Where to stay in Shinjuku

The first thing I do after I book my plane ticket to Tokyo, is book my hotel. Whereas in much of South East Asia you can just land in a town and look around for a room, the population of Tokyo is such that moderately priced rooms can book out totally in peak times. Oh, there’ll be rooms available – but in mega expensive hotels, chewing up your hard earned dosh.

I stay in Shinjuku because I love to be in the thick of it. It’s great for restaurants, shopping, nightlife and transport links. OK so it means you have to negotiate the world’s busiest railway station, which is pretty daunting. But hey, that’s all part of the adventure!

But back to hotels. I’m past the age of wanting to share dorm rooms, and like to have a bathroom all to myself, so mega-budget hostels are out. Since I’m not a guy, capsule hotels are out. Love Hotels can be quite cheap (and have 24 hour room service!), but I don’t want to be thinking about what’s been happening on the bed before I got there :/ This leaves me with hotels proper.

1. Hotel Kent

Hands-down my favourite for location and value-for-money. It’s in Kabukicho, the entertainment district of Shinjuku, and is only 5 or 6 minutes walk to Shinjuku Station (see access map). It has a 24 hour reception so you can stumble in at any hour (unlike some hotels which have a lock-out period). Check-in is 2pm; check out is 11am.

Rooms have high-speed internet acess and bar-fridge, and bathrooms have those groovy little amenities packs. Single rooms start at 5,500 yen, or non-smoking from 6,300 (cost varies according to the day of the week). And yes, they have triple rooms!
Even though it is in the midst of theatres, restaurants and pachinko parlours, I found the rooms to be quiet. I think they must have triple-glazing on the windows 🙂 The rooms aren’t big, but they are clean.

One weird little feature is that you have to take a step up to get into the bathroom, but I can live with that. My tip for booking is not to use any of the usual booking sites like Agoda, because it’s cheaper to book direct with the hotel, AND you don’t pay until you get there.

Best Western Astina Shinjuku Hotel

This one is the most beautiful hotel I stayed in. Newly refurbished in 2008, it looks a million bucks with its zebrano wood, hanging chrome pendants and shiny marble flooring. Stylistas will feel right at home here.

Prices start at 8,000 yen (again, depending on the package deal and what day it is, and usually that translates to more like 10,000 yen). Check-in is 2 p.m and check-out 11 a.m, but you can pay 30% more to stay until 2pm, or 50% to stay until 5pm. Great if you have an evening flight and want to shower and re-pack your shopping-stuffed luggage in the privacy of your own room!

The location in superb too, slightly further from Shinjuku station than Kent, but closer to the Isetan and Marui shopping malls. While it is 8 minutes to JR Shinjuku Station, it is only 5 minutes to Tokyo Metro Shinjuku-Sanchome Station (and the gay nightlife area nearby in Ni-chome). It is also right Next to the Golden Gai area, near the Hanazono Shrine. Great for stumbling back late at night (see my post on punk bars in Shinjuku).

Hotel Sunlite Shinjuku
Priced from 7,140 yen, this is in roughly the same bracket as Hotel Kent. However, it is located further away from the main Shinjuku Station. Like the Astina, it is closer to Sanchome station and department stores – and there is a killer Izakaya directly opposite it too!

One down side is that it closes each night from 2am to 5.30am – not a good one for night-crawlers! I forgot this and rolled up around 5 after clubbing; luckily for me there was a steward in reception who let me in, as a) I was in full gothic lolita regalia, and b) it was bloomin freezing that day. Check-in is 3pm, check-out is 11am.

Hotel Shirakawago

I stayed here because I wanted a triple room and the Kent was booked. I arrived a day before my two friends and the only single room I could get was a smoking one. UGH! It gave me a headache just being in it. I threw open the windows even though it was a cool day, just to air the place. The reception area is likewise constantly shrouded in ciggie smoke – it even hurt my eyes! So it’s great for smokers; not so good for the rest of us.

Location-wise it isn’t as
accessible either. It’s further away from the station in the heart of Love Hotel land, and I actually got lost in the myriad of backstreets until I learned to look for the golfing range nearby. Check-in isn’t until 4pm (!!) and check-out is 10am. I had to plead to be allowed into my room earlier.

At 15,000 yen the triple is good value, but I’d still go for one at the Kent if it’s available.

EDIT 2010 – I stayed at the Shirakawago again and it was not as smoky as last time. Also, the couple running it were lovely and very helpful. When I couldn’t get internet in my room they let me use the pc in the reception area, even though it was quite late at night. I noticed the wife ran origami classes in the cafe too.

One I haven’t stayed at but looks really swish is the Shinjuku Prince Hotel. If you book more than 7 days ahead, you can get rooms from 8,500 yen, but otherwise it’s more like 10,000 and up. The 2nd floor of the hotel is the Seibu Shinjuku Station, or it’s 5 minutes to the main Shinjuku station.
These are all located on the east side of Shinjuku station. The west side is the skyscraper district side, more business than entertainment oriented, and not as ‘happening’ at night. The main reasons I head west are for the fab yakitori joints of Omoide Yokocho , or to shop at Closet Child for secondhand gothic punk fashion.
Those are my recommendations; what are yours?