last update: December 27, 2020
Ikebukuro is a very busy area in the north of Tokyo, in the special ward of Toshima. Together with Shinjuku
, it is one of the three main areas of the city to go shopping and have fun in a variety of ways. Moreover, although it is not as big and famous as Akihabara
, Ikebukuro is also a reference point for otaku culture.
Things to do and things to see in Ikebukuro
Ikebukuro offers endless things to do including shopping, dining and other entertainment. The main landmark in the neighborhood is its immense main station, Ikebukuro station
, ranked second among the busiest railway stations in Tokyo (and all over the world) after Shinjuku station
, and ranked first among the busiest Tokyo Metro stations. Ikebukuro station incorporates two huge department stores that have always competed with each other. The department stores operated by Seibu
to the east, the department stores operated by Tobu
to the west.
Ikebukuro is therefore cut in half into two distinct areas by its big station and railroad tracks. On one side we have Ikebukuro East
, on the other Ikebukuro West
The most lively and vibrant area is undoubtedly East Ikebukuro
, which can be reached then going out from the "east exit
" of Ikebukuro station, and where you can find an extensive shopping area with two huge electronic stores, next to each other, Bic Camera
e Yamada Denki
(LABI), the department stores of Seibu
(mainly fashion) and Loft
(gifts and decor), but also the Sunshine City
and Otome Road
the view after leaving Ikebukuro station from its east exit
A huge building complex opened in 1978, it was the first "city within a city" in Tokyo and a cutting-edge idea at that time, not only for Japan but for the whole world. The complex consists of four low-rise buildings and a skyscraper, the Sunshine 60, which was the tallest building in Asia until 1985.
Observing the sliding downwards of this building in the ranking of the tallest skyscrapers in Asia, one can retrace the construction and economic boom of Asian countries, which until the early 90s was still at the beginning. Suffice it to say that until 1997 this skyscraper was still the 20th tallest building in all of Asia, while in 2015 it was the 217th.
The Sunshine 60 includes some panoramic restaurants on floors 58th and 59th, and an observation deck open to the public on the 60th floor. Other buildings belonging to the complex are a lower skyscraper hotel (Sunshine Prince hotel), and two low-rise buildings which house many shops and restaurants and some attractions: an aquarium, a planetarium, a museum, and the Namco Namja Town. Among the many shops, you can find also the Pokemon Center MEGA Tokyo.
Sky Circus Sunshine 60 observation deck
(admission 1200 yen, opening hours 10-22)
This observation deck is located on the top floor of the skyscraper Sunshine 60, about 240 meters high.
It is one of the least popular observation decks in Tokyo. This low popularity is the best reason to visit it, especially if you are looking for some romantic moments with your partner.
In 2016 it has been completely renovated and has been enriched with different installations with optical effects and virtual reality attractions.
Buy online Sky Circus tickets
night view from Sky Circus Sunshine 60
Pokemon Center MEGA Tokyo
(opening hours 10-20)
The largest Pokemon Center in Japan and probably in the the whole world, namely an official store dedicated entirely to the Pokemon universe, with many exclusive items on sale. It is located on the 2nd floor of the mall Sunshine City Alpa within the Sunshine City.
Sunshine City Aquarium
(admission 2000 yen, opening hours 10-20, until 18 from nov to mar)
A beautiful aquarium whose entrance is located on the tenth floor of the building World Import Mart of the Sunshine City, with a large outdoor area on the roof of the building. Inside you can admire not only fish and sea creatures, but also other animals such as frogs, snakes, penguins, seals and otters.
Konica Minolta Planetarium Manten
(admission 1100 yen, opening hours 11-20)
A planetarium managed by the Japanese electronics giant Konica Minolta.
Namco Namja Town
(admission 500 yen, opening hours 10-22)
A small indoor theme park located on the second floor of the building World Import Mart of the Sunshine City. This park was renovated and also scaled down in 2013, so any information prior to 2013 could be no longer true.
