Shinjuku Walking Tour (Self Guided), Tokyo

Known as the best entertainment district in Tokyo, Shinjuku abounds with venues where visitors can play, eat and shop all day long. From Robot Restaurant to Piss Alley to Shinjuku Golden Gai – the list is endless.

Beside the entertainment, shopping and dining, the district also offers some amazing sightseeing opportunities which are often under-rated. The observation desks on top of the two towers of the Metropolitan Government Office offer breathtaking views of Tokyo with free admission. The Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden is one of the best parks in Tokyo. If you want to acquaint yourself with Shinjuku in more detail, take this self-guided walking tour.
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Shinjuku Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Shinjuku Walking Tour
Guide Location: Japan » Tokyo (See other walking tours in Tokyo)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 8
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.3 Km or 2.1 Miles
Author: ann
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Tokyo Metropolitan Government Buildings
  • Omoide Yokocho (Piss Alley)
  • Godzilla Head
  • Robot Restaurant
  • Samurai Museum
  • Shinjuku Golden Gai
  • Hanazono Shrine
  • Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
1
Tokyo Metropolitan Government Buildings

1) Tokyo Metropolitan Government Buildings

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building is a complex of three structures each occupying one city block. It houses the headquarters of the Tokyo metropolitan government and is famed for the spectacular views from the observation decks which is open to visitors for FREE.

The building, referred to by locals as the Tax Tower, is one of the tallest structures in the city. It was designed to look like a computer chip by architect, Kenzo Tange. The main tower has 48 floors. It is divided into two sections on the 33rd floor. The center structure is the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly building consisting of eight floors including one underground and the 2nd main building consisting of 37 floors with three below the ground.

The two observation decks in each building have cafes and gift shops and visitors can reach them in less than a minute using high-speed elevators. Both offer spectacular views of the city and beyond. Early morning visitors can view Mount Fuji among other mountains on a clear day before the smoke and smog of the city obscure the scene. One can see the Odaiba Entertainment District from the south observation deck by day and the North observation deck offers panoramic views of the city lighted up at night.

Why You Should Visit:
One of the best views you can get in the city and even better still, it is completely free of charge with no time limit on how long you can stay.

Tip:
If you're looking for a free guided tour full of interesting background stories on Tokyo and Japan, just go to the tourist office downstairs from the main entrance.

Opening Hours:
North Observatory: 9:30am-11pm
South Observatory: 9:30am-5:30pm (until 11pm when North Observatory is closed)
Admission ends 30 minutes before closing time
Sight description based on wikipedia
2
Omoide Yokocho (Piss Alley)

2) Omoide Yokocho (Piss Alley)

Omoide Yokocho is sometimes referred to as Piss Alley, but tourists shouldn't let the name dissuade them from a visit. Another name commonly used for Omoide Yokocho is "Memory Lane," which may be more fitting for visitors who wish to make lasting memories of their trip to Tokyo.

Omoide Yokocho is a historic alley where tourists can find about 60 tiny bars and restaurant stands. The street is too narrow for more than two people to pass each other, which makes for an intimate and memorable meal.

Many of the vendors are open during the daytime, but the alley comes alive at night. No matter what time of the day or night a tourist visits, they should make sure to stop by for a quick meal or drink so they can see and experience an area that is unique to Tokyo.

Wondering where the nickname Piss Alley originated? The large number of bars and lack of public restrooms created a necessity for patrons to relieve themselves somewhere. That practice is no longer common. There is even a public restroom in the alley.
3
Godzilla Head

3) Godzilla Head

Godzilla Head is one of the most recent tourist attractions in Tokyo. It is a sculpture that was created for the 1992 film "Godzilla vs. Mothra." The 80-ton head is located on the Shinjuku Toho Building's Hotel Gracery Shinjuku's Godzilla Terrace.

Tourist can spot Godzilla Head from a distance on Kabukicho Ichiban-gai Street, but the best views are on Central Road. The area where the streets meet is called Godzilla Road in honor of the statue.

The public art piece was put on display in 2015. It was created by Toho Eizo Bijutsu, the producer of "Godzilla vs. Mothra." The life-size model has a height of about 39 feet (12 meters). It has been named as one of the best public art sculptures by "Time Out Tokyo."

The head is clearly visible from street level. However, those who want a closer view can head inside the building. Patrons of the cafe or hotel are welcome to head to the terrace for a full view of the massive sculpture.

Godzilla Head isn't a static art piece. From noon through 8 PM there are hourly roars. Music and roaring blares out to the city streets while Godzilla's eyes light up and smoke emits from its mouth. The show can be seen from the terrace or from the street below.
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4
Robot Restaurant

4) Robot Restaurant

Do not go to the Robot Restaurant with the sole goal to eat. This is not a typical dinner theatre experience. It is a 90-minute show that is a feast for the eyes if not the stomach.

Guests will be given the opportunity to buy snacks and drinks before the show starts or during one of the show's breaks. Optional meals include a grilled beef dinner box, a sushi bento box or a Japanese style dinner box. Each is served with mineral water.

