If a city the size and sprawl of Tokyo has a city center, then it’s probably Shinjuku. From narrow alleys crammed with tiny izakayas to massive multi-story shopping malls, Shinjuku is Tokyo's shopping and entertainment capital. The very definition of the city that never sleeps, in Shinjuku, you’ll find an almost endless array of malls, department stores, cafes, izakayas, restaurants, karaoke bars, nightclubs, and a whole lot more.
At the center of Shinjuku is Shinjuku Station, essentially the beating heart of Tokyo. As the world’s busiest train station, over two million passengers pass through Shinjuku Station daily. Surrounding Shinjuku Station in all directions is a host of very different areas, each with its own distinct identities and appeal. If you’re trying to decide where to stay in Shinjuku, you’re certainly spoiled for choice.
What kind of area is Shinjuku?
Shinjuku is a surprisingly diverse area that’s dominated by Shinjuku Station. Twelve train and Metro lines pass through Shinjuku Station, connecting the city's center with the rest of Tokyo and even to popular day trip destinations such as Hakone and Kawagoe. In reality, Shinjuku Station is much more than just a train station. Numerous shopping arcades, department stores, and food courts are either part of the station or connected via a network of underground passageways.
Outside the station, Shinjuku is piled high with skyscrapers, shopping malls, and megastores. To the east of the station are some of Tokyo’s best shopping streets, home to numerous department stores and major flagship shops.
Nearby is Kabukicho, the neon-lit nightlife district that loves to party, and Golden Gai, a warren of tiny streets crammed with pubs and bars that stay open till morning. Just on the other side of the train tracks is Omoide Yokocho, a collection of historic alleyways lined with tiny bars serving yakitori and other grilled foods.
Alongside the skyscrapers of Tochome to the west of Shinjuku Station, you can enjoy breathtaking views of the city from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. Also here are some of the most luxurious and expensive hotels in Tokyo. To the south of Shinjuku Station is Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, a beautiful and diverse green oasis in the middle of one of the most built-up areas of Tokyo.
How to decide where to stay in Shinjuku
With so much going on in and around Shinjuku there are some things to consider when booking accommodation in the area. Here’s a few things to keep in mind when deciding where to stay in Shinjuku.
Proximity to sights and type of experience
As mentioned, there is a diverse range of areas in Shinjuku, and each offers quite a different experience to the next. Before booking accommodation in Shinjuku, think about the type of area you want to stay in. For example, you might want to stay in an area that is in the heart of the action amongst Shinjuku's eclectic and vibrant nightlife.
Alternatively you might want to stay somewhere that is the perfect base for exploring Shinjuku as well as the rest of Tokyo. Or you might prefer to stay somewhere with a more relaxed pace and enjoy some of the finer things in life at one of Tokyo’s most upmarket five-star hotels. There is such a varied choice of neighborhoods within Shinjuku and with a little research you are sure to find the right area for you.
Another thing to keep in mind is how easy it is to get to and from your accommodation in Shinjuku. Thankfully Shinjuku is one of the best connected areas in Tokyo. Besides Shinjuku Station there are several other subway stations within Shinjuku. Many of these are only a single stop from Shinjuku Station, making it extremely easy to travel across the city wherever you end up staying in the area. Finally, Shinjuku is also located on the JR Shonan-Shinjuku Line, giving great access to day trip areas like Yokohama and Kamakura.
There is also good access to Shinjuku from both of Tokyo’s international airports. There are direct trains between Shinjuku Station and Narita International Airport on the Narita Express. Haneda Airport can also be reached fairly easily by train with just one change needed at Shinagawa Station. Alternatively, you can take a bus between Shinjuku Station Bus Terminal (also known as Busta Shinjuku) and Haneda Airport, which takes around 45 minutes.
Types of accommodations in the same area
Another thing to consider when looking for somewhere to stay in Shinjuku is the types of accommodation available. Being such a built-up and predominantly commercial part of the city, hotels are by far the most common type of accommodation available in Shinjuku. These range from basic but comfortable and affordable business hotels to extremely lavish five-star hotels that are amongst the finest in the world. Where you decide to stay in Shinjuku is also likely to depend on the type of hotel that you need, as well as how far your budget will stretch.
The 5 best areas to stay in Shinjuku
Here are the five areas that we recommend to look for accommodation when you’re trying to decide where to stay in Shinjuku.
