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Take in Shinjuku’s Architecture!

Mar 23, 2020

Spring is now upon us, so what better time to go for a walk? Shinjuku is a wonderful place to take in some of Japan’s architecture, both modern and traditional. Keep reading to find out what places we recommend making a stop at during your time exploring the big city!

Cocoon Tower (Designed by Tange and Associates)

First up on our tour is Cocoon Tower, a building that you’re sure to spot when you get out of Shinjuku Station via the West Exit. The white netlike design enveloping the building is unique, which has helped it stand out and become a symbol of Shinjuku. Cocoon Tower is home to three community colleges – fashion, IT, and medical.

Completed in 2008, the 204-meter tall Cocoon Tower has three underground floors and 50 above-ground floors. The design that was requested for this building was “something that isn’t a square,” and an international competition was held to find the most suitable design. Fifty design offices offered 150 plans, but in the end, the now-famous design from Tange and Associates was chosen. The cocoon design was selected because it is meant to hold the young people inside while they are still learning and be something that they emerge from. This building is one that stands out from the rest, so be sure to take some great shots of it!

Location information

Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower

Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower combines three schools: Tokyo Mode Gakuen (fashion, cosmetology and design), HAL Tokyo College of Technology & Design (IT, computer graphics and games), and Shuto Iko (clinica…

1-7-3 Nishi-Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
Telephone number
Hours of operation

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Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building (Designed by Kenzo Tange)

If you head into the swarm of office buildings past Cocoon Tower, then you can find the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, also known as the TMG Building or Tocho for short. Completed in December of 1990, this building features a left and right tower. The unique rabbit ear-like design helped it become a Tokyo landmark. At the time of its completion, the 243m tall structure was the tallest building in Japan, though it has since become the ninth tallest.

The TMG Building is one of architect Kenzo Tange’s most famous works. Although it falls under the post-modern umbrella, Tokyo Metropolitan Main Building No.1 is said to be inspired by the Notre Dame Cathedral. This highest point of this high-reaching structure is an exact 45-degree angle from the ground. The exterior walls are comprised of latticework-like windows and a light-colored granite. Some of the windows of the TMG building are real, while others are used to continue the pattern. The lattice design is meant to represent both traditional Japanese latticework and the digital announcement boards of the information age. The TMG building is one that stands out to this day.

Location information

Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government is about a 10-minute walk from Shinjuku Station's West Exit. You can see a sweeping panorama of Tokyo from the two free observatories 202 meters off the ground. The d…

2-8-1 Nishi-Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 163-8001
Telephone number
Observatory phone number 03-5320-7890 (Weekdays 10:00–17:00)
Hours of operation
To get to the observatory, take the observatory elevator in Tokyo Metropolitan Main Building No. 1.
Note: When the government offices are closed

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Yasuyo Building (Designed by Shindo Akashin)

You can find unique architecture on the east side of Shinjuku as well. Located beside the Lumine Est Department Store is the Yasuyo Building, a structure that looks like hexagonal boxes have been stacked on top of one another. Run by Yasuyo Shoji Co., Ltd., the first floor houses a bank with the 6th and 7th floors home to Japanese kaiseki restaurant Kakiden. The building was designed by Shindo Akashin and completed in 1968.

After 46 years, the building underwent renovations in 2015. The vertical lattice bars and lighting give the building a new and improved look. With the lights gently shining through the bars, this building looks like an oasis in the middle of busy Shinjuku.

Gunkan Mansion (Designed by Yoji Watanabe)

The final stop on our architectural tour is in the Kabukicho area. If you head deep enough into Kabukicho, then you can find a residential area. However, there may be a building that catches your eye. This apartment complex is nicknamed the Gunkan Mansion (Battleship Apartment Complex), though the official name is Gunkan Higashi Shinjuku Building. This spot is well-known among lovers of architecture.

Former army shipman Yoji Watanabe, also known as the heretical architect, designed the apartment building just like a warship. When it was completed in 1970, the silver exterior of the building looked ready to return fire to an enemy ship. The top of the complex looked just like a battleship that you would sea fighting in the Pacific Ocean.

However, after 40 years, the building was renovated in 2011. At that time, the striking silver was changed to a gray. The structure now comprises of a sharehouse and offices. If you’re in the area, it’s worth it to stop by and take a look at a piece of Shinjuku’s history.

Shinjuku is one of the preeminent urban areas in Japan, so its home to many unique architectural designs. Take a detour off the main streets and find some architecture that catches your eye!