Going to Tokyo? Dump your bags at your hotel, get on the train and head directly to Shinjuku. Sure, it’s crowded, but it’s also vibrant, Shinjuku is Tokyo’s neon nightlife capital. Here’s why you need to visit.
To see the love hotels
The red light district within Shinjuku called Kabukicho is known as ‘the sleepless town’ for good reason. Here it’s 24/7 neon with a maze of hotels and spots for night-time revelry. It’s also full of pachinko parlours (aka loud and bright pokies). A word of warning when walking the streets to Kabukicho, touts trying to get you into their establishments are best ignored, just keep walking and choose regular bars without touts outside. For a night you won’t forget, try spending it in a love hotel. At establishments such as Hotel Atlas, you can book ‘romance’ themed rooms with heart shaped beds, karaoke ballads and rom-com movies. Some hotels have private spas, costumes and in-room light shows. https://hotel-atlas.jp
Go bar hopping
When in Shinjuku, the Lost in Translation drink (from the famous movie) is still popular the New York Bar at the Park Hyatt Shinjuku. Other highlights include 8Bit Café, a bar where you can play nostalgic video games and also read Japanese cartoons freely. To get a bird’s eye view of the area, head to Rooftop Bar & Terrace G. It offers breathtaking view of the city, great for photo opportunities and is perfect for drinking outside in the summer. Meanwhile, Bar Benfiddich is a contender for the coolest looking bar in Shinjuku with décor modelled on a vintage European bar.
Visit Memory Lane
In Shinjuku’s Memory Lane (also known as Piss Alley), a quiet passageway lit up with red Japanese lanterns, you can sample some of the fresh fish sashimi. Tokyo's old-school alleyways or yokocho are treasure troves for anyone looking to experience the city's historic side, many date back to the early postwar years. Inside are incredible restaurants and bars. Grab a stool and ask for a nama-biiru (draft beer). http://shinjuku-omoide.com/
Just outside of the alleyways are neon lit supermalls, including a giant Uniqlo department store. Tokyo's most famous department stores are clustered around Shinjuku Station's exits. Lumine shopping centre at the station is great for the younger set, while grown-ups love the old school department stores like Isetan, once a kimono store opened in the 1800s. The floors of the Isetan, Keio, Odakyu and Takashimaya department stores are packed full of designer wear and their basement floors overflow with incredible edible fare.
Visit the Samurai Museum
This is a must-visit destination for those interested in old Japan and the storied history of combat and conflict that characterised the country up through the late 16th century. You’ll spy more than 70 selections of samurai armor, and you can also dress up in replica armor, don a kabuto helmet, and witness combat reenactments by skilled swordsmen. If you make a reservation you can try your hand at a Japanese sword course. https://www.samuraimuseum.jp/en/
Take a bike tour
Only have a day to see Tokyo? No problem, the day-long Cool Tokyo Ride takes you through Ginza in the city’s heart, across to Shiba Park and past Tokyo Tower and then through Aoyama Cemetery. Stop for lunch at Yoyogi Park before taking a walking tour of the landscaped Meiji Shrine precinct, and then it’s off to explore the Yotsuya neighbourhood of Shinjuku. The tour ends back in the CBD with a visit to the outer grounds of the Imperial Palace. More: tokyocycling.jp.
To Go: Visit https://www.gotokyo.org
Qantas flies direct to Tokyo. You can get a feel for Japanese design in Qantas Business Class. Their crockery was designed by Japanese tableware company Noritake together with Australian Industrial Designer David Caon. qantas.com