Although the word "Namco" might suggest some amazing video arcade of the future, in fact it's something completely different. Inside there are indeed carnival-style games and attractions, such as a haunted house or prize games (for example shooting games) and other small attractions targeted mainly to children.
The most interesting thing for an adult tourist visiting the Namja Town is undoubtedly its food court, divided into two areas: the Namja Gyoza Stadium dedicated to the typical Japanese dumplings of Chinese origin, and the Fukubukuro Dessert Yokocho where you can taste crepes, ice creams, pancakes and other sweets. A special mention goes to the ice cream shop, where you can choose from more than 50 flavors including some really weird ones: squid-flavored ice cream, curry-flavored ice cream, miso-flavored ice cream, roasted eggplant-flavored ice cream, garlic-flavored ice cream, and others.
Otome Road (Otome rodo)
It is a nickname given to a very small area of Ikebukuro, near the Sunshine City, which has been gaining notoriety in recent years as "the Akihabara for girls", with stores specialized in yaoi manga (love and sex between males or trannies). Don't imagine it as a sort of Akihabara for gays, because this kind of stuff in Japan is truly very popular among girls.
This is also the area where the first maid cafes for girls have been opened, where you get served not by pretty girls but by pretty boys or boys dressed as girls.
The main shop of the street is a branch of Animate (8-storey, full of excited high school girls looking for yaoi), there are also branches of other famous shops for otaku, such as K-Books and Mandarake.
The west side of Ikebukuro, which can be reached then going out from the "west exit
" of Ikebukuro station, is an area a little less lively than the east side but still interesting. On this side you can find the department stores of Tobu
, among the largest in the city, Marui
(fashion and household goods) and a branch of Bic Camera
(electronics). As for shopping it is definitely less crowded than the the east side, but here you can find a number of ambiguous places that form a small red light area.
Tokyo Metropolitan Theatre
A building with a beautiful architectural structure, opened in 1990, designed by the famous architect Yoshinobu Ashihara. It houses various spaces for exhibitions and cultural activities, and in particular a large concert hall. The calendar of events is available only in Japanese, at this link.
Inside this building you can also see a long escalator, according to some unconfirmed sources the longest escalators in Japan.
Ikebukuro red light district
Although the best known red light district of Tokyo is Kabuki-cho in Shinjuku, actually nowadays you can find a number of places for adult entertainment around all the major railway stations of the city, and the red light area of Ikebukuro is one of the largest after the one in Shinjuku.
A few blocks away from the west exit of the station, you will find a number of streets with restaurants, karaoke, game rooms, but also a lot of kyabakura (hostess bar), and various other adult places, such as, for example an oppai bar (a kind of place where you can touch the breasts of the girls who work there) or one sexy zoo with waitresses disguised as various animals. It is not difficult to imagine that among all these strange places there might be also real prostitutes.
In this area there are also some business hotels and a lot of love hotels, especially walking north nearby the railroad tracks.
some love hotels in Ikebukuro seen from the overpass over the tracks north of the station
Since the nineties, more and more Chinese have settled in Ikebukuro and in particular in the area north-west of the station. Today the area is full of Chinese supermarkets, shops and restaurants and more and more the media refer to this area as a real Chinatown. To get there, just take the North exit on the west side of the station.
Where to stay in Ikebukuro
Pros and cons
Ikebukuro is 10 minutes by train from Shinjuku and 15 from Shibuya or Ueno, but for some areas further south, such as Shiodome, Ginza or Odaiba it can take half an hour or more. The airports are also quite far away. The overall location is good but not the best it can be. On the other hand, the neighborhood offers a wide choice of places to stay, from internet cafes to business hotels and large hotels. The prices are very affordable and there are also several very low cost accommodations. We recommend Ikebukuro to those who want to stay in a neighborhood that is busy 24 hours a day, full of bars, restaurants and arcades but at the same time want to spend little.
Recommended hotels in Ikebukuro
On the west side of Ikebukuro, near the red light area described above (no worries, it's a very safe area) there are some quite cheap business hotels, in particular we recommend the New Star Ikebukuro
, the Star Plaza Ikebukuro
, and above all the Tokyu Stay Ikebukuro
, one of the best in the city as for value for money.
