Why Shinjuku Is The Best Area to Stay in Tokyo

December 4, 2017 - Comment

The One Bag Traveler recommends Gear, Destinations and Adventures. It is difficult deciding where to stay in Tokyo, especially for your first time here, as it’s such a huge city with many diverse neighbourhoods. Although it’s easy to get around by train and metro, I prefer to walk where possible so wanted to stay in

The One Bag Traveler recommends Gear, Destinations and Adventures.

Tokyo free view from Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building in Shinjuku, the best area to stay in Tokyo

It is difficult deciding where to stay in Tokyo, especially for your first time here, as it’s such a huge city with many diverse neighbourhoods. Although it’s easy to get around by train and metro, I prefer to walk where possible so wanted to stay in an area with lots to do and tasty eats nearby.

The number one priority when choosing the best area to stay in Tokyo is good transport links. The size of the city can be overwhelming and sights are spread out, so you need to be able to get around easily. Taxis are expensive so it’s best to use the trains and metro—there’s a massive complicated network in the city.

Ideally choose somewhere to stay on the JR Yamanote train line which makes a loop around the city and many of the main attractions are accessible from it.

On our last two visits, we also chose to stay within walking distance of a major JR train station—Shinjuku and Shibuya—so that arriving and leaving the city would be easy, without an extra train trip.

You’ll also save money on transport costs by choosing Tokyo accommodation in an area with plenty of things to do, shopping, and restaurants within walking distance.

We’ve stayed in three different areas on our three visits to Tokyo—Nishi Ogikubo, Shinjuku, and Shibuya. I think Shinjuku is by far the best place to stay in Tokyo and here’s why:

Why Shinjuku Is The Best Area to Stay in Tokyo

It Looks Like Classic Tokyo

The view from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building in Shinjuku, the best place to stay in Tokyo

Shinjuku view from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building

Shinjuku is the modern Tokyo you dream of—a futuristic city of neon lights, towering skyscrapers, huge electronic stores, noisy arcades, gaudy pachinko parlours, and busy train stations.

There’s a great mix of business, shopping, entertainment, food, and quiet parks. There’s a bustling atmosphere and just walking the streets is exciting—especially on your first visit to the city when you can’t get over the fact that you are finally here!

There’s always plenty going on, but we didn’t find it overwhelmingly crowded, and there are quiet streets and parks to escape to. Shinjuku is the world’s busiest station, though, so avoid it at rush hour.

Arcades near Shinjuku Station, Tokyo

Arcades near Shinjuku Station

Memory Lane

Memory Lane in Tokyo

Memory Lane

One of the things I love most about Shinjuku is the mix of modern and traditional. Memory Lane (Omoide Yokocho) is my favourite street in Tokyo, and although it’s right next to Shinjuku Station and neon billboards tower over it, it feels like you’ve stepped back in time as you wander the narrow alleyways that have barely changed since WW2. It’s a great place to grab some yakitori from one of the tiny restaurants that seat just a few people at the counter.

Delicious Varied Food

Spicy vegan ramen in Tokyo at Shinjuku Gyoen Ramen Ouka

Spicy vegan ramen at Ramen Ouka

Shinjuku is one of the best locations for foodies in Tokyo. Even as vegetarians we had a vast amount of choice within a 15-minute walk of our Airbnb from high-end kaiseki to vending machine ramen joints. There is something for every taste and budget.

Here are our favourite places to eat in Shinjuku:

  • Zen – Delicious okonomiyaki cooked on the grill in front of you with traditional and modern varieties including vegetarian options.
  • Shinjuku Gyoen Ramen Ouka – Halal and vegan ramen ordered from a vending machine—the spicy ramen is so good!
  • Tsunahachi – High-end tempura without the high prices. Get the lunch set for the best deal.
  • Milk Land – A cute vegetarian cafe with a great value lunch set.
  • Curry House CoCo Ichibanya – The Memory Lane branch of this curry chain has a vegetarian menu.

See my guide to vegetarian restaurants in Tokyo for more details.

Walking Distance to Sights

Swinging guitarist at the Robot cafe in Tokyo

The insane Robot Restaurant show

There are lots of things to do in Shinjuku:

  • Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building – Get a free view of the Tokyo skyline. In the mornings you might see Mt Fuji and at night you can see the city lit up.
  • Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden – One of Tokyo’s most beautiful parks.
  • Robot Restaurant – The most insane show you’ll ever see. Read our Robot Restaurant review.
  • Yoyogi Park and Harajuku – It’s a longish but pleasant walk from Shinjuku. 

Read my guide to cool things to do in Tokyo for more details.

Shinjuku is extremely well connected for exploring the city. The train lines we found most useful were the Yamanote line which makes a loop around many of the city’s main areas and the Chuo line which heads to Tokyo Station (for bullet trains) and out to the Ghibli Museum.

There are also metro lines, direct access to the airport on the comfortable Narita Express, and direct access to Hakone (perfect if you want to take a day trip to see Mount Fuji).

Golden Gai

Golden Gai in Shinjuku, Tokyo

The narrow streets of the Golden Gai (before it gets busy later in the night).

If you are looking for nightlife, Shinjuku has plenty of options. The most atmospheric place to bar hop is the unique Golden Gai, a network of narrow lanes with dozens of tiny bars.

Shopping

We’re not shoppers but even we couldn’t…

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