The Best Way To Spend 24 Hours in the Heart of Shinjuku

One of the many wards in the capital of Japan, Shinjuku is a city that has everything from mega malls to ancient gardens. In the day, Shinjuku is a bustling business district filled with the clicking and clacking of busy feet that have places to be, things to do. But at night, neon lights illuminate the streets as stoic businessmen melt into their sharp suits, red-faced and cheery from booze. We never recommend spending just one day at this colourful city, but if 24 hours is all you’ve got, here’s how you should spend it.


9.00 A.M. Light and Fluffy

Pancakes are inarguably the best way to start your morning. Begin your day of exploration with a hearty breakfast at Sarabeth’s at Shinjuku Lumine (accessible from Shinjuku Station). This eatery is a franchise of the popular American brunch hideout (it’s from New York), and serves a bountiful selection of thick, airy buttermilk pancakes, made with fresh local milk and flour, paired with sweet strawberries (S$15.80/1,250JPY). Heavy eater? Fill yourself up with the classic Smoked Salmon Eggs Benedict (S$19.60/1,550JPY).

View this post on Instagram

モエ・エ・シャンドン ロゼ アンペリアルのポップアップラウンジ LOVE THE NOW “EMOËTICON LOUNGE” 4/1よりサラベス東京店 店舗3階のルーフトップテラスに期間限定オープン! “LOVE THE NOW”をテーマに、ロゼシャンパン「ロゼ アンペリアル」との極上マリアージュを楽しめるメニューを提供します。 東京店のルーフトップテラスは、八重洲さくら通りを目前にした、知る人ぞ知るお花見の絶交スポットなんです。 春の風を感じながらの優雅なひと時、ぜひご来店くださいネ。 詳細はこちらから #sarabeths #sarabeth #sarabethstokyo #sakura #cherryblossom #yaesu #tokyo #emoeticonlounge #moet #rose #champagne #lovethenow #terrace #rooftop #sakura #サラべス #サラベス東京 #モエ #シャンパン #お花見 #テラス #ルーフトップテラス #モエエシャンドン #ロゼアンペリアル #エモエティコン #八重洲 #東京レストラン #期間限定 #桜 #イベント #東京駅

A post shared by Sarabeth's JAPAN (@sarabethsjapan) on

10.30 A.M. Whiskers

From Shinjuku Lumine, take a short 700m walk (through the South-East exit of Shinjuku Station) to our next recommendation: Cat Cafe Calico. This cat cafe is an unlikely find in the district, but a gem nonetheless. Cat cafes are popular amongst local pet lovers, as the strict housing regulations prevent a lot of them from having their own fluffy companions. As its name suggests, Cat Cafe Calico is home to various breeds of felines, from purebred Persians to ordinary Tabby cats. While your morning away with a cuddly cat in one arm, and a manga comic in another.


1.00 P.M. In the Clouds

Next, either take the Toei Odeo line from Shinjuku Station to Tochomae Station, or walk 20 minutes through the thick of the city to arrive at Tokyo Metropolitan Building. Built in 1991, this tower offers another perspective of the quirky city, all the way from the 45th floor. See Tokyo in its full glory, for absolutely free. If you’re lucky, you may even be able to catch a white blip rising from the distance—the iconic Mt Fuji.


The view from the Tokyo Metropolitan Building on a superbly clear day.


14:00PM: Crunchy Pork Cutlets

Head back to Shinjuku Station, this time exiting at Takashimaya Building. It’s time for lunch at the tonkotsu heaven, Katsukura. The exterior of the establishment is ho-hum, but a few steps past the noren (traditional fabric dividers) and you will find yourself in a contemporary Japanese gastropub. Try their specialty pork cutlets in the Premium Kurobuta Sets (S$25/1,980JPY) or have a seafood feast with the Crab Meat Croquette Set (S$22.50/1,780JPY).


3.00 P.M. The Green Side

Just five minutes away from Takashimaya Building is the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. There are pristine gardens all over Japan, but this green gem in Shinjuku definitely takes the cake. Located just southwest of the world’s busiest transport hub, the beautiful park stands out among the modern architecture in the area. The 144-acre park was constructed in 1906 and incorporates elements of French, English and traditional Japanese gardens. The result—a fairytale-esque garden that blossoms every spring, marking the arrival of the cherry blossom festival.


Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden is one of only a few Edo Period gardens that still exist today. (Image credit: Craig Wyzik Olympia via Wiki Commons)


6.30 P.M. Retail Therapy

With 17 shopping malls and three department stores in the heart of Shinjuku, you must find time for retail therapy no matter what. For upmarket items, head to Isetan Flagship Store (10 minutes from Shinjuku Gyeon National Garden). More of a tech geek? Try Yodobashi Camera Shinjuku Nishiguchi (five minutes from Shinjuku Station). But for everything else you didn’t know you needed, there’s Don Quijote (a 10-minute walk northwest from Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, towards the Kabukicho district). Tucked away near the red light district of Kabukicho, this quirky emporium sells everything from vending machine costumes to rainbow toilet seat covers. Cluttered, disorganised and disorientating, there is always something outrageous that is worth taking home.


(Image credit: Ray Tsang from Irvine, USA via Wiki Commons)

9.00 P.M. Kick Back with a Beer or Two

As the night falls, a whole new side of Shinjuku emerges. The infamous red light district of Kabukicho erupts with color as the dazzling bars and lounges open for business.

But in only in Golden Gai can you see the remnants of the rustic postwar nightlife. Bringing this street to life are the tiny ramshackle bars that line the alleyways. Here, you can wind down after a long day, as you guzzle ice cold beers and polish off plates of local delicacies. Don’t speak a word of Japanese? Don’t worry—the phrase “drink and be merry” transcends all barriers, so ahead and let loose!


Check out 7 Must-See Spring Festivals And Events To Catch in Tokyo, Chasing Spring in Japan: Your Best Bet At Catching Cherry Blossoms, and Can Sanrio Characters Get Any Quirkier?

Ready to embark on your adventure?
Grab the Japan Rail Pass, an efficient and economical means of getting around Japan.
Reserve your ChangiWifi router for UNLIMITED internet 24-7, at as low as $5/day*.
Beat the queue and book those attraction tickets and day tours with us—no frills, no fuss.


Sarabeth’s: Shinjuku Lumine, Japan, 〒160-0022 Tōkyō-to, Shinjuku-ku, 新宿区新宿3丁目38−2

Cat Cafe Calico: Japan, 〒160-0021 Tōkyō-to, Shinjuku-ku, 新宿区Kabukichō, 1 Chome−1−16−2

Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building: 2 Chome Nishishinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tōkyō-to 160-0023, Japan

Katsukura: Japan, 〒160-0022 Tōkyō-to, Shinjuku, 4 Chome−1−1, 新宿サウスアベニュー

Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden: 11 Naitōmachi, Shinjuku-ku, Tōkyō-to 160-0014, Japan

Isetan Flagship Store: 3 Chome-14-1 Shinjuku, 新宿区 Shinjuku-ku, Tōkyō-to 160-0022, Japan

Camera Kitamura Shinjuku Japan: Japan, 〒160-0023 Tōkyō-to, Shinjuku-ku, Nishishinjuku, 7 Chome−9−15 ダイカンプラザビジネス清田ビル2階

Don Quijote: 1 Chome-16-5 Kabukichō, Shinjuku-ku, Tōkyō-to 160-0021, Japan

Golden Gai District: 1 Chome-1 Kabukichō, Shinjuku-ku, Tōkyō-to 160-0021, Japan