Take the JR Chuo Line or the Metro Namboku, or Yurakucho Line to Ichigaya Station. Interestingly, the JR platform sits right on the bank of the river.
Ichigaya is a small, non-descript town on the east side of Tokyo. Its name means Market Valley. It’s a less-well maintained area and is seen by some in Tokyo as a lower-class area. But it’s worth a look around on a nice day – and it’s close to central Tokyo.
Ichigaya is at the very west end of Yasukuni-Dori. Just to the northeast is the controversial, but very interesting Yasukuni Shrine.
Perhaps the most well-known attraction in Ichigaya is the Ichigaya Fish Center – where many Tokyoites spend weekends or holidays fishing in the center’s small ponds. It’s a popular spot for families with small children.
There is also a popular bridge in Ichigaya which has some nice cherry blossom-viewing areas in the spring.
Just at the south end of Ichigaya jammed in next to the river is Sotobori Park – a small park with a sitting area, tennis courts, a baseball diamond, and a commercial fitness gym at the south end.
Ichigaya is also home to Chuo University + Hosei University, the later of which was recently remodeled – and which is more popular with international students.
While in the area you can also drop in at Iidabashi just to the north and check it out – which is also worth a look. Also just to the south down the main street is Yotsuya – which is well worth a quick walk. Yotsuya is home to Sophia University, and is just north of the interesting Akasaka. You can also jump off from Yotsuya to the west to Shinjuku fairly easily, although it is approx. 8 miles away. You can take the subway from Yotsuya Station on the corner to Shinjuku easily.
The name Shinjuku means New Lodgings. The area became a busy commerce center during the Edo Period and later again after World War 2. The name derives from the older area Harajuku (Sun Lodgings) to the south.
A diorama depicting Shinjuku during the World War 2 era at the Edo-Tokyo Museum.
Shinjuku Station is the busiest train station on earth. Over 2 million people pass through the station every day. At rush hour the place is so packed it can be hard to move or even find your way around if you’re not familiar with it.
There are both Japan Rail (JR) platforms for common lines such as the Yamanote Line, as well as various subway lines. The station acts as an interchange + transfer point for many lines in Tokyo. There are at least 8 levels in the station, many of them buried deep underground.
There are also lots of shopping areas as well as a newly renovated outside shop area and courtyard (Shinjuku Southern Terrace). The station was vastly expanded in 2009-2010 and is now several times its former size on the south end.
The station is shown above, lower center. On both the north and south ends there are huge clusters of shopping centers, as well as an outdoor courtyard. To the northwest is the Cocoon building, and the Tokyo Metropolitain Gov’t buildings (which has a great free observation deck). Just northeast of the Cocoon Tower is the Odayku department store (depato) complex. To the northeast are the main streets with a dizzying array of outdoor shops, restaurants, and things to do and see.At night the area comes alive with lights + sounds – a photographer’s dream.There are also countless huge electronics shops such as Bic Camera and others.
View of Shinjuku from the outdoor platform. The Mode Gakuen Cocoon Toweris on the left, and Odakyu (see below) is the orange building in the center. Ikebukuro is a few stops to the north from here.
Info map at the station on a platform.
From Shinjuku you can take your pick of 2 more interesting areas in either direction: Ikebukuro to the north, or Shibuya to the south.
Madness at a station platform.
At the north entrance of the station around 35°41’31.78″ N 139°42’03.26″ Eis the famous Duckman street performer.
The surface-level of the station has several areas: the main (north) area bisected by Rt. 20 running east-west (this area has the LUMINE and NewWoman modifications made in the early 2000’s. The MyLord bldg. and open terrace to the west of that, the Cocoon bldg. area to the northwest, and the Takashimaya Square area to the south. Of course there are many more areas than this – the station area is huge and takes a whole hour to circumnavigate on foot. Just to the northeast of the LUMINE area is a huge OIOI (pronounced Marui) department store complex, and just to the immediate west on Rt. 20 is a huge Don Quijote discount store. Also at the very south end of the new station redevelopment is a huge outdoor open-air sitting area + cafés (Shinjuku Southern Terrace). You can sit and watch the trains come and go beneath you. Just to the east of the Takashimaya Square complex is the huge Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden – a must see. If you go to the gardens and have a few extra minutes, also pop in to Yoyogi just a few minutes’ walk to the south.
