Just to the north is another small town called Iidabashi within walking distance with its own station.
History + Controversy
The shrine is controversial and is resented by China + Korea because it commemorates war dead considered to be war criminals by those countries (don’t forget Japan invaded both China and Korea in the late 19th + early 20th centuries). Every year around the anniversary of the end of World War 2, both countries decry politicians’ visits to the shrine. In recent years the Japanese Prime Minister has avoided visiting the shrine on the WW2 anniversary.
Things to Do
The shrine grounds are not huge, but there’s a lot to do. There are historical museums, and perhaps, most interestingly, some World War 2 exhibits. Just to the north is Iidabashi, and just to the west is Ichigaya (perhaps most famous for its popular Ichigaya Fish Center). The Imperial Palace and Kitanomaru Park are just to the southeast, and Tokyo Dome City is just to the northeast.
Every July the Matama Matsuri (festival) is held in the stone park area (Marshal Admiral Tōgō Memorial Park) just to the east. With over 30,000 lighted paper lanterns, it’s impressive to say the least. A must-see.
Just to the northeast a bit further is the Otemachi area and to the southeast of that is the main financial district, Marunouchi – all within walking distance.
If you’re there in the fall, the Ginko trees lining the park light up a brilliant yellow with fall colors.
Map of World War 2 carpet bombing in the Edo-Tokyo Museum. Yasukuni + the Ōmura Masujirō Statue monument narrowly escaped the bombing and are located roughly in the small dark patch between red areas on the left side of the map. Tokyo Bay is shown to the lower right.
Also just to the southwest a few more blocks is the Marshal Admiral Tōgō Memorial Park (officially Togo Gensui Memorial Park).
Yasukuni Shrine is a beautiful + impressive complex – even if it is entangled in a somewhat less than favorable history of World War 2. It’s a must-see in Tokyo, even if only for the buildings, grounds, and museums. Be sure to stop by.
Yoyogi is a small town just south of Shinjuku. In fact it’s just one stop south of Shinjuku on the JR Yamanote Line. It’s close enough to walk. Some of the side streets + alleyways are worth a look. There is also a huge multi-use shopping complex called Takashimaya Time Square just north of the station. For a quick trip + walk around, it’s worth a stop. There are various other non-Metro subway links into Yoyogi Station listed over on the Wikipedia article.
The most famous + enjoyable part of Yoyogi is Yoyogi Park – a huge green open space popular with families and young hipsters. In mid-Oct. the entire park turns a brilliant yellow/red with the leaves on the trees preparing to drop for the winter.
Just behind Yoyogi Station to the north east towers the NTT DoCoMo HQ, better known to locals as “The Bubble Bulding” because it was built during Japan’s “bubble” economy era – the 1980’s.
Also across from Yoyogi Park is the National Gymnasium. At the south end of the park is small bridge to a large open concrete park area with benches.
One more thing to be aware of is that during rush hours (5AM-8AM and 5PM-7PM Shinjuku Station is an absolute madhouse. If you do take a train there during those hours, get ready to be squashed like a sardine in the train.
There actually isn’t much in Yoyogi itself beyond the park. There is one small intersection to the west of the station lined with shops, and a street running north into central Shinjuku that is worth a stroll. The area to the west is mostly a hilly residential area. To the immediate right of the station is a small underpass which leads to the street running north directly into Takashimaya Times Square.
Station area facing south at night. The small rail underpass is just to the left.
Facing southwest. There is a large FamilyMart conbini (convenience store) just on the right. There are also a number of good cafés around.Above the FamilyMart are a couple nice yakiniku (steak) places. Head straight down the street ahead to the south for Yoyogi Park a few blocks down.
Facing east. The pedestrian underpass is just ahead. Head straight then left to get to Takshimaya Times Square. Also note Panda Sugar just on the corner to the right.
90 degrees to the left and you’re facing north on the main street. The triangular bldg. barely visible in the distance is the MyLord Bldg. in Shinjuku.There is also a 2nd entrance to the station just on the right behind the truck in this photo.
Instead of heading straight, you can also head left down this little side street. Note the Doutour café straight ahead, and a Pronto Café on the left.Doutour has some reasonably good food very cheap.
From the main west intersection head south down the center street for a few blocks and on your right will be Yoyogi Park. Admission is free and it’s a huge park – about a mile across. You can spend nearly a day there walking around. The park is especially nice in the fall and spring. On weekends the park is packed with families and kids – so you may want to go in the middle of the week to avoid crowds if possible.
You can also get directly to Yoyogi Park by taking the Yamanote Line 1 more stop south to Harajuku Station – then exit, turn right, then turn right again at the next intersection – just up the street on the right is Yoyogi Park.
As we mentioned, just to the south of Yoyogi Station is Meiji Shrine – a monument to Japan’s 19th century emperor Meiji. Meiji was most famous for the Meiji Restoration – the opening of Japan to trade in 1868 and the ending of the absolute rule of Shoguns as commanders of the country. You can walk to Harajuku Station where the southern entrance is, or you can take the JR Yamanote line further south 1 stop and exit there. The entrance is just behind the station. One of the most notable features is the huge wood Torii Gateat the entrance – one of the largest in Japan.
