101 things to do in Shinjuku

From cult art to decadent ramen, this is our guide to Tokyo’s sprawling entertainment centre

Shinjuku Gyoen and NTT Docomo Tower | Time Out Tokyo
Choose from 101 things to do in Shinjuku
By Time Out Tokyo Editors |
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Trying to navigate your way through Shinjuku Station is hard enough, but when you finally find the right exit, figuring out how to make sure you don't miss out on any of Shinjuku's best shops, restaurants, bars and tourist sights is a challenge all on its own. You could live in Tokyo for years and still not discover everything it offers.

This is where we come in. Doing what we do best, we've scoured the area for the top hotspots and narrowed the list down to a healthy 101 things to do, including chilling in jazzy coffee shops, shopping in massive (and boutique) department stores, tasting the best sake, exploring rock bars, visiting popular shrines and getting the best views of the city. It should keep you busy for a while.

26
Art

View some photo art

Shinjuku-Nichome

Photographers Masato Seto and Daido Moriyama run this gallery, which showcases exhibitions by leading photographers and emerging artists. Place M

51
Restaurants, Cafés

Hang out like a hipster

Shinjuku-Sanchome

This roomy basement café imitates a New York hipster hangout, with open plan seating, brick walls, a library of art books, and a burger-and-pancake menu. The beer on tap, naturally, is Brooklyn Lager. Brooklyn Parlor

52
Shopping

Shop for subculture

Shinjuku

Kaiho-ku (meaning 'liberated zone'), the department store known for innovation, has been reborn in the Isetan Honkan building with an unshackled mix of fashion and art that's set to be a new sanctuary of Japanese subculture. Tokyo Kaihoku

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53
Restaurants, Cafés

Retreat to a retro café

Shinjuku-Sanchome

The retro sofas and antique furniture hark back to this café's '70s roots. Far removed from the bustle of Seikoku-dori, it's the perfect place for passing the time with a cuppa and a comic. Cafe Arles

54
Attractions, Religious buildings and sites

Spot the shrine among the skyscrapers

Shinjuku

Since being built in the Edo period, this shrine has served as the 'landlord spirit' of Shinjuku. Its Tori no Ichi (Day of the Rooster) fair draws six million visitors – pop by and pick up a 'Daruma mikuji', a fortune-telling wooden doll. Hanazono Jinja

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55
LGBTQ+

Feel a little fabulous

Shinjuku-Nichome

First-time visitors to Tokyo's famous gay district could do far worse than shimmying into this ooh-la-la joint run by celeb cross-dresser Bourbonne. The ‘gay mix’ policy means straight customers won't feel out of place. Campy! Bar

56
Suehirotei
Theatre, Performing arts space

Listen to some comic storytelling

Shinjuku-Sanchome

There are only a few places in Tokyo to watch rakugo (comic storytelling), and this venerable Shinjuku theatre is one of them. First-timers should try the Saturday night performances, which cost just ¥500. Suehirotei

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57
Shopping, Grocery stores

Cook like you're in Bangkok

Shin-Okubo

Stocking an impressive range of fresh Thai herbs and vegetables, this shop has everything you need for a fancy Southeast Asian feast. You can also pick up dried and canned staples such as jasmine rice, dried noodles and juice, or invest in Thai-style kitchenware and bath products. Asia Super Store

58
Shopping

Do some surreal late-night shopping

Shinjuku

Pile ’em high, sell ’em cheap gets taken to the extreme at Don Quijote. It's cluttered, disorganised and disorientating, but you’ll find everything from snacks to washing machines, 24 hours a day. Pick up some souvenirs or a suitcase here if leaving from the Busta bus terminal. Don Quijote Shinjuku Southeast Exit

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59
books kinokuniya
Shopping, Bookshops

Read in another language

Shinjuku

Kinokuniya's other Shinjuku outpost is still one of the best bookstores in Tokyo for foreign-language publications. Head to the sixth floor (the other floors now house a Nitori) for books, magazines and more in English, French, German, Italian, Spanish and many other languages. Books Kinokuniya Tokyo

60
CoCoLo cafe
LGBTQ+

Chat into the night

Shinjuku-Nichome

Ideal for a late-night rendezvous, this café and restaurant is a popular LGBT hangout that gets points for its 18 different kinds of tea, Vietnamese coffee and homemade fruit cake that changes monthly. Cocolo Cafe

