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Shinjuku is easily accessible and known for having one of Tokyo’s, and once you exit the station via the East Exit, you’ll find yourself in one of Japan’s biggest and most infamous entertainment districts: Kabukicho. Kabukicho is a great place to eat, drink, and party, with the neighborhood’s iconic neon lights still glowing from dusk to dawn.
Kabukicho had a strong image of being a purely nightlife neighborhood, and while there are still countless clubs and bars scattered around the area, many new tourist-oriented facilities have recently opened, creating a different image of Kabukicho. This article will introduce you to 10 fun and interesting things to do in this increasingly popular part of the Japanese capital.
1. Shinjuku Golden Gai
One place in Kabukicho not to be missed is Shinjuku’s Golden Gai. This street, lined with many izakaya (Japanese-style pubs), is filled with a nostalgic atmosphere of the Showa era. Many business people come here in the evening to relax with a drink after a long day at work. If you like to go out drinking, you can try the various restaurants here and try their specialty snacks and drinks.
2. Kabukicho Rouge Noren Gai
Kabukicho Red Noren Gai is an alleyway that opened up inside seven old houses after they were renovated. The street is decorated with red lanterns, which shine spectacularly at night, creating a night scene true to the original Kabukicho image. Many restaurants are located here, from standard izakaya with elements like yakitori et kushikatsu (pork chop skewers) on the menu, to restaurants that specialize in one thing, like chicken. At Kabukicho Red Noren Gai, you can experience a different vibe than Shinjuku Golden Gai, and it’s just as fun for a night out.
Official Site: Kabukicho Noren-gai rouge
3. Hanazono Shrine
Kabukicho has long been known as a nightlife district, but Hanazono Shrine is a peaceful sanctuary with a beautiful vermilion exterior. In the spring, many cherry trees bloom here, making it a popular place to enjoy the blossoms. Hanazono Shrine has a long history and has witnessed the development of Shinjuku for many centuries. Every November, the Tori-no-Ichi festival is held here, attracting many visitors in search of luck and a successful business.
Official Site: Hanazono Shrine
4. Director of TOHO Cinema Godzilla
You walk down the street in Kabukicho and look up at the sky… but what is it? A giant monster emerges from a high ceiling, glaring angrily at the blissfully ignorant masses marching below. Taking a closer look, we recognize the beast – it’s Godzilla! Godzilla’s head on the roof of the Kabukicho TOHO Cinema has become a tourist attraction in Kabukicho, with many people ready to take a photo every day at a certain time when Godzilla emits an impressive beam of light. You can even stay at the “Godzilla” hotel that the giant head is a part of!
5. Kinokuniya Library
Kinokuniya is a national bookstore chain, with the main branch located in Shinjuku. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that this is one of the largest bookstores in Japan, with the entire building on the 10th floor serving as a haven for book lovers. With a selection of books and magazines said to number over 1,000,000 articles, you’re sure to find something you want to read here. If you are having trouble finding the book you are looking for, we recommend using the “Kino Navi” machine located on each floor. It’s a trusted ally who can quickly search the store’s inventory and tell you where to find your book.
6. Yakuza series game location
Kabukicho is the setting for a very famous video game series called “Ryu ga Gotoku” (龍が如く, Yakuza series), which revolves around the world of yakuza and is very popular not only in Japan, but also abroad. The fictional “Kamurocho” area of the series is modeled after Kabukicho, and many Kabukicho buildings appear in the game, including the Kabukicho Tenkaichi Dori Arcade and the Strike Center. If you are a fan of the Yakuza video game series, you will love exploring this area to find the similarities.
Sakura-dori is another drinking street in Kabukicho, and numerous bars and taverns line the narrow street. It used to be called “one of the most dangerous places in Kabukicho”, but the security situation has improved considerably since a robotic restaurant opened on this street in 2012. Unfortunately, this robotic restaurant is now closed without any indication of its return, but the street is still very busy and attracts a lot of people. It’s also a great place to take photos of Kabukicho’s iconic neon signs!
Are you curious about ninjas, the mysterious warriors of ancient Japan? If so, you should definitely visit Ninja Trick House. Many activities allow you to fully immerse yourself in the world of ninjas, such as a dojo shuriken and a ninja karakuri house where you can try to solve the many mysteries of the house. If you want to experience what it’s like to be a ninja, this is the place to go!
Official Site: Ninja Tower House
Located in the central area of Kabukicho, Thermal-yu is an onsen resort that treats not only tourists, but also weary businessmen returning home from work. The interior of this onsen building has a beautiful and luxurious feeling like a high-end hotel. Outdoor hot springs are highly recommended, and hot spring water is transported from the famous Jindai-no-yu (神代の湯) in Shizuoka Prefecture and poured into this bath every day. After unwinding in the bath, you can relax in the hotel’s café-bar.
Official website: Hotspring-yu
10. Don Quixote
A few steps from Shinjuku station is a great Don Quixote that is open 24 hours. If you’re not already familiar with Don Quijote, it’s a discount chain with more than 220 locations across the country. They offer all kinds of products, from basic necessities to branded items, household appliances, as well as a wide range of food and beverages. There are also lots of great souvenirs, and they even have a duty-free counter, making it a great one-stop shop that won’t break the bank.
Which of these fascinating places and activities will you visit while in Kabukicho? There’s something for everyone, whether it’s eating and drinking all you can eat, living the life of a ninja, or relaxing in an onsen. Kabukicho’s lively atmosphere and bright lights will always be there to welcome you!
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