Top Things to See & Do in Ikebukuro, Tokyo
The biggest city in the world, Tokyo is full of contrasts. Every ward has its own character, history, culture, style of architecture, and the blend of them creates this diversity. One of the best examples is Ikebukuro Station. And this part of Tokyo is worth lots of visiting and exploring.
Originally, Ikebukuro was called Sugamo, and hosted various artists and foreign workers. Now, Ikebukuro is the one of the busiest train stations in Tokyo, and the world. The commute to Narita Airport, the Narita Express, also goes through it. The town symbol is a cute owl, which comes from the word play of the name (owl is called “fukuro” in Japanese). And outside the station at the east exit there is a statue of an owl conveniently used as a meeting spot. Nowadays 7.2% of the residents of Toshima ward, where Ikebukuro is located, are foreigners, and is one of the most international areas in the city (Source: Tokyo-to no Tokei [Statistics Tokyo] (2014)). There are about 200 Chinese shops at the north-west of the station (グローバル都市研究 8号 (2015) Global Urban Studies, No.8 ).
In fact, Ikebukuro is one of the most tourist-friendly spots, as the number of things to do is still expanding. So what would those be? Of course, it all depends on one’s preferences, taste, choices, etc.
1. Look for Your Favorite Anime and Merchandise.
Ikebukuro is considered a more female leaning version of the renowned otaku world, Akihabara. There are many shops that sell anime and anime related items. And often you can see cosplayers in fascinating costumes. Many of them are foreigners. The famous store Animate has their flagship store located in Ikebukuro, as well as a Mega Pokemon Center. Some anime even show parts of Ikebukuro, such as Sekaiichi Hatsukoi and Durara. Why not try to find the original spot?
2. Play With the Cats!
Yes, if you are one of those fans of fluffy warm felines – Ikebukuro is a must visit! There are some popular neko cafes, but honestly, why not try to see a more natural habitat? Next to the huge shopping mall called Sunshine 60 is a relatively small park. And that is an absolute cats paradise! I cannot tell the exact number of cats, but there are many living there. Some of them are very friendly and love to snuggle with locals. That is a beautiful thing to observe, and who knows–a cat might want to come home with you!
3. Study Architecture
There are some modern department stores and entertainment spots. One of them is Seibu, which has a huge roof garden with cafes and a pond. The building of the ward’s office was finished in 2015 and offers a beautiful composition of a giant tree. This 49-story skyscraper even has a vertically-extended garden open to public.
Also, Toshima ward has a lot of old buildings. I find traditional Japanese architecture gorgeous and very cozy. All the straight lines and beautiful colors are very inspiring. And once touched by natural aging, they are even prettier. For those who love exploring back streets, this is a perfect location.
4. Ride a Tram
Tokyo still has an operating street car–Toden Arakawa Line. A small part of an old street car system, this tram offers a great chance to see more traditional parts of the city.
It is very cheap, and I recommend getting off at the Kishibojimmae stop and exploring the wonderful shrine dedicated to mothers and children.