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61
Shopping

Fall in love with books again

Shinjuku

This warm and welcoming store offers all things book-related, including old and new novels, essay collections, photo books, magazines, bookshelves and a selection of gifts based on the concept 'a life with books'. Bibliophilic & Bookunion Shinjuku

62
Bars and pubs

Pair sake with snacks

Shinjuku

Those partial to sake can’t go wrong at this shrine to rice wine, located right next to an actual shrine (Hanazono). The owner knows his stuff and has a great selection of snacks too. Open from 3pm on weekdays and from noon on weekends. Moto

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63
Art, Galleries

Gaze at a range of art

Hatsudai

The focus at this gallery is on modern and contemporary art, and in addition to exhibitions by international and Japanese artists, it hosts special features four times a year showing architecture, design, fashion and more. Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery

64
Black Swan Lake
Nightlife, Cabaret and burlesque

Meet Kabukicho's drag queens

Shinjuku

A pioneer in the transsexual show pub biz, this bar has been entertaining audiences with its drag-queen shows for 40 years. There are two shows daily (at 7.30pm and 10pm). Great for (after-)dinner fun. Black Swan Lake

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65
Restaurants, Coffeeshops

Make every sip count

Shinjuku

The search for true coffee excellence is pursued with surprising vigour at this pricey but popular Shinjuku basement. The cheapest choice from the menu will set you back a cool ¥1,000, but at least the cups will be bone china. Bon

66
Mizutaki Genkai | Time Out Tokyo
Restaurants, Japanese

Combine hotpot with dessert

Shinjuku-Sanchome

This Shinjuku hotbed of chicken hotpot has been in business since 1928. While the focus is on mizutaki, a simple and traditional dish of chicken boiled in water for several hours, there’s plenty of evidence of the chefs’ flair and imagination in the dessert options. Mizutaki Genkai

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67
Bars and pubs, Cocktail bars

Go underground for whisky and cocktails

Shinjuku

At the bottom of a long staircase lies this chandelier-lit bar that's been delighting patrons with its fresh fruit cocktails and speciality whiskies for 47 years. An abundance of Japanese, Western and Chinese dishes complement the spirits. Suntory Lounge Eagle

68
Restaurants, Turkish

Take a day trip to Turkey

Shinjuku-Sanchome

For real Turkish cuisine in an equally authentic environment, Hasan is your stop. Veg aficionados will love the appetiser plate with its hummus and other healthy pastes, best enjoyed with freshly baked bread. Bosphorus Hasan

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69
Tokyo135° Shinjuku Alta
Shopping

Buy a funky kimono

Shinjuku

An offshoot of the nationwide Tansuya chain, Tokyo135's Alta branch attracts a diverse crowd looking for slightly funkier kimono for all occasions. Their style is decidedly more pop art-y and modern than traditional, and they also sell a large selection of vibrant accessories. Tokyo135° Shinjuku Alta

70
Restaurants

Meet Ms Roboto

Shinjuku

Bikini-clad women battle it out using enormous female automatons at this glitzy, gaudy and utterly bonkers tourist attraction, a neon-decked wonderland with a ¥10 billion price tag. Robot Restaurant

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71
Pit Inn
Music

Watch first-class jazz

Shinjuku-Nichome

All chairs here face the stage, in reverence to the most respected jazz groups in town. The music is always first class, and regular 2.30pm and 7.30pm slots offer the stage to emerging bands. Shinjuku Pit Inn

72
Restaurants, Yakitori

Chomp on giblet skewers

Shinjuku

A small roast giblet restaurant in a corner of Omoide Yokocho (aka 'Piss Alley') where fresh giblets are served as roasted skewers. Popular choices include chire (spleen) and hatsu (heart). Motsu Yaki Utchan Shinjuku

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73
Bars and pubs

Crawl the pubs

Shinjuku

More than 270 tiny drinking dens are crammed into seven ramshackle streets here. Each place has a unique vibe – ranging from high-end cocktails to hard rock – and the atmosphere can be anywhere from friendly to downright hostile. Shinjuku Golden Gai

