Shibuya vs. Shinjuku: Guide to Tokyo’s Most Iconic Districts

When visiting Tokyo, there’s a high chance someone will recommend Shinjuku and Shibuya for your list of places to visit. Both are busy and crowded city centers, bustling with office workers in suits, teenagers hanging out after school, university students studying in cafes and of course, tourists coming to experience city life in Tokyo. Shibuya and Shinjuku aren’t just concrete jungles with skyscrapers and offices though, and have so much more to offer.

For first-time visitors to Tokyo, choosing between these two districts can be a daunting task. That’s why we’ve put together this comprehensive guide to help explore the difference between Shibuya and Shinjuku and make the most of your trip.

Shibuya vs Shinjuku: Stations, Neighborhoods, or Cities?

First, let’s figure out what exactly 渋谷 (Shibuya) and 新宿 (Shinjuku) are. The areas that these names refer to can be a little tricky to grasp. There are stations with these respective names: 渋谷駅 (Shibuya eki) and 新宿駅 (Shinjuku eki), where 駅 (eki) means station. Then we also have city wards named after these two places: 渋谷区 (Shibuya ku) and 新宿区 (Shinjuku ku), where 区 (ku) means city ward. These wards are incidentally neighbors, located right next to each other in the heart of Tokyo. 

However, generally speaking, 渋谷 (Shibuya) and 新宿 (Shinjuku) usually refer to the areas around the stations, even if they may not necessarily stay within the 区 (ku), or city ward. Actually, if you look closely at the map, the southern half of 新宿駅 (Shinjuku eki) belongs to 渋谷区 (Shibuya ku). Isn’t that interesting?

If it’s confusing, that’s alright too, because here we’ll just be using the general terms of 渋谷 (Shibuya) and 新宿 (Shinjuku) to refer to the areas around the stations!

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What’s there to do in Shibuya and Shinjuku?

1. Sightseeing in Shibuya and Shinjuku

Tokyo has something for everyone, from futuristic skyscrapers in the city to traditional nature parks, temples, and shrines. Let’s see what Shibuya and Shinjuku each offer for tourists!

If you go to Shibuya, you can’t miss the 渋谷スクランブル交差点 (Shibuya sukuranburu kousaten), the popular scramble crossing right in front of 渋谷駅 (Shibuya eki). Despite thousands of pedestrians crossing this intersection at each green light, traffic jams still rarely occur, which is an amazing sight to see.

This is also right next to the ハチ公 (Hachiko) bronze statue, a famous statue of the loyal dog Hachiko with a heartwarming but tearjerking backstory. One of the newest attractions in Shibuya is the SHIBUYA SKY, an observatory 229 meters tall with a 360-degree panoramic view of the city around it. It is located in Shibuya Scramble Square, a large department store near the station. The journey to the rooftop has been made as an artistic experience, building suspense for the view to come.

Another popular spot in Shibuya is Miyashita Park, a newly remade complex integrating boutiques, restaurants, and hotels, as well as the park itself, complete with a bouldering wall and skating rink. Shibuya is also just a 20-minute walk to other popular tourist destinations such as 代々木公園 (Yoyogi kouen), 原宿 (Harajuku), 表参道 (Omotesando), and 明治神宮 (Meiji Jingu).

On the other hand, Shinjuku is exactly what you’d imagine as a city, with skyscrapers and shimmering glass windows filling up the skyline. Shinjuku also houses the 東京都庁 (Toukyou Tochou), which governs the Tokyo Metropolis and is called the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building in English. This building is actually free to visit and is popular for its observation decks 200m high. Tourists can get an amazing view of the skyline including Tokyo Skytree, Tokyo Tower, Meiji Shrine and the Tokyo Dome, as well as Mount Fuji if you’re lucky!

If you’re a big fan of nature, we recommend 新宿御苑 (Shinjuku gyoen), a national park originally built for the imperial family. It has over 10,000 trees, out of which a few hundred are 桜 (sakura), or cherry blossoms. It is popular for picnics, hangouts, and dates, as well as 花見 (hanami), which are events to watch the beautiful 桜 (sakura) while eating and drinking. It’s easy to get lost in nature and forget that you are in the city until you see the skyscrapers behind the trees.

Shibuya vs Shinjuku: Head to Shibuya if you want to see the quintessential ‘Tokyo’ life. From the Shibuya Crossing, Shibuya Sky to Golden Gai, there are just more iconic landmarks in the area!

2. Food in Shibuya and Shinjuku

Other than sightseeing, tourists must not miss out on the food. Being major cities, both Shibuya and Shinjuku have a diverse range of cuisine from a variety of cultures, from ramen (15 best ramen shops in Shibuya) to international restaurants.

