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last update: July 25, 2018
Ikebukuro is a district of Toshima special ward in northern Tokyo. It is considered the third shopping and leisure "center" in Tokyo, after Shinjuku and Shibuya.

The neighborhood

Absolute center of the district of Ikebukuro is the huge main station of the neighborhood, Ikebukuro station, ranked second among the busiest railway stations in Tokyo (and all over the world) after that of Shinjuku, and ranked first among the metro stations (Tokyo Metro).
We can divide Ikebukuro using the railroad tracks that cut the neighborhood in two areas, one to the east and one to the west.

East Ikebukuro

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 (everything), Parco (mainly fashion) and Loft (gifts and decor), but also the Sunshine City and Otome Road.
Ikebukuro est side the view after getting out from the east exit of Ikebukuro station

Sunshine city

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.
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, the Namco Namja Town and the J-World. Among the many shops, you can find also the Pokemon Center of Tokyo.

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.

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

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.

J-World Tokyo

(admission 800 yen, opening hours 10-22)
Another indoor theme park created by Namco, located on the third floor of the building World Import Mart of the Sunshine City, and dedicated to the most famous characters of manga published in the famous magazine Shonen Jump, and in particular to the series of Dragonball, One Piece and Naruto. Inside there is also a food court area with various themed dishes and a shop with many exclusive gadgets.
As for this place, I would like to say something more. Often tourists from around the world who are fans of anime and manga, when they read about the existence of such a place, they begin to daydream and look forward to visit it, but then the reality proves to be very different. Do not forget that it is a park largely targeted to children or adolescents at most, so it's normal to be disappointed after seeing the "banality" of certain attractions if you go there with high expectations. Furthermore, most of the attractions are interactive experiences and the audio is only in Japanese, so if you don't understand the language it could be very difficult for you.
Each attraction costs 800 yen extra, there is also an unlimited pass that costs 2600 yen but it would probably be just a waste of money for you. Why? Because almost all foreign tourists who visit this place come in, have a look around, take some pictures, maybe eat something in the food area of the park and then go away. If you are fans of anime and manga, a visit might be a nice experience, but don't go there with high expectations, that's all.
view from Sunshine 60 view from the observation deck on the top of the Sunshine 60, photo taken by mockmoon

Otome rodo (Otome road)

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.

Lastly, near Otome Road there is also the Toyota Amlux (free admission, opening hours 11-19, closed on mondays), a showroom of 5 floors owned by Toyota.

West Ikebukuro

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.

Metropolitan Art Space

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.

Sleeping, recommended hotels and ryokans in Ikebukuro

Ikebukuro offers a wide range of places where to stay, from the cheap internet cafes to business hotels and big hotels.
It is 10 minutes far from Shinjuku and 15 minutes from Shibuya or Ueno by train, but it takes at least half an hour to reach some famous places such as, for example, Shiodome, Tsukiji or Odaiba. The location of this neighborhood overall is good but not perfect.

On the west side of Ikebukuro, near the red light area described above (no safety problems, it's a very quiet area) there are some quite cheap business hotels, in particular I 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 (both a hotel and a hostel).

If you are looking for a superior class 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, a standard hotel (not luxury) 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

Nekorobi 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.
penguin bar ikebukuro

Penguin Bar

(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

Pratical guide, how to get to Ikebukuro

Ikebukuro Station is the busiest station in Tokyo (after Shinjuku station) and then one of the most congested in the world.

It is served by three lines of JR (Yamanote, Saikyo, and Shonan-Shinjuku line) and by three lines of Tokyo Metro (Marunouchi, Yurakucho, and Fukutoshin line).
Some of the Narita Express from Narita airport make a stop at Ikebukuro station too.

Ikebukuro Station is also important because is the terminus of two lines of two private companies, the Tobu Tojo line towards Saitama, and the Seibu Ikebukuro line towards Nerima and Higashikurume.

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.

Some examples

Take a look at Govoyagin

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