If you come to Tokyo, classic, must-see spots like the famous Shibuya’s scramble crossing which is crossed by thousands of people an hour, Harajuku’s colorful shops with unique and sometimes strange fashions, and Shinjuku’s busy streets including the notorious red light district will likely be high on your list of places to go. However, did you know that Ikebukuro is a lesser-known district that is just as bustling and exciting?
Unlike Shibuya and Shinjuku, Ikebukuro is not a ward on its own. Some describe it as “up-and-coming”; it is the district that is fast becoming one of the favourite hang-out spots in the city. A goldmine of anime and manga shops, home to the fantastic Sunshine City shopping center, and the location of the pleasant date spot that is the Sunshine Aquarium, this area of Tokyo is a wonderful place to spend at least a day and night or two. From the Sunshine City essentials to historical sites off the beaten path, this list of 33 things to do and places to visit has you covered for a great visit!
Ikebukuro actually used to be a small village which became a city called ‘Sugamo’. Originally, this area was known for attracting both locals and foreign residents as it was a cheap place to live. Since the Showa Period, Ikebukuro was a place which attracted arty types, travelers, and generally people who needed affordable housing. Ikebukuro literally means ‘Pond bag’, given the name due to the multiple ponds which used to exist in the area.
The influx of artists and international people has meant that the trendy and somewhat alternative history of Ikebukuro has followed on and continues to the present day. Nowadays, this district is buzzing with life, art, excitement, and music. Many people may not know that it is also famous for its Chinese community, who moved to the area from the 1980’s onwards. There is a bustling China Town here, although it is smaller and less known than the Yokohama China Town.
Ikebukuro as it is today is a place in which you will find almost anything! It has a unique history and has its fair share of shrines and historic monuments such as the Tokyo Shaheed Minar. It is also stuffed full of anime stores, gaming arcades, old-fashioned Japanese haunted houses, and a plethora of modern department stores.
A fairly new addition to Ikebukuro is this unique hotel where the rooms are filled with books from floor to ceiling. There are also beds to relax in that are designed like little coves to snuggle up with your favorite read. Every book lover’s dream, this place is not just somewhere to stay overnight; you can also visit during the day and enjoy refreshments while reading as many books as you like. Not to worry about any language barrier, either, as there are many books available in English. Take a break from the bustling streets of Tokyo and curl up with a book for an hour or two!
Walking tours are becoming more and more popular among travelers these days and with very good reason. While you can visit many areas on a bus, getting a real feel of a place is best done by foot, and if you go with a guide, you know you are guaranteed to see everything in good time without getting lost. Ikebukuro may look like a few busy streets at first glance, but explore the area with somebody who knows their way around and you are sure to discover the area’s unique charm.
A walking tour around Ikebukuro promises incredible architecture, rooftop views, an insight into the anime and otaku world and even the chance to experience an earthquake simulation. This full-day tour will take place from around 9:00am to 5:00pm and includes a pick-up from your hotel in the morning along with plenty of food and drink breaks throughout the day.
Booking details: Learn all about Ikebukuro in a private walking tour
Gokokuji Temple is a historically significant site that can be found close to eastern Ikebukuro. Built in the 1600s, this Buddhist temple is famous not only for being founded by Tokugawa Tsunayoshi, the fifth shogun of the Tokugawa dynasty of Japan, but also for having survived numerous air raids on the city during World War II. Many elite historical figures are also interred here.
The area around Gokokuji is a beautiful, quiet spot to learn some interesting things about Japan and its past. The temple is surrounded by trees which transform throughout the seasons and are especially breathtaking during autumn when red, yellow and orange leaves can be admired from all around the temple grounds. You can also visit in early spring to see the cherry blossoms. Take a break from the city and see one of Tokyo’s charming historical buildings.
While bread may not be the first thing that springs to mind when you think of Japanese cuisine, these days Tokyo seems to have a bakery or patisserie on every corner! Despite this wheat-loving trend, organic bread is still something that is hard to get your hands on. In Ikebukuro, you can learn how to bake organic bread made with natural yeast, Japanese rice, rice malt, and wheat, as well as cooking up some scrumptious dishes made from fresh, organic vegetables.
