Close your eyes and picture Tokyo…. what do you see?
Fluorescent neon lights, outlandish architecture, gigantic department stores, picturesque parks, side street bars, penthouse karaoke, Bill Murray, michelin star restaurants, the odd robot maybe?
If the above is what you envisage, then Shinjuku is the place to be. A city within a city, it’s built around the busiest train station in the world and can be divided up into 3 main parts, South, West and the ever-popular East.
Depending upon which exit you choose, your experience can deeply vary. The newly developed South aims to bridge the gap between the renowned Shibuya area, whereas the Dr Dre side (Nishi) is populated with an abundance of suits working in structures that aptly scrape the sky. Once these workers have ‘clocked out’, they make the daily pilgrimage to the Nas side (Higashi), which is regarded as one of the best shopping and entertainment districts throughout the whole of Japan.
However don’t be fooled by the above knowledge, this was only acquired upon my return. Whilst out there, the most I knew was Shinjuku was the place to be and I was uncharacteristically ‘winging it’.
Exiting though the East, I soon found myself casually walking through the largest and apparently ‘wildest’ red light district in Asia. However upon reflection – I was clueless. From exploring and photographing the area, it was hard to differentiate between the ‘normal’ Shinjuku and the Kabukicho. At a stretch the only real tell tale signs were the persistent (interestingly) Nigerian touts claiming the best night out on the town, and the odd passed out drunk. But to most, or at least myself, that’s a standard night on Broad Street or Deansgate Locks.. So you could tell I was shocked when I returned home to read several articles embellishing the teeming criminal activity within the area.
From my own experience I can confirm that none of the activity is visible from the exterior, however It may be a whole different story behind closed doors. Nevertheless I would definitely recommend visiting the Kabukicho if you get the chance. Purely for the experience, and by that I mean a night time stroll or dining at the Robot Restaurant, rather than being roped into a love hotel or hostess club – but of course that’s your prerogative!
Situated on the Big Pun side of the station, the park officially stretches 144 acres in size, making it one of Tokyo’s largest and most famous parks. For the meagre price of ¥200 (£1.20) you gain access to a teahouse, museum and three main gardens; French formal, traditional Japanese and English landscape.