74
Restaurants, Chinese

Try some Shanghainese fare

Shinjuku

Located in a dinky Kabukicho alleyway – you basically have to walk through the outdoor kitchen to enter – Xiaochi serves up a wide variety of delectable Shanghainese dishes, as well as some more unorthodox offerings. Go for the clams in vinegar, served with deep-fried bread. Shanghai Xiaochi 

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75
Nightlife

Gather the girls

Shinjuku-Nichome

A state-of-the-art sound system and artistic visuals create a stimulating atmosphere at this fresh (lesbian-friendly) location where you can get DJ lessons from the owner and cheap drinks thanks to the ticket vending system. Bar A-Un

76
Restaurants, Central Asian

Eat lamb like the Uyghurs

Shinjuku

A halal restaurant specialising in Uyghur cuisine is rare, even for Tokyo. The folksy interior and juicy lamb and noodle dishes will make you feel like you're on a trip through Central Asia. Uyghur Restaurant Silkroad Tarim

77
ヤマモトコーヒー店
Shopping, Specialist food and drink

Educate yourself in coffee

Shinjuku

Shinjuku's premier coffee specialist draws you in with the aromatic beans (both roasted and fresh) sold at the entrance, while the shop interior is littered with countless coffee-related contraptions – from hand-driven coffee grinders to espresso machines and roasters. Yamamoto Coffee

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78
Shopping, Second-hand shops

Get a cheap mamachari

Sangubashi

If you're looking for something a little cheaper, head to Recycle Garden Yoyogi for a range of secondhand bicycles. You'll find plenty of mama chari bikes in different colours and at prices from around ¥10,000. Recycle Garden Yoyogi

79
NTTインターコミュニケーションセンター [ICC]
Art

See art and tech intersect

Hatsudai

One of the city's more innovative exhibition spaces, this dedicated media art gallery opened in 1997 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Japan's NTT telephone network, and brings futuristic technology and virtual reality into everyday life. NTT InterCommunication Center

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80
Shopping

Remember the joy of film cameras

Shinjuku

At this museum-like used camera store, most products are brought in by customers and if they aren't sold within two months, the price drops. You'll find new and vintage models, as well as 'junk' items sold for parts. Shinjuku Chuko Camera Ichiba

81
Restaurants, Cafés

Line up for French toast

Shinjuku-Sanchome

The signature French toast at this underground café is so popular that customers queue up for it even on weekdays. The crustless bread is sliced thick and toasted in butter until golden and simply irresistible. Cafe Aaliya

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82
Shopping

Go Victorian in a corset

Shibuya

Relax on the antique-style sofa and enjoy the ambience of this corset shop while sipping on a cup of tea (or a whisky at night) and choosing from the pretty corsets, tights and accessories. Abilletage

83
Restaurants

Dine on a rowdy rooftop

Shinjuku

You'll feel like a first-time backpacker at this warren of Asian restaurants that enjoys fleeting glimpses of the sky from the roof of an aging Kabukicho tower block and invariably involves a lively night of drinking. Shinjuku Asia Yokocho 

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84
Attractions, Parks and gardens

Revel in a city park

Shinjuku

This city park gets a natural makeover each time the season changes and is made all the more special by its contrast with the surrounding skypscapers. Look out for regular events and festivals. Shinjuku Central Park

85
Bars and pubs, Wine bars

Taste wine from around Japan

Shinjuku-Nichome

At this local wine bar and shop you can sample carefully selected wines from all over Japan, then choose from 20 different types of plonk by the glass, starting at ¥500 each, and a selection of about 300 bottles. Jip Wine Bar

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86
Gifuya 岐阜屋
Restaurants, Chinese

Feast on eggs and mushrooms

Shinjuku

Found near the entrance to Omoide Yokocho ('memory lane') on the Seibu station side, this counter-only Chinese eatery serves cheap food and drinks from early morning to late at night. Try the egg-and-mushroom stir fry. Gifuya

87
Restaurants, Indian

Fill up on tender curry

Shinjuku-Sanchome

Imagine a curry of spare ribs, beef and shrimp, simmered for hours till it's as tender as can be, and then topped with juicy red tomatoes. This long-standing Indian restaurant sells this satisfying dish as its 'Mixed Curry' for just ¥1,400. Dig in. Gandhi

