[From March Issue 2013]
There are many unique districts in Tokyo, each with its own special features: for luxury shopping, there’s Ginza, for young women’s fashion, there’s Shibuya and for anime and electrical goods there’s Akihabara. Shinjuku is “a town for everybody that has just about anything.”
With six railways running through it, Shinjuku Station is a major terminal. In just one day 3.46 million passengers pass through this station, the largest amount in the world, a fact that has been recognized in the Guinness Book of Records. Shinjuku Station has six adjoining department and specialty stores: Lumine 1, Lumine 2, Luminesto, Keio, Odakyu and Odakyu Halc.
These stores have their own special features. On the seventh floor of Lumine 2 is “Lumine the Yoshimoto,” a comedy theater. Run by Yoshimoto Creative Agency, many comedians from its stable perform at daily shows.
To the north of Odayku department store is Omoide Yokocho, an area with a nostalgic feel. The narrow alleyways of Omoide Yokocho are lined with tiny eateries, the majority of which are yakitoriya (restaurants that serve grilled chicken on a skewer). Walking down these streets, the smoke and smell of yakitori is enticing. The spot is crowded with office workers, couples and tourists in the evening, and is also popular among non-Japanese.
The west exit of the station is a bus terminal. Limousine buses depart from here to Narita and Haneda airports. Night busses to local cities are popular among young people as it’s possible to travel cheaply, while sleeping. Behind the bus terminal are electronic discount stores, such as Yodobashi Camera, and the beyond that is a business district filled with skyscrapers.
One of these skyscrapers is Tokyo Metropolitan Office; its viewing platform is a popular sightseeing spot, visited by approximately 1,800,000 tourists a year. From there which you can view the whole of Tokyo, including Tokyo Skytree, Tokyo Tower and Mt. Fuji. Volunteer guides give humorous explanations about the view in English, Chinese and Korean. On the first floor is Tokyo Tourist Information Center, where leaflets with sightseeing information and PCs are available.
From the south exit of the JR station, you can see Takashimaya department store. Inside the department store you can find Tokyu Hands, a large DIY store. A few minutes’ walk from the department store is Shinjuku Gyoen, an oasis for city dwellers. It has an elegant traditional Japanese garden and in spring is a well-known spot for cherry blossom viewing.
At the east exit, Studio Alta is used as a meeting spot and Shinjuku Dori, the main shopping street, runs away from here towards the east. On this street is the large bookstore, Kinokuniya, and Bicqlo (a store which is a collaboration between Big Camera and Uniqlo), further down is Marui department store and Isetan department store. In this vicinity there are a variety of different restaurants.
Leaving by the east entrance and heading north you soon come to Yasukuni Dori. Beneath this street is “Subnade,” a huge underground shopping mall. Crossing Yasukuni Dori, you will come to Kabukicho, Japan’s largest entertainment district. It’s packed with recreational facilities and restaurants, including movie theatres, pachinko parlors (much loved by Japanese) and game arcades.
Kabukicho is also an adult entertainment area. There are many adult entertainment establishments and adult video shops. Among these are host clubs where male hosts entertain rich women and off-duty hostesses. Pictures of handsome hosts are displayed in front of these clubs. In recent years a cleanup campaign has been carried out by the Metropolitan Government and an association of local small businesses, so harassment of tourists has practically died out. The northern part of Kabukicho is the love hotel (special hotels for couples) district.
Shinjuku Goldengai is in the east next to Kabukicho. Its old fashioned narrow alleys are packed with tiny bars. Though each bar fits only about ten around its counter, customers can enjoy a conversation with the mama (female proprietor) and other customers. Many customers are involved in the media or cultural arts, be they people in the movie or theatre business, novelists, writers or journalists. You may even come across some famous people.
Next door to Goldengai is the scarlet-colored Hanazono Shrine. Its peaceful grounds are encircled by trees. Stalls are set up in its grounds on festive occasions. About five minutes’ walk from Hanazono Shrine to the east is Shinjuku-nichome, an area packed with gay bars. Many gay celebrities who appear on TV started out here.
As you can see, Shinjuku is rich in variety. For this reason, it’s much loved by people, because men and women of all ages can visit without feeling out of place. In a survey of foreign tourists, Shinjuku was chosen as the town that most lived up to people’s expectations.