The Tokyo Metropolitan Building, also known as Tokyo City hall, houses the headquarters of Tokyo's Metropolitan government. It's a large complex formed by 3 structures, which was designed by the renown architect Kenzo Tange and built from 1998 to late 1990. Featuring two twin towers with a height of 243 meters and 48 stories, the construction held the title of Tokyo's highest building from 1991 to 2006, when it was succeeded by the Midtown Tower in Akasaka.
The building is located within a short walk from Shinjuku Station's West exit and features two panoramic observation decks on the 45th floor of each tower at a height of 202 meters. The observatories offer impressive views of Shinjuku's skyscraper district and can be accessed free of charge. The north tower's observatory is considerably more popular since it closes later than the north one (up until 11PM), allowing visitors to enjoy Shinjuku's spectacular night lights.
Shinjuku Gyoen is one of Tokyo's biggest and most visited parks and it's located in a 10 minute walk east from Shinjuku Station. Its origins date back from the feudal era, when it was part of a huge private residence which was eventually transformed into a botanical garden. In 1879 the property was transferred to the imperial family and the grounds were reformed into its current configuration. Most of the garden was destroyed during World War II, but rebuilt shortly after and opened to the public in 1949.
The garden has an extension of around 58 hectares arranged in three different styles: a French formal garden, an English landscape garden and a traditional Japanese garden, which is the oldest of them all and features several ponds, artificial islands and a Taiwanese teahouse. Among the 200.000 trees planted in Shinjuku Gyoen there are around 1500 cherry trees, making it one of the most popular spots to enjoy Hanami (cherry blossom viewing) in Tokyo during March and April.
Kabukicho is Tokyo's largest red-lights district, located northeast of Shinjuku Station. Its name derives from a Kabuki theater which was planned in the area after World War II, but was never constructed and nowadays it's also referred to as the "Sleepless Town", due to its intense activity all day long. Kabukicho is home to more than 3000 entertainment establishments such as bars, restaurants, nightclubs, game parlors, cinemas and all kinds of adult-related businesses, making it one of Tokyo's most interesting and busy nightlife hubs.
The entrance of Kabukicho is clearly signed with a red-coloured gate and can be pleasantly explored on foot. At nights, thousands of neon signs and billboards light up the streets, forming a truly unique sight. Despite being an area frequented by yakuza members (Japanese mafia) who run some of the businesses, it is perfectly safe to stroll the streets at any time of the day thanks to the strong police presence.
East of Kabukicho lies what is known as the Golden Gai, a network of narrow alleys which house over 200 tiny bars and clubs. Most of these establishments date from the second half of the 20th century and still retain an old-style atmosphere, which contrasts heavily with the modern streets of Kabukicho. Even if nowadays it has become somewhat touristy, the area is usually frequented by regular local costumers and only a few bars offer English menus.
JR Shinjuku Station
All of the attractions in Shinjuku are located at a walking distance from Shinjuku Station. Due to the massive size of the station, it is recommended to locate the closest exit to the desired visiting point before getting out.