One of my favorite neighborhoods we visited in Tokyo was Shinjuku. Shinjuku’s bright neon lights at nighttime are a spectacle themselves. There are certainly a lot of shops, restaurants, and bars to visit in Shinjuku, but just being there gives one a lot to enjoy. The movie Lost in Translation with Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson takes place in Shinjuku primarily, so that may help you calibrate to the area. Lost in Translation is a good movie, but don’t worry if you haven’t seen it; I think the following pictures and descriptions will give you a little flavor for the area.

Speaking of Lost in Translation, our first stop in Shinjuku was visiting the New York Bar at the top of the Park Hyatt Hotel. The bar offers stunning views and had great live jazz music as well. Unfortunately, the stunning views did not include Scarlett Johansson, but we still had a good time without her. The cover charge and drink prices are a little bit outputting, but the views and music were well worth the visit. The views from the bar are more of Tokyo at large instead of Shinjuku specifically.

This picture really doesn’t do it justice, but the bar was pretty full so I only took a few pictures.


For views of Shinjuku specifically, we headed down to the streets. It was a surprisingly long walk for us to the bright lights of Shinjuku as we had to go around the entire train station; which just so happens to be the largest in the world (or at least one of the largest). Anyway, seeing Shinjuku at night was a really cool experience. We had already eaten dinner and had a few drinks at the bar, so we didn’t stop off in many places. As we frequently found to be the case in Tokyo; just walking around was very entertaining. There are certainly many sights worth visiting in Tokyo, but it is such a unique place and so different from my American perspective that there never seemed to be a shortage of things to be fascinated by. Here are some of my best pictures from our night wandering the streets of Shinjuku:

The vertical neon signage gives Shinjuku a lively vibe.
One of the many alleys of Shinjuku. It was amazing how many businesses are squeezed in such a compact area.
The couple trees in the median blend right in.
Walking through Shinjuku
One more nighttime shot.

I enjoyed Shinjuku so much that I decided to go back again later in our trip with my brother (he was at a conference and missed the first go around). Seeing Shinjuku during the daytime was a little different experience to be sure. It was still pretty lively, but something about the bright lights really brings a city to life. Regardless, Shinjuku remained full of character in daylight as well. My brother and I also visited a Shinto temple (Hanazono Shrine) which was tucked just behind the hustle and bustle of Shinjuku. Hanazono Shrine was originally built in the 17th century, so it was an odd juxtaposition with Shinjuku’s ultra-modern surroundings.

Walking to Hanazono Shrine
Hanazono Shrine

Another sight I made sure to check out was the Golden Gai area of Shinjuku. My parents and I weren’t super prepared and were unsuccessful in finding it the night before. Once my brother and I found it; it was easy to figure out how we had missed it the night before. Golden Gai is a very compact network of just a few alleys and is tucked away just off the main streets. I first learned about Golden Gai from watching Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown. Golden Gai is full of tons of small bars and restaurants and is a good representation of an older Tokyo. The rest of Shinjuku is very modern and polished, so Golden Gai is unique from that perspective as well.

One of the things that stood out to me from Anthony Bourdain’s special was that some of the restaurants only had five to six seats as well. In fact, some of them even operate as members-only establishments as well. The way it was explained was that you could only go certain places if you had a friend with a connection would could introduce you. I admittedly don’t understand the intricacies of how it works, however, there are many bars which welcome foreigners/tourists as well. Anthony Bourdain visited Golden Gai at night and it was jammed packed with people and had a crazy and claustrophobic atmosphere in the narrow alleys. However, we were there mid-afternoon so it was deserted and calm. On the plus side, the calm permitted us to take pictures as well.

Golden Gai- I didn’t count the number of bars per alley, but it is a very impressive number to be sure.
More Golden Gai
Close confines
These alleys are packed with people at night.
Another alley
Not sure what happens down this alley?
Door to Narnia!
After strolling through the alleys of Golden Gai, we decided to head back to the main section of Shinjuku. Along the way, we saw the Robot Restaurant, which Anthony Bourdain visited as well. I know comedian Aziz Ansari enjoyed visiting the Robot Restaurant, so I was definitely intrigued. However, there were no shows at the time we were there and we already had other plans for dinner. I’m sure it would have been crazy and bizarre, but oh well.
Robot Restaurant
Robot Restaurant from the night before.
Clearly poor planning on our part to miss the show, but we stopped for some photo ops.
After walking around for a little bit longer, we decided to head into Taito Station to play some arcade games and some pachinko! See my post about pachinko for more on that! We enjoyed playing Luigi’s Haunted Mansion (the name was something like that). While we didn’t understand all the instructions or information on the screen, it was infinitely easier to figure out than pachinko!
The ghosts won…sigh
If you’re visting Tokyo then Shinjuku is likely on your list of places to check out already. However, I’ll throw out my own recommendation to check it out as well! I feel like this post is running a little long, so I’ll leave you with a few more pictures from Shinjuku during the daytime. See you next time!
Still pretty bright on a rainy day.
Well-marked crosswalk.
And back underground we went…