When people say that Tokyo is a city that never sleeps, they must be referring to this particular neighborhood – Shinjuku. No other place in Tokyo can match its perpetual state of wakefulness. Come night time, its bright lights and maze of streets beckon crowds to enjoy its company. Whatever your definition of fun is, you will find it here. See if any of these hot spots match your interests:
1. Visit Kabukicho
East of JR Shinjuku Station lies Tokyo’s largest entertainment and red light district. Kabuchiko owns the night with its barrage of billboards advertising businesses catering to an array of late night activities: bars, restaurants, hostess and host clubs, arcades, movie and live performance theaters, love hotels, karaoke, and plenty other shops. Popular attractions that make Kabuchiko one of the most interesting places in Tokyo include internationally-featured Robot Restaurant and other bizarre-themed bars like The Lock Up.
2. Live Band Karaoke at Studio Himawari
Karaoke is a Tokyo night out staple, but somewhere in Shinjuku’s Kabukicho area, it is served with a twist. How about belting out your favorite tune accompanied by an electric guitar or even a saxophone? Let Studio Himawari feed your inner rockstar. There’s a band, a stage, a mic stand, food, and booze to last you until 7 AM. Pick a song and wow the crowd, either through sheer vocal prowess or something else like stage charisma.
Studio Himawari: http://www.pub-kara-himawari.com (Japanese only)
3. Jazz Shows at The Pit Inn
Of all the places in Tokyo, Shinjuku is the most idiosyncratic. Whatever floats your boat, it is highly likely to find something that will cater to your distinct tastes. As far as music goes, there is a home to every kind of genre from mainstream to avant-garde. Jazz, in particular, has a very strong following and this district’s representative bar is The Pit Inn. Considered an institution in the Tokyo Jazz scene, this club is an intimate space to zone out and enjoy the music. Nightly shows start at 8 PM featuring local and international artists.
The Pit Inn: http://www.pit-inn.com
4. Midnight Screenings at Shinjuku Wald 9 Cinema
Film buffs will be delighted to know that Shinjuku Wald 9 Cinemas screen flicks way past midnight. This movie theater complex is the largest in Japan with nine individual cinemas featuring the latest Japanese movies and Hollywood blockbusters. It goes without saying that facilities are top-notch. Its comfy seats and the use of digital projection technology ensure that moviegoers will have the most pleasurable viewing experience.
Wald 9 Cinemas: http://wald9.com/index.html (Japanese only)
5. Shinjuku Omoide Yokocho
Omoide Yokocho is the venue for the quintessential pub crawl experience in Tokyo. This narrow alley is a chock-full of tiny Izakayas and Yakitori joints, populated by locals after a long day at work. Its name literally translates to Memory Lane, which aptly describes the throwback vibe of the area. If you ever wonder how Tokyo used to look like before World War II, this little street will fill you in on the details.
Omoide Yokocho: http://www.shinjuku-omoide.com/english/index.html
6. Shinjuku Golden Gai
Same with nearby Omoide Yokocho, Golden Gai is worlds away from the swanky and modern developments that now dominate this side of the city. The ambiance is decidedly down-to-earth peppered with establishments that look a little bit run-down but full of character. There are about 200 of these bars, the majority of which are cramped spaces that can only seat less than ten people. It should be noted though that some places are exclusive to regulars or foreigners who can understand the language. Bars with English price list or menu posted out front are obviously a go, but there’s nothing wrong with mustering up the courage to simply walk in and test the waters. The worst thing that could happen is to be politely turned down, which isn’t really a big deal considering your many alternatives.
Golden Gai: http://www.goldengai.net/ (Japanese Only)
7. Late Night Shopping at Don Quijote
Don Quijote is a quirky shopping destination in Japan. It’s a fun place to get lost in because it contains floors upon floors of things you need, things you don’t need but want to have, and things you’d never thought necessary until you saw them on the shelf. It is designed to be a one-stop-shop selling pretty much every product category you can think of, and the best part is, the price tags are really cheap. There are over 160 Don Quijote branches all over Japan, but the one in Shinjuku is quite special because it is open 24/7. In case you need to do a last-minute shopping spree in the middle of the night, this store is your savior.
Don Quijote: http://www.donki.com/en/
8. Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building Observation Deck
There’s a spot in Shinjuku where you can admire Tokyo’s nightscapes for free. Tocho or the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building has two observation decks – North and South, but only the former has regular operations that extend until 10:30 PM. There’s an in-house café and bar so that you can enjoy the view over a few drinks.
Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building: http://www.metro.tokyo.jp/ENGLISH/OFFICES/observat.htm
9. New York Bar
New York Bar occupies Park Hyatt Hotel’s top floor. 52 stories up, you are in for one glamorous night out where the spectacular views outside are matched by classy servings of premium drinks and live jazz performances. If this scene looks a bit familiar, it was used as a filming location for the popular film Lost In Translation. Well, you wouldn’t mind getting lost here.
10. Shinjuku Copa Bowl
Bowling the night away at Shinjuku Copa Bowl is made more fun by a disco ball, some party music, black lights and glow in the dark balls and pins. If your group is the energetic bunch, this activity will certainly keep you moving until the break of dawn.
Copa Bowl: http://hmx-entame.com/copa/shinjuku/lang/en/
Thumbnail picture is from Flickr.