10 Best Things to Do in Kabukicho

kabukicho To do in Tokyo
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Writer’s profile

Mao Goto is a Japanese freelancer who was born in Hayama, Kanagawa prefecture and raised in Tokyo. Since 2016 she lives in the Taito Ward, home to a lot of Japanese culture hotspots such as Asakusa, Akihabara, and Ueno. She has been interested in the field of English education in Japan and got her Master’s degree in March 2020. A lover of photography, travel, sweets, and cross-stitch. Contact her via Facebook.

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Shinjuku is easily accessible and known for having one of Tokyo’s busiest train stations, and once you leave the station via its east exit, you will find yourself in one of Japan’s largest and most infamous entertainment districts: Kabukicho. Kabukicho is a great place to eat, drink and have fun, with the neighborhood’s iconic neon lights always flashing from dusk to dawn. 

Kabukicho used to have a strong image of purely being a nightlife district, and although countless clubs and bars are still scattered throughout the area, many new facilities catering to tourists have opened recently, creating a different image of Kabukicho. This article will introduce you to 10 fun and interesting things to do in this ever-popular part of Japan’s capital.

1. Shinjuku Golden Gai

Golden Gai Shinjuku

One spot in Kabukicho that should not be missed, is Shinjuku Golden Gai. This street, lined with many izakaya (Japanese-style pubs), is filled with a nostalgic Showa era atmosphere. Many businessmen come here at night to relax over a drink after a long day’s work. If you like going out to drink, you may want to try the various eateries here and taste their specialty snacks and drinks!

2. Kabukicho Red Noren Gai

Deep-fried food on skewers is the perfect companion for drinks

Kabukicho Red Noren Gai is a drinking alley that has opened up inside seven old houses after their renovation. The street is decorated with red lanterns, which glow spectacularly at night and create a night scene true to Kabukicho’s original image. Many restaurants are located here, ranging from standard izakaya with items such as yakitori and kushikatsu (skewered pork cutlets) on the menu, to restaurants specializing in only one thing, such as chicken. In Kabukicho Red Noren Gai you can experience a different kind of atmosphere than that of Shinjuku Golden Gai, and it’s equally fun for an evening out.

Official website: Kabukicho Red Noren-gai 

3. Hanazono Shrine

Kabukicho has long been known as a nightlife district, but Hanazono Shrine is a peaceful shrine with a beautiful vermillion exterior. In spring, many cherry trees bloom here, making it a popular spot to enjoy the flowers. Hanazono Shrine has a long history and has witnessed the development of Shinjuku over many centuries. Every November, the Tori-no-Ichi festival is held here attracting many visitors seeking good luck and a prosperous business.

Official website: Hanazono Shrine

4. TOHO Cinema’s Godzilla Head

Look up!

You walk down the street in Kabukicho and cast a glance towards the sky… but what’s that? A giant monster is peaking out from a high-rise rooftop, glaring angrily at the blissfully ignorant masses walking below. Upon closer inspection, you recognise the beast: it’s Godzilla! The Godzilla head on the roof of Kabukicho’s TOHO Cinema has become a tourist attraction in Kabukicho, with many people ready to snap a photo every day at a set time when Godzilla blows an impressive beam of light. You can even stay at the “Godzilla Hotel” of which the giant head is a part of!

5. Kinokuniya Bookstore

Kinokuniya is a mecca for book aficionados

Kinokuniya is a nationwide chain of bookstores, and the main branch is located in Shinjuku. It would not be an exaggeration to say that this is one of the largest bookstores in Japan, with the entire 10th floor building serving as a haven for book lovers. With a selection of books and magazines that is said to exceed 1,000,000 items, you are sure to find something you’d want to read here. If you have trouble finding the book you are looking for, we recommend using the “Kino Navi” machine located on each floor. It’s a reliable ally that can quickly search the store’s inventory and tell you where to find your book.