Classes are run by the host, Akiko, in her house just 10 minutes from Ikebukuro. Akiko trained as a chef in culinary schools in Tokyo and London and focuses on macrobiotics. Her classes take place at the weekend both in the morning and afternoon for which you can either join a group or book a private individual or group lesson. Try something a little different during your Tokyo stay and learn to cook some delicious and healthy dishes!
Booking details: Learn how to Bake using Natural Yeast
The famous owl statue that greets you into Ikebukuro Station is a good introduction to the district’s love for owls. This is the place to come to get up close and personal with these incredible birds.
Ikebukuro is home to the Owl Park Café where you can relax in the same space as a variety of different owls and even get the chance to hold them! Unlike a lot of animal cafés, you don’t have a limited time here so you can spend as much time as you like appreciating the owls and getting some great close-up snaps. The café is closed on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and public holidays so be sure to book it into your schedule for another day in the week. For bird lovers, this charming café is not to be missed.
Booking details: Play with Cute Owls at the Owl Park Cafe in Ikebukuro, Tokyo
If you want a view of Tokyo that is different from Tokyo Tower or Sky Tree, head over to the Sunshine 60 observatory. Previously just an observatory deck, they have recently started offering a special aerial virtual reality experience.
A trip to the Sky Circus will take you to the Tenku 251, the observatory deck where you can still get a good eyeful of Tokyo’s incredible views, followed by a trip to a room full of mirrors, experience the world in 4D at the Sky Bridge and finish off at the Sky Party area where you’ll get the chance to experience different types of weather over the city of Tokyo.
Booking details: Get Sky Circus Observatory Tickets for Sunshine 60 in Tokyo!
If you want an authentic experience in Japan, learning a bit of the language is one of the best doorways into Japanese culture and also gives you the chance to communicate with local people. After a trip around Ikebukuro, why not head off the famous Otome Road to a language school where you can have a one-off beginner’s lesson in Japanese?
Whether you’re just interested in learning a bit about how Japanese and its three alphabets work or you want to be ready to impress the locals in the shops and restaurants, this will be the perfect introduction to Japanese to give you some simple phrases that will help you get by. This easy and fun lesson might be exactly what you need to boost your confidence when travelling around the country.
Booking details: Begin your trip in Japan with an easy Japanese lesson
Are you looking to do something cultured during your visit? The Tokyo Metropolitan Theater was renovated in 2011 and reopened in 2012 with an impressive new look. The theater hosts a variety of arts programs including dance, music performances, and plays. There are also events and lectures that take place here.
Tickets can be reserved online in English although be warned that most speaking performances will take place in Japanese. Luckily the beauty of the performing arts is that a lot of them can be appreciated without the need for language so non-Japanese speakers should check out the dance and music recitals. Definitely check out this great location in Ikebukuro if you’d like to enjoy a theatre performance.
Ikebukuro has lots of tricks up its sleeve with its bustling streets as crowded at night as in the day. To experience the nightlife in a unique way, how about visiting a bar that gives you more than just drinks and music? One of Ikebukuro’s bars offers “owarai” Japanese comedy, a lot of which involves slapstick comedy easy to understand, as well as hosting a magician. The exciting atmosphere of the bar is perfect for an evening of entertainment and another side to Japanese culture.
The show runs for two hours and includes an all-you-can-drink offer. Your reservation can be made in English, Chinese, or Korean, so no worries about any language barrier!
Booking details: Enjoy a Magic and Comedy Show in a bar in Ikebukuro, Tokyo!
This department store takes up a huge chunk of Ikebukuro Station. You may notice its big blue banners from the outside and once inside, you’ll definitely feel the classy atmosphere. The station is the terminal for the Seibu Ikebukuro line and thus, the department store is in the same area. You can purchase a whole variety of goods from clothing and accessories to stationery and DVDs. You can also eat at one of the high-quality restaurants. Start (or finish) your trip by spending some time in this classy department store.
There are certain things that you have to try on any trip to Japan and the country’s famous rice wine is, of course, one of them. Sake, which varies across the country, has been popular in Japan for centuries. While it is an experience to try one glass of sake, you couldn’t turn down the opportunity to try out as much sake as you like from a choice of 100 varieties!
See if you can taste the subtle differences between the different types of rice wine. You can also bring along your own snacks and work out what makes the best combination with your favorite sake. Once you’ve found the one for you, jot down the name and you can search the brand to take home with you as the perfect souvenir. Click the link below to find out more about this activity. Please keep in mind the drinking age in Japan is 20.
