You might have heard the somewhat cliched phrase “the city that never sleeps” before, but it wasn’t until I landed in Japan that I realized how perfectly that phrase describes Tokyo. Particularly in the popular nightlife district Shinjuku, Tokyo is as busy at night as it is through the day, which is definitely an accomplishment!
In fact, there are so many different things to do in Tokyo at night that the sheer amount of choice can be overwhelming. Unless you’re planning on moving there, it’s likely that your time in Tokyo will be limited, so it’s best to plan ahead and find activities or locations that you know you’ll personally enjoy. The good news is Shinjuku is one of Tokyo’s liveliest districts, and it caters to all kinds of interests and crowds.
8 Things To Do In Shinjuku At Night
1. Listen to Jazz at New York Bar
More information about the Jazz New York Bar Here.
〒160-0023 Tokyo, Shinjuku City, Nishishinjuku, 3 Chome−7−1 パークハイアット東京 – open from 5pm – 1am
What could be better to kickstart our list than sitting fifty-two stories up at Park Hyatt Hotel’s gorgeous luxury space, New York Bar? Park Hyatt is one of the most luxurious hotels in Tokyo, and the jazz bar on its top floor is a very popular place to visit. They offer a very wide range of drinks and food, and a live band plays regularly. It’s a very classy place, so definitely not the place to go in shorts and a t-shirt, and the drinks menu is known for being a little costly. It’s not just the drinks you’re paying for, though – it’s the breathtaking view.
This is definitely more of, shall we say, a “touristy choice, and there is a cover charge for those not already staying at the hotel. Many people choose to come here to relive moments from the film ‘Lost in Translation’, which stars Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson and was set within Park Hyatt’s many floors. It can get busy, but if you take a look over the thousands of reviews, you’ll see that it’s probably worth it just for that view.
2. Watch A Movie at Shinjuku Wald 9 Cinema
3-1-26 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo – opening times vary depending on the day, so check out showtimes online for the day you’d like to visit.
Anime fans will love Wald 9 since they show the latest anime releases with English subtitles months before you’ll get the chance to see them anywhere other than Japan. In fact, before the international success of “Your Name” and its unrelated sequel “Weathering With You”, it could be a good year or so because you could legitimately see new anime, so this will be a real treat. Plus, there’s a cool gift shop with movie merchandise that’s hard to get elsewhere, so you can pick yourself up a souvenir!
3. Travel To The Future At Robot Restaurant
You can find more information on times and prices on their official site here.
〒160-0021 Tokyo, Shinjuku City, Kabukicho, 1 Chome−7−7 新宿ロボットビル B2F
If you’ve never had your dinner served to you by somebody dressed in a neon flashing glow suit while giant robots make a show all around you then frankly, you haven’t lived. Performers at Robot Restaurant put on a fantastic 90-minute show filled with dancing, singing, dramatic plots, and more. Foreigners who visit here say the shows are fantastic – weird, but fantastic. It’s also completely family-friendly, so if you’re traveling with children you can trust they won’t see anything that’s not age-appropriate. They’ll get a complete sensory overload, but that’s part of the fun.
They update the show every six months or so, so if you’ve been before but you’re traveling partner hasn’t don’t worry – it’s likely you’ll be seeing an updated, or even completely new show. While the food receives mostly average reviews, most people eat here for the experience. You can buy tickets at a kiosk across the street from the entrance, or you can save a little money by booking them online.
4. Catch A Drink At Golden Gai
Find more information about what Golden Gai has to offer here.
Opening times are varied, since there are so many bars here.
If simply reading about Robot restaurant has given you a migraine, then perhaps you’ll be more suited to the calm and relaxed district of bars and restaurants known as Golden Gai. Set apart from the busy streets and livelier part of Shinjuku, Golden Gai has about 200 bars that are notably less flashy, and more down-to-earth. There’s a wide variety of choices here, as each bar has its own style and theme, so you’re sure to find something that suits your tastes perfectly.
Many people choose to end their night here, as many of the bars are open late, and it’s a great way to “wind-down” after a busy night in Shinjuku.
5. Take A Trip Down Memory Lane (literally) at Omiode Yokocho
Find out more information about Omiode Yokocho here.