Takashimaya Times Square
Just up the street from Yoyogi Station is a huge multuse complex called Takshimaya Times Square. The main building is mostly huge department stores and restaurants but there are a lot of smaller interesting shops around the main building. The top 3 floors of the main building are all restaurants. There is also a small outdoor area with benches on an overpass with glass walls. The B1 level is all food. Here’s the official website and shop list.
Shinjuku Goyen National Garden
Just to the east of Takashimaya Square is the huge and amazing Shinjuku Goyen National Garden. This park has amazing paths to stroll around and a huge lake. Unfortunately there’s no entrance on the west side and you’ll have to head to the north side around 35°41’18.02″ N 139°42’28.79″ E to get to the entrance. There is a small entrance fee, but it’s not much. There is also a huge flower garden in the park. It’s worth a stop if you have a few extra hours to kill.
Food + Cafés
As we mentioned, there are a few places to eat around the station: one of the cafés, one of the steak places, or something from a conbini. The convenience store food in Japan is much better than that in the US. Pre-made sandwiches are actually fresh + natural without all the preservatives and chemicals found in western convenience store food. Or you could go to a place in Takshimaya Times Square or even in Shinjuku to the north. There are a lot of great Depachika (short for Basement Department) in the depato (department stores) in Shinjuku including Keio and others. Or you could try one of the upscale places in Omotesando. There are lots of great places there including a MOS Café, and several pancake shops. There are also several western fast food places near the station.
Well that’s it for now. Yoyogi + Yoyogi Park can make a fun day, or 1/2 day. If you have a little extra time, be sure to also check out Takshimaya Times Square and Shinjuku Goyen. It’s possible to do all 4 areas in one day, but it will be a full day. Enjoy!
West facing New Harajuku Station which opened in 2020.Just to the left around the corner is the entrance to Meiji Shrine. Just beyond that to the west is Yoyogi Park.
The area was originally called Iidamachi (literally ‘Iida’s Town‘), named after a local samurai in the late 1500’s – Iida Kihei. Later a bridge (bashi) was built in the area. The town informally came to be known as Iidabashi (‘Iida’s Bridge’) during the Meiji Restoration of the mid 1800’s. But the town wasn’t officially renamed to Iidabashi unti 1966 when the first post office was opened there.
Central Iidabashi – the main intersection with its huge elevated walkways is in the middle. The station is in the center left below the walkways. The Ramla complex is in the tall bldg. on the left. Mejiro Dori is the street running to the south towards the Imperial Palace. If you head east (right in this photo) at the small 2-story white bldg. in the center, you will come to Tokyo Dome. Shinjuku is to the west (left).
IIdabashi is a rather small town by Japanese standards but is just central enough to be important for easy access to different parts of the city. The town is mostly organized around one central intersection on Rt. 8 (Mejiro Dori), and includes 4 major streets – 2 running north, one running east-west, and one running south (Mejiro Dori).
The central area around the major intersection has everything you want to see as well as IIdabashi Station on the southwest corner. The station is the small tan bldg. on the right shown in the photo at the top of this page.
Just to the right of the station is a Becker’s (Bekazu’s to locals) which has all kinds of food and great burgers. Just to the right (west) of that around the corner is a shopping complex called Ramla.
Ramla complex, left. The station is just around the corner to the left. If you head up this street (west) for about 1/4 mile, then turn right, you’ll come to Kagurazaka. There is also a Metro subway entrance for Iidabashi Station there. A few blocks down on the left is the Canal Café.
A reverse view of the station – looking back north. The station and Ramla are on the left.
There is a massive long walkway system with stairs on each corner of the intersection. You’ll have to climb the stairs and then walk along the walkway to get to the other side.
The massive pedestrian elevated walkway.
Get ready to climb some stairs.
On the walkway, facing east. Tokyo Dome Hotel is just barely visible in the upper left side of the photo.
Facing west on the walkway.
If you cross to the northwest corner of the walkway, then down to the street, you’ll be on a street running northwest (the next street to the north of the street Ramala is on), you’ll find some good restaurants and shops. There’s a nice Tully’s Coffee right on the corner, ramen and soba noodle shops, pizza, and a nice Italian place across the street called Spiga. A few more blocks up the street on the left is a Doutour café which has some good cheap food like lettuce hot dogs for a few bucks. There is also a Denny’s in the area.
Facing west. Station is to the southwest.
Plenty of local places to eat.
There is the aforementioned Tokyo Dome Hotel to the east in the area, a nice FLEXStay Inn to the northwest a bit (up Shin-Mejiro Dori), and a nice APA Hotel to the south on Mejiro Dori. All are worth it. Tokyo Dome Hotel tends to run roughly around $100/night, the other two around $65-80, depending on season + demand. There are various other hotels in the area.
Walk to Imperial Palace + Marunouchi
Once you’ve had your fun in Iidabashi, you can stroll for a few miles south on Mejiro Dori and after crossing Rt. 302, it will turn into Sotobori Dori. Continue south here for about 1/2 mile until you hit Hakusan Dori and then turn right, then 1 block and turn left. Continue south a bit more, and you’ll come to the Imperial Palace (south on Rt. 301).
Head south on Sotobori Dori for 1 block, turn right onto Hakusan Dori shown here, cross over the river, then make the next left for the Imperial Palace.