Booking details: Taste 100 Kinds of Sake With an “All-You-Can-Drink” Plan!
Drama fans might recognize this park due to the success of the 2000 drama, Ikebukuro West Gate Park. Perhaps because of the novels that inspired the drama as well as the drama itself, this location has earned itself a bad reputation. However, travelers need not worry as plenty of people go to and through this little park regularly. With its location right in front of the Metropolitan Theater, it’s a nice place to visit with its big paved square and the beautiful cherry blossoms that make an impressive appearance every year.
— 猫の居る休憩所299 (@neko299_staff) September 3, 2017
If you were hoping to visit a cat cafe while in Tokyo, look no further! Cat Rest Stop 299, Neko no Iru Kyukeijo 299 in Japanese, is a manga kissa which is a manga cafe where you can relax with books or a private booth with internet and can even stay overnight in some places. This is a special manga kissa with the extra benefit of cats roaming the floor for you to pet and keep on your lap. The environment is relaxing and a nice place to take a break from your busy day. Cat lovers, don’t miss this relaxing place!
For your inner “otaku”, or outer one if you wear that badge with pride, the Animate flagship store is located in Ikebukuro! Animate is a store dedicated to everything anime-related, whether you’re interested in watching anime, reading manga, or picking up merchandise such as badges or figurines as souvenirs of your favorite characters or series. Not only is this a good place to go shopping, but you’ll also be thrown into the anime world with theme songs playing in the store and some of the nation’s favorite anime playing on screens dotted around the many storey building.
Located just a five-minute walk from Ikebukuro Station, this is one not to miss whether you are an anime fan or not, as it demonstrates Ikebukuro as a close second favorite spot to Akihabara for otaku (or nerd) culture, which is ever gaining popularity.
Similarly to Seibu, the Tobu Tojo Line also ends at Ikebukuro and has its own department store located within the station. This department store is known for a large choice of fashion items as well as its variety of merchandise. There is also a food hall in the basement of the building with an assortment of scrumptious Japanese and western foods to choose from. The basement of the department store has two sections, one of which houses a number of restaurants as well including a sushi bar and bakery. You’ll be spoiled for choice here!
With the many upper levels of the store offering everything from assorted lifestyle goods to home decor, Tobu is a department store that has almost everything you could be looking for. If you’re in Ikebukuro for the shopping, definitely give Tobu a try.
It’s common knowledge that a lot of bands have the aim to become “big in Japan”. There are gigs going on around Tokyo every night, both big and small, Japanese and international. If you’ve got a passion for music then now’s the time to experience a live music show in Tokyo. Your host will personalise your trip depending on your music tastes and what kind of shows are on around your desired time.
Before going to your show, check out some of the best popular and second hand CD shops then get ready to experience what the Tokyo music scene has to offer. Be sure to make your reservation at least two days in advance.
Booking details: Music Experience Around Tokyo
Most people would think the most obvious place to see penguins would be on a trip to the zoo. However, Tokyo doesn’t like to do things conventionally, which you might have already noticed! You can find a bar in Ikebukuro where you can have a drink alongside two pairs of penguins! This restaurant and bar offers food and drinks, including the “Penguin Course” which can all be enjoyed with a good sight of the spacious pools in which the penguins swim around freely.
Time in the bar is limited to two hours but includes four dishes and an all-you-can-drink deal. This is a truly unique bar experience and a great way to combine two enjoyable activities in one evening of fun. If you turn up at the right time, you may even be lucky enough to feed the penguins yourself.
Booking details: See Penguins in a bar at Ikebukuro, Tokyo!
Yakiniku is a popular dish in Japan that involves cooking up your own meat on a grill at your table. While most restaurants tend to use iron wire mesh, Ikebukuro’s Yakiniku Zen restaurant has found a unique way of cooking meat to get the perfect flavor – by cooking on bamboo.
The restaurant, just a few minutes by foor from Ikebukuro Station, makes for the perfect evening that won’t leave you stinking like a barbecue afterwards. Fans of meat, yakiniku is an unmissable dish for you on your trip to Japan, so get your table booked and get ready to feast on fresh, delicious, barbecued cuts!