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88
Shopping

Shop like a man

Shinjuku

Tokyo certainly matches women's fashion with men's and at this department store you'll find eight floors overflowing with clothing, accessories and home furnishings all dedicated to the gentlemen among us. Isetan Men's

89
Benfiddich
Bars and pubs, Cocktail bars

Indulge in a medicinal tipple

Shinjuku

Hiroyasu Kayama opened BenFiddich in 2013 after working for years as the head bartender at Nishi-Azabu mixology bar Amber. Try one of the apothecary-style cocktails based on traditional elixirs and herbal liquors, often using ingredients – anise, fennel, wormwood – grown on his family’s plot. Bar Benfiddich

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90
Bars and pubs

Have an arty drink

Shinjuku

This tiny three-storey bar with gallery attached attracts an eclectic mix of customers and serves upstairs customers through a hole in the floor, an operation that becomes increasingly perilous as the night progresses. Albatross

91
Restaurants, Chinese

Get hot 'n' spicy

Shinjuku

Spice fans will love dishes like the stir-fried lotus root with homemade dried meat and a prominent flavour of mala ('hot and numbing'), as well as the classic dandan noodles served with a merciless amount of Sichuan peppers. Senkoen Kabukicho

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92
Restaurants, Cafés

Linger over a midnight cuppa

Shinjuku-Sanchome

Perched on the outskirts of Kabukicho, this café offers as many as 20 varieties of coffee, including high-end brews such as ‘Hawaii Kona’ (¥1,380) and ‘Royal Blend’ (a snip at ¥3,000). Servings are generous, while they also have free wi-fi. Edinburgh

93
Shopping, Specialist food and drink

Acquaint yourself with Japanese whisky

Shinjuku

Having been in business since the end of the war, Minatoya stocks an exquisite and varied range of domestic and international liquors. Head to the whisky-centric basement bar afterwards for a few; if you find something you fancy, go back up to buy a bottle. Minatoya & Harry's New York

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94
Shopping

Get a taste of Seoul in Tokyo

Shin-Okubo

Head north of Shinjuku and the streets take on a rather different flavour. Welcome to Shin-Okubo, Japan’s biggest Koreatown, and the go-to place for everything from K-Pop to kimchi. Shin-Okubo Koreatown

95
Shopping

Shop endlessly

Shinjuku

Lumine 1 and Lumine 2, as well as Lumine Est on the east side of the station, together feature over 200 shops and restaurants, and thanks to frequent remodels and introduction of new stores, they always offer the newest and most popular brands. Shop till you drop until 10pm. Lumine Shinjuku

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96
Shopping

Jam to some reggae, mon

Nishi-Shinjuku

This is Tokyo’s best reggae store, with every conceivable genre of reggae and ska on original vinyl. The stock is expertly and meticulously categorised, and customers are welcome to listen to any of it. Dub Store

97
Shopping, Chocolate and sweets

Eat a sweet bell

Shinjuku

Japan has a way with confection, no doubt. Try the bell-shaped, azuki bean-filled 'Suzu no Monaka', presented in a pretty woven basket and sold at this basement-floor food store at Shinjuku Isetan. All their sweet recipes still follow the original ones from 70 years ago. Suzukake

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98
Restaurants, Eclectic

Savour some old-school cuisine

Shinjuku

This yoshoku restaurant has been in business since 1963 and specialises in very homey cabbage rolls – the recipe hasn't really changed in over half a century. Have some as part of a set meal, order a draft beer and pretend you've slipped back to the ’60s. Shinjuku Acacia

99
Isetan Shinjuku
Shopping

Immerse yourself in fine fashion

Shinjuku

Arguably the trendiest department store in Japan, the flagship Isetan Shinjuku is renowned for having its window displays created by leading artists and offers only the finest in food, clothing and homeware. Isetan Shinjuku

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100
Bars and pubs, Hotel bars

Peak before 9pm

Shinjuku

Head up to the 41st floor of the Park Hyatt Tokyo and marvel at the west Shinjuku cityscape. If you're there between 5pm and 9pm, take advantage of the 'Peak of Joy' or 'Twilight Time' options where you pay a set fee for nibbles and unlimited drinks. For a daytime option, try the delicatessen shop on the ground floor. The Peak Bar; Park Hyatt Delicatessen

