Among all the countless bars and restaurants impossibly stacked on top of each other, there’s always something new to us in Shinjuku, even if it has been there for years. This year, the lack of tourists both makes no difference and all the difference here. With more than 3 million people passing through Shinjuku station in a day, the world’s busiest station and its surroundings are as lively as always. At the same time, the lack of tourists has stalled new openings and has been blamed for the closing of famous places like the Robot Restaurant. Christmas themed events are wrapping up by the end of 2020, and exciting new openings in Shinjuku are on the horizon for spring 2021, most notably an IKEA being in the works. Here’s what’s new in Shinjuku in December 2020, crossing over into 2021.

Photo by Zoria Petkoska

Shinjuku Park Tower Illumination 2020-2021

Most of Tokyo’s impressive illuminations and Christmas decorations disappear in one swift swoop overnight on December 25, to make way for the kadomatsu and kagami mochi for the Japanese New Year. The good news for those of us who believe some festive spirit should be around in January, too, is that some illuminations are displayed all through early spring.  One of those is the Shinjuku Park Tower Illumination that will stay up until Valentine’s Day 2021. The calm fountain square in front of the tower is adorned with the classic warm glow of over 60,000 LED lights, complete with a giant Christmas tree. 

Japanese Wood Design Exhibition in OZONE

The Shinjuku Park complex houses many businesses and venues, including the famous Park Hyatt Hotel Tokyo. Less prominent but definitely worth a visit, the Living Design Center OZONE occupies floors 3 to 7 of Shinjuku Park Tower. Ozone currently hosts an exhibition, “Wood Manufacture Exploration,” on the 5th floor, open until January 19th, 2021. This free exhibition showcases works by seven modern Japanese woodworkers who will teach workshops during the exhibition period. From January 7th through the 17th, there will also be a special New Year sale of furniture in OZONE. 

The Lockup Restaurant Has New Menu Surprises

The popular prison-themed restaurant The Lockup in Shinjuku has many tricks up the sleeve, combining the experiences of an eatery, a play, and a haunted house. In addition to their classic terrifying food items and cocktails resembling lab concoctions, the menu just got darker in December. An all-you-can-eat charcoal black fried chicken offer costs only ¥500 for 60 minutes per person, available until December 31. Not to feel like Santa has left you coal in your stockings, the chicken comes with Christmas-inspired ketchup and green mayo dips to brighten the black karaage.

As a special winter item, The Lockup offers two nabe hot pots with edible horrors — one with a melting skull and a meaty witch hand. It’s a celebration fit for the world of “A Nightmare Before Christmas.” 

Sanryo 45th Anniversary Menu in Shinjuku LUMINE EST

Egg & Spuma cafe on the 8th floor of Shinjuku Lumine Est has a cute Sanryo collaboration this winter, available until the end of January 2021. Hello Kitty and friends have gone all out for their 45th anniversary, with afternoon tea tiered spreads, character-shaped dessert burgers, and a lot of strawberries to match the expected seasonal flavors. 

Photo by Zoria Petkoska

DINO-A-LIVE Dinosaur Exhibition in Shinjuku Sumitomo Mitsui Building

Dinosaur fans are roaring with excitement at this exhibition with moving animatronic majestic beasts, with Tyrannosaurus and Utahraptor stealing the most thunder. Aside from the live shows held each hour, there are also still dinosaurs exhibited and dino-selfie points. The gift shop sells more than souvenirs, as even some genuine fossils will be on offer. Dino-A-Live ends on December 30th at 3pm, extending opening hours on December 28th and 29th (10am to 8pm). Admission is ¥1,800 for adults (¥2,000 at the venue), and ¥1,200 for children (elementary school students and younger). 

Photo: @Pasela.Coworking Facebook

Capsule hotel reinvents itself

Hotels are probably one of the most severely affected businesses during this pandemic. A lot of them had to quickly pivot and open their doors to locals in the new normal, either for staycations or as impromptu offices. Anshin Oyado in Shinjuku, a capsule hotel geared towards business people in need of a quick, cheap overnight stay, remodeled its sleeping capsules into mini offices perfect for socially distant remote work. The hotel’s 4th floor now has 17 mini offices, each made of two capsules, and operates under the name “Pasela Cowork.” An hour costs ¥500 and includes free photocopying, wi-fi and an all-you-can-drink bar. The capsule hotel still offers the usual services, so a workday can be combined with onsen use or a nap in one of the sleeping capsules on other floors. 

Lucky Bags in Shinjuku in 2021

Fukubukuro, the Japanese custom that combines the concepts of gacha machines and clearance sales, is something to look forward to every year. Some of the most popular places in Shinjuku that offer tempting lucky bags are famous department stores – Takashimaya, Isetan, Keio, Lumine, Odakyu and many more. Every shop in the departments offers their lucky bag, so you vaguely know the kind of products you’re getting, just not the exact items. Due to popularity and to avoid crowds this year, lucky bags can be reserved in advance online.

Know of anything exciting coming up in Shinjuku soon? Anything to add to the list? Send us tips at [email protected]