At the very south end of the LUMINE bldg. under the train tracks is a huge Shinjuku Tourist Information Office. If you want to pick up some brochures on things to do in the area, stop in when you first arrive.
There are also loads of currency exchanges around the info offices, but their rates may not be the best. You might be better off using a smaller exchange in places such as Akihabara, or the Sakura Exchange in Shibuya.
There’s also a large coin locker bank on the southern side of the info center shown above.
Around 35°41’23.18″ N 139°42’05.80″ E is an east exit from the station, 2 long escaltors, and a huge department store called Flags. There’s a huge GAP that’s been here for over 20 years.
The Flags Building @ the east exit.
Incredibly, right next to the Flags building is a huge, 8-story pachinko parlor called Green Peas, which even has entire floors of Vegas-style slot machines. There is also a huge Taito Game Station arcade just behind it down a side street.
Just northwest of the station is the Odakyu Depato (department store) area. There are plenty of things to do here, and there’s a food floor on the top floor, which includes Shinjuku’s part of the latest craze in Tokyo: pancakes. Rainbow Pancake is on the food floor. There are also elevated walkways to other department stores such as Keio just across the street (Keio‘s food basement is one of the best in Tokyo).
The dept. store complex on the west side. Odakyu is the orange bldg. on the right, and just to the right of that, the KEIO dept. store.Further to the left out of view is a huge Bic Camera. The Cocoon bldg. is just behind the camera to the west.The MyLord terrace area is just beind the KEIO bldg. to the east.There are actually 2 Odakyu complexes – the east side one shown here, and the Odakyu/HALC/Bic Camera annex to the north (out of frame to the left). There is also a major bus stop area here.
Heading in to the east-side Odakyu complex (right). The northern Odakyu/HALC annex is shown here on the left. This photo faces north.
Standing on the northern Odakyu/HALC annex pedestrian overpass facing east. The huge UNIQLO is on the right.
From the station to the east, there are 3 main streets running west-east which parallel each other a few blocks apart. These are: 1), Yasukuni-Dori 2), Shinjuku-Dori, and 3) Koshu-Kaido Dori (Rt. 20).
By far, the most popular of these is Yasukuni-Dori. Several blocks to the eastMeiji-Dori intersects all 3 and runs north-south all the way to the Imperial Palace. In this central area of about 3-4 long blocks, most of the action in Shinjuku happens. The west side is interesting too, but it’s more business/gov’t-oriented. A stroll around the east-side streets at night will floor you with its colors, lights, and dizzing array of things to do.
North Exit + Studio ALTA
The northeast station exit is a popular meeting spot for young people. Just across the street is a building called Studio ALTA with its massive TV display on the outside of the building. If you slip down the small side street to the left at night, you’re in for one of Shinjuku’s nightime delights – a small concrete pedestrian-only area with lots of shops and restaurants. There is also a huge Matsumoto Kiyoshi drug store here, and the rear entrance to the huge Yamada Denki LABi electronics shop (see below). As mentioned above, this is also where the infamous Duckman performs nightly. If you head through the small concrete park, in a few blocks you’ll come to a huge Don Quijote, described next.
Studio ALTA, right. Head down the small side street ahead.
Just north of the north exit. The station entrance is ahead.
Massive Don Quijote on Yasukuni-Dori
On Yasukuni-Dori 2 blocks from the station is a huge Don Quijote discount store. If you’re strolling this street at night, it’s worth a stop in to look around. The place is huge and has multiple floors of just about anything you could want, including a grocery.
As a footnote, you can walk or bike all the way east on Rt. 20 back to Yotsuya (about 6 miles) – there are a lot of interesting things to see along Rt. 20 as well as several other subway station stops at various points – most notably Shinjuku-Sanchome Station around 35°41’26.01″ N 139°42’20.84″ E, and Shinjuku-gyoemmae Station – one more stop the east. All of them pop up onto Rt. 20 at various points. The coolest thing about Shinjuku-gyoemmae Station is its little retro 1950’s-styled entrance on the street around 35°41’19.17″ N 139°42’35.28″ E. There is also a large, cheap, excellent APA Hotel just 1 block west on the same side of the street. There is also a huge Tully’s Coffee just across from Shinjuku-gyoemmae Station.
