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When making your way around the countless neighborhoods of Tokyo, you’re sure to get lost and bogged down with the many attractions each area has to offer. Trying to figure out the best plan of action without knowing where everything is can be quite daunting and figuring out a ramen shop to visit in between sightseeing may be borderline impossible. In order to help tourists navigate around the popular areas of Tokyo, while still finding ramen shops to visit, I thought of making this guide which will help you soak in all the sights Tokyo has to offer as well as the amazing ramen.
First up is the epicenter of Tokyo, Shinjuku which is home to a number of popular, delicious ramen shops as well as cool places to visit and soak in some Japanese culture. We’ll start at the station and work our way through this amazing area!
9:30 am; Shinjuku Station
Shinjuku station is one of the major hubs of Tokyo with countless train lines running through it. Nearby Seibu Shinjuku and Shinjuku Sanchome stations will also take you to the area via the Seibu Shinjuku and the Tokyo Metro lines, but make your way to the JR station for this tour at 8 am. Early start, but we have a lot of ground to cover today! Once there, be sure to get yourself to the south exit and we’ll start by heading west towards the Tokyo Metropolitan Building for our first tourist stop.
10:00 am; Tokyo Metropolitan Building
2 Chome-8-1 Nishishinjuku, Shinjuku
What makes the Metropolitan building so special is that for one, it’s free to get in, but also the building is open for guests to take the elevator up to the top floor where you can get one of the best views of Tokyo. Since the building is one of the tallest in Tokyo, and has a 360 degree panoramic view, you can see the entirety of the city unobstructed. On clear days you can even catch Mt. Fuji out into the distance. After you’re done soaking up the views, head back towards the station and stop by Fuunji for a breakfast/brunch Tsukemen!
10:45 am; Fuunji (風雲児)
2 Chome−14−3 北斗第一ビル１F, Yoyogi, Shibuya
The master at Fuunji originally trained as an Italian chef and decided for a mid career cuisine change and opened his shop back in 2007. Since then, Fuunji has been at the top of many Tsukemen rankings and is routinely listed as a Tabelog Top 100 restaurant taking the award every year from 2017 to 2020. The line can get quite long so rather than going at 11 am when they open, aim for 10:45 and wait outside for 15 minutes so you can be one of the first few in. This will help save you valuable time for whichever popular ramen shop you plan on visiting so if you have any ramen shops on your list for the rest of your trip, keep this little tidbit handy.
Once in, you’ll have to purchase your tickets at the machine before sitting. The menu is in English so you’ll have no problems ordering, but what you’ll want is the Tsukemen. If you’re feeling hungry, opt for the tokusei which comes with extra toppings, but remember we have two more ramen shops to visit on this tour! The soup is made of chicken and dried fish and is topped with Gyofun, ground up dried fish powder. It might be a bit intense flavorwise, but pairs perfectly with the bouncy noodles as you dip them in. Once you’re done with the noodles, if you have any soup remaining, pour yourself some Soup Wari, which is a simple dashi used to thin out your soup so you can enjoy it to the last drop. When you finish up with your meal, let’s head to our next destination, Shinjuku Gyoen to check out one of Japan’s more beautiful parks.
12:00 pm; Shinjuku Gyoen
11 Naitomachi, Shinjuku
So after Fuunji, head back towards the south exit of the station and go to the other side heading west until you hit Shinjuku Gyoen. Before you head inside, grab a few drinks at the local conbini and if you want to relax inside, purchase a blue sheet to sit down on to enjoy a bit of sun. Admission is 500 yen, or roughly $5 USD and gives you access to the entire park. Be sure to have a walk around before you settle in for an afternoon nap on the grass and definitely check out the Greenhouse which is home to an eclectic collection of different plants. Towards the lakes on the south side of the park are a couple traditional tea houses where you can enjoy a bit of Japanese snacks and green tea. There is also a Starbucks inside the park if you’d rather grab yourself a cup of coffee. Park closes at different times depending on the season so be sure to check before you get too comfy. For this tour however, make your way out by 5:30 pm so we can head to our next ramen destination.
