Ikebukuro is one of the most bustling neighborhoods in Tokyo. The area’s popularity is attributed to the importance of Ikebukuro Station, one of the busiest stations in Japan and in the world. Ikebukuro Station serves as an important connecting point for millions of people, particularly those who live in Saitama and have to commute to Tokyo. Saitama Prefecture has over 7 million people, and if its inhabitants want to hang out or have a good time in Tokyo the most convenient location is Ikebukuro due to the many things it offers and its proximity. However, despite Ikebukuro’s popularity as a place for entertainment, it does not have the best reputations among locals.
So why do many Tokyoites dislike this thriving neighborhood?
Ikebukuro is, first and foremost, noisy. Walking down its crowded streets while seeing its multiple neon lights, shops, and restaurants make Ikebukuro resemble its sister neighborhoods of Shinjuku and Shibuya; and while those districts have a vast number of fans, the noise is enough to keep others at bay. The noise and bright lights can be an intense attack on the senses that not many people are willing to tolerate; and while the noise and lights could feel like a welcoming sight for younger people, those getting older don’t appreciate them as much. Talking about age differences…
One of the funniest perceptions about Ikebukuro is that it’s a place for young people. Areas like Shibuya and Harajuku often have the same reputation, but it’s often perceived that Ikebukuro attracts the youngest and most numerous crowds. As a result, Tokyoites in their mid twenties and older tend to see Ikebukuro as a neighborhood that does not truly represent them or where they could struggle to fit in; this despite Ikebukuro being one of the best places for performing arts thanks to venues like the enormous Tokyo Metropolitan Theater (though they are located in the quiet side of Ikebukuro); and while people of many ages do frequent Ikebukuro, as people get older they tend to graduate to other neighborhoods like Omotesando and Ginza.
Tokyo is considered one of the safest cities in the world despite its colossal size. However, people born in Japan have different perceptions since they measure safety within Japan itself and their experience in the archipelago. As such, locals tend to perceive certain areas that foreigners would consider to be completely fine as dangerous. Ikebukuro falls into this category. The reason locals think of Ikebukuro as a sketchy place that can be dangerous has to do with a combination of three locals: the bars with drunk people, hawkers, and the yakuza syndicate of Kyokuto-kai being headquartered there. Running into an actual dangerous situation is still very unlikely, the most plausible scenario being coming face-to-face with an aggressive, drunk individual. Hawkers are also present in places like Shinjuku, Roppongi, and even Harajuku. Ignoring them is always the best thing to do. Pickpocketing can be an issue, but the risk in Japan remains low, and men even place their wallets in their back pockets while walking in crowded places where pickpocketing is said to occur like Takeshita Street and Roppongi. Still, Ikebukuro cannot shake off its reputation as one of Tokyo’s shadiest neighborhoods, which makes some locals dislike it.
Despite Shinjuku Station taking all the buzz and fame because of its sheer size and number of platforms, Ikebukuro Station is also another maze that can discourage those who could otherwise go shopping in other neighborhoods from going there. To locals, there’s no point in going through the hassle of navigating Ikebukuro Station when they could go to other places with similar offerings.
It is mainly because of these points that Ikebukuro, while being one of the most vibrant neighborhoods in Tokyo, does not have the best reputation among locals.