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Shinjuku (新宿, literally "new lodging") is the Tokyo-est place in all of Tokyo, Japan. Let's start at the central station and do a little tour, shall we?

Shinjuku Station

Shinjuku station (Jp. Shinjuku-eki) is the busiest train station on the planet, and this is not just hyperbole. The intersection point of the JR Yamanote, Chuo, Sobu, Saikyo and Narita Express railway lines, the Odakyu Odawara line, the Keio New line, the Seibu Shinjuku line, the Eidan Marunouchi subway and the Toei Shinjuku and O-Edo subways -- do excuse me if I accidentally left out a few -- sees over two million passangers transit daily. One third of these squeeze through between 7:45 and 8:30! Above the hideously confusing bowels of the intertwingled stations are suspended the multi-story Lumine, Odakyu, Keio and My City department stores, with the full panoply of noodle joints, restaurants, pubs and bars to satiate the immediate needs of its visitors.

West Shinjuku

Take the West (Nishi) Exit and walk through Camera Town, the few blocks where Yodobashi, Sakuraya, BIC and a cast of thousands sell cameras and all sorts of photography paraphernalia to swarms of enthusiasts. But within minutes the hubbub of the market will disappear and you will find yourself gawking at skyscrapers worthy of New York. Above them all rises the fearsome bulk of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Offices (都庁, tochou), Kenzo Tange's twin-towered dystopian masterpiece rising to a height of 248 meters -- in Japan, only Yokohama's Landmark Tower is taller. There are free observation balconies atop both towers for the best view in Tokyo, sheer concrete stretching unto the horizon with -- if you're very lucky -- the silhouette of Mount Fuji barely visible. The other nearby skyscrapers all feature sky-high restaurant floors, great for that romantic date in a French restaurant (at least until you see the bill, that is).

North and South Shinjuku

Going north or south from the station, though, is usually a mistake. Southeast you'll find the expansive Shinjuku Gyoen gardens, which are well worth a stroll, but other than that it's a barren concrete jungle. So what you want to do is go east!

East Shinjuku

Ooh boy, where to start? The place to be in the early evening -- Shinjuku's version of Shibuya's Hachiko scene, if you will -- is the square between My City and Studio Alta. You can get here by taking the East (Higashi) exit and then following the signs for Kabukicho. This square is where people meet their dates, watch the bands performing in the street, and gawk at the huge TV screens and neon all around. Walk down Shinjuku-doori and you'll pass yet more department stores (Isetan, Mitsukoshi, they're all here), plus the Kinokuniya book store, one of Tokyo's best (and with a pretty good English section too).

Should you happen to be homosexually inclined, you'll probably want to keep right on walking, in which case you will soon find yourself in Shinjuku nichome, where you will find more gay bars and bathhouses than you can shake your stick at (probably not the best choice of metaphor, that).

That's not my scene though, so let's head back to Studio Alta, and take a turn into the notorious Kabukicho which, alas(?), turned out to be so long a story it had to be made into a separate writeup:

go to Kabukicho

...time passes, the sun sets, the sky becomes dark and gradually lightens again...
Shinjuku Tuesday 5AM...

Hey, you made it back alive! Congrats! Now stagger back to Studio Alta and gaze in awe at the sea of neon all around you and the jaggy shapes of the skyscrapers against a blood-red sky, just like Blade Runner except that it is real. Amazing, innit? But all good things must come to an end, so let's get out of here before the morning rush hour starts.

go to another station on the Yamanote Line

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