Shinjuku is the central business district of Tokyo, with plenty of shops and tourist sites for travelers visiting Tokyo. Hundreds (probably thousands) of shops and restaurants connect to Shinjuku station (the busiest train station in the world!) via small alleyways, lined with bright lights, lanterns, signs and patrons enjoying a drink or a taste of the huge range of food available.

Walking around Shinjuku as a tourist a surreal experience. Here you stand in the heart of Tokyo, with busy salarymen droning along the streets in a stream of grey, white and black.

One minute you’re walking through cramped and narrow alleyways, with smells of sweet yakitori and salty noodles mixing together to whet your appetite…

…next minute your in the middle of towering office buildings, many with uniquely angular and curving architecture.

You might even stumble upon a inner city shrine, an awesome contrast to the hectic surrounding city.

So take a walk with me around Shinjuku…

Shinjuku video
(HD – under 2 minutes)

Shinjuku Station area at night

View large photos: click on any photo below to view a high resolution version.

These photos are from a winter trip to Tokyo, where I also visited the Tokyo National Museum. My bullet train from Nagoya arrived at Shinjuku at night, so the first views were around the station at night. The familiar glow of stacked signage and busy sidewalks reinforced the fact that this is a very busy place…

Shinjuku outside the station. [HDR Photo]
Shinjuku outside the station. [HDR Photo]
During winter in Japan, especially around Christmas and New Year, many places are lit up with ‘Christmas Illuminations’. Many areas of Tokyo are lit up, some great spots are found in Roppongi, Ginza and Midtown, among others.

Shopping area next to Shinjuku Station, Tokyo at night.
Shopping area next to Shinjuku Station.
Kinokuniya Books (a great book store that stocks English titles) is in the building on the left.
Shinjuku at night, with shops and illuminated trees.
Shinjuku at night.
A street leading up to Shinjuku Station, lots of cars and shops and electronic signs.
A street leading up to Shinjuku Station.

Hanazono-jinja Shrine『花園神社』

While walking to my capsule hotel I was surprised to find myself walking through torii gates and into a shrine. Although the shrine was closed, the entire area was lit up and almost no-one around. A very different experience to your normal shrine visit in Japan.

Torii gates at night leading to Hanazono-jinja.
Torii gates leading to Hanazono-jinja.
Hanazono-jinja Shrine at night in Shinjuku, Tokyo.
Hanazono-jinja Shrine.

Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building
『東京都庁舎 / Tokyo-to Chosha』

After finding my capsule hotel and relaxing for the night, I woke the next morning with a single mission – to walk to the Tokyo Metro Government Building A.K.A Tokyo City Hall (that’s when the video of Shinjuku’s skyscraper district above was shot).

And one simple thing drew me here, the two free observation decks (forget paying over 1000円 at Tokyo Tower or Tokyo Skytree) inside the Metro Government Building’s Towers.

Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly building.
Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly.
Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building.
Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building.

Two free observation decks in the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building

The walk from Shinjuku Station would take about 10-15 minutes without stopping, it’s less than 1km. You can also take the Oedo Line and get off at Tocho-mae Station which is just a 3 minute walk to the towers.

Towers of the building also known as Tokyo City Hall.
Towers of the building also known as Tokyo City Hall.

The elevators inside the towers to the two observation decks are very fast. The observation decks are 202m high, compared to Tokyo Tower’s highest observation deck of 250m and Skytree’s stunning 450m observatory.

But, the views are still stunning…

I’d been to Tokyo Tower a few times before and Mt Fuji was always shy, shrouded in cloud. Mt Fuji is to the west of Shinjuku, and Tokyo Tower is further west of Shinjuku – so you probably get a better view of Fuji-san from Shinjuku…

Photos from Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building’s free observation decks

Mt Fuji and West Tokyo - View from the Tokyo Metro Building's observation deck.
Mt Fuji and West Tokyo – View from the Tokyo Metro Government Building’s observation deck.

I was in no rush, so I took the time to visit both towers. Tokyo City Hall is the tallest building in Shinjuku, and the photo below shows the second tallest building (just 8m shorter).

Shinjuku Park Tower as seen from the Tokyo Metro Building's observation deck.
Shinjuku Park Tower 『新宿パークタワー』as seen from the Tokyo Metro Building’s observation deck.
Tokyo Skytree in the distance over a sprawling Tokyo
Tokyo Skytree in the distance (the tallest building in view).
Shinjuku skyscrapers.
Shinjuku skyscrapers.
Tokyo city with Tokyo Tower in the distance.
In the center of this photo you can just make out Tokyo Tower.

In the second storey of the building is the information center. Make sure you check it out, as well as general tourist information they also sell souvenirs.

Lego version of the Tokyo Metro Government Building, Shinjuku, Japan.
Lego version of the Tokyo Metro Government Building, found in the information center in the building.

How to get to and around Shinjuku

Shinjuku Station is a central hub of Tokyo. It’s a Japan Rail station and shinkansen services stop here. There’s also a major bus terminal at the west gate. From Shinjuku Station to…

Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building: To walk, take the west exit of Shinjuku Station. You’ll come out somewhere near the bus terminal. With the station behind you, start walking down Chuo Dori – you’ll know you’re on the right street, just look for a 2 way street with a green strip of grass trees down the middle. After a few hundred metres you’ll see the towers. If you think you’re lost, just find an information map, there are plenty in the area.

The observatories are open from 9:30am to 11pm, final admission is at 10:30pm.

By train, take the Oedo subway line to Tochomae (literally translated to “in front of city hall”).

Walking directions:

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Hanazono-jinja Shrine『花園神社』: The shrine is a short walk, less than 10 minutes if you don’t get lost. Take the east exit of Shinjuku Station. This area is where the majority of shops are located. Looks for ABC Mart (a shoe shop) and walk down the paved mall. At the end of this block is a Family Mart, turn right at this convenience store. Cross the street where you’ll see a Lawson convenience store, with the store on your left, pass the store and take your next left, the shrine is less than 100m down this road.

I suggest you keep the directions below handy, or remember the phrase “sumimasen, Hanazono-jinja wa, doko desu ka?” (excuse me, where is Hanazono Shrine?).

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