It’s been a long time since the busy Tokyo neighborhood looked like this.

Tokyo’s Shinjuku Station is the busiest rail station not just in Japan, but the entire world. So you’d be correct in assuming that Shinjuku is a very busy place in general, with a lot of tall buildings clustered around the station.

However, there’s one less skyscraper these days, and it’s making part of the neighborhood look very different. For decades, the skyline on the west side of Shinjuku Station was dominated by the local branch of the Odakyu Department Store.

As part of a redevelopment project for the district, though, the Shinjuku Odakyu store’s main building was shut down in October of 2022. The demolition work started on the top floor and worked its way down, with tall partitions hiding the process during the first year-plus. Recently, though, the walls have been replaced with shorter versions, and so we went to see how the skyline is looking these days, and even though we were braced for it, we were still kind of shocked at the change.

The solid wall of commerce that had been there for years is now gone, allowing you to see all the way through to building on the opposite, east side of Shinjuku Station, such as Lumine Est.

▼ Before

▼ After

On the one hand, it’s sad to see such a familiar landmark disappear. On the other, with Shinjuku being one of the most skyscraper-dense parts of Tokyo, it’s been a long time since you could see this much of the sky from this spot in the neighborhood.

The Odakyu Department Store main building isn’t the only thing that’s been removed. Since there’s a large bus rotary on the west side of Shinjuku Station, there used to be an elevated pedestrian walkway that connected the main Odakyu building with its Odakyu Halc annex.

However, while the walkway’s balcony-like section in front of the annex entrance doors remains, the section that connected it with the other side of the street is no more, with the edge of the now bridge to nowhere blocked off.

Shinjuku Station has a reputation as being fiendishly tricky to navigate, earning it the nickname “Shinjuku Dungeon” from those who’ve gotten lost inside its RPG-reminiscent corridors, and it’s not getting any easier in the current phase of the redevelopment project.

Without the large Odakyu building to put signage up on, markers for the station are instead on the demolition work fencing.

As part of the redevelopment, many of the shops and kiosks inside the station, which connected to the Odakyu Department Store at their lower levels, have been shuttered, replacing pathfinding landmarks with blank walls of white.

It’s particularly easy to miss the entrance to the JR Lines entirely, since it’s a shadowy spot between swaths of fencing.

Also making it tricky to get around is the closure of Mosaic Street, a pedestrian walkway that ran between the Mylord and Odakyu department stores, effectively a shortcut between the south and west sides of the station.

▼ Chains at the west-side exit of Mosaic Street

▼ Back in the day

▼ Here in these days

Now, this being Shinjuku, the site of the old Odakyu store isn’t going to just stay vacant. Construction on a new building is likely to begin as soon as the demolition is done, with developers saying that a number of new skyscrapers will be going up in the neighborhood in the latter half of the 2020s. Japan Railways even has a vision for what it’s calling the Shinjuku Grand Terminal, as it wants to call the station complex and its upcoming additions and neighbors.

The grand vision of the Grand Terminal, though, is going to take a long time to complete, with a projected completion date of sometime in the 2040s (yes, 2040s, not the year 2040 specifically)

In the meantime, though, we’ll be looking up at the Shinjuku sky, since it really isn’t something you get to see this much of from ground level very often.

Photos ©SoraNews24
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