1. Near Shinjuku Station - Excellent access to Tokyo and incredible shopping
If you need incredible access to an entire world of shopping, food, and nightlife, then you’ll find all you need by booking accommodation close to Shinjuku Station. You could almost spend a lifetime hitting the shops, bars, and restaurants in and around Shinjuku Station. There is an almost unparalleled range and volume of stores to explore, and an equally vast array of places to eat and drink once you’ve shopped enough to drop. If you’re in Tokyo to take part in a heavy dose of retail therapy, then close to Shinjuku Station is the place to stay.
Being close to Shinjuku Station means you’re only a short walk or train ride away from all the highlights in and around the wider Shinjuku area. Proximity to Shinjuku Station also means that you’re ideally placed to get out and about and see the rest of the city and beyond. As the busiest and biggest station in Tokyo, there’s no part of the city that cannot be reached if you use Shinjuku Station as a starting point.
Trains to many popular day trip destinations also start from Shinjuku Station, most notably Kamakura on the JR Shonan-Shinjuku Line, and Hakone via Odawara on the Odakyu Odawara Line. You can also reach numerous destinations all over Japan by coach from Shinjuku Expressway Bus Terminal, located directly opposite Shinjuku Station’s South Exit.
The Best Hotels Near Shinjuku Station
2. Kabukicho and Golden Gai Area - Discover the wilder side of Tokyo
If you want to see a very different side of Tokyo then take a look at staying near the notorious nightlife areas of Kabukicho or the Golden Gai.
The bright and brash neon-filled streets of Kabukicho are filled with izakayas, pachinko parlors, karaoke bars, love hotels, and nightclubs. This is where you can also find the roaring head of Godzilla bursting through the roof of a cinema complex next to the Gracery Hotel.
Kabukicho is also Tokyo’s red light district, home to countless adult-orientated clubs and shops that aren’t afraid to advertise the services that they offer. This is one of the few areas of Tokyo that can feel seedy, though, on the whole, Kabukicho remains largely unthreatening, especially when compared with red light districts in other major cities around the world. It is important to keep your wits about you in Kabukicho, however, as touts are known to target tourists.
Also in Kabukicho is Golden Gai, a row of narrow streets packed with dozens of tiny bars. Many of the bars in Golden Gai are so small that they can only host a handful of customers at a time. Golden Gai’s lanes are mostly made up of two-story buildings, usually with one bar on the ground floor and another above.
While a few bars are open in not catering to tourists, most are foreigner-friendly and are popular with overseas visitors and locals alike. The majority of the bars in Golden Gai open in the late evening and close in the wee hours of the morning. If you want to experience Tokyo at its most hedonistic, then Kabukicho is the place to stay.
The Best Hotels Near Kabukicho and Golden Gai:
3. Tochomae Area - Quieter area of town; Limousine Bus area
Tochomae is on the west side of Shinjuku Station. Primarily known as a business district, Tochomae is famous for its many skyscrapers. Amongst all the towers is Shinjuku Chuo Park, a pretty park that is also home to Shinjuku Juniso Kumano-jinja Shrine, a small picturesque shrine. Tochomae is a much quieter and a much less frenetic side of Shinjuku, so if you want to stay close to the area’s main sights and attractions but away from the noise, you might prefer to stay around here.
The biggest attraction in Tochomae is the observation decks at the top of the twin towers that make up the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. Both towers have a free observation deck, with some of the best views of Tokyo. On clear days you can see right across the city and even as far as Mount Fuji.
The main reason for choosing to stay in Tochomae is the incredibly high quality of the hotels in the area. If you want to feel like an A-lister while in Tokyo, then in Tochomae, you’ll find some of the very best hotels in Tokyo, where luxury comes as standard. Five-star hotels such as the Hyatt Regency, the Hilton Tokyo, and the Park Hyatt Tokyo are all located in Tochomae alongside a clutch of others.
Rooms typically come with incredible views of Shinjuku and the rest of Tokyo, while each hotel has a choice of fine-dining restaurants and stylish and sophisticated bars which are also amongst some of the best in the city. A regular limousine bus service also runs between several of Tochomae’s best hotels and both Narita and Haneda Airports. Buses depart from and drop off at the Hilton Tokyo, the Hyatt Regency, the Tokyo Keio Plaza Hotel, and the Park Hyatt Tokyo.
The Best Hotels Near Tochomae:
4. Shinjuku Gyoen Area - Great access to the cherry blossoms
Like Tochomae, the area around Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden is a slightly quieter side of Shinjuku. A little further away from Shinjuku Station, the area is still close enough to Shinjuku’s main attractions and well located for traveling around the rest of the city. If you choose to stay near Shinjuku Gyoen you’ll enjoy a great location that is slightly less busy than elsewhere in Shinjuku but still has a wonderful range of shops, cafes and restaurants right on your doorstep.