Heading east on Rt. 20 towards Yotsuya. Note the JTB building on the right.Along this route around this area there are also huge massive department stores such as Isetan, OIOI (pronounced Marui), and Takishimaya. This part of Shinjuku is known as the Shinjuku Ohdori Shopping District. There is also a huge Apple Store here. One of the best kept secrets in this area is the hobby shop on the top floor of the OIOI.
West a few blocks from the west side of the station is the odd-looking Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower. It’s mostly offices, but there are a few interesting things on the ground floor. It’s a rather small building, so there’s not a lot to do here. But it’s worth walking to it just to have a look at the architecture.
If you head just northwest from the Cocoon, you’ll come to an iconic part of Shinjuku which includes many buildings from famous photos of Tokyo: such as Sampo Japan Building, and others. There is also a massive pedestrian walkway here which allows you to walk around several of the buildings elevated from the streets.
There is also a very nice massive concrete and green park 2 blocks to the west of Cocoon at the Sojibo Shinjuku Mitsui Building around 35°41’30.14″ N 139°41’38.23″ E.
If you continue west for a few blocks, you’ll next pass the Shinjuku Keio Plaza Hotel, and 2 blocks west of that, you’ll come to the Tokyo Metropolitain Government buildings. These twin buildings house the entire central government for Tokyo. There is a massive open-air concrete courtyard surrounding the buildings, and a free observation deck on the top floors – but be warned, because it’s free, there are usually huge lines for the observatory – even on weekdays. Plan on spending several hours in line – more if it’s peak season such as in the spring or late fall.
The Japanese word for electronics is Denki. There are several huge electronics stores in Shinjuku: There are 2 Yamada Denki LABi stores – one near Studio ALTA mentioned above, and one just west of the MyLord building near the station’s central exit. The one near Studio ALTA is closing soon.
There are 3 huge Bic Camera stores – one in the Odakyu Annex mentioned above, one in the huge UNIQLO store (called BicQLO) around 35°41’29.45″ N 139°42’11.45″ E, and Bic Camera Shinjuku Station East Store just southeast of the Studio ALTA location.
The other big electronics store is the huge Yodobashi Camera Shinjuku West Main Store around 35°41’23.30″ N 139°41’52.96″ E. It’s just a few blocks southeast of the Cocoon Building. There’s also lots of interesting other small shops around the Yodobashi store.
All of the electronics shops are worth a look – if for no other reason than to marvel at their scale and selection.
Jammed in between the MyLord + Keio Dept. Store bldgs. is the excellent Mosaic Street. Definitely worth a stop. We have a full post on it here.
Kinokuniya Book Store
Just across from the BicQLO store mentioned above is a huge Kinokuniya Book Store around 35°41’30.98″ N 139°42’09.99″ E.Kinokuniya is one of the largest book chains in Japan, and this one doesn’t disappoint. If you have any extra time, be sure to pop in and look around. They also have a web store where you can order online.
Takishimaya Times Square + The Bubble Building + Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden + Cafe La Boheme
Just to the south of the station and the Southern Terrace area is the epic Takashimaya Times Square complex – a huge multi-story shopping/food/entertainment complex, TTS is a must-see in Shinjuku. There are also plenty of interesting shops in the complex’s open-air below-ground area, and the large Tokyu Hands department store (depato) on the south side. To get to TTS, go outside to the southern terrace (on the west side of the station) and head south to the large foot bridges which lead to the complex.
Just south of TTS is the NTT DoCoMo “Bubble Building” HQ. It was nicked-named the Bubble Building because it was built during Japan’s “bubble” economy in the late 1980’s-1990’s. The building’s design was inspired by the Empire State Building in Manhattan, New York.
West of TTS is the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden – a huge Japanese garden with several ponds, trees, and long walkways. Many of the paths afford excellent photo spots of various parts of Tokyo. There is also a large impressive greenhouse. Admission price is around $6 USD, but it’s worth it. Be sure to check it out.