102
Restaurants, Russian

Try some Russian fare

Shinjuku

Never tried borscht or piroshkis? Now's your chance to sample Russian cuisine at this long-established restaurant that serves a variety of dishes. Be sure to end off with some Russian tea and jam. Sungari

103
Hotels

Stay in an arty hotel

Higashi-Shinjuku

This stylish Kabukicho hotel has an art lounge that exhibits works by up-and-coming Asian artists and hosts live events. The rooms are understated but comfy, while the (rooftop) restaurant/bar is a great warm-up for a night out. Shinjuku Granbell Hotel

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104
Art

View contemporary art

Shinjuku

Get your fill of contemporary art at this gallery exhibiting photographs, installations, video art and the like, then stop by the nearby calming Hanazono Shrine on your way home. Shinjuku Ophthalmologist Gallery

105
Bars and pubs

Rock back to the '80s

Nishi-Shinjuku

With moody indigo lighting, a stage set with drums and keyboard, the owner’s 50-odd guitar collection on the walls, and even a Picasso print or two, this rock bar attracts ’80s music lovers and mingling singles. Gravity

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106
Nightlife, Late-night bars

Get your mani and drink

Shinjuku

Where but Kabukicho could you expect to find a late-night, multi-floor complex that combines a café/bar, nightclub and hair salon? Be-Wave also boasts a nail and beauty salon, though you'll have to turn up during the daytime to take advantage of that. Be-Wave

107
Ramen Nagi ラーメン凪
Restaurants, Ramen

Experiment with bold flavours

Shinjuku

The speciality at this restaurant is pungent niboshi ramen (¥820), made by boiling dried sardines. For something different, the tsukemen (¥870) offers an alternative way of enjoying this potent concoction. Sugoi Niboshi Ramen Nagi Shinjuku Golden Gai

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108
Shopping

Find all you need in one place

Shinjuku

This variety store is so big you could spend a day browsing its seven floors of bags, travel accessories, stationery, health and beauty products, DIY tools and materials, and much much more. Tokyu Hands Shinjuku

109
Ain Soph. Journey
Photo by Keisuke Tanigawa
Restaurants, Vegan

Travel to heaven on a pancake

Shinjuku-Sanchome

In between all the meat-and-fried foods restaurants there's this calm and lovely veggie/vegan spot. Most popular on the menu are the 'Heavenly Vegan Pancakes' which, as their name suggests, are simply not of this world. Ain Soph. Journey

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110
gameboy 8bit cafe
Bars and pubs

Play '80s video games

Shinjuku-Sanchome

Longing for some good ol' Super Nintendo action? This Shinjuku café is heaven for every '80s video game fan. Besides the classic consoles, it serves drinks like 'Princess Peach's Temptation' and 'Dr Mario'. 8bit Cafe

111
オカマルト
Restaurants, Cafés

Browse some LGBT-lit

Shinjuku-Nichome

Tokyo’s only shop dedicated to LGBT literature, Okamalt is run by Japanese gay culture pioneer To Ogura, a writer and magazine editor who is known as Margarette in drag queen circles. 500-600 titles from his collection of 10,000 publications can be freely browsed at the café. Okamalt

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112
Shopping

Let's get arty

Shinjuku-Sanchome

Specialising in art supplies, this store stocks paints, brushes, frames and more. The brand has 12 outlets but the Shinjuku flagship boasts the best selection – all reasonably priced too. Sekaido Shinjuku

113
Bars and pubs, Wine bars

Put your beret on

Shinjuku

With a glass of red from ¥390 and meals from ¥200, this is a top spot for authentic, reasonably priced French cuisine. Wear flats as it has standing room only. Provencale

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114
LGBTQ+

Raise your hands in the air

Shinjuku-Nichome

Hailing all partygoers, this bar in Shinjuku Nichome regularly hosts fabulous parties and other events, with plenty of surprise celebrity performances thrown in. Aisotope Lounge

115
Cinemas, Independent

Catch some cinema nouveau

Shinjuku

With a penchant for arthouse films, Cinema Qualite includes two snug auditoriums that are equipped to screen both digital and 35mm films, with punch Dolby DR-S sound compensating for the small space. Cinema Qualite

