Shinkuku Station: The World's Busiest Sation and a Truly Tokyo Experience

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Comfortable Nostalgia in Old Collectibles Antique Market

Comfortable Nostalgia in Old Collectibles Antique Market

Shinkuku Station: The World's Busiest Sation and a Truly Tokyo Experience

A few months after I first moved to Tokyo, I ran out of English reading material. This was in the days before e-book readers, so in order to buy new books I had to trek to a brick-and-mortar bookstore. A friend recommended a bookstore near Shinjuku station, so I naively hopped on the train to Shinjuku and assumed I’d just exit the station and wander around a bit until I found the bookstore.

That was not a good plan. At the time, I didn’t know that Shinjuku station is the busiest train station on earth. Over 1.6 million people pass through it every day. It’s a major transfer point for people commuting from Tokyo’s suburbs, and the station itself is huge. Many passengers exit at Shinjuku to work in the office towers near the station’s west exit, but many more change trains there to continue on to other parts of Tokyo. In my case, looking for a bookstore “near Shinjuku station” was akin to looking for a bakery “in Paris” or a restaurant “in Beijing.”

I did find the bookstore eventually. It was the first of many visits to Shinjuku station, which is now one of my favorite places in Tokyo. There is an urban energy in Shinjuku station that you have to experience to believe. For example, before I visited Shinjuku, I never would have considered a morning commute to be a tourist attraction. But visiting Shinjuku station during the morning rush hour is something I think every visitor to Tokyo should do at least once.

I don’t know where else in the world you can see millions of commuters board and alight trains with such organization and courtesy. Go to Shinjuku, find a quiet place to stand, and listen to the muffled thunder of the footsteps of millions of commuters as they change trains during the morning rush hour. I know nobody is going to put “the sound of footsteps in Shinjuku station” on the UNESCO list of World Heritage sites anytime soon, but that sound really is unique in the world.

Besides just soaking up the urban buzz created by millions of commuters in Shinjuku station, my other favorite Shinjuku experience is going up to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building’s 45th floor observatory deck and taking in the view. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building is near the west exit of Shinjuku station. It takes about ten minutes on foot to get there, or you can catch a bus. There are two free observatories in the building that anyone can access, and they offer a stunning view of Tokyo from 202 meters above the city.

If you go at night, you can see city lights stretching across the Kanto plain and if you go during the day you might even be able to see Mt Fuji. When I get off at Shinjuku station, the busiest station in the world, walk to Metropolitan Government Building observatory, and look down on the largest city in the world, I am always amazed. No matter how many times I do this, I always realize anew what a remarkable city Tokyo is.

On that day seven years ago when I wandered around Shinjuku station confused about what exit to take to find the bookstore, I remember thinking, “If I stay in Tokyo, eventually I’ll get used to this huge, busy station and it won’t seem so amazing anymore.” That hasn’t happened yet! I still find Shinjuku amazing and exciting and I’m confident that any visitor to Tokyo will feel the same way.


The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building observatory is a ten minute walk from the west exit of Shinjuku Station or a one minute walk from Tocho-mae station on the Toei subway Oedo line. You can also catch a Keio or Toei bus in the basement level of Shinjuku station, west exit or a Shinjuku WE bus from the ground level of Shinjuku station, west exit.

Admission is free. Last entry is 30 minutes before closing.

The North Observatory is open from 9:30am to 11:00pm and the South Observatory is open fro 9:30am to 5:30pm on days when the North Observatory is open, and from 9:30am to 11:00pm on days when the North Observatory is closed.

The North Observatory is closed on the second and fourth Monday of every month. The South Observatory is closed on the first and third Tuesday of every month. If any of these days are holidays, the observatory is open on the holiday but closed the next day. Both observatories are also closed during the New Year holidays (December 29-31 and January 2-3, but open on January 1.)