© iStock/Sunil Naik
© iStock/Sunil Naik

Kabukicho, Shinjuku: Asia’s largest nightlife district

3 minutes to read

Shinjuku is one of the most popular areas in Tokyo for tourists visiting Japan. It is the biggest station in Japan, with many popular department entrances attached and underground shops within the station buildings. You can spend hours just at this station. Shinjuku offers many interesting tourist attractions, like the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, the Samurai Museum and Shinjuku Gyoen Royal Park, as well as a large number of accommodations, countless shops, bars, cafes and restaurants. Shinjuku is popular during the day, but also at night as it contains one of Asia's largest nightlife districtsKabukicho.

© iStock/Siraphol
© iStock/Siraphol

Kabukicho has an image of a “sleepless town”. It is always lively, filled with domestic travellers and visitors from overseas. There are so many different types of nightlife entertainment available at Kabukicho, so you will find the one that suits your style. It is important to do some research before, though, as there are some sketchy places in Kabukicho

The name "Kabukicho" originates from the Kabuki theater called "Kikuza", which was originally planned to be constructed. Kabukicho was initially an area where poor people lived, but after the war, reconstruction was underway under the concept of "making it a cultural and lively city." With this trend, Kabukicho was born in 1948. Eventually, Kikuza was not built, but from 1956, Tokyo Bunka Kaikan, Japan's largest movie theater "Milanza" and the "Shinjuku Koma Theater" (which was later called the Enka Hall) were built. And Kabukicho became a cultural and lively area of Shinjuku. It took a while, but the original concept was finally achieved. Kabukicho offers everything from popular spots like Shinjuku Golden Gai to places where you can experience the latest technology.

© iStock/aon168
© iStock/aon168

Shinjuku Golden Gai 

Shinjuku Golden Gai is located about a 15-minute walk from the east exit of Shinjuku station. With Kabukicho on the front and Hanazono Shrine on the back, it is a corner of the valley of a building that seems to be left behind the times. There are about 300 old and new bars with strong individuality in the Golden Gai, on the surface smaller than a soccer field. Since Shinjuku Golden Gai has a long history, there are implicit rules among customers. The first one is not to stay in one store long. At Golden Gai, it is common to go through several stores throughout the night. Also, since all the shops are small, it is wise to enjoy Golden Gai by moving along different shops. The second rule is to go with a small group. Golden Gai's special feature is interaction over the counter with a clerk or owner and with other customers. You would love Golden Gai’s nostalgic and funky style shops. Follow the Golden Gai’s golden rule and enjoy the special Golden Gai energy which you cannot find elsewhere.

Golden Gai, Shinjuku, Tokyo
Golden Gai, Shinjuku, Tokyo
1-chōme-1-6 Kabukichō, Shinjuku City, Tokyo 160-0021, Japan

Toho cinema, a building with a famous Godzilla head

© iStock/AlxeyPnferov
© iStock/AlxeyPnferov

Japan's largest cinema complex, TOHO Cinemas, was opened in 2015 on the site of the Shinjuku Koma Theater. On the roof of this building, a Godzilla head of the same size as the initial setting of the movie "Godzilla" is installed. What's more, Godzilla barks and shoots a beam with Godzilla's theme song nine times a day between 12 pm and 8 pm. If you want to see Godzilla closer, you can stay at Hotel Gresley or drop into Cafe Terrace Bonjour. You will not only be able to see Godzilla up closer but also directly touch Godzilla and make him bark. The powerful Godzilla head overlooking Kabukicho is a must-see.

TOHO Cinemas, Shinjuku, Tokyo
TOHO Cinemas, Shinjuku, Tokyo
Shinjuku Toho Building, 3f, 1-chōme-19-1 Kabukichō, 新宿区 Shinjuku City, Tokyo 160-0021, Japan

Thermae-yu, a real onsen in the middle of Kabukicho

© iStock/Tomophotography
© iStock/Tomophotography

Thermae-Yu is located in the middle of Kabukicho, and it offers a 24-hour open, real natural onsen bath experience. There is the indoor bath which changes the theme daily, and the outside bath. Thermae-Yu has not only natural hot springs but also saunas and bedrock baths. The most recommended of these is the Finnish-born "leil healing". When you enter the Thermae-Yu and pay the entrance fee, you can rent everything you need for the onsen experience, from towels to dressing gown type clothing. There are a couple of restaurants, a bar, a café, and a 24-hour open relaxation lounge. Thermae-Yu could be an oasis for you if you hung out in Kabukicho all night.

Thermae-yu, Shinjuku. Tokyo
Thermae-yu, Shinjuku. Tokyo
1-chōme-1-2 Kabukichō, Shinjuku City, Tokyo 160-0021, Japan

If you are in Shinjuku, why not experience the sleepless town of Shinjuku, Kabukicho, the biggest nightlife district in Asia. You can party all night in Kabukicho and feel its unique energy. One thing is sure, your Kabukicho experience will spice up your stay in Tokyo.


The author

Mayo Harry

Mayo Harry

Hi, I am Mayo from Japan. Travelling around the world and Japan since my late teens, my life has been a continuation of trips. I am excited to share my knowledge and experiences of Japan with all of you.

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