If you’re in the mood for a brew, just across the street to the north of the greenhouse is the excellent European-themed Cafe La Boheme at 35°41’15.14″ N 139°42’46.09″ E. If you love coffee + have the time, be sure to check it out – it’s excellent.
To the north of the station a bit (oddly in a seedy nightclub area) around 35°41’43.84″ N 139°42’12.63″ E, is the excellent Samurai Museum Shinjuku. This is one of the best samurai museums in Tokyo, and you can even buy swords and take caligraphy lessons there if you want.
Walking to Other Parts of Tokyo from Shinjuku
As mentioned, you can actually walk to other parts of Tokyo (or ride a bike) such as Yotsuya or Akasaka. Ebisu is just to the south and worth a walk. Plan on a few hours, however, and the walk east is a quite a ways. On bike it will take about 30-45 minutes.
Yoyogi is just to the south also, and Nakano just to the northwest.
There are so many food options in Shinjuku it’s hard to know where to start. The options are endless. There are conbini (convenience stores) in the station and they are all good. There are many good places just outside the station, and there are huge and upscale restaurants in the area and in TTS.
The Maple Diner waffle shop near the MyLord building.
Kinokuniya Entreé conbini near the Saikyo Line in the station.
HOKUO the Garden also in the station.
Watch them carbs.
Shake Shack @ Southern Terrace.
Soup Stock Tokyo.
American Bar + Grill, TGI Friday’s jammed down some side street.
Shinjuku is one of the biggest, busiest, and most overwhelming parts of Tokyo – you could easily spend several days exploring it all and not see everything. It’s a must-see part of Tokyo, so plan on spending a few days at least seeing it.
We can’t recommend Shinjuku enough – and you absolutely can’t miss it if you’re in Tokyo. From the station area to vast electronics stores, depatos, the TMG + Cocoon buildings, and the streets, there is more than enough to do here. Be astounded, and be amazed.
The fire trucks are coming up around the bend. You live, you learn. The NTT “Bubble Building” towers in the distance at dusk.
A typical exit info sign in Shinjuku Station.
Inside the Odakyu complex heading down into the station below.
The Yamanote Line heading north for Ikebukuro and Omiya.
Facing the Odakyu/KEIO complex from the taxi stand @ the west side of the station.
Also @ the west side of the station.
At the LUMINE/NewWoman side of the renovations at street level.
The Odakyu Line cuts through the Shinjuku night.
One of many endless excellent restaurants on the backstreets.
There are endless things to discover on the streets of Shinjuku.
A hidden place to park your bike for free in a small underpass.
Stumbling around Shinjuku’s streets in the dark, every once in a while the perfect photo opportunity hits you smack in the face.
Or if you prefer – the B+W version.
Inside Odakyu HALC. This ain’t Walmart.
Outside Odakyu HALC.
Inside Shinjuku Station near MyLord.
Epic view outside Shinjuku Station. LUMINE is on the left, and MyLord is just behind the camera on the left.
On Southern Terrace. MyLord is just ahead behind the trees. The huge bldg. on the left used to be Microsoft‘s Japan HQ.
Jimbocho is a small town in north central Tokyo about 1/2 a mile to the north of the Imperial Palace and the Otemachi area. It’s known as Tokyo’s book town. But it also has a wide variety of sports + music shops – especially for skiing and snowboarding. You can spend a whole day strolling east-west on Yasukuni-Dori Ave (Rt. 403). checking out the shops. There are endless bookstores in the area with every kind of book imaginable.
Central Jimbocho facing north. Yasukuni-Dori runs east-west in sort of an inverted arc shown here running throught the center of town. This street is lined with endless sports/book/music shops, cafés, and restaurants. To the north is Ochanomizu, to the east (right) is Akihabara and Kanda, and to the south is Otemachi and the Imperial Palace.Tokyo Dome City is to the northwest, out of frame.
Extended view facing north. Jimbocho is in the center, Akihabara on the right, TDC at the upper-left, and Imperial Palace to the south, just out of view.