The main appeal of staying in this area is being close to Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. The 144 acre garden is a welcome contrast to the skyscrapers, shopping malls and neon in the rest of Shinjuku. Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden has several different areas, including a Japanese style garden, a Taiwanese pavilion, a small wild forest, a French rose garden and numerous lakes and ponds. The most popular attraction are the garden’s cherry blossoms. There are over 400 cherry blossom trees in the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden which draw huge crowds in the spring.
The Best Hotels Near Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
5. Higashi-Shinjuku Area - Slightly out of the way & cheaper than downtown Shinjuku
If you want to be near Shinjuku's main sights while keeping an eye on costs then consider staying in Higashi-Shinjuku. Higashi-Shinjuku is located just to the north east of Shinjuku Station, not far from Kabukicho. Being slightly away from the main cut and thrust of Shinjuku, accommodation in Higashi-Shinjuku is slightly cheaper here than in other areas that are closer to Shinjuku Station.
As well as being close to Shinjuku Station, Higashi Shinjuku also has its own subway station, which is served by two lines, the Oedo Line and the Fukutoshin Line. If you’re looking for somewhere to stay with great access to Shinjuku and the rest of the city that won’t cost the earth, you might consider looking for accommodation in Higashi-Shinjuku.
The Best Hotels Near Higashi-Shinjuku:
Types of hotels in Shinjuku
There are a variety of different kinds of hotels available in Shinjuku. Here we’ll walk you through the main categories.
a. Hotels & Business hotels
Hotels come in a variety of different types, ranging from luxury to what are called "Business hotels". The latter tend to be very economical, so the rooms tend to be quite small and basic. However, they are often found near train stations and the price per night can be quite reasonable. They are quite a good choice when you just literally need a bed and aren't too concerned about creature comforts.
b. Capsule hotels (pod hotels)
Capsule hotels offer a very different and unique kind of stay, one which first started in Japan. At these hotels, you can stay in a small capsule! Typically, you are given a small chamber which is about the size of a small bed, while facilities like toilets and showers are shared. They are very cheap, but are not really suitable for people uncomfortable with being in a small space.
c. Guesthouses & Hostels
Guesthouses and hostels, like the world over, offer really great accommodation at a reasonable price. In Japan, they are typically safe, clean, and quite often well-located. Generally, they are perfect for solo travelers or people in a small group, but some places have accommodation that is also suitable for families.
d. Vacation Rentals
Vacation rentals really took off in Japan after a change in the law in 2018, and now it is possible to stay at a range of different accommodation types. Although they can be more expensive than even budget hotels, there are many options available and often include entire apartments. However, it has to be kept in mind that the people in neighboring apartments are living there so you need to avoid creating disturbances, and in addition, Japan can have some quite strict garbage separation rules which you will need to follow.
e. Love hotels
Love hotels might sound a bit seedy, the original concept being a hotel where couples can have some private time, but over time these kinds of hotels have also become popular with tourists because they can be inexpensive, the rooms can be quite big and also because theme-type love hotels can be quite interesting! Another benefit is that you can normally book a room by the hour, so they are convenient for very short stays.
Recommended love hotels in Shinjuku
When is the best season to visit Shinjuku?
With so much to see and do all year round, Shinjuku doesn’t really have a prime time to visit. Shinjuku is a major destination that is great to explore all year round, and there is guaranteed to be plenty to keep you busy whatever time of year you visit.
However, there are a few events that take place at certain times of year that you might want to look out for.
・Spring: The hundreds of cherry blossom trees in Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden are always a major attraction, drawing huge numbers of visitors each year. If you’re visiting Tokyo between late March and early April, be sure to pay a visit.
・Autumn: Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden sees visitors return, this time to marvel at the park’s stunning autumn colors. By late November and early December, much of Shinjuku is decorated in bright winter illuminations in time for Christmas.
There are also a few major festivals that take place every year in Shinjuku.
・The Hanazono Jinja Reitaisai festival takes place in late spring from 25-28 May. This three-day celebration sees huge crowds come to watch portable shrines paraded through the streets around Hanazono Shrine.
・Several festivals take place in summer, too, the most famous of which is the Eisa Festival. Originating in Okinawa, the Eisa Festival sees groups of performers and dancers lead processions through the streets of Shinjuku.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.
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