1 Chome-2 Nishishinjuku, Shinjuku City, Tokyo 160-0023 – open 24 hours
Omiode Yakocho literally means “memory alley”, so you literally can take a stroll down memory lane. They won’t be your memories at the time, but the metaphor still works. This area is actually a maze of narrow alleyways filled to the brim with tiny restaurants mostly serving yakatori (Japanese BBQ, or grilled meat and vegetables of all sorts).
The area served as something of a black-market post WW2, but now is a very safe and pleasant place to visit full of tiny izakayas and yakatori restaurants, most too small to serve more than 12 people at a time. Most people love to see the diverse range of patrons unless they’re opposed to lots of smoke because smoking is permitted here.
As somebody who’s pretty averse to the smell of smoke, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to eat here comfortably. But, because most of the restaurants are open at the front it’s not as oppressive as you might expect. The food soon distracts you from the smell of cigarettes, as it’s delicious, and you get to choose from a selection of skewers while the chef cooks everything in front of you.
The atmosphere is quite friendly too, and you might even get chatting to people you’ve never met, simply because you’re sitting close to them. Don’t let that put you off introverts - even if you don’t want to eat here, it’s worth taking a stroll through the maze just to see the beautiful, old décor.
6. Shop 'Till You Drop At Don Quijote
Learn more about Don Quijote and their many locations here.
1 Chome-16-5 Kabukicho, Shinjuku City, Tokyo 160-0021
If you’re fed up with food, or wide-awake because of jetlag, this gigantic shopper’s metropolis could be your savior. Don Quijote is an incredibly popular chain of discount stores across Japan, but the Shinjuku location is open twenty-four hours a day. For many, just being able to browse in the middle of the night will be a novelty, but the branch has a huge selection of products too, both novelty and not-so-novelty.
It can be fun to visit here just to see the kitschy products you can buy, but the shopping center also has lots of other services, They offer duty-free shopping, take payments in foreign currency, and even do airport delivery, so this could be the perfect place to do your last-minute souvenir run while you wait for a 4 am flight. It also has free wifi, so if you’re lost in Shinjuku and need to catch your bearings, head to the giant Don Quijote near the east exit of Shinjuku train station and find your way again.
7. Relax at one of Tokyo’s best jazz clubs – Shinjuku Pit Inn
Learn more about Shinjuku Pit Inn from their official website here.
〒160-0022 Tokyo, Shinjuku City, 新宿区Shinjuku, 2 Chome−12−4 アコードビル
If you’re just looking for a nice relaxed environment to enjoy a nice drink and live music, The Pit Inn could be perfect for you. This venue is considered a respected staple of the Tokyo jazz scene and provides an intimate space to listen to some of Tokyo’s best bands and solo artists.
On occasion, even international artists play here, so depending on when you visit you might get to see some really diverse acts. Their website has a comprehensive list of upcoming bookings, so head over if you’ve already got your travel dates in mind!
8. Sing your heart out at Studio Himawari
Learn more about Studio Himawari from Tripadvisor here.
〒160-0022 Tokyo, Shinjuku City, 新宿区Shinjuku, 2 Chome−12−4 アコードビル
Karaoke is a hugely popular pastime in Japan – not only do they love it, but it was pretty much invented there. Your taste of Tokyo nightlife would be incomplete without a little bit of karaoke! Normally, karaoke in Japan is a highly technical affair, but at Studio Himawari you get the chance to sing with a live band! It’s every aspiring singer’s dream! This quaint little bar is a favorite with karaoke-lovers, and it’s run by a husband and wife team who are often the ones who play the instruments you sing along to!
Compared to other karaoke bars, this venue does have a higher cover charge (about 3000-yen), but the rave reviews speak for themselves, and for the fantastic quality of the food and service on offer. This isn’t the easiest place to find, but the best places rarely are, so be prepared to do a little satnav snooping to find this hidden gem. It’s open until 7 am, and sometimes even later than that if the bar is packed and everyone is having a good time, so you’ve got no excuse to miss out!
There’s Plenty More To Do If You’re Willing To Pull A Few All-nighters
It’s worth noting that even though this is a thriving part of Japan’s nightlife, you don’t have to worry about being unsafe as you would with many other areas around the world. Japan is a very safe country for the most part. Even the “red-light” area Kabukichō is surprisingly safe, and many people wander around alone at all hours without worrying about any dangers.
Of course, no country is crime-free, and you should always be aware of what’s going on around you in any foreign country, but if you’re concerned that an area with such a busy nightlife would be dangerous for you – don’t be. This is as safe to visit as any other part of Japan.