The central + west side of Jimbocho is better described in our Kanda Superguide. We’ll detail just the basic area here. Essentially Yasukuni-Dori (Rt. 403) runs east-west in an arc through the center of town.
There are endless backstreets + streets full of book stores. Most of the major sporting + music shops are along Yasukuni-Dori. There are dozens of interesting guitar shops along the way.
The Hidden Pedestrian Side Street
At around 35°41’43.31″ N 139°45’39.23″ E – just across from a Xerbio Sportsstore and right next to an ABC-Mart shoe store is the entrance to a charming little side street off-limits to vehicle traffic. There are dozens of nice restaurants + cafés and other shops up + down this street. If you walk this street a few blocks to the west and then turn right on Rt. 301 (Hakusan-Dori) it will take you right into TDC. Turning left on the main street next to ABC instead of taking the side street will lead you to glitch Coffee (discussed next). If you continue walking far enough south past glitch Coffee it will take you to the Imperial Palace and Otemachi.
At around 35°41’37.52″ N 139°45’40.50″ E just to the south of Yasukuni Dori is glitch Coffee. The shop is excellent, but’s in a run-down non-descript old office bldg. with only a sign in the window. Don’t let the appearance fool you – it’s worth a trip. See our full review.
At around 35°41’32.82″ N 139°45’48.60″ E just to the south a few blocks off Yasukuni-Dori and several blocks east of glitch is the Yonemoto Coffee Shop – it’s on a corner and a very nice place to rest + get a brew. It’s popular with early-morning local workers. There is a larger main shop by the same company east of Ginza near Tsukiji.
Yonemoto Coffee Shop – just a few blocks east of glitch.
If you walk a mile or so west on Yasukuni-Dori, then turn north (left) onto Rt. 405 (Sotobori-Dori), you’ll come to the sister city of Ochanomizu where there is a spectacular complex called WATERRAS around 35°41’50.39″ N 139°46’03.98″ E. There is also a very nice organic Olympic grocery in the basement of WATERRAS. If you’re up for a bit of a walk, WATERRAS is worth the quick tirp.
Just to the west of WATERRAS 2 blocks is a Greek Orthodox church with spectacular Russian architecture called Holy Ressurection Cathedral.
North to Ueno, east to Akihabara.
If you head north of WATERRAS and cross the Kanda River, then head onto Rt. 452north for about 1 mile you will come to the famous Tokyo district of Ueno.
You can also cross the Kanda River, then head east a few blocks, then north a few blocks again to Akihabara which is only a few miles to the northeast.
Facing west on Yasukuni-Dori.Note the sidewalk Metro portal on the right.
Head north off Yasukuni-Dori here for WATERRAS.
Jimbocho is a nice little town worth a stroll. It’s usually low-tourist, and low-crowd, which makes it easy. It’s well worth a quick trip or day trip from any of the other local major areas such as Otemachi, Akihabara, or TDC. Check it out.
Sandwiched in between Akihabara to the northeast and Tokyo Station to the south is a part of Tokyo called Kanda. It’s centered on Rt. 405 (Sotobori Dori) just north of the financial district Marunouchi. Also just to the northwest is Ochinomizu. Akihabara is just a few minutes’ walk up Rt. 302 to the east. Jimbocho, Tokyo’s used book town is just 1/4 mile to the west. All 4 areas are within walking distance of each other.
JR Kanda Station facing north on Chuo Dori. Continuing north will take you right into Akihabara, which is the next JR stop north on the Yamanote Line.The area under the station to the north side is known as Kanda Crossing.There’s a small side street shown here on the right worth a stroll.
Central Kanda. Akihabara is on the right side of the frame, Jimbocho on the left. The WATERRAS complex is the large black building to the upper right. Sotobori Dori is the main street running north-south center right.
The central area in Kanda is on the intersection of Yasukuni-Dori (Rt. 302) and Hongo-Dori (Rt. 403). You can walk west or east on 302 for miles and there is a lot to see. On the very west end is Jimbocho, known as Tokyo’s used book town (as well as an area with lots of sports shops).
At the intersection there are lots of cafés and restaurants including a Doutor and an Excelsior Café. In fact, there are 2 Doutours 1 block apart. There are also a variety of noodle and yakiniku (steak) places around. And several conbini (convenience stores).
