From Shopping to Anime, Ikebukuro’s Got It All

Tiffany

Some travel guidebooks used to advise tourists to skip Ikebukuro, because what you can see there, you can also find elsewhere. I wonder if they’re still saying the same things now, as Ikebukuro certainly also has its own charm. It combines the commercial atmosphere of Shinjuku with the otaku-oriented feel of Akihabara. We’ve managed to satisfy a group of tourists with different interests – anime, fashion, and electronics – by taking them to Ikebukuro.

Photo by Tiffany Lim.
East Ikebukuro

Ikebukuro’s centers of activity are the East and West districts, both of which have distinctly different ambiances. The West area is generally quieter in the daytime, but it comes alive at night with its many restaurants, karaoke centers, and izakayas. The East area, in contrast, is bustling all day and night, with numerous shops and restaurants.

Shopping

Ikebukuro’s two main department stores are Tobu and Seibu. If you know Japanese, you’ll find it ironic that Tobu (which has the kanji for “east” in its name) is at the West Exit, while Seibu (which has the kanji for “west” in its name) is at the East Exit. Both department stores have entrances inside Ikebukuro Station, so they’re very convenient to get to. Other popular department stores Marui (a.k.a. 0101) and Lumine are also just a few minutes’ walk from the West Exit. Next to the east exit is Parco. Keep an eye out for free samples in the food areas.

Photo by Tiffany Lim.
Part of Sunshine City.

If these big department stores are too pricey, head over to the East Exit. Sunshine City and the road leading to it, Sunshine-dori (which translates to Sunshine Street), have some cheaper options. They’re not flea market-cheap, but clothes and shoes there can be more affordable. For instance, some women’s clothing shops in Sunshine City have cute, fashionable tops that sell for about 2000 yen, and they can go as low as 1000 yen on sale.


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Clothing aside, Sunshine City is also home to Daiso, the famous 100-yen shop, and 3 Coins, where all items are 324 yen. A 8-storey Tokyu Hands, a DIY and crafting shop, is next to Sunshine City.

Electronics

Bic Camera’s home turf is Ikebukuro, so don’t be surprised that it has several branches there, mostly clustered around the East Exit. Some branches only sell cameras and related equipment, while others offer a wide range of electronics. Its rival, Yamada Denki, also has a presence in the form of the LABI store near the East Exit.

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Arts and Culture

The Tokyo Metropolitan Art Space near the West Exit has theaters and a concert hall. Occasionally, you can also see performances in front of it and at the adjacent West Gate Park.

Photo by Tiffany Lim.
A yosakoi street performance near Ikebukuro Station’s West Exit.

In September and October, Ikebukuro celebrates the two-part Fukuro Matsuri, which has a mikoshi (portable shrine) procession and a yosakoi (a Japanese dance distinguished by the use of clappers) contest. This festival takes place in various locations around the West Exit, and the main street, Azalea Dori, is blocked off for performances.

Pop Culture

For animation lovers, Sunshine City has a Disney Store and MOE Garden, a shop with a wide selection of Studio Ghibli merchandise. Meanwhile, Pokemon fans will be delighted to know that the Pokemon Megacenter, the largest Pokemon Center in Japan, can be found in Sunshine City.

Animate's flagship store. Photo by Tiffany Lim.



Although overshadowed by Akihabara, Ikebukuro also has a reputation for being an otaku hub. A popular notion is that Akihabara is for men, whereas Ikebukuro is for women, because many of Ikebukuro’s anime and manga merchandise shops focus on BL (boys’ love) and yaoi. This is why a certain shop-lined road across Sunshine City is called Otome (Maiden) Road. Don’t let the name put you off, though; Ikebukuro is a great place to shop for anime, manga, and cosplay merchandise regardless of gender. Some of the shops along Otome Road are K-Books, which has separate branches for doujinshi (fan comics), secondhand merchandise, and cosplay; Lashinbang, a secondhand merchandise and cosplay items shop; and Mandarake, a doujinshi shop. The 9-storey flagship store of Animate, an anime/manga merchandise chain, is also located in East Ikebukuro, on a street perpendicular to Sunshine-Dori.

Cosplay events are also held in East Ikebukuro every now and then, so you might get lucky and see some cosplayers around Sunshine City on certain weekends.