The experience is perfect for those who love energetic dancers, loud music, neon lights and, of course, robots. All ages are welcome, but the youngest in the family may find the music to be overwhelming. The Robot Restaurant provides ear coverings for children who need them.

The show runs daily from noon to 8:30 PM. Patrons are expected to arrive 30 minutes early. Visitors can also buy souvenirs onsite. Some of these include t-shirts, souvenir pins, toy robots and pen lights.
5
Samurai Museum

5) Samurai Museum

The Samurai Museum honors the samurai warriors who defended Japan. The museum is located in Shinjuku City. It is a close walk to many other local attractions, like the Godzilla Head and the Robot Restaurant.

The museum consists of two floors. The first contains the Samurai Gallery, which includes an armour exhibition. The second floor continues the Samurai Gallery with exhibitions displayed in chronological order and a katana exhibition.

The museum offers a gift shop and a costumed photo studio for patrons. Visitors can try on a samurai helmet and battle coat while holding a sword.

A 15-minute sword performance is displayed every day at the top of the hour from 2 PM through 5 PM. This performance is available at no charge. Other experiences, which incur an additional fee, include a samurai calligraphy lesson, a live music show and a sword lecture.
6
Shinjuku Golden Gai

6) Shinjuku Golden Gai (must see)

Shinjuku Golden Gai is a small area of Tokyo, famous both as an area of architectural interest and for its nightlife. It is composed of a network of six narrow alleys, connected by even narrower passageways which are just about wide enough for a single person to pass through. Over 200 tiny shanty-style bars, clubs and eateries are squeezed into this area.

Shinjuku Golden Gai was known for prostitution before 1958, when prostitution became illegal. Since then it has developed as a drinking area. In the 1980s, many buildings in Tokyo were set on fire by gangs of organized criminals, so the land could be bought up by developers, but Shinjuku Golden Gai survived because its residents took turns to guard the area at night.

The alleys in the area are private roads and shooting photographs and video for all purposes on the street is prohibited without permission of the area's business promotion association.

Bars in Shinjuku Golden Gai are known in particular for the artistic affinities of their patrons. Shinjuku Golden Gai is well known as a meeting place for creative types such musicians, artists, directors, writers, academics and actors. Many of the bars only welcome regular customers, who initially should be introduced by an existing patron, although many others welcome non-regulars, some even making efforts to attract overseas tourists by displaying signs and price lists in English.

Many of the bars have a particular theme, such as jazz, R&B, karaoke, punk rock, or flamenco, and their ramshackle walls are sometimes liberally plastered with movie, film and concert posters. Others cater to customers with a particular interest, such as go, exploitation films, or horse racing. Most of the bars don't open until 9 or 10pm, so the area is very quiet during the day and early evening.
Sight description based on wikipedia
7
Hanazono Shrine

7) Hanazono Shrine

Hanazono Shrine is a Shinto shrine that was founded in the mid-17th century. Though the current shrine was rebuilt after destruction during World War II, it retains much of its character from previous centuries.

The shrine is dedicate to Inari, the God of Worldly Success. Because of this, it is a popular place for business-people to travel.

The shrine itself is quiet and serene. However, it is known for its regular celebrations and festivals. Visitors may plan their trips to Tokyo around the Setsubun, National Tournament Mochi or Two Horse festivals in February. They might attend the Koxinga Festival in March, the Flower Festival in April, Reitaisai in May or the Shinto Purification in June. Obon occurs in August and the Cock Festival in November.

Visitors can head to the Hanazono Shrine any time of the night or day. It is well lit in the evenings and always free to enter.
8
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden

8) Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden (must see)

Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden is a must-see site in Tokyo. This large, public garden has an area of about 144 acres (58.3 hectares) with three distinct landscapes: English countryside, French formal and traditional Japanese.

The garden offers more than 20,000 trees. More than 1,500 of these are cherry trees, which makes the garden a popular spot for tourists in March and April when the trees are in full bloom.

Flowers are planted to bloom throughout the year. Any time one finds time to visit Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden they will see vibrant petals on display. These range from the winter-blooming camelias to the summer rose beds in the formal gardens.

Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden was once home to the Naito family. The land was given to the family by the shogun in 1772. It later became an experimental agricultural center before being made an imperial garden. Air raids destroyed much of the area during World War II, but it was rebuilt and turned into a public park in 1949.

Along with the flora of gardens, Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden includes two restaurants, an information center and coffee and tea houses. There is also a children's area for those under the age of 13. It should be noted that children cannot use this play area during cherry blossom season.

The garden is open Tuesday through Sunday except on national holidays and from December 29 through January 3. Opening times vary depending on the season, but the garden is usually open 9 AM through no later than 4 PM.

Tips
As is true with many places in Tokyo, permission must be granted for photography. Those tourists hoping to take many photographs must apply for permission and follow all appropriate guidelines.

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