Tokyo Travel Tips

Read our other Tokyo posts to help you make the most of your time in this amazing city:

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  1. Erin – You’ve posted some of the best Japan travel advice I’ve ever read. Lots of details, suggestions, pics, and links. We just returned from Japan about a month ago. Our first visit (part of a tour group). Incredible time. Already planning our next Japan trip (April 2025 – and without a tour group), and I’m using many of your suggestions for that trip.

    Please keep up the great writing. Looking forward to updates!

    Reply ↓

    • Aw, thanks so much for the kind words, Brian! I’m really glad you enjoyed Japan and as you can see – it’s hard to stop at one visit.

      We have lots more Japan content coming about our latest trip.

      Reply ↓

  2. Hi Erin,

    Thank you, this is very helpful as we will in Shinjuku in a week’s time. We are happy to spend our two full days just in Shinjuku before heading to Mt Fuji. This is also a very good reason to return one day.

    Reply ↓

  3. Thanks for the information very informative. I have a question what is it like for a person with a walking disability to get in and around the old parts of Shinjuko,also is Tokyo and Japan disability friendly? I’m going on a bucket list holiday in May and I’m a-bit grey and disabled but I get round by means of a Rollator.

    Reply ↓

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