Resonating the digital pulse of the modern world, the district of Shinjuku is at the heart of Japan’s ultra-modern. This buzzing, aglow microcosm of colors and sub-cultures is one of the world’s most loved city squares. But we’re not new acquaintances with either of these places. Sure the name sounds unfamiliar, but we’ve seen it in every magazine cut out and in every film flaunting the futuristic style of Tokyo’s architecture.
Essentially a shopping hub, the sheer size and popularity of Shijuku has given it the status of a tourist site. But it is not earned it without a reason. Shijuku is nothing short of a holy grail for every gadget freak, Otaku, gamer and anyone out there who fancies shopping for interesting things. Even the average passer-by neutral to the lure of shopping would stop to cast a curious second-look. There is much to look at considering the rows of odd looking household supplies and the multitude of unheard of things that heap the stores, filling out from the streets.
First rule is simple, you must watch where you walk while here. Because everyday 3.5 million commuters pass through this crazy-busy entertainment district. Big flashy neon boards welcome you into streets bursting with gigantic departmental stores and high rise malls on either sides. The downtown district stretches ahead with stores and colorful kiosks within viewing distance. Everything imaginable, unimaginable, ranging from clearance sale offers to stiff price tags find home here quite nicely. It goes without saying Shinjuku has a reputation for attracting all kinds of shoppers.
Almost as if by instinct, the long walk you take through the shopping area leads to the Big terrace in front of the South Exit. This area leads to the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden which provides for the much needed quiet. The regular tourist after hauling a dozen shopping bags can catch a breath here. Famous for its Edo era style this was formerly an Imperial garden till World War II. After the war, the garden which infused French, Victorian and Japanese styles in all its 535,000 square meterd glory, was made accssible to public. The seasonal displays of cherry blossom (Sakura) and the red autumn leaves leave a perfect image to remember the place by. Make sure to save it for a fine hour in the evening after much looking through the various layers of Shinjuku.
If you feel lost in the crowd not knowing where to begin exploring, look for a building that looks like a Gotham city skyscraper. The atypical deep grey steel face and lego like shape is hard to miss. It should be easy to find your other routes now. This is the Tokyo Metropolitan building. It serves not only as a government office space but also an information center with maps and guides to explore Shinjuku. There is also an Observatory on the 45th floor which throws in a spectacular view of the entire landscape with a nice view of Mt. Fuji which one can see on a good weather days.
The Takashimaya Times Square is the place with the oddball appliances and devices not found anywhere outside Japan. We all know Japan hits home run for producing the weird and the quirky, everything offbeat. This spirit of experimentation extends to things which can be bagged at malls here. Some examples are the foot shaped clock, doughnut like cakes and blue Christmas trees. A legit collector’s paradise.
Kabukicho is the famed gastronomy zone, if you were wondering where to pig out on good food. University students and day workers throng this are rich with cafes, eat outs, pubs and themes restaurants. The street food like Takoyaki also sell by the thousands here at peak hours.
For someone who wants to experience the olden day Shinjuku dining in all its quintessence, there is a quaint bar street running along railroad tracks. Here you can find many restaurants called “Akaachochin”. The name comes from the common style these places follow with red lanterns hanging outside the tiny eatery. The evening chatter of students and office goers carry on late into the night as this is a spot loved by many. Especially by those who like to eat surrounded by stories and laughter in an old fashioned indiscreet corner. For the rest of us who keep our eyes peeled for the latest in the world of gizmos, Labi (Yamada Denki) is the place to go. The appliance chain originally intended for houshold goods have a basement area dedicated solely for PCs, cameras, audio devices, soft wares, games and more.
Also on the must-visit list is the Hanazono Shrine. Its regarded the guarding deity of Shinjuku and truly worth a visit. The 17th century shrine built around the Shogun era doesn’t fail to charm one with its stately architecture. Itojuinari Shrine which is at the far end of the Hanazono is also very popular. Many women throng the premises daily as the deity is famous for bring good fortune in marriage and fertility.
Wrap up the visit with a platter of steaming Dango (dumplings) dripping with the rich, sweet sauce. Order to take away as you walk around and explore the ins and outs of Shinjuku.