Booking details: Try Yakiniku grilled on a bamboo at Yakiniku Zen, Tokyo!
Sunshine City is a shopping mall that is certain to keep you occupied for hours! Its many floors and variety of shops will have any shopaholic filled with joy. You can eat in a number of the restaurants from casual fast food like Burger King to a very elegant Chinese restaurant. There is also Godiva if you’re feeling spendy and want to get some high class chocolate for someone special. In addition to the food and treats, there is endless fashion, accessories and fun – including a place at the center of the mall on the bottom floor where performances and events often take place! Sunshine City is one of the things that put Ikebukuro on the map, so be sure to give it a visit.
Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland is a classic and a world so magical and bizarre that it would be hard to turn down the opportunity to enter it. Japan is home to several Alice-themed cafes where you can sit among the characters and feel that you are in the curious world of Alice in Wonderland.
Ikebukuro houses the Alice in an Old Castle cafe. In this particular cafe, you will be a guest at the Red Queen’s dinner party. The cafe has a luxurious vibe with heart-shaped chandeliers flow from the ceiling while you are served up themed dishes reminiscent of the cards and many other characters from the Red Queen’s party. If you’re a fan of Disney or Alice in particular, check out the link below for your tickets and guaranteed table!
Booking details: Reservation for Alice’s Cafes in Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya
Just when you thought there wasn’t enough to do in Sunshine City! The shopping mall is also home to Sunshine Aquarium which can be found at the top of the store building. This is a great place to go no matter who you are traveling with – family, friends, or your partner. Anyone will have a great time here. Although it does have a reputation as a date spot, don’t let that stop you from enjoying its beautiful oasis-inspired atmosphere with your travel buddy or family members.
Sunshine Aquarium has both an indoor and outdoor area with an amazing array of sea life to see. If you visit in the morning, you can see activities going on with the animals such as feeding the penguins and pelicans and a sea lion show. Unlike a lot of aquariums, you can also see more unusual animals such as otters and reptiles. Ikebukuro’s squarium is not to be missed on a trip to this district.
If you want to have a fun time in Ikebukuro, Round 1 is the perfect place. Round 1 is a recreation center which has bowling, billiards, darts, and all sorts of fun games to play. While this kind of center may be something you can find back home, a trip to Round 1 is a good insight into Japanese culture as you’ll be playing alongside excited youths or work groups which is a good way of feeling like you fit in like a local.
Not to forget that we’re in Japan, the birthplace of karaoke, there are also karaoke rooms available where you can sing your favourite songs and let out your stress. There is also plenty of food to enjoy while you’re here so I think it’s fair to say the number of activities on offer at Round 1 could keep you occupied all day and night, which makes for the perfect trip. Keep this place in mind if it rains on your day out in Ikebukuro.
This is another great find in the Sunshine City complex! If you think about it, it’s great to be able to do so many enjoyable things in one spot. The planetarium is a popular date spot where couples visit to appreciate the romantic allure of the night sky. The planetarium offers a calming atmosphere with music and amazing visuals when you look up to the sky. You can even buy a CD of the music you heard at the end of the 40-minute show.
This is a great activity for kids who like to enjoy the change of scenery and the moving skys above. If you’re looking to escape the noise and enjoy something beautiful, make sure to stop by.
— KAMENRIDER THE DINER (@RiderDiner) September 2, 2017
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The final Sunshine destination on this list, Namja Town is a world of its own within the vast Sunshine complex. Namja Town is an indoor theme park with a haunted house, games and themed food. A lot of the rides are mainly aimed at children so don’t expect anything too big or thrilling in terms of attractions. However, this is still a fun day out and the food areas including the Gyoza Stadium, which is a paradise for gyoza (dumpling) lovers, and the dessert area are unmissable for foodies.
Also, keep an eye out for Namja Town mascots who can get good snaps of while wandering the area.
This is not exactly in the midst of Ikebukuro’s fast-paced environment, but you may be glad of the quiet change. If you want to take a break from the busy streets as well as experience something more traditional, the old temples in the Zoshigaya area are worth the trip. Nestled in a residential area, the Zoshigaya Kishimojindo Temple honors the goddess of safe childbirth and child rearing. Nearby you will also be able to visit the Zoshigaya cemetery, the Buddhist temple Gokokuji and a theme park in Sunshine City.