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116
Shopping, Music and entertainment

Listen to retro J-pop

Shinjuku

Specialising in 'Showa Kayo' (old Japanese pop music), this store offers a unique introduction to the charms of this genre, which continues to delight today. It also has a good stock of rare secondhand vinyl, CDs and greatest-hits compilations. Disk Union Showa Kayo-Kan

117
The OPEN BOOK
Bars and pubs, Cocktail bars

Contemplate your lemon sour

Shinjuku

The humble lemon sour (the Japanese kind, not the cocktail base) isn't the kind of drink one would think merits a specialist bar – yet that is exactly what The Open Book is. Pick up a tome from the massive bookcase and sip away. The Open Book

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118
Bars and pubs

Sing karaoke with a live band

Shinjuku

Serving karaoke with a twist, the owners of this Kabukicho 'snack' bar accompany customers on electric guitar and saxophone. If you go really late you might find yourself drinking (and warbling) with staff from neighbouring bars. Studio Himawari

119
Restaurants, Korean

Savour Korean duck

Shin-Okubo

Not many people know about this Korean restaurant in Shin-Okubo that serves home-made dishes including the fragrant, salt-grilled aigamo (duck) served on a sizzling iron plate surrounded by pickled daikon radish. Samsoon

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120
プレミアム スパ テルマー湯
Health and beauty, Spas

Soak up in Kabukicho

Shinjuku

Inspired by the popular Thermae Romae series of manga and movies, Thermae-Yu features hot spring baths and rotenburo – supplied with onsen water from Izu daily – stone saunas, a full-on beauty salon, scrub treatments and a lounge complete with a café, bar and restaurant, all open 22 hours every day. Thermae-Yu

121
Omoide Yokocho
Restaurants

Travel back in time

Shinjuku

Dive in under the tracks on the west side of the station and you'll find this charming assembly of tiny pubs and eateries, tightly stacked together just as they have been since the early post-war years. Find one you like and kick off the night. Omoide Yokocho

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122
ニューサザエ
LGBTQ+

Dance to some '70s soul and disco

Shinjuku-Nichome

This gay bar/disco in Nichome has been around since 1966, and it still sticks mainly to a soundtrack of soul and disco from the '70s and '80s. The diverse crowd is presided over by Shion, the flamboyant gent who's worked here for over 35 years now. New Sazae

123
Clubs

Remember Mr Marley

Shinjuku-Nichome

At this cool club Bob Marley and co are still top of the pops, with roots reggae and dub tunes as well as live performances taking you back to the good ol' days. Open

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124
Restaurants, Tempura

Go back in time with tempura

Shinjuku

Who says good tempura has to be expensive? Surviving amid the gleaming modern buildings of Shinjuku, Tsunahachi’s battered wooden premises are a throwback to the early post-war era – as are the prices. Tsunahachi

125
800° DEGREES NEAPOLITAN PIZZERIA
Restaurants, Pizza

Bite into a bacon-jam pizza

Shinjuku

This popular LA pizza joint lets you chose your own toppings before baking your pie to order. The range of topping choices feels a little overwhelming, so first-timers might just want to play it safe with mozzarella and bacon jam. 800° Degrees Neapolitan Pizzeria

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126
Things to do

Get tranquil in Tokyo

Shinjuku-Sanchome

For a spot of tranquility, step into Shinjuku Gyoen, possibly Tokyo’s most beautiful green space. The park is split into French, English and Japanese gardens, and different flowers bloom during each season. Bringing alcohol into the park and drinking it there is prohibited. Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden

127
VR Zone Shinjuku
Things to do

Escape to an alternate reality

Shinjuku

Opened in July 2017, this playground for adults is where to experience the latest in virtual reality technology. Formerly housed in Odaiba, VR Zone invites you to pull on a head-mounted display and take part in numerous fun games and activities visualised in 360-degree VR. VR Zone Shinjuku

Head over to Harajuku

Bookable tickets

Restaurants

Robot Restaurant

Shinjuku

Every night in a basement in Shinjuku's Kabukicho district, the dressed-up crews stage mock battles using enormous robots. 

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