Shinjuku in September 2020 ー Shopping, Coronavirus, and Fall Weather in Downtown Tokyo

Tokyo Shopping Shinjuku 2020.09.29
Shinjuku is one of Tokyo's biggest shopping districts, but what does it look like in 2020?
On a day full of errands this September, I found myself in Shinjuku, one of the busiest parts of Tokyo. So I decided to use it as a chance to document the late afternoon atmosphere of Shinjuku in 2020. What is life like in a Tokyo where the people live "with coronavirus"? Are people wearing masks? Are they back to their old haunts, exploring the city again like nothing has changed? And are they social distancing, or are the trains and stations once again as packed as ever?
  • Let's start at JR Shinjuku Station, a huge labyrinth where more than a few have lost their way! It did seem less crowded than before, with fewer people milling around, but it certainly wasn't empty. Friends were chatting and making their way through the crowds, with the simple addition of face masks covering the mouth and nose. The most noticable difference in Shinjuku Station is the total lack of tourists! On the train itself, I ended up hopping on around 6 in the evening (during rush hour!) and it wasn't nearly as crowded as I've seen it in the past.
  • This paved area sits in front of the Flags shopping mall, home to Tower Records and plenty of trendy clothing stores, and even now it never goes totally quiet. People still mill around the space and pass through on their way to some Shinjuku destination or another, lining up for the escalator that leads to Shinjuku Station. But in recent years this spot has almost always been taken up by musicians busking or artists otherwise performing for the many passers-by, and now that COVID-19 has made that a rarity, the space seems a little too calm.
  • From this intersection we can see the scene at Lumine Est and BIC Camera's Shinjuku East store.
  • On another corner is ABC-Mart, a popular Japanese shoe store, open for business. (Across the street is Under Amour's striking Shinjuku "brand house."
  • Between the Uniqlo, GU, and BIC Camera in this one building, it's an easy place to empty out your wallet in no time! I've seen bigger crowds, but the streets are certainly not empty.
  • Finally, I finished up my little tour with a surprisingly quiet view of Shinjuku's Kabukicho area, usually a bustling center of nightlife. Godzilla looks a little shocked at the current situation!

Shinjuku 2020

With COVID-19 preventing the huge waves of tourists that Tokyo normally sees throughout the year, and locals still a little wary of braving the crowded Shinjuku streets, the area is clearly looking a little empty. Unfortunately, this means that some businesses are closing down without the usual footfall, and there are a few more dark storefronts in Shinjuku these days, too. As frustrating as this is for anyone who loves Tokyo, there's not much to be done for the time being, so we'll just have to wait it out and hope things pick back up before too long. Shinjuku is clearly ready and waiting to welcome the world back onto the streets!

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