Starting at 1:00 pm, this is a nice relaxed and spiritual tour lasting 4.5 hours that will all be finished off with a bang on a trip to Namja Town where you can explore the food stalls while enjoying the attractions.
Booking details: Walk through the Zoushigaya area to Ikebukuro Sunshine City
Evangelion fans, rejoice! There is a place in Ikebukuro dedicated to the popular anime series Evangelion. Housed in P’Parco (not to be confused with PARCO), you can find plenty of glorious goods to take home with you, including some items exclusive to Ikebukuro. The store offers everything from clothing, souvenirs, limited edition items and even Evangelion themed cakes.
The store is just a one-minute walk from the East exit of Ikebukuro Station so there’s no excuse not to pop in on your day out in Ikebukuro.
This small yet fascinating museum is located in the Bunka Kaikan, which translates as the “Culture Building”. It is open from 10 am to 5 pm and is home to a small collection of items from Central Asia. It has an interesting mix of Mediterranean and Asian culture which combine to make some unique pieces. For 600 yen, it should be an interesting and affordable spot for history lovers. Guides are available in English, Korean and Chinese.
You can also find lectures, workshops and events taking place at the Ancient Orient Museum so be sure to check the schedule to attend one of these informative events.
This building, whose name means “building of tomorrow”, was designed by legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright in the 1920s. Arata Endo, who worked for him, introduced Wright to the school’s founders. The Myonichikan is part of the girls’ school Jiyu Gakuen which was attended by Yoko Ono and, ever since its renovation was completed in 2001, the building has been open to the public. This is a fascinating trip for those interested in architecture and you can appreciate the clever use of space and lighting inside.
There is a small fee of 400 yen to enter the building or you can receive tea and coffee for an extra 200 yen.
The positioning of the tectonic plates on which Tokyo lies makes it a common spot for earthquakes to hit. Not to worry – The Japanese are prepared and all the buildings are designed specifically to withstand earthquakes, whether they’re big or small. While you may experience a couple of small tremors during your time in Japan, have you ever wondered what it feels like to experience a big earthquake?
At the Ikebukuro Life Safety Learning Center you can now live through a simulated earthquake and learn the safety procedures that all Japanese people learn in case it takes place. In this experience, as well as feeling the simulated earthquake, you’ll learn about the history of Japan’s earthquakes, how firefighters are trained to deal with them and hear a story of one Japanese man’s experience of the Great Tohoku Earthquake in 2011.
Booking details: Experience an Earthquake Survival Study Tour in Tokyo
Before you get on the train and return to where you’re staying, be sure to look for Ikefukuro, the famous owl statue in Ikebukuro station. This big statue is a famous meeting spot for people inside of the East exit. The name is a play on words as “fukuro” means owl in Japanese. Snap a picture with him if you can get past the groups of people standing nearby!
If you want to discover a part of Tokyo that the locals can’t get enough of, take a tour of the west including the fun streets of Ikebukuro, the Korean food of Shin-Okubo, the amazing architecture and views of Shinjuku, the impressive Meiji Shrine and Yoyogi Park and finish off with the neon lights of Shibuya.
A trip around these popular areas will guarantee you a full day of fun through some of Tokyo’s most enjoyable areas giving you a chance to see the youth culture, do some shopping, take fantastic photos and work out the public transport with a good helping hand from your guide.
Booking details: Discover the essentials of Tokyo’s western side, 1-day tour
If you already have an idea of specific places you want to see in Tokyo or the kinds of things you would like to find, customizing your own tour is one of the best ways around town. If you’d like to start at Ikebukuro, your guide can help you to create an itinerary giving you the chance to see the best of what Ikebukuro has to offer followed by a trip to other surrounding areas.
There are some suggested itineraries that promise a good tour of some of the interesting and popular spots around Tokyo, which include a number of recommended activities. This gives you the opportunity to add some of your own desired destinations on to give you a tour perfectly tailored to you.
Booking details: Customize and Enjoy a Private Half-day Tour in Tokyo!
Ikebukuro is quite a diverse place, offering plenty to do and see. If you choose to stay in Ikebukuro, you will find a handy shuttle service from Haneda Airport which will take you to Ikebukuro. Hopefully something on this list will inspire you to visit this exciting area!