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The new Tokyu Kabukicho Tower is packed with entertainment, food, and drinks–with one caveat

Apr 18, 2023

Just maybe don’t look out the window on the 10th floor.

There is a neighborhood in Shinjuku that was once known as one of Tokyo’s red-light districts. If you’ve been to Shinjuku, you’ve probably been there. It’s the Kabukicho neighborhood, once considered a seedier part of Tokyo, but which no one can help visiting when they pop out of the east exit at Shinjuku Station.

Nowadays, due to upgrades in the area, changes in the laws, and various initiatives, Kabukicho has become a much more pleasant place to explore, though it still has plenty of character. It’s now one of Tokyo’s top entertainment districts, with shopping, eateries, cinemas, game centers, and spas crowded in amongst the host clubs, cabaret bars, and love hotels. And now, on April 14, 2023, a whole new landmark opened up in the neighborhood: the Tokyu Kabukicho Tower.

This new skyscraper is 53 floors, including five basement floors, and 225 meters (about 738 feet) of entertainment. For Kabukicho, that’s huge! Tall enough to overlook the famous Godzilla statue that looms over Toho Cinemas. The Tokyu Kabukicho Tower began construction in 2019 and just opened to the public earlier this month. It’s rather impressive that such an enormous building was built in just four years. It’s so monumental it may just eclipse Godzilla not only in size but impression.

Our Japanese-language reporter Mr. Sato went on opening day to see what it was all about. He arrived 20 minutes early for the grand opening at 11 a.m. on April 14, but there was already a line of people waiting to go inside, although it was a relatively small crowd of about 200 people.

Mr. Sato wondered if there would be some kind of countdown to the grand opening, but there was no fanfare as the people patiently waiting quietly proceeded to the escalators and were carried up into the building. Apparently, the opening ceremonies had happened the day before, and our office hadn’t even gotten an invite. How rude.

Mr. Sato turned around as the escalator slowly climbed up to the second floor, and he was gifted a view not only of the huge, milling crowd but also of Godzilla drawn on the side of the Toho Cinemas building, looking on mouth agape, as if to say, “Where are you all going?”

Then the escalator crested and Mr. Sato stepped into the brand-new Tokyu Kabukicho Tower.

Spread before the entrance was the “Shinjuku Kabukicho Hall ~Kabukicho Yokocho~”, designed to look like a typical “yokocho” or side street. 10 street food-style stalls were lined up within about 1,000 square meters (almost 11,000 square feet), following the recent rise in the popularity of street food.

The flashy decorations and lights were undoubtedly meant to be attractive to tourists, but to Mr. Sato, who has been seeing more and more of these kinds of neon alleys popping up these days, it didn’t feel especially original. It did have some of that bright and outrageous “Japanness” that a lot of people have come to love about the country, which Mr. Sato doesn’t hate.

He had hoped to order the Square Cake (3,300 yen [US$24.54]) from one of these restaurants, which is novel in that it comes in a square, traditional-style bento box, but the restaurant wasn’t ready to serve them yet.

Instead, he decided to order an Ice Milk Cafe (769 yen) and come back for the Square Cake later.

The third floor was an entertainment and restaurant area known as Namco Tokyo. It had a game center, lounges, restaurants, and bars, all themed around the Namco-Bandai franchise. It was pretty crowded there and Mr. Sato didn’t think he would get very far if he tried to push through, so he proceeded to the next floor.

On the fourth floor was The Tokyo Matrix, a “Shinjuku dungeon conquest experience”, which seemed to be some kind of elaborate, realistic escape room. It took up just about the whole floor, so Mr. Sato guessed it would be pretty awesome, though he didn’t give it a try.

The fifth floor had a membership gym called Exstion, and the sixth to eighth floors was the Theater Milano-za, a live theater whose name comes from the Shinjuku Milano-za, a monument of Kabukicho’s history. (Their first production will be the new live Evangelion play.) The ninth and tenth floors were composed of 109 Cinemas Premium Shinjuku, a movie theater, and the next open floor was the 17th, which was where JAM17, a dining and bar area, awaited.

All the remaining floors, from 18 through 47, are hotel floors, which are expected to open up on May 19. At present, visitors can only go as far up as the 17th floor, but that’s still pretty high. The building sits right beside the Seibu Shinjuku Line Shinjuku station, so you get a bird’s eye view of the railroad tracks.

Beyond them, Mr. Sato could see the cluster of office buildings on the west side of Shinjuku station. All of the billboards he was used to looking up at looked terribly short from this vantage point.

The Yunika Vision building, which is pretty large itself, also looked quite small.

The 10th-floor movie theater was where you could look out on the Toho Cinemas side. The Hotel Gracery Shinjuku was still taller, so the skewed sense of height wasn’t as strong here.

And straight below it, Mr. Sato could see…


Seeing the symbol of Kabukicho from this angle was honestly a little bit sad. All there was to see was the back of a head that, from this angle, almost looked like it was crafted from paper-mâché or something, propped up on some steel beams like a giant puppet. Mr. Sato mused that surely its original designers never expected that one day people would be able to look at it from behind. It was heartbreaking to think that the original monument of Shinjuku wouldn’t have as much impact, with this view ruining its magic.

Mr. Sato left that depressing thought behind and headed back down to the second floor. All of this exploring left him hungry, so he began looking for a place to eat, but the second floor was so crowded it was hard to navigate. He descended to the first floor.

Finally, he made his way through bustling crowds at the first-floor Starbucks to find Beef Dining Wagyu Tokku, a burger restaurant operated by the popular yakiniku chain Heijoen and located near the back-side entrance of the building on the first floor.

▼ Their lunch menu revealed that they were a gourmet, luxury burger place, based on the high prices.

Never one to shy away from beef, Mr. Sato ordered the Roast Beef Burger (1,980 yen) with a lunch set that came with fries and a drink for an additional 350 yen.

When his burger arrived, it came with a server carrying a gigantic pepper grinder, which they used to season Mr. Sato’s ground beef (unfortunately, Mr. Sato neglected to get a photo of it). The wagyu roast beef was delicious! All in all, the burger did not disappoint the expectations of huge portions and delicious flavors that came with the Heijoen name.

Surprisingly, the Tokyu Kabukicho Tower contains absolutely no offices; it’s entirely an entertainment and lodging facility. Besides the restaurants, bars, game centers, and theaters of the upper floors, the basement floors also include a live house and a club, so there is endless entertainment to be found at any time of the day or night. We’d say this new skyscraper perfectly encapsulates the spirit of Kabukicho in a single, albeit gigantic, building. If you’re looking for something new to do in central Tokyo, look no further!

Related: Tokyu Kabukicho Tower
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