Tokyo Guide: Ikebukuro
Tokyo Area Guide: Ikebukuro 池袋
Ikebukuro Station is a major transport hub, and the second busiest station in Japan after Shinjuku.
Ikebukuro is in Tokyo's Toshima ward. Ikebukuro rivals Shinjuku just south of it in terms of vibrancy, shopping, dining and architecture, if not entertainment; however while Shinjuku is ultra-urban anonymity, Ikebukuro has a more "neighborhood" touch.
The JR Yamanote Line - the above-ground loop line that encircles central Tokyo - runs roughly north-south through Ikebukuro. The area is divided into two: east and west of the JR Yamanote line.
Tobu and Lumine Department Stores
The west of Ikebukuro Station is dominated by the Tobu department store and the ultra-modern Metropolitan Plaza Building housing the 10-floor Lumine Department Store.
The Hotel Metropolitan Tokyo is just across from the Metropolitan Plaza Building, and offers 24 floors of accommodation ranging from Standard to Executive, only three minutes' walk from Ikebukuro Station.
Like Seibu on the east side, Tobu also has a massive underground food floor, scores of restaurants, and the art gallery Bijutsu Garo on the 6th floor.
Lumine Ikebukuro is devoted mainly to beauty and fashion from floors B1 to 5, has a Muji and HMV on the 6F, and numerous restaurants and sundry stores up to the 10F.
The Japan Traditional Craft Center on the first and second floors of the Metropolitan Plaza Building is a must-see. See a wide range of exquisite traditional Japanese crafts for sale, and watch craftspeople at work.
Access to the Japan Traditional Craft Center:
The striking, glass-paneled Tokyo Metropolitan Art Space with a large, distinctive sculpture out front (see picture above) is just across from the Metropolitan Plaza Building. It is a multi-halled space featuring a rich array of stage and musical (largely orchestral) performances.
Ikebukuro West Gate Park (Ikebukuro Nishi-guchi Kōen), across from the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Space, with a plaza and fountain, is immortalized in popular fiction as the hangout of young working class heroes, molls, and punks. It began with an urban mystery novel series called Ikebukuro West Gate Park, which was turned into a TV and manga comic series. But be assured: it's a work of fiction playing on the area's somewhat gritty reputation, and not based on its actual present state.
Ikebukuro Bosaikan offers fun, hands-on disaster simulations and trains you what to do. Free entry.
Ikebukuro Bosaikan (Ikebukuro Natural Disaster Hall), run by the Tokyo Fire Departement, has a Life Safety Learning Center on its 4th and 5th floors that simulates, and prepares people for, natural disasters. The most fun "attraction" is the Earthquake Simulation Section on the 5th floor, but there is also a First Aid Training Section, an Audio Visual Room, a Smoke Maze Section, a hands-on Fire Fighting Training Section, a Rescue and Escape Section, and a Map Exercise Section. There are tours for groups of up to 32 people at 9:30am, 1pm, and 3pm, but individuals can turn up anytime without a reservation. Not all facilities might be usable though if your visit coincides with a pre-booked group tour.
The Marui Department Store is a little further on. It is directly accessible from Ikebukuro station via the Underground Mall.
Seibu and Parco Department Stores
Ikebukuro's east side, the "Seibu exit," is dominated by the Seibu and Parco (including Loft) department stores, stretching about 450m (almost one third of a mile). Check out the endless cornucopia on the B1 and B2 floors, where almost every edible and drinkable product imaginable is there for the browsing, sampling and buying. There are plenty of restaurants to choose from, too.
Parco has a Tower Records on the 5th and 6th floors.
Seibu department store has an art exhibition space, Art Forum, on the 6th floor.
BIC Camera and Mitsukoshi Department Store
The main store of the BIC Camera electronics store is just north of Parco, with its computer store just to the east. The Ikebukuro Mitsukoshi department store is next to it, across from Parco. A little further south (still across from Parco) is BIC Camera's camera store. Just one block east is BIC Camera's liquor store!
A long, pleasant avenue lined with trees, shops and offices starts from directly in front of Parco. The shopping street Sunshine 60 Dori Avenue curves north-east off it after 200m (c.220 yards). Ikebukuro's Tokyu Hands lifestyle and handyman goods store is at the intersection of Sunshine 60 Dori Avenue and the Route 5 overhead expressway.
Sunshine City is a high rise complex with shopping, museums, hotel accommodation, observation deck, aquarium, and entertainment.
Follow Sunshine 60 Dori Avenue by crossing under under the Route 5 overhead expressway to get to the massive, but dated, Sunshine City complex, featuring the Sunshine 60 building and incorporating the Sunshine City Prince Hotel.
Sunshine 60 was built in 1978 (on the site of the
former Sugamo Prison) and at the time of its completion the 240m (787
ft) 60-floor building was the tallest in Japan. It is now well past its use-by date, and, if anything, is a bit drear. For shopping, the only worthwhile experience is its Toys'R'Us. But besides shopping, Sunshine City is also home to the following - any of which are worth your while:
-Sunshine International Aquarium on the 10th floor
of the World Import Mart Building featuring not only fish and corals,
but a zoo with other aquatic wildlife, too. View fish and their habitats
from all around Japan and the world. Offers some not-to-be-missed spectacles,
especially of staff interacting in the tank with the fish (see YouTube video below).
-Sunshine Namja Town. Created by Namco, the company that brought Pacman to the world, Sunshine Namja Town is a kaleidascopic two floors of elaborate and diverse entertainment for children and adults.
Japan Mint Tokyo Office
The Tokyo office of the Japan Mint is just behind Sunshine City. Free 90-minute tours of the factory, available weekdays between 10am and 2pm, can be arranged by phoning 03-3987-3153 (Japanese only).
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