Check It Out

No.165 (6/11/10)

Shinjuku: Tokyo's busiest ward

By Robert Finley
Chief Writer

Out of Tokyo's 23 special wards, the one that sees the most traffi c is without a doubt Shinjuku. Serving as the administration center for Tokyo’s government, Shinjuku is a major hub of commercial and administrative activity in Japan, and houses an estimated 312,418 citizens (as of 2008) within its 18.23 cubic kilometers.

Due to Shinjuku's high capacity of commercial and administrative activities, it holds the distinction of housing the highest number of registered foreign nationals out of any community within Tokyo’s borders. As of 2005, 107 different nationalities resided there.

Shinjuku traces its history back to the 17th Century during Japan's Edo Period, the country's pre-modern era that preceded the Meiji Restoration. Shinjuku did not come to prominence until after the Great Kanto earthquake of 1923, which proved that Shinjuku's landscape was seismically stable compared to the rest of the region. During World War II, from a period of four months stretching from May to August 1945, close to 90% of the architecture in Shinjuku was destroyed during the infamous Tokyo air raids. Even with this destruction, however, Shinjuku rebuilt and retained its structural form, since the roads and rails were still intact, even if severely damaged. Shinjuku's current size was established in 1947 when three local wards merged into one, and in 1991, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government moved to Shinjuku where it resides today.

Shinjuku maintains a unique style of its own, and is a wonderful place to visit for some interesting sightseeing and shopping experiences. Nishi-Shinjuku is the area of the ward where most of the skyscrapers are located, such as the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building and the Park Tower, where the popular film “Lost In Translation” was flmed.

The Kabukicho district is a section of Shinjuku that might interest visitors seeking a more lively experience, as it is home to a variety of popular bars, restaurants, and adult-themed establishments.

Shinjuku Gyoen is a large public park within the ward, and is an interesting mixture of traditional Japanese, English, and French landscape styles. It is very popular during hanami, or cherry blossom viewing.

Yotshuya is Shinjuku's upscale district, home to a lot of classy restaurants, bars, and izakayas (Japanese drink and food establishments). This district is also home to many historical temples and graves.

For the museum-going crowd, Shinjuku is home to a number of unique museums for all to see, such as National Printing Bureau banknote and Postage Stamp Museum, the National Museum of Nature and Science (Shinjuku Branch), the Shinjuku Historical Museum, and the Tokyo Fire Department Museum. It's also home to a number of halls, sucha s the Tokyo Opera City, Shinjuku Bunka Center, WelCity Tokyo, Meiji Yasuda Life Hall, and the Shinjuku Koma Theater.

Besides the Shinjuku Gyoen park, there is also the Shinjuku Central Park and the Meiji Shrine Outer Gardens, which provide visitors with beautiful sights to see outside. Shinjuku is very close to many popular wards of Tokyo, but might not be on the list of places to visit. Hopefully, you will remember some of these great things this busy district has to offer and stop in for a while next time you are in Tokyo!

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