This is a gross exaggeration, actually. Seibu Ikebukuro’s basement floor of sweets, alcohol, teas, and prepared foods is better, more like cutting in line at the Pirates of the Caribbean ride.
With 90-100 individual stores of sweets and food gifts, or okashi and sake, and 95 stalls of food/osoizai (prepared side dishes, meats, noodles, sushi, salads, you name it), this depachika is just as much paradise for your rumbly tummy as it is for your eyes. The best part ? SAMPLING!
You can eat and drink your way through both sides of Seibu’s flagship depachika, a name bridging the word “depa”, as in “department store” with “chika”, or “basement”, a cutesy term pegged in the early 2000s.
A myth blown: And people say, “There is no such thing as a free lunch?” Bah. You can indeed rove from stall to stall at Ikebukuro’s Seibu depachika and sample your way through heaven. This is perhaps my favorite place in all of Tokyo. No, really. It was recently renovated, more filled with light and sparkle, a true representation of Japan in terms of taste, presentation, and service.
Rock-star service: The smallest, most inexpensive purchase may be wrapped and rung-up as if you are royalty. You will be thanked and apologized to for any wait. Should you ask a question that leaves the attendant stumped or the least bit unsure, phones will be called. English speakers will come running. In fact, one of the depachika’s eight Sweets Attendants is a fantastic English speaker. (Ask for Mika-san).
Of course, this depachika is the perfect place to practice even the most miniscule of Japanese. You will be praised and that can feel good. So can cups of complimentary tea, scores of the most decadent cakes, crunchy cookies, juicy meats, and whatever else you wish to call lunch, brunch, or dinner.
You can even begin sampling sake at ten in the morning. Can Disney beat that?
The attendants can tell you about optimal serving temperature, glassware, and food pairings. This is the best way to buy your alcohol or gift to others.
An end to food waste & scary fridges: Isn’t this the way it should be? No more disappointment at what you’ve brought home from the grocery store! No more food experiments on their way to becoming the next penicillin in your crisper drawer. Everything you decide to purchase here will be because you tasted it and fell in love.
Be a foodie pirate & take that loot: That’s right. A depachika like this one yields a bounty if you do it right. My free lunch included the following:
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*several pieces of crunchy karinto cookies (Oh, last time I bought from this counter, I was given a whole bag of broken pieces, perfectly delectable).
*a half of that karinto-manju, sold six for 630 yen.
* fresh, or nama chocolate
(Can you tell I started on the sweet side?)
* traditional sweet beans (original, kinako, and matcha).
* Two sakura-shaped cookies (white chocolate cinnamon & chocolate., both amaaaaazing)
* More, more, more. Lots more sweets.
* a cup of green tea, much needed after the sweets
* some pickled veg/sukemono (today I passed on the blood-red, firey goodness of kimchi).
This is the new frontier, a way in to the culture: This is your place to try/learn about new foods: A depachika is the place to try eight different kinds of umeboshi, those diminutive, scrunched-up pickled plums. Taste your way through the most sour to the sweetest, honey-preserved little gems. Gain the courage to take home your new items with confidence: they will not rot at the back of your fridge; you’ve tasted them & you know they shall be devoured and shared with great aplomb.
Beyond the traditional, sample freshly-layered German baumkuchen, French macarons, and blow-your-mind choux creme/creme puffs. Keep saving room.
Back to my sampling escapades:
After all of the pickles, I was ready for meat.
* Three separate, sizable pieces of chicken
* one full bowl of wakame soup, heavy with extra seaweed gifts (service) from the clerk. (sold at 6,300 yen for 500 grams, plus the value of the extras). This bowl alone probably added three years to my life; you could taste the “healthy”.
* sheets and sheets of nori for me to discern the differences
* more cups of tea
* more sweets
* a cool mini-cup of sake
You get the picture.
Loiter and act interested: Whatever is not already out on the counter for sampling may be quickly produced if you hang around, appreciating the noodles, beef, fruit, cake, etc.
Re photo-ops: Taking pictures is strongly prohibited throughout the depachika. I am a risk-taker who can play that foreigner-card, and I walk that fine-line between super-restpectful, apologetic, and daredevil. (I was hollered at by an older gent, who came out of his noodle-making room to tell me to put my dang camera away). I shall now be respectful, even when the cakes are unbelievably cute, in the shape of a full piggy head, panda, or something similarly adorable. I’ll try, anyway.
Cheapo outing?: I must say that I did buy many items, but I did not buy lunch.
All that I did buy was a solid-investment, not to be wasted, but carted home to the tune of “A Pirate’s Life for Me.”
|Name:||Seibu Ikebukuro Depachika/Basement Food Store|
|Location:||Seibu Department store in Ikebukuro, B1, 1-28-1, Toshima-ku, Tokyo 〒 171-8569|
|Closest Station:||In Ikebukuro Station (follow exit signs for Seibu East Exit at the Central Exit, then step into the sweets section).|
|Business hours:||Mon-Sat: 10 am-9 pm |
Holidays: 10 am-8 pm
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