5:30 pm; Soba House Konjiki Hototogisu (SOBAHOUSE 金色不如帰)
2 Chome−4−1 第２２宮庭マンション 1F Shinjuku
Once done at the park, make your way out of the main Shinjuku gate and in five short minutes you’ll arrive at our next destination, the Michelin 1 star ramen shop, Konjiki Hototogisu. Chef Yamamoto-san strived for years for the coveted star from the Michelin Guide and in doing so created an upscale shop with an incredibly refined, yet delicious bowl of ramen. The shop typically opens at 6:00 pm for dinner, but they have been tinkering with their opening hours due to Covid so be sure to check online beforehand. Since they received their prestigious star, the shop has had some pretty insane lines, so be sure to get here at least 30 minutes prior to opening to ensure yourself a seat.
Two options for ramen here, you can either get the Shoyu or Shio ramen, but they do offer tsukemen as well if you want to double up on that after our morning bowl. The recommended menu item is the Shio Soba and for first timer visitors, I would have to agree. The Shio Soba consists of a stock using Hamaguri clams, Tai snapper, and various bushi dried fish shavings, a shio tare, and an aromatic white truffle oil to finish. Noodles are made in house to pair specifically with this soup and it is outstanding. A bit of porcini reduction comes topped with your bowl for an elegant, mid meal flavor change and while it screams indulgence, it harmoniously balances with the bowl. Once you finish with your bowl, take a step outside and enjoy yourself a bit of a walk heading north to reach our next tourist destination.
7:00 pm; Golden Gai
1 Chome-1-6 Kabukicho, Shinjuku
Hope you’re ready for a bit of drinking as you’ll find yourself in the famous Golden Gai district of Shinjuku, famous for their small bars and izakayas. The street offers a variety of drinking options from the more intimate, classy bar with an upscale cocktail menu to a casual, rowdy Izakaya where other patrons will happily share in the enjoyment of the night with you. Some places do have a cover charge so be aware, but other than that, Golden Gai can be an awesome place to have a few beers while chatting with the regulars of the bar. While you might be tempted to stay at one place for the night, definitely explore a bit and see what the other establishments offer, there is a wide range of bar styles on the street and it can be fun to explore a few throughout the night.
11:00 pm; Sugoi Niboshi Ramen Nagi (すごい煮干ラーメン凪)
1 Chome−1−10 2F Kabukicho, Shinjuku
Finishing off our night in Shinjuku with a シメ (shime) ramen which is Japanese for “end of the night” ramen to help soak up the alcohol you’ve just had or to replenish some lost calories from exploring this wonderful city. When it’s not Covid, Nagi is the place to hit as the shop is actually located upstairs from one of the buildings inside Golden Gai and is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You may even encounter some people you meet drinking along this alleyway as it is a popular way to close out the night before catching the last train home.
The ramen at Nagi can be quite intense for some, but after a few drinks might warm up to your taste buds. The soup is primarily Niboshi, and it is Sugoi! (すごい!) which is Japanese for Amazing! They jam pack a ton of dried sardines into their soup which gives it a hint of bitterness, but also imparts tons of umami and the addicting soup will have your lips puckering and the noodles slurping as it can be hard to put your chopsticks down once you start. Soup is a tad salty, but pairs with the medium thick, curly noodles nicely and dampens the sodium levels a bit. Be sure to add some of the niboshi infused vinegar to help cut through the soup a bit for a refreshing mid meal flavor change.
Well there you have it; three awesome Shinjuku attractions as well as three phenomenal ramen shops. To be quite honest, this only scratches the surface of both the ramen scene and tourist sites of Shinjuku, but this will give you a nice baseline to go off of when you’re planning your own personal itinerary. Hope this helps you get an insight though of what it is like and can make your trip around Japan that much more memorable and ramen filled!