6. Yakuza Series Game Location

Many of Kabukicho’s buildings have served as inspiration for the fictional “Kamurocho” area in the Yakuza video game series

Kabukicho serves as the setting for a very famous video game series called “Ryu ga Gotoku” (龍が如く, Yakuza series), which revolves around the world of yakuza and is very popular not only in Japan, but also abroad. The fictional “Kamurocho” area in the series is modeled after Kabukicho, and many Kabukicho buildings appear in the game, including the Kabukicho Tenkaichi Dori arcade and the batting center. If you are a fan of the Yakuza video game series, you will love exploring this area to discover the similarities.

7. Sakura-Dori

Sakura-dori is another drinking street in Kabukicho, and many bars and taverns line the narrow street. It used to be called “one of the most dangerous places in Kabukicho”, but the security situation has improved drastically since a very popular robot restaurant opened on this street in 2012. Unfortunately, this robot restaurant is now closed with no indication of its return, but the street is still very lively and attracts many people. It’s also a great place to snap some pictures of Kabukicho’s iconic neon signs!

8. Ninja Trick House

Try out life as a ninja at this fun trick house

Are you curious about ninja, the mysterious warriors of ancient Japan? If yes, then you should definitely visit the Ninja Trick House. There are many activities here which allow you to fully immerse yourself in the world of ninja, such as a shuriken dojo and a ninja karakuri house where you can try to work out the house’s many mysteries. If you want to experience what it’s like to be a ninja, this is the place to go!

Official website: Ninja Trick House 

9. Thermal-Yu 

Located in the central area of Kabukicho, Thermal-yu is an onsen complex which heals not only tourists, but also tired businessmen on their way home from work. The inside of this onsen building has a gorgeous and luxurious atmosphere like the one of a high-end hotel. The outdoor hot spring is highly recommended, and hot spring water is transported from the famous Jindai-no-yu (神代の湯) in Shizuoka Prefecture  and poured into this bath everyday! After taking a rest in the bath, you can relax at the inhouse café and bar.

Official website: Thermal-yu

10. Don Quijote

Dick Thomas Johnson, (CC BY 2.0), via flickr

A very walk from Shinjuku Station is a big Don Quijote that is open 24 hours a day. If you are not already familiar with Don Quijote, it’s a chain of discount shops with more than 220 locations throughout the country. They have all different kinds of products from daily necessities and brand name goods to electric appliances as well as a wide range of food and drinks. There are also lots of great souvenirs, and they even have a tax-free counter, making it a great one-stop-shop that won’t break the bank. 

Which of these intriguing activities and places will you be visiting during your time in Kabukicho? There’s something here for everyone, from eating and drinking to your heart’s content to experiencing life as a ninja or relaxing in an onsen. Kabukicho’s lively atmosphere and bright lights will always be there to welcome you!

Japan Wonder Travel Tours in Tokyo

Japan Wonder Travel is a travel agency that offers guided tours throughout Japan. 
From private walking tours to delicious Food and Drink tours, we can help organize the best tours just for you! If you want to explore Japan and learn more about the history and backstories of each area you are traveling in, our knowledgeable and friendly guides will happily take you to the best spots! 
In addition, we can provide you with any assistance you may need for your upcoming trip to Japan, so please feel free to contact us if you have any questions or need some help! 

Tokyo Fish Market Tour @Tsukiji – Enjoy Local Food and Drink
Explore the most lively and popular fish market in Tokyo, where you will have the chance to try some of the local’s favorite street foods and sake along with your friendly English-speaking guide! 

tsukiji tour

Tokyo 1–Day Highlights Private Walking Tour (8 Hours)
There’s no better way to explore an area than taking a tour with a knowledgeable local guide. You will have the chance to learn about the history and interesting background stories of Tokyo, as well as discover some hidden gems which can be hard to do without a guide.

Asakusa Tokyo private tour

Asakusa Local Bar Hopping Tour (Evening Tour)
Visit some of the local’s favorite Izakaya and bars and enjoy Tokyo’s drinking scene with your friendly guide. You will visit a few fun bars to introduce you to Japanese sake, food, and monja-yaki (one of Tokyo’s specialties). Kampai (cheers)!

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