Shinjuku 新宿区 was my base camp for all three of my Tokyo expeditions. The reason is the absolute convenience and, probably with the exception of arts and cultural stuff, you adequately can do everything in Shinjuku. I have indeed grown to love this part of Tokyo from spending a lot time there. Here is what I saw in Spring 2012, and Spring and Autumn 2013.
The Shinjuku Station is home to the largest network of buses and trains linking to most part of the metropolis and beyond. And, that is the biggest reason why I will continue to choose Shinjuku as my base even for my future trips to Tokyo. It saved me plenty of headaches since I could purchase most tickets there. Also, saved me plenty of time as they had the most direct routes possible to the places I planned to go including to and fro from the Narita Airport.
The tricky thing was to find the right platform out of the 36 managed by five railway operators. I was told that there was a time when there were not any English wayfinders at all, but that has all changed. Armed with a pocket WIFI, Google Maps (provides very detailed and accurate info), and some proper (sometimes haphazard) planning, I had no problems getting where I need to be.
Most of the restaurants, major shopping malls, independent retailers, attractions, and entertainment outlets in the city wards surrounds the Shinjuku Station making the place really crowded. It was always amazing to see a never ending stream of sharply-dressed Tokyo residents striding in and out of the train station, offices, restaurants, bars, and shops 24/7.
One of my favourite places to shop is right above the station; Lumine 1 & 2. Filled with some of my favourite brands such as United Arrows, Journal Standard, Urban Research, Steven Alan and Bag ‘n’ Noun, it is my menswear heaven.
When the city gets dark, it gets particularly more interesting as compared to the rest of the metropolis. Shinjuku is very much alive at night. Kabukicho is a red light district, and you will find more than a few love hotels and host/hostess clubs operating here. Even though, I have been approached by one of the hostess’ “manager” (one that was fairly straightforward; when he discovered I couldn’t understand Japanese, he simply whispered: Sex?), it is still a very safe place to visit for anyone.
If you are into yakitoris, you should check out Golden Gai and Omoide Yokocho, otherwise known as the Piss Alley. Don’t worry, there are no Gai (chicken; Cantonese slang for hookers) there and it only stinks of delicious yakitories, if anything at all. The restaurants are really tiny, and most of them consist of a counter with only six seats. But, it is really a great place to have late night supper, and hang out with the locals.
I have a ritual of ending each of my day back at the hotel by going into one of the many 24 hours convenience stores found all over Tokyo, such as Lawson, 7-Eleven, FamilyMart, etc, and buy some snacks and fruit puddings for supper.
I have stayed in two hotels and an Airbnb apartment in total while I was there.
I believe Hotel Sunroute Plaza Shinjuku is one of the rare hotels that hit all the right notes with price, location and comfort. It was perfect for my first visit to Japan. Skip Agoda and book via their website for the best deals and service.
The Airbnb apartment I stayed is just situated right behind the Hotel Sunroute Plaza. So, I achieved some form continuity for my second trip, however I had to switch to Hotel Washington Shinjuku at the end of that trip, and it was horrible. On my third trip with my family, I made my return to Hotel Sunroute Plaza, and everyone was pleased with their stay.