by Bryce Marley
Today we're starting a new series at Japlanning that we hope will help you get the most out of your time in Japan: Japlanning Trails. We offer a plan that'll take the average adventurer between a few short hours, up to a half-a-day trek, where we'll guide you through hitting some great tourist spots, amazing food, spectacular shopping and some little-known gems. We're starting in one of Tokyo's biggest areas, Shinjuku.
One of Tokyo's major business centres, Shinjuku is one of the busiest cities in Tokyo. Thanks to it's convenient public transport, amazing sights and spectacular shopping, it's no wonder that it's considered one of the best places for tourists to stay in Tokyo. There is no better place in Tokyo for us to start our trails series, with a great trail that will give a best-of overview of what Shinjuku has to offer.
So, let's get going!
The Trail starts just outside the central area of Shinjuku, and we'll work our way back through to the centre of the city.
Begin your trail from Tokyo Metro Shinjukugyoenmae Station, exit one.
- From the station, exit one will bring you out on the corner of Shinjuku Dori. Take a left at the side street, and you will see the Shinjuku Gyoen Gardens.
STOP 1 - Shinjuku Gyoen Gardens.
These massive gardens are right in the middle of the city, and you wouldn't even realise it. Season permitting, you can take a stroll amongst the cherry blossoms, and admire the perfectly manicured Japanese Gardens.
Japlanning tip - Grab a bento box at a convenience store on the way, and enjoy a meal in the serenity the gardens bring.
- Take the exit you came in, and head back to Shinjuku Dori. Turn left and make your way down Shinjuku Dori where you'll hit the Hakatatengin restaurant.
STOP 2 - Hakatatengin
A few blocks down the Shinjuku Dori on the right hand side is a plain, 'hole in the wall' type ramen restaurant, that is a must stop. Hakatatengin is a spectacular and extremely cheap eat. This is a perfect pit-stop on your stroll through Shinjuku to experence some of the best noodles you will ever come across.
Japlanning tip - Get a seat at the table in the kitchen to get a glimpse of how they weave their magic!
- Once you have a stomach full of delicious flavours, turn right out of Hakatatengin and keep heading down Shinjuku Dori. After a couple of blocks you'll get to the intersection of Shinjuku 2 - Chome.
- Turn right at Shinjuku 2 - Chome and head down the road until you get to the next major intersection with Yasukuni Dori. This is the main strip through Shinjuku's major shopping, dining and spectacular neon lit street.
- Turn left down Yasukuni Dori and wander through the amazing shops. From a flagship Muji store, to 10-story electronic stores. Take your time and wander in and out where you please.
STOP 3 - Calico Cat Cafe
It wouldn't be a trek through Shinjuku without a stop at everybody's favourite Cate Cafe! Located on the right hand side of the 'Dori, keep an eye out for the sign: it's on the 3rd and 4th floors. If you have hit Don Quixote, you have gone just a few steps too far!
Japlanning tip - To get up close with your new furry friends, buy a chicken pack for a few hundred yen and feed the cats!
- After leaving your new four-legged friends, turn right and head down Yasukuni Dori. You'll be heading underneath the railway bridge, continue through to the next intersection. Here we're going to turn left and head up alongside Shinjuku Station. You'll know that you're going the right way if you see a big neon "jumbo" sign thats lights the street!
- Follow along Shinjuku station, check out the department stores if you like. We recommend checking out the 6-story Uniqlo as you pass it... a peek in won't hurt ;)
- When you reach the top of the hill, continue along the flat area along Shinjuku Station. When you reach the next pedestrian lights, cross the road by turning right. You should be just by the Keio department store exit, which will take you through to Shinjuku's Electric Town.
STOP 4 - Shinjuku's Electric Town
Sure, you have heard about Akihabara, or "Electric City", well this is Shinjuku's mini version. Tiny streets filled with amazing electronic stores and computer outlets make this street tech-head (or any geek)'s mecca. Take a stroll past the hundreds of capsule machines lining the outsides of shops, just try not to spend all your yen!
Japlanning Tip - Make sure you check out the first store you see, "Yodobashi Camera". Yodobashi is the ultimate electronics store! Yodobashi also has an international duty-free section, where you can grab the latest cameras from big brands like Sony, Canon and Panasonic, all in English, so non-Japanese readers can operate them without issue.
- Once your done (or your credit card's full), keep walking down the street and you'll see two twin buildings towering right over you. This is the Metropolitan Government buildings, and this is our final stop on the trek. Follow the signs to the buildings, and head to the ground floor of either tower.
FINAL STOP - Metropolitan Government Building
Time for a spectacular ending to our trail trek in Shinjuku. These buildings are some of the tallest in Tokyo, and both house a free observation deck on the top floor with breathtaking views of all Tokyo's sights. On a clear day, you'll even see Mt Fuji!
Japlanning Tip - For the best chance of seeing Mt Fuji, head up first thing in the morning before clouds set in!
This ends our first trek in Shinjuku. With our trail you'll hit all the best sights up in the sky, and down in the ground, from peaceful nature, to spectacular shopping and mouthwatering food.
Stay tuned as we have new treks coming soon for areas all across Japan!