As you step out of the JR Shinjuku station, Tokyo’s busiest ward can easily overwhelm you. Shinjuku houses the busiest railway station in the world, as it is home to several government offices including the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building and conglomerates such as NTT Docomo. The ward’s personality paints a case of schizophrenia, serious by day, colorful and mysterious at night. How do you unravel the eccentricities of Shinjuku without getting lost?
Ride Akio’s Bike Tour
Albeit a busy district, Shinjuku seems to have more bicycle riders than other wards. Under the summer heat, drizzling rains or misty Hanami season, there’s no better way to traverse Shinjuku than Akio’s personal bike tour service. Get off at Toei Subway’s Tochomae Station and meet with Akio at the sidewalk beside the Hyatt Regency Hotel. Pick up your bike for half of the day to easily cover major parts of Shinjuku.
Pack a picnic basket at Shinjuku Gyoen Garden
No matter how many people have already visited this magnificent garden, you can’t go wrong with Shinjuku Gyoen Garden. Make it a point to visit it in the morning, when it is less populated. A picnic basket filled with O-nigiri seems like a good idea for breakfast.
Shop at Takashiyama
Pedal towards Takashimaya, where Tokyu Hands is happily situated. Do you need a new traveling suitcase, messenger bag or luggage tag? Perhaps an oatmeal bar soap, moisturizing lotion and acne solution should be in your bucket list. But make some room for designer bags. Samantha Thavasa’s Deluxe line offering Japan-made handbags is only available at Shinjuku’s Takashimaya. Just make sure you sign up for the tax refund card at the customer service counter.
Feast on Wagyu Sukiyaki
Kyoto’s Katsukura Tonkatsu is tempting but when you’re in Shinjuku, there’s always the Ningyocho Imahan legacy, serving quality Wagyu Beef Tsukudani since 1895. Order the Sukiyaki Lunch Gozen that comes with Chyouji-fu, mushroom, vegetables and wage beef to sizzle in Sukiyaki sauce.
Snag Deals at BIC Camera and Yodobashi Camera Building
You don’t have to go all the way to Akihabara to shop for electronics. BIC Camera and Yodobashi have cool bargains for all the coveted point and shoot cameras you want. Get extra 5% discount when you purchase electronics at Yodobashi using your Visa credit card.
Get a bird’s eye view of Tokyo
Before you return Akio’s bicycle, break away from the urban jungle and bike towards the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, where getting a bird’s eye view of Tokyo is free. On days with clearer skies, you might be able to spot Mount Fuji on a distance. Keep your fingers crossed.
Eat Yakitori at Omoide Yokocho
As Tokyo’s sun begins to set, leave your city personality behind and experience Shinjuku by foot, where the everything goes into full focus instead of a business blur. Shinjuku is now changing its mood, setting a nostalgic feel of old Tokyo. Relive the Edo era at Omoide Yokocho, the narrow alley ladened with Izakaya bars more popularly known as Memory Lane. Searching for this historic lane frequented by salarymen is part of its appeal. Start your appetite with some Yakitori, Kushikatsu, and a good shot of sake, but don’t get too drunk like the red-faced fella beside you. Stall owners in the alley will want to hear your story. The night is still young.
Slurp Tsukemen at FuUnji
Who said Yakitori was dinner? Stroll towards the center of Kabukicho for the best Tsukemen in the city, FuUnji. Next to Rokurinsha in Tokyo Marounouchi’s Ramen Street, FuUnji has snaking lines that is bound to make one hungry, but surely this ramen joint will be worth the wait.
Go wild in Kabukicho
They say you haven’t seen Shinjuku until you’ve been to Kabukicho, Japan’s own version of Amsterdam, minus red-painted ladies dancing behind glass doors. The rich historical entertainment district formerly known as Tsunohazu is tamer, but love hotels, massage parlors, and shanty bars line up the alleys to give you a feel of the city’s true personality. It’s almost comical to see a life-size Godzilla in the skyline of Kabukicho, the danger of which seemed less intimidating than the Yakuza-run underground, risqué establishments of the district.
Bask in Golden Gai’s literary sanctuary
Never forget dropping by the Golden Gai for a nightcap, where musicians, artists, journalists, filmmakers, and producers gather to banter of ideas in their own world. This is where you can absorb the whimsical life of Shinjuku in a glass of Hibiki preferably at Albatross.
Pay homage to the iconic Park Hyatt Hotel
But don’t head home yet. Don’t leave Shinjuku without seeing what Sofia Coppola has created for Shinjuku. Park Hyatt Hotel deserves more than just a film reference, as its mixture of melancholy and nostalgia has given a new definition for new Shinjuku.
If the Shinjuku ward can only come to life as a person, he’ll give out the best to see in Tokyo, however you want him to be. From a shopping paradise, to sightseeing destinations, culinary experiences, erotica culture, and watering holes, Shinjuku is a gaijin’s ultimate mecca of irony, where one can effortlessly blend in as a local and get lost in translation.
Note: Akio’s bike tour is only available for 6 hours from 9:00 am to 3:00pm daily.
This story was originally published on Travelog.me.
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