Kabukicho and Shinjuku-sanchome can be great to share many moments together on a 1-day date in Tokyo! Morning: walks, window-shopping, good food, and rooftop garden. Afternoon: Japanese talismans for couples, shows side by side or experience together. Before going to your hotel, enjoy the evening and night in a busy then tranquil area!
Morning and lunch in Shinjuku-sanchome
As the day will end very late, you may start your date around 11:00. Start by walking hand in hand on the broad pavement of Yaskuni main street and have a look at the luxury brand shops, department stores with traditional and modern products, etc. then explore the smaller streets east of Shinjuku station. You will find many restaurants around there proposing diverse Japanese and international dishes. For lunch, I personally recommend you an intimate and traditional set of tempura fried vegetables & seafood at Tempura Tsunahachi Shinjuku Main Shop. Other good options are to buy foods you want to taste and share at the food court of Isetan department store (basement) or to get a snack at a convenience store and eat it at Shinjuku Marui Rooftop Garden, unlikely oasis in busy Shinjuku with an English garden, benches and great views (free entrance). I recommend Halal Ramen Ouka for Muslims, and Ain Soph. Journey Shinjuku for vegans & vegetarians (or later Ripple vegan restaurant). After window-shopping and lunch in Shinjuku-sanchome, head north to discover Kabukicho on daytime then nighttime!
Afternoon in Kabukicho
First, walk to Hanazono Shinto shrine, rare historical building in the modern streets of Shinjuku. If you have a request for the Japanese gods, this is a good time to pray together and maybe buy a pair of lucky charms dedicated to harmony in couples (fufu-wago omamori) or to love knots (en-musubi omamori)! Five large ropes with bells are hung to pray, proving that many people come here, notably during the exciting Tori-no-ichi festival (November). Exit by the passage on the left of the bells, go down the stairs leading west, and enter a narrow alley of Golden Gai. Remember how it looks like on daytime because it will look very different when you come back later at night! Continue west then follow the green sinuous path leading south until you reach Yasukuni main street. From there walk west to enter the heart of Kabukicho entertainment district.
Walk around in a quiet Kabukicho, photograph the giant head of Godzilla, then head north to visit the Samurai Museum. This museum features impressive displays of costumes, swords, armours, etc. and the staff can explain 800 years of history related to these objects during a guided tour in English. I went only once there but enjoyed it very much. Will you or your lover join a master during a sword demonstration at the Samurai Museum?
Depending on your likes and budget, I then recommend you to head for the Robot Restaurant or the VR Zone. The former has become very famous thanks to its show with women riding robots in provocative outfits (find discounts to pay less than 8000 yen per person); you can sit side by side and share popcorn during the show! The latter is an entertainment facility focused on Virtual Reality experiences (4400 yen per person). If you want to enjoy a romantic sunset, you may do so from Shinjuku Marui Rooftop Garden or another tall building.
Evening & night in Kabukicho or beyond
When the sun goes down, Kabukicho fills up with people and you can really feel the strong character of the district. Walking around, feel the amazing difference with your daytime visit. Even if you dislike crowds, you must have a look at Kabukicho during the evening or night: it is called Tokyo’s Sleepless Town and is reputed to be the largest entertainment district in East Asia.
In Kabukicho, 4000 restaurants and amusement spots exist in about 600 square meters, and the neons everywhere are great for photos of Japanese nightlife! Beyond sightseeing, it is great to enjoy cuisine from different regions of Japan, spend time in a pachinko parlour or karaoke place, watch adult shows (probably not your choice on a date…), enjoy live music at clubs, etc. If you are hungry, you may have a bite here and there: sharing sushi raw fish on rice in one place then buying yakitori grilled chicken for two in another for example.
When you are done, return to Golden Gai via the green path, which is lit up at night with LED lights. At Golden Gai, lanterns are now lit, light seeps through the windows of the bars, and you can see that the shops are tiny, typically with only a few seats at a counter. Have a look around, see which places have the ambiance you like best and get in when a couple of seats gets available. You are particularly welcome if there are signs in English at the entrance. This should be a memorable experience, peaceful and intimate, much better for a couple than other places around.
Spending the night at a nearby couple’s hotel
There are many “couple’s hotels” in Kabukicho district. Some have a private jacuzzi, costumes… and you can stay only 2-3 hours for a good price if you want to wait the sunrise in bed rather than in a bar. You should definitely consider this possibility if you want to share a new experience with your partner or explore the Japanese culture and lifestyle! Wouldn’t it be one of the most memorable days of your Japan trip?
Enjoy your date and have fun!