Ikebukuro is one of the major stations in Tokyo – in fact, it’s said to be the second-busiest after Shinjuku. It’s on the Yamanote, Fukutoshin and Yurakucho train lines, with termini for the Seibu Ikebukuro Line and the Tobu Tojo Line. Despite a concentration of expensive department stores around the station and the nearby Sunshine Building – once the tallest building in Tokyo – the area is quite downmarket. It’s mostly made up of students and salarymen. But it’s pretty much guaranteed that if you’re looking for a cheap chain store, they’ll have a branch in Ikebukuro. This large commercial district has lots to offer the avid deal hunter – with some good beer, slurp-worthy ramen and interesting sights too.
Where to eat and drink in Ikebukuro
Ikebukuro comes to life at lunchtime, when all of its students and businesspeople pour out onto the streets in search of grub. The local ramen is a popular choice, and there are cheap pizza joints, pasta, pho and curry stores galore. With the exception of this sushi restaurant, places inside the department stores tend to be pricier, so your best bet is to put foot on the pavement and seek out a small spot slightly off the main routes – most places have lunch specials. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, the blood sugar busting buffet of Sweets Paradise is the spot for you – or you could scrounge for an unusually flavoured chocolate at the Kit-Kat Chocolatory (they even have seafood blends these days). When it comes to drinking, there are a number of bars and pub-like watering holes around the station – including several branches of Hub. There is also the wonderfully named Beersaurus, which offers craft brews and dinosaur decor.
What to do in Ikebukuro
Most tourists head straight over to Sunshine City on the east side to shop, scoff and see the aquarium. There is also a nice, if overpriced, observatory on the 60th floor – a decent but squashed spot for seeing Diamond Fuji. If you’re looking for less crowded and money-snaffling activities in Ikebukuro, you could head over to the Bosaikan to learn how to handle earthquakes, scope out a cat, maid or insert-cute-creature-here cafe, poke around Rampo Edogawa House (free!), chill on the Seibu department store’s roof garden, or browse the anime and manga stores on Otome Road (right across from Sunshine City). If you’re up for a stroll, nearby Gokokuji Temple is well worth a visit. And if you’re around from late September to mid-October, you can catch the Fukuro Festival.
Where to stay in Ikebukuro
Ikebukuro has a few classy places to rest your head – notably the Metropolitan Hotel, which is a stone’s throw from the station. Have a look here for discounts on some of the other hotels in the area. If you’re prepared to travel a few stops up the Seibu or Tobu-Tojo lines, you can find some very reasonable Airbnb offerings – otherwise there are guest houses, capsule hotels (for men, anyway), manga cafes and karaoke booths where you can wait till the sun comes up. If you find yourself on the north side (or south, east or west, for that matter) of the station, there is also a selection of love hotels you could book into. With names like Casablanca and themes that involve flashing lights and zebra stripes, you’re in for … well, quite the experience.
Here’s a more comprehensive guide to the Ikebukuro area.
Image credit: James Justin