Things To Do

Not interested in shopping? No worries; Sunshine City’s got you covered with its other attractions. It houses a planetarium, observatory, an aquarium, and a small indoor amusement park called Namjatown. What’s interesting about Namjatown is that it has a gyoza stadium where you can try all sorts of variations on gyoza: gyoza with shrimp, gyoza so long that it resembles a coil rather than a dumpling, and more (though this area may be closed for renovations). It also has a dessert alley where you can try odd flavors of ice cream, such as shrimp and curry.

 Photo by Tiffany Lim.
All aboard! One of the cats’ playhouses in Nekobukuro.

Ikebukuro also has some animal cafes. Cat lovers should head to Nekobukuro on the 8th floor of Tokyu Hands, where you can watch cats frolicking for 600 yen. Nekorobi, near Sunshine City, is another popular cat cafe, which costs 1100 yen for the first hour, and 300 yen for succeeding hours. There’s also a newly opened rabbit cafe called Usabibi, which is near the West Exit.



Lastly, Ikebukuro has its share of themed cafes. The maid cafe chain MaiDreamin has a branch on Sunshine Street. A maid can usually be found on the street, leading customers in. Near MaiDreamin is a new ikemen (handsome men) cafe called St. Giuliano Music Academy, and the famous Swallowtail Butler Cafe can be found towards the end of Otome Road.

Ikebukuro also has a fair few love hotels, as we detail here.

What’s your favourite part of Ikebukuro? Let us know in the comments.


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5 Responses to “From Shopping to Anime, Ikebukuro’s Got It All”

  1. Sheila Dumayas

    Hello Tiffany, my husband and I are bringing our 2 teenage sons who love anime to Tokyo by October this year. They are excited to see cosplay on the streets. Any tips on time/day and place where cosplayers would be seen more often? I heard Harajuku on a Sunday but maybe we won’t be able to be there as we arrive from Manila by 3pm and would want to rest on that day. Thanks very much!

    • Tiffany
      Tiffany

      Hi Sheila! Nice to see a fellow Filipino reading Tokyo Cheapo. Just to clarify – it’s a common misconception that the people you see in Harajuku are cosplayers. Sometimes, there may be cosplayers there, but more often than not, the people you see in unconventional clothing are wearing subcultural fashion like Lolita and visual kei (which is kinda like Japanese glam rock). When exactly in October are you coming? There’s a small cosplay event in Nakano on the 11th. I also know someone who’s organizing a cosplay and costume party on the 17th (although that’s not street cosplay, and there’s an entrance fee of 3,000 yen). Aside from that, Ikebukuro is holding a street cosplay event from October 31-November 1 as a Halloween celebration.

      • Sheila Dumayas

        Glad to hear from you! I guess we Filipinos share a love for good bargain and value for money which brought me to your site 🙂 I really love your blog -honest and sincere take, pretty straightforward and comprehensive, appealing and easy to read . And thank you for the heads up! We will be missing the Halloween celebration though, we arrive October 25 and leave Tokyo by October 30. We will be staying in Akihabara to take advantage of Electric Town (again, for our teenage boys who’d love to score anime goods and game consoles). After reading your blog, we definitely will spend one day in our itinerary for Ikebukuro, For me and my husband, any tips on where to have street food and bargain markets?

        • Tiffany
          Tiffany

          Hi Sheila! Thanks for the kind words. I hope more Pinoys will read Tokyo Cheapo and Japan Cheapo, but I don’t think many Pinoys know of this website, which I find rather sad. Anyway, it might still be a bit early for announcements about events in October, so perhaps there might be a cosplay event on the 25th; who knows. (I haven’t seen any announcements as of now.) Otherwise, weekday cosplay events are very rare, so your sons might not be able to see cosplay during the other days.

          Japan isn’t much of a street food country, but if there’s a festival going on, there will usually be food stalls, so festivals would be your best chance to try street food like yakisoba and yakitori. I don’t think there will be any festivals during your stay in Tokyo, though. Regarding bargain markets, you won’t find anything like Divisoria in Tokyo. Aside from 100-yen shops, the cheaper places are still not that cheap compared to bargain markets/shops in the Philippines. Sunshine City has sales and good bargains every now and then, and I also like shopping in Kichijoji and Nakano (especially a mall there called Nakano Broadway), as both stations have shopping streets.

  2. puffygal

    Hi,
    Interesting blog. Stumbled upon it when I’m researching for a 9 day trip to tokyo in mid dec 15. My kid wants to go tokyo because she likes anime. She wants to buy some anime figurines. Can i get your advice about where we can buy relatively cheap anime stuff in tokyo?

    Thanks!


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