Shinjuku is a cool place, the landscape varies hugely from the high-rise buildings of the business district in the west to the mid-range shopping streets and nightlife to the east. It seems like a great place to hang out in the evening, with all the bars, restaurants and game centres of the station area, but there’s also a lot to do during the day too. I’ve taken this route before jumping on a train at Shinjuku station to head elsewhere (Ghibli Museum!), but you could easily do all this, take a long lunch, then head out to the Shinjuku shopping/nightlife until you drop. TIP: Go on a sunny day.
The top pick of best parks by CNN Go in late 2011, and I totally agree. The large gardens are beautifully maintained and really make you feel like you’ve been transported somewhere else (save for the high-rise in the distance!). There’s a small entrance fee, 200 JPY for adults, and for this you get to walk round their country-themed garden areas (English, French and Japanese) and ponds at your leisure. You’ll get a map when you enter, you can find an online version here. Shinjuku Gyoen can be found south-east of the main Shinjuku station, see maps below.
Shopping Round the Station
Head back to the main station. If you’re dying for retail therapy then head into Takashimaya, a giant department store just south of Shinjuku station. It’s a high-end department store, but has dedicated a whole end of the building to Tokyu Hands, my favourite Japanese lifestyle store. In the station itself, let the girlies stop by RanKing RankQueen – there are millions of beauty products in Japan and this store takes the highest ranked ones and sticks them in one store. Whatever you buy it’s going to be good. Last year I bought a a load of super-girly products for my mother, some she now swears by.
Anyone who has been to Japan know that the Japanese have the best toilets! Why?! Well there’s the heated seats, the music or fake flushing sounds for your ‘modesty’ and even a bidet for cleaning your bits and pieces (some westerners get a little weirded out by this, I say, go with the flow…). TOTO is one of Japans largest and best known toilet and bathroom appliance manufacturers, and their Shinjuku showroom is a pretty fun place to go visit. First of all – IT’S ON THE 26TH FLOOR of the L-Tower building west of Shinjuku station, I say this because I spent 45 minutes circling the base of the building expecting a ground floor showroom (I should read addresses!). Needless to say, if you think the toilets are a bit weird then at least the view is great. Once you’re up there you can take a look around all the new high-tech toilet and bathroom magic, from motion sensor toilets to up-lit bathtubs. It’s like Yodabashi Camera meets Ikea but for bathrooms (seriously). One of my fav sections is the integrated bathroom units. Japanese bath-time usually consists of you washing yourself with soup and shampoo seated on a small stall, then rinsing yourself with a shower, afterwards you climb into a bath for a long a relaxing soak. At TOTO, you can buy whole seat-shower-basin-bath unit, which were the perfect size for me (5’3″), but not for my boyfriend (6’2″)!
Views from Tocho
This is why you go on a sunny day! There are many viewing platforms in Tokyo but the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building (Tocho) is easily one of my favourite. Firstly, it’s free. Secondly, although it’s not the highest (Tokyo Sky Tree is now tops, followed by the Mori Tower in Roppongi) the views across tokyo are to die for and on a sunny and clear day you can get shot of Fuji reminiscent of the famous fuji wood block prints. For those CLAMP manga fans, this is also the famous tower featured in the X and Tsubasa series, and the architecture is pretty cool. You can chose to go up to the top of the North or South tower, it doesn’t matter which you choose, the view and height is the same. Work your way around the floor, using the maps below the windows to spot the sites. Look out for the gardens around the Meiji Shrine, Tokyo Tower and , of course, Fuji-san. If you want some info on what to do next, on the way out on one of the lower floors you’ll find a Tokyo Tourism office.
I always head to the Sqaure Enix store after a trip to Tocho, because it’s so close, but unless your a Square fan there’s little need for you to go here. If you’re hungry head back towards the station to grab some food, the business district is a little sparse, there’s also a great deal of shopping around here too. Whatever you do – have a great day!
1-6-1 Nishi-Shinjuku 26th & 27th fl, 03 3345 1010, 10am-6pm, closed 1st & 3rd Mon of month
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Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building