There isn’t a busier one in the world
Even though Shinjuku Station (新宿駅 / しんじゅくえき) isn’t Tōkyō’s main railway station (usually one talks about Tōkyō Station (東京駅 / とうきょうえき) in that respect), it is the busiest of them all. Not only the busiest of the city, but of the whole country. Well, since we talk superlatives, let’s just add one more: It is the busiest of the world.
Which is even more surprising, if one keeps in mind that it isn’t even the biggest railway station in Japan – that honour goes to Nagoya Station (名古屋駅 / なごやえき), which was registered as the “biggest railway station building of the world” in the Guinness Book of Records in 2002.
That all should be reason enough to take a closer look at the station, even though it doesn’t present itself in the shape of some breathtaking modern architecture, but could be seen (and admired as such) as “pure function”.
Every day three million people use the almost uncountable number of lines – changing trains, starting their journey from here, leaving for the busy centre of Shinjuku. Especially during the morning rush hours there are sometimes the world famous “pushers” to be seen, who see to it that the tight schedule is kept precisely by the second – even a car that looks already over-crowded can take some more passengers…
By the way: There are only a few long-distance trains stopping at Shinjuku Station and not a single Shinkansen (新幹線 / しんかんせん) – nevertheless, it is maybe the most important station in the city, and, as mentioned above, the businest of them all.
West-entrance/exit of the station
Maybe the station building itself isn’t that spectacular, and it also looks a bit past its prime. But just looking at the 16 tracks of the commuter trains of Japan Rail (JR) (all trough traffic) is quite impressive.
Japan Rail (the biggest, but just one of the many service providers at Shinjuku Station) has announced that in 2013 every day three quarters of a million people have boarded their trains every day in Shinjuku (i.e. this number does not include those leaving or changing trains here).
Just for the sake of comparison: London’s busiest station, Waterloo, lists just some 131,000 people entering their trains there per day. If we have a look at the figures of Tōkyō Station, which has a much bigger impact on the long-distance traffic, here it is “only” 400,000 entering passenger per day (on average).
East-entrance/exit of the station
Beneath the tracks of the JR-section of the station runs a system of three wide tunnels between the western part of the building (which leads to the sky scraper district of Shinjuku) and the eastern part (and its busy shopping and amusement districts). Let’s honour those tunnels, which may very well be the busiest tunnels in the world, with some closer looks.
In the underground tunnels beneath the tracks of the JR-lines
The pictures will let you regonise that the tunnels are presently undergoing some renovation. But even during this phase it is true to say: The signs may look confusing at a first glance. But, in fact, they are rather simple to follow. Most of the railway lines are colour-coded and most (if not all) of the signs are at least given in Japanese and with alphabetic descriptions. Neverthless, you don’t have to be a complete numskull to lose your way here, but compared with a lot of other stations in Europe, orientation is suprisingly simple.
And there is another thing one should not forget: Japanese trains really run as scheduled. And local and commuter trains run so often that one doesn’t even need a schedule (but, of course, there is one).
You wouldn’t be in Japan, if there was any danger of suffering from starvation. At the platforms, in the tunnes and halls you can find quite a variety of takeaways and coffee shops for (almost) any kind of budget.
Kiosks and takeaways
There are in fact some foreigners in Tōkyō that actually try to avoid Shinjuku Station, because they think it’s too confusing. But, quite honestly, there is no reason at all to “fear” this station. After all, it’s also not the end of the world, if one loses one’s way a bit – there will always be another sign providing the directions needed. The station is a microcosm of its own – and a rather large one, too – and definitely worth calling an adventure.