In this area you can also find two hotels which are very popular among foreign tourists, with very low rates: the Kimi ryokan
, where you can sleep in small traditional Japanese-style rooms, and the Sakura hotel
If you are looking for high-range hotel, the best in the district is the Metropolitan Hotel
, right next to the station.
Within the Sunshine City there is also an hotel, the Prince Hotel Ikebukuro
. It is a normal hotel (where you can stay in rooms with panoramic view (the hotel is a skyscraper of 35 floors) at reasonable prices.
Cafes and restaursnts in Ikebukuro
Neko Cat Cafe Nekorobi
(opening hours 11-22)
A very particular neko cafe
, you pay 1100 yen per hour (1300 yen at the weekend), plus 250/300 yen for each additional 15 minutes.
Before entering you will have to remove your shoes and wash your hands thoroughly, and after that you can stay as long as you want inside the cafe, where there are a lot of cats to play with. There are also vending machines for soft drinks (free and unlimited), tv, computer, wii, wifi, outlets to charge your smartphone, various games.
One of the most foreign-friendly neko cat cafe of Tokyo, highly recommended if you do not speak Japanese. This place has also an English website
(opening hours 18:00-04:00)
A bar where you can drink and eat until late at night, inside which there is a pool with four real penguins. The all you can drink formula including a wide selection of beer, wine, cocktails, shochu and whiskey is the most popular one.
If you really want to go there, I recommend to book online. In this way they know you are a tourist and then you are probably mostly interested in penguins, so they will reserve a table for you as close as possible to the pool.
Online reservation for the Penguin Bar
How to get to Ikebukuro
Ikebukuro Station is the second busiest station in Tokyo and the world, with over 2.6 million passengers per day. It is served by four different companies: JR, Tokyo Metro, Seibu Railways and Tobu Railwys.
- Yamanote line
- Saikyo line, convenient to reach Shinjuku (6 minutes) and Shibuya (11 minutes) directly without making all the stops of the Yamanote line.
- Shonan-Shinjuku line, convenient to reach Yokohama directly (35-40 minutes).
Tokyo Metro lines
- Marunouchi line
- Yurakucho line
- Fukutoshin line
Tobu and Sebu lines
Ikebukuro station is also important because it is the terminus of two lines of two private companies, the Tobu Tojo line
towards Saitama, and the Seibu Ikebukuro line
which goes west through suburban areas of Tokyo such as Nerima
. Although these lines are very important in Tokyo because they connect an important city center and interchange station like Ikebukuro with large suburban residential areas, they are rarely used by tourists.
From airports to Ikebukuro
- Narita Airport: some Narita Express trains also stop in Ikebukuro and it takes about 90 minutes. For a quicker but also a bit more expensive solution, take the JR Yamanote line to Nippori station and from there take the direct Keisei Skyliner to the airport, for a total of 50-60 minutes.
- Haneda airport: you must first arrive at Hamamatsucho station via the JR Yamanote line, and from there take the Tokyo Monorail to Haneda airport, for a total of 50-60 minutes.
Map of Ikebukuro, Tokyo
Guided tours, activities and other things to do
If you are planning a trip to Japan and you want to do something more than just visiting famous places and monuments, we suggest you to use Govoyagin
How to use Govoyagin
Govoyagin is a very useful website to enrich your travel experience
, especially if you are going solo or it's your first time in Japan.
Because of the language barrier (and more), in Japan it is very difficult to interact with the locals and to get off the tourist track.
Thanks to Govoyagin you can find a lot of interesting and sometimes unique guided tours and activities
all over Japan (and not only in Japan), that you would otherwise never be able to enjoy.
But there's more: on Govoyagin you can also buy tickets
for several famous attractions, events, transportation and other useful services for tourists. Last but not least, you can reserve a table
in hundreds of restaurants.
Take a look at Govoyagin
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