Tokyo Shinjuku district feels like a whole city by itself! Its cityscapes are pleasant and surprising, its streets burst with life but intimate oasis are there too, its nightlife is diverse and charming!
Shinjuku: City in Tokyo city?
Shinjuku is a modern district with a train station handling the world’s biggest number of passengers! It has a brand-new bus terminal perfect to travel beyond Tokyo, many restaurants & shops, offices, a large peaceful park, and a lively nightlife! The main streets are broad so you can easily walk side by side, hand in hand in Shinjuku; there are also semi-pedestrian areas like Shinjuku-san chome (east). If you need variety goods (e.g. postcards or fun souvenirs), Tokyu Hands and Don Quijote are there for you, the latter is even open 24 hours every day! If you need a top-notch camera, you can head for one of the big electronics store. There are also many fashion stores, luxury brand stores, and a few department stores.
Shinjuku has its international touch so you should be able to find restaurants with food you are used to (e.g. burgers, pizzas, curries, kebabs, French haute cuisine) in addition to great Japanese food such as tempura fried vegetables & seafood or kaiseki haute cuisine. In some restaurants, you can get all-you-can-eat meals (e.g. yakiniku grilled meat) or all-you-can-drink courses (try an “izakaya” Japanese-style pub for that). In Shinjuku, couples can easily alternate meals to please both partners during the day even if the desires are quite different 🙂 Vegans & vegetarians have several choices but should organize their date in Shinjuku district accordingly. Personally, I recommend Ain Soph. Journey Shinjuku, which is not too far from the park Shinjuku Gyoen. Muslims can get a Japanese-style halal meal a bit farther east at Halal Ramen Ouka. In any case, you can easily find a table for two in Shinjuku area.
Lively streets & Shinjuku oasis
Along the tracks north-west of Shinjuku Station, the streets are packed and people pop in and out of Shinjuku Omoide Yokocho, small network of alleyways with tiny restaurants providing yakitori sticks of cooked chicken, sushi raw fish on rice, ramen noodles… but if you walk a few blocks west, you will find relatively quiet streets with cute spots such as the base of Shinjuku I-Land building, which features one of Robert Indiana’s Love sculptures and two of Roy Lichtenstein’s Tokyo Brushstroke sculptures. Ask somebody to take a fun photo of you two there and take many poses!
The biggest oasis of Shinjuku is east of Shinjuku station: Shinjuku Gyoen national garden/park, which combines a lovely Japanese landscape garden with ponds and bridges, a French-style garden, and an English-style garden. There you can walk on the lawn, among roses of many colours, below incredible cherry trees blooming in spring (mid-March to late April depending on the species), or in a small forest including maple trees whose leaves turn yellow, orange and red in autumn (end of November to beginning of December). For a big change, you can also walk into its greenhouse with diverse tropical and subtropical vegetation all year long! The entrance of Shinjuku Gyoen is cheap (200 yen) but not free so its paths are less crowded, and couples can enjoy a romantic walk hand in hand or picnic on the lawn.
In case of rain or strong heat, I suggest you to spend relaxing time at the beautiful Tokyo Opera City Concert Hall hosting the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra or to visit the Samurai Museum, where you can learn about the history of Japan and see a sword show. Will your boyfriend/husband or girlfriend/wife join the sword master during a demonstration?
Cityscapes, nightscapes & Mount Fuji
Looking around from the corner of a big street, you will see tall office buildings and skyscrapers; the most notable ones are Shinjuku Toho Building (Hotel Gracery Shinjuku) with its giant head of Godzilla (north), the lovely cocoon-looking Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower (west), Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building with its two towers (farther west, free access), and NTT DoCoMo Tower (south and looking like the Empire State Building) with its clock and illuminations. However, when you walk around you will notice buildings of more traditional dimensions, for example Hanazono Shinto shrine dedicated to fertility and worldly success (north-east), and if you navigate narrow streets e.g. in Golden Gai area, your city line will go down to a few metres only!
One great way to enjoy Shinjuku is to look at it from above so have a look from the higher floors of a department store, take an elevator to one of the twin observatories of Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building (202 metres, go a clear morning to see Mount Fuji), or go enjoy a drink while watching the sunset then nightscape at the Peak Bar (41st floor of Park Hyatt) or New York Bar (52nd floor, dress code enforced)!
Shinjuku nightlife is diverse & charming
Japanese colleagues, friends and lovers gather in Shinjuku to enjoy a lively evening together at big restaurants, small restaurants, coffee shops, tea shops, bars, karaoke places, game centres… Foreign tourists also come to visit and photograph the shopping district (east side) with its bright neon lights, and have a bite and a drink before returning to their hotel. Couples who want to enjoy a show may consider the fun Robot Restaurant, in which sexy women ride giant robots, or places such as Shinjuku Pit Inn, which is one of Tokyo’s best jazz spot attracting both Japanese and foreign musicians.
A walk in Tokyo’s largest red-light district Kabukicho (north) is breathtaking: many restaurants, adult shops, bars with bunny girls, host/hostess clubs, cabarets, couple’s hotels (conceptually hotels to have sex but practically also used for short rests or as a normal hotel)… but if you want alcoholic drinks in a quiet place, the nearby Golden Gai is much better, especially for couples. If you are gay then Shinjuku ni-chome district is where you should go! To attend Tokyo’s most popular lesbian party “Goldfinger”, head to Bar Goldfinger on the third Saturday of any month. In general, a night in Shinjuku is safe so enjoy your time there with reasonable care!
Depending on the dates, you may enjoy illuminations during a nocturnal walk, notably south of Shinjuku JR station and bus terminal, along the Southern Terrace. During winter 2018, I saw lovely illuminations to celebrate Valentine’s Day: illuminated heart, stalactites of light, pink trees… It looks different every year!
Date plan for a day in Shinjuku?
Shinjuku is so big and so diverse that every couple may come with a different plan for a date. Here is a suggestion, focusing on enjoying different ambiances and on taking exciting/memorable photos. Please use it to start planning things with the love of your life 🙂
- 09:30 – Walk in Shinjuku station.
- 10:00 – Stroll in Shinjuku Gyoen.
- 11:30 – Window-shopping at Tokyu Hands.
- 12:00 – Walk across the train line and along the Southern Terrace.
- 12:30 – Walk west of Shinjuku station.
- 13:00 – Photo in front of Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower.
- 13:30 – Photos with the Love artwork and lunch at Shinjuku I-Land building.
- 15:00 – Aerial view from an observatory of Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building.
- 17:00 – Drink and sunset at Park Hyatt’s Peak Bar or New York Bar.
- 20:00 – Light meal in Shinjuku Omoide Yokocho.
- 21:00 – Walk and photo with Godzilla in Kabukicho district.
- 22:00 – Drinks in Golden Gai area.
- Late night – Return to your hotel when you feel satisfied and sleepy.