No matter which direction you walk from the station, Shibuya is filled with many restaurants and cafes. With lots of department stores around the area, there are many chain restaurants that will give you a taste of what Japanese people usually eat outside. This also includes Japanese food such as 寿司 (sushi), ラーメン (ramen), 蕎麦 (soba), 焼き鳥 (yakitori), and たこ焼き (takoyaki). However, if you’re missing home, you can find international cuisine in Shibuya from Italy, France, Spain, Mexico, China, and even Malaysia! Two streets famous for dining in Shibuya are Center Gai and Spain Zaka. Check these places out the next time you’re there!

Shinjuku is also another popular choice for dining and is well known for its 居酒屋 (izakaya). These are not exactly restaurants but are more like casual bars, which serve mainly alcoholic drinks along with snacks and meals that go along with it. Many office workers frequent 居酒屋 (izakaya) after work to let off steam and relax. 思い出横丁 (omoide yokochou) is a well-known street lined with around 60 different stores. Many of these are 居酒屋 (izakaya), as well as 焼鳥 (yakitori) or もつ焼き (motsu yaki) stalls, and are all priced reasonably. The entire street has a retro 昭和 (shouwa) vibe to it and is popular amongst tourists and photographers as well.

Recently,  there’s a new Tokyu Kabukicho Tower in Shinjuku. Inside, you can find a new food hall built with the aestethic of a typical yokocho — only it’s indoors, allowing you to bar-hop without needing to worry about the weather.

Shinjuku is also well known for its ラーメン (ramen), to the point that it is called a ラーメン激戦区 (ramen gekisen ku), which literally translates to ‘ramen battleground’. If you’re up for the challenge, try ramen-hopping in addition to bar-hopping, and find which ramen best suits your taste!

Shibuya vs Shinjuku: For food, you’ll have more finding restaurants in Shibuya because most are gathered in the same street. Shinjuku is the better option for bar hopping.

3. Shopping in Shibuya and Shinjuku

Shopping in Tokyo may be an entirely different experience than back home, with different fashion styles and cosmetics available. Both Shibuya and Shinjuku are great places to shop and offer almost anything, but these places cater to slightly different target audiences.

Shibuya is well known for its young pop culture. One such reason is 渋谷109 (Shibuya ichi maru kyuu), a large department store with over 100 stores selling clothes, shoes, costumes, makeup, skincare, and accessories. Since it is also right in front of Shibuya Scramble, or渋谷スクランブル交差点 (Shibuya sukuranburu kousaten), it has become a landmark of Shibuya as well. 渋谷マルイ (Shibuya Marui) and 渋谷モディ (Shibuya Modi) are two other department stores in Shibuya, and there is also 渋谷ヒカリエ (Shibuya Hikarie) and 渋谷マークシティ (Shibuya ma-ku shitee) which are right next to the station.

Many fashion retailers also have large stores in Shibuya, often having clothes that would otherwise be only available online. If you’re looking for Japanese skincare and makeup, MEGA DONKI and several drugstores around the area have a great selection at reasonable prices.

Another recommended area is ‘Cat Street’, located between Shibuya and its neighboring station, 表参道 (Omotesandou). Small stores of different famous brands line this street, as well as thrift stores and other fancy, or おしゃれな (osharena), stores.

Shinjuku also has a wide variety of stores to shop at, although the area is generally thought to be aimed towards adults rather than youngsters. 伊勢丹 新宿店 (Isetan Shinjuku-ten), NEWoMan, and タカシマヤタイムズスクエア (Takashimaya taimuzu sukuea) are such department stores targeting adults, with brands that give a more polished and refined look. Amongst these department stores is ルミネエスト (Rumine esuto), which is the department store to shop at for the younger generations. Many of these malls also have floors dedicated to restaurants and cafes, perfect for when you want to take a break from shopping!

Shibuya vs Shinjuku: Shinjuku is a good place to shop for more high-end brands as there are a lot of department stores, but you’ll find more diversity in price range and product selection in Shibuya.

shibuya and shinjuku

4. Convenience of Transportation

Transportation is convenient all over Tokyo, with at least one train line passing through even the smallest cities. However, being metropolitan hubs in the city center, 渋谷駅 (Shibuya eki) and 新宿駅 (Shinjuku eki) are connected to many transportation systems, which may even render the stations confusing. The main form of transport in Tokyo is trains, with an extensive network of elevated and underground trains. The three major train line companies to know in Tokyo are 東京メトロ (Tōkyō Metoro), JR which stands for Japan Railway, and 都営 (Toei). These three train line companies will take you to most places within or outside of Tokyo! Let’s take a look at a list of the train lines passing through each station:

渋谷駅 (Shibuya eki)

