By Komal Khiani
Shinjuku—and especially its entertainment district Kabukicho—is known for being fast-paced and busy around the clock. But for a savvy girl with a mission to chill, it can be a great place to rest, relax and indulge.
Tokyoites often complain that there are no good breakfast places in the city, but that’s no longer the case—if you know where to look. Start the morning in Kabukicho’s new landmark, Hotel Gracery Shinjuku, for a sky-high buffet breakfast on their stylish 8th-floor café, Café Bonjour Terrace. A cornucopia of healthy foods such as freshly made smoothies, sandwiches, salads and a selection of granola and cereals await the health-conscious. For those with a sweet tooth, freshly baked waffles and French toast, with fresh fruits and jams—a delight for both eye and palate. Best of all, diners can enjoy a view of the iconic Tokyo monster, Godzilla, as they eat.
Heading out into the city, stop by art supply store Sekaido—a stationery lover’s paradise. The narrow aisles of notebooks, pens, stickers and art supplies are a feast for the eyes and soul alike. Visitors who plan to visit more than once should get the Sekaido card, which gives discounts of up to 20% off on most products every visit.
Having fed the soul, it’s time to visit what may be the best dango (a kind of dumpling, similar to mocha)shop in all of Tokyo—in Kanto, even. Oiwake Dango Honpo sells traditional dango on a stick, which you can either take with you or enjoy indoors in their café.
If the weather is good, head over to Marui department store for an unlikely spot of greenery. On the way to the roof of the building, stop by Parachutes cold-pressed juice shop for some freshly pressed juice; or, if a coffee fiend, there are two Starbucks shops inside. The Marui rooftop is an award-winning English-style garden, which is absolutely free of charge! Benches and tables are scattered across the lawn, and visitors are free to bring snacks, as long as they don’t bring alcohol, and clean up after themselves. It’s the perfect spot to get away from the city for a moment, while also having a view of Shinjuku’s skyline in the distance.
Feeding the soul and the stomach is all well and good, but a girl’s got to take care of her appearance too, right? Shopaholics will enjoy nearby department stores, but Komehyo (opposite Isetan Honkan) is also worth a look; it’s a treasure trove of secondhand brand items at great prices. For those looking to relax some more, there are a myriad of nail salons in the area. Eriko Nails, in particular, is close to Shinjuku station is not only well known across Japan, but can also provide fluent English speaking nail technicians. (Book in advance to ensure one is available when you go.)
Back in Kabukicho, Osso Ladies’ and Men’s Spa is a 24-hour hot stone spa with massage and fish therapy options. (Fish therapy is where you dip your legs into a tub and tiny fish gently nibble off dead skin cells, leaving legs silky smooth.) The hot stone spa is a great way to relax and is said to increase the metabolism. Also, since guests at the spa wear robes on at all times, guests with tattoos are okay. (Nearby Teruma spa, a real hot spring, is an option for those without tattoos.)
End the day back at the beginning with a night at Hotel Gracery—their ladies’ rooms on a women’s only floor give their guests a little bit of an extra treat. Checking in, guests receive a small hair care kit and scented bath salts—but the best part is waiting in the room. A facial steamer, and a leg and foot massage machine are the ultimate luxury, and a perfect way to wind down after a full day of pampering.
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Originally from Sweden, born to American and Swedish parents, Lisa grew up traversing the globe as she immersed herself in various cultures, driven by a deep-seated need to understand the world around her. Japan ultimately became her home with its lure of scrumptious cuisine and surprisingly dynamic underground music scene. When not working as a writer and translator, she spends her time visiting shrines, doing awaodori dance and making friends with every Shiba dog she comes across.