Shinjuku Walking Tour, Tokyo

Shinjuku Walking Tour (Self Guided), Tokyo

Known as the best entertainment district in Tokyo, Shinjuku abounds in venues where visitors can play, eat, and shop to their hearts' content all day long. Besides the endless list of fun, shopping, and dining options available, the district also offers some truly amazing sightseeing opportunities which are often underrated.

One of its iconic landmarks is the two towers of the Metropolitan Government Office. The freely-accessed observation desks on top of the building offer stunning panoramic views of the city – a magnificent place to appreciate the sheer vastness and beauty of Tokyo.

For those seeking a taste of nostalgia and local street food, Omoide Yokocho, often referred to as "Piss Alley," is a must-visit. Don't be dissuaded by the name! Here, you can savor traditional Japanese dishes and experience the bustling atmosphere of a bygone era.

The Godzilla Head, perched atop the Toho Building, captures the attention of pop culture enthusiasts. It's a quirky sightseeing spot, especially at night when it is illuminated, making it a unique addition to your Shinjuku adventure.

History buffs will enjoy the Samurai Museum, where you can delve into Japan's rich samurai tradition through an impressive collection of artifacts and exhibitions.

Shinjuku Golden Gai is a maze of narrow alleyways lined with cozy, intimate bars and eateries. It's a fantastic place to experience the local nightlife and interact with fellow travelers and locals.

In contrast to the bustling urban atmosphere, the Hanazono Shrine provides a serene and spiritual experience. This peaceful oasis offers a quiet escape from the city's hustle and bustle.

Nature lovers can explore the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, a vast green space in the heart of the district. It's an ideal spot for a leisurely stroll, a picnic, or enjoying the seasonal beauty of cherry blossoms or colorful foliage.

Visitors of all stripes can easily find something to their liking in Shinjuku. Whether you're exploring the past, embracing the present, or simply seeking relaxation, this dynamic part of Tokyo covers it all. So, pack your bags and embark on a memorable self-guided walking journey to Shinjuku, where you'll discover a fusion of tradition and modernity.
How it works: Download the app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from Apple App Store or Google Play Store to your mobile phone or tablet. The app turns your mobile device into a personal tour guide and its built-in GPS navigation functions guide you from one tour stop to next. The app works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

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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: 7
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.8 Km or 1.7 Miles
Author: ann
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Tokyo Metropolitan Government Buildings
  • Omoide Yokocho (Piss Alley)
  • Godzilla Head
  • Samurai Museum
  • Shinjuku Golden Gai
  • Hanazono Shrine
  • Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
Tokyo Metropolitan Government Buildings

1) Tokyo Metropolitan Government Buildings

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building is a complex of three buildings, each occupying its own city block. It serves as the headquarters for the Tokyo metropolitan government and is well-known for the breathtaking views it offers from its observation decks, which are open to the public at no cost.

Locals often refer to this building as the "Tax Tower," and it stands as one of the tallest structures in the city. The renowned architect Kenzo Tange designed it to resemble a computer chip. The main tower consists of 48 floors, with a division on the 33rd floor. The central structure houses the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly building, with eight floors, including one underground, and the second main building has 37 floors, including three below ground.

Each of the two observation decks in these buildings features cafes and gift shops, and visitors can easily access them in less than a minute thanks to high-speed elevators. Both decks provide stunning views of the city and its surroundings. Early morning visitors can even catch a glimpse of Mount Fuji and other mountains on clear days before the city's smoke and smog obscure the scenery. The south observation deck offers views of the Odaiba Entertainment District during the day, while the north observation deck provides panoramic views of the illuminated city 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.

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.
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.
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.
Samurai Museum

4) 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.
Shinjuku Golden Gai

5) Shinjuku Golden Gai (must see)

Shinjuku Golden Gai is a compact district in Tokyo, renowned for its unique architecture and vibrant nightlife scene. This area consists of six interconnected narrow alleys, linked by even narrower passages that can barely accommodate a single person. Remarkably, more than 200 small bars, clubs, and eateries are crammed into this confined space.

Before 1958, Shinjuku Golden Gai had a reputation for prostitution, but it transitioned into a hub for drinking establishments after the practice was outlawed. In the 1980s, Tokyo witnessed a series of arson incidents orchestrated by organized crime groups to facilitate land acquisition by developers. However, Shinjuku Golden Gai managed to survive due to its residents taking turns to protect the area during nighttime.

The alleys within this district are considered private roads, and taking photographs or recording videos for any purpose on the streets is strictly prohibited without the permission of the area's business promotion association.

What distinguishes the bars in Shinjuku Golden Gai is the diverse and artistic clientele they attract. This locale is renowned as a gathering spot for creative individuals such as musicians, artists, directors, writers, academics, and actors. Many of these bars initially admit only regular patrons, who are typically introduced by an existing customer. Nevertheless, some establishments actively seek to welcome non-regulars, with some even going the extra mile to cater to overseas tourists by displaying signs and price lists in English.

Each of the bars often has a distinct theme, whether it's centered around jazz, R&B, karaoke, punk rock, or flamenco. The walls of these establishments are often adorned with a mishmash of movie, film, and concert posters. Others cater to customers with specific interests, such as board games, exploitation films, or horse racing. Most of these bars don't open until around 9 or 10 pm, contributing to a tranquil ambiance during the daytime and early evening hours.
Hanazono Shrine

6) 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.
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden

7) 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.

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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