  • 京王井の頭線 (Keiō Inogashira sen)
  • JR埼京線 (JR Saikyō sen)
  • JR山手線 (JR Yamanote sen)
  • JR湘南新宿ライン (JR Shōnan Shinjuku ra-in)
  • 東京メトロ副都心線 (Tōkyō Metoro Fukutoshin sen)
  • 東京メトロ半蔵門線 (Tōkyō Metoro Hanzōmon sen)
  • 東京メトロ銀座線 (Tōkyō Metoro Ginza sen)
  • 東急東横線 (Tōkyū Tōyoko sen)
  • 東急田園都市線 (Tōkyū Den-entoshi sen)

新宿駅 (Shinjuku eki) Shinjuku Station

  • JR中央・総武線各駅停車 (JR Chūō・Sōbu sen)
  • JR中央本線 (JR Chūō Hon sen)
  • JR中央線快速 (JR Chūō sen kaisoku)
  • JR埼京線 (JR Saikyō sen)
  • JR山手線 (JR Yamanote sen)
  • JR湘南新宿ライン (JR Shōnan Shinjuku ra-in)
  • 京王新線 (Keiō Shinjuku sen)
  • 京王線 (Keiō sen)
  • 小田急 小田原線 (Odakyū Odawara sen)
  • 東京メトロ丸ノ内線 (Tōkyō Metoro Marunouchi sen)
  • 都営大江戸線 (Toei Ōedo sen)
  • 都営新宿線 (Toei Shinjuku sen)
  • 西武 新宿線、西武新宿駅 (Seibu Shinjuku sen, Seibu Shinjuku eki)

Both have quite the list, but if you take a closer look, you’ll notice that Shibuya station has more Tokyo Metro train lines, and Shinjuku station has more JR train lines.

If you’re planning to travel within the center of Tokyo, the Metro trains are cheaper and more convenient, but on the other hand, JR lines encompass a wider area. Consider this when planning your next visit to Tokyo!

In terms of layout, Shibuya is known for its iconic scramble crossing, which is just a few minutes walk from Shibuya Station. Shinjuku, on the other hand, has a more spread-out layout, with multiple train stations and bus stops throughout the district.

5. Accommodation Options in Shibuya and Shinjuku

Shibuya and Shinjuku offer a wide range of accommodation options to suit all budgets and tastes. Shibuya is a popular destination for budget travelers, with multiple hostels and guesthouses throughout the district. It’s also home to some of Tokyo’s trendiest boutique hotels, offering a unique blend of style and comfort.

Shinjuku, on the other hand, is known for its luxury hotels and high-end accommodations. The district is home to some of Tokyo’s most exclusive and expensive hotels, offering stunning views of the city and top-notch amenities.

Shibuya is a popular destination for budget travelers and those looking for a more laid-back atmosphere, while Shinjuku is a hub for luxury accommodations and high-end dining options.

Conclusion: Which District is Right for You?

The next time you visit Tokyo, make sure to add 渋谷 (Shibuya) and 新宿 (Shinjuku) to your list of places to go! If you only have time for one and are debating between the two, consider the difference in tourist spots, department stores, restaurants, and transport, and figure out which you will enjoy more!

Personally, we might recommend Shibuya just a little bit more especially this autumn, since Coto Academy will be opening a fourth location in Shibuya for foreigners and international residents who wish to start or enhance their Japanese language proficiency. That adds language learning to the list of things you can do in Shibuya!

If you want to learn in Shibuya with Coto Academy, contact us through the form below!

What is the difference between Shibuya and Shinjuku?

Shibuya is known for its trendy and youthful atmosphere, famous for the iconic Shibuya Crossing and vibrant street fashion. On the other hand, Shinjuku is a bustling commercial and entertainment hub, home to towering skyscrapers, department stores, and the lively Kabukicho district.

Which district is more popular among tourists, Shibuya or Shinjuku?

Is Shibuya or Shinjuku better for shopping?

Shinjuku is a good place to shop for more high-end brands as there are a lot of department stores, but you’ll find more diversity in price range and product selection for younger people in Shibuya.

What are the major attractions in Shibuya?

Shibuya is home to several major attractions. The most famous is Shibuya Crossing, one of the busiest pedestrian intersections in the world. Other popular spots include Hachiko Statue, a tribute to the loyal dog, and Meiji Shrine, a serene oasis surrounded by a lush forest. Shibuya Center Street and Cat Street are also popular for shopping and exploring unique boutiques.

Which district is more popular among tourists, Shibuya or Shinjuku?

Both Shibuya and Shinjuku are popular among tourists, but Shibuya tends to attract a younger crowd, especially those interested in fashion, nightlife, and the energetic vibe of the city.

Which district offers a better nightlife experience, Shibuya or Shinjuku?

Both Shibuya and Shinjuku offer exceptional nightlife experiences, but the atmosphere differs. Shibuya is famous for its energetic and youthful nightlife, with numerous clubs, bars, and live music venues catering to a trendy and international crowd. Shinjuku, on the other hand, has a more diverse nightlife scene, with everything from karaoke bars and izakayas (Japanese pubs) to upscale cocktail lounges and themed entertainment establishments.

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