Facing east on 302 towards Akihabara.Excelsior Café is on the right. The block from here east is the central area. WATERRAS (see below) is one block up to the left. You can also just barely see Tokyo Sky Tree in Suitengumae in the distance.
Several blocks to the southeast around 35°41’28.24″ N 139°46’07.97″ E is the entrance to a narrow little street full of shops called Kanda Nishiguchi Shopping Street. It’s just a few blocks, but worth a stroll if you’re willing to walk the 8 blocks or so down Rt. 403 to get to it.
WATERRAS+ Sola City
Just to the north a few blocks up Rt. 305 is an office/shopping complex called WATERRAS. WATERRAS has some cafés at the ground level, a Mr. Donut on the northeast corner, and a large upscale shopping complex called Sola City across the street to the north. It’s worth a quick walk around. The main area of interest is up the front WATERRAS escalator and stairs, then around to the left. There is also a large garden terrace on the southwest corner of the building.
Further west on 302 the street is lined with sports shops on both sides – mostly ski + snowboard shops. There is also a Xebio and Victoria sport shop near each other a few blocks down to the west.
Just at the west edge of Kanda and into Jimbocho around 35°41’37.53″ N 139°45’40.15″ E is the hipster café glitch Coffee. It’s in an old run down dump of a building and has no sign other than on the front window, but the inside is very nice and the coffee + food is awesome. If you want to venture just a bit west of Kanda into Jimbocho, it’s worth a stop.
Believe it or not, in this dilapidated building is the hipster café glitch Coffee. The shop also has a small walk-up window on the left.
The HUB @ Kanda Station. Also note there are 3 cafés right next door.
TAP x TAP KandaCraft Beer
If you’re in the mood for craft beer, there’s TAP X TAP Kanda around 35°41’34.09″ N 139°46’20.90″ E. To get there, exit JR Kanda Station, head to the northeast side street known as Kanda Crossing shown above, go through the side street entrance on the right, then turn right again at the 1st block. It’s just down on the left side 2 blocks.
Kanda Myojin Shrine
A bit of a hike north on Rt. 452 around 35°42’06.62″ N 139°46’03.28″ E is Kanda Shrine. It’s a large complex with spectacular architecture but it’s closer to Akihabara than it is to Kanda. If you’re up for a bit of a walk and have time, it’s worth checking out. There are a few other shrines in the area.
Kanda River + Rt 405
The Kanda River, which cuts through the center of Tokyo east-west runs approximately from the Sumida River to the east all the way to Tokyo Dome City to the west. In fact, you can walk the entire distance on Rt. 405 which parallels it. Just head north on any one of the major north-south streets in Kanda or Jimbocho to get to 405. You can also head east (right) on 405 to get to Akihabara. The distance from central Jimbocho to Tokyo Dome City is only about 1 mile.
There are a variety of hotels in Kanda, but perhaps the best value once again is APA Hotel. In fact there are 3 APA Hotels in the area, but one of them, APA Hotel Kanda-Eki-Higashi is far to the southeast. Just south of Akihabara Station is APA Hotel Kanda Ekimae around 35°41’36.66″ N 139°46’17.15″ E (Ekimae means “at the station”). The closest one is APA Hotel Kanda Jimbocho Eki-Higashi just to the west. There are also 2 APAs in Akihabara. APA has some of the best deals in hotels in Japan – with hundreds of them all over the country and many all over Tokyo. Off-season rates are usually very good and depending on occupancy can run from $65-$90/night. At some APA’s off-season you can even get rates as low as $40 depending on how centrally located the hotel is. All are clean, and slightly upscale depending on location.
Well that’s it. Kanda/Jimbocho is a great place to visit. It’s 1/2 way between Tokyo Station and Akihabara so you can access both those areas too. In fact, assuming you want to spend all day in the area, you can see all 3 in a long day, although Akihabara is really a full day in itself. The walk along Rt. 403 from Jimbocho to Akihabara with Kanda in the middle is only about 1.5 miles, so it’s easy. There is plenty to do and see along the way. Enjoy!