A bit of Akihabara, a bit of Shinjuku and some Shibuya, Ikebukuro is one of the most well-rounded cities, not too big and not to small. Surprisingly its Tokyo's second busiest train station (first being Shinjuku) .
You won't see it written on any signs or literature, however Ikebukuro is referred to as 'bukuro' by the locals, as a play on words. "fukuro" means owl, and of course 'bukuro' is just a switch from the Japanese consonant 'fu' to 'bu'. This play on words is so well known that the Ikebukuro JR Station itself has a large statue of a stone Owl (fukuro) downstairs in the JR North Entrance.
Providing a wide range of activities, Ikebukuro has something for everyone, whether its Maid Cafes, Arcades, Shopping, high-end dining or God-forbid the red light district. The one thing Ikebukuro does not have is beautiful gardens or temples. (However there is the Gokokuji but it is not within walking distance)
You'll find most of the action going on in a neat block between the East JR exit at Shuto Expressway 5. In these crowded streets you'll find few vehicles, as there are just too many pedestrians, this 'roads with no cars' gives the area an interesting and spacious feel. Here is where you will find Tokyu Hands, a cinema, several arcades, a couple maid cafes and a whole slew of restaurants.
Also on the East side is Bukuro's seedy red light district, store after store with pictures of cute girls on signage and prices for services, with names like: "Love Door" and "Peeping", and for variety there's a few Pachinko shops thrown in.
Worthy of mention is the fact that Ikebukuro is the only city in Tokyo that has 'maid girls' (other than Akihabara its place of origin) on the streets promoting their maid cafes. This phenomena is becoming increasingly popular and has already been exported to several countries, let alone cities within Tokyo.
- Tokyu Hands
One of Tokyo's lesser known Temples, the Gokokuji is a fantastic example (and also one of the more picturesque temples) and it deserves far more recognition that it has been given, and so makes its way into our list of Essential Exploring. Read more…
While not having as much excitement as the East Side, there is still plenty to look at and do, such as shopping at the Tobu Department Store or the Metro Plaza, where you will find The Japan Traditional Craft Center, which features special exhibitions on the crafts, tools and every day items of Japan, giving you a unique insight into the culture.
With an edifice that should belong on Odaiba with all the rest of the cities' strange quasai futuristic buildings, the Tokyo Met Art Space stands out, but not offensively. The building is placed on a large city block with a liberal amount of space, enough in fact for a small park and fountain. On any given day you'll find artists or street peddlers set up outside, displaying their art in hopes that the already art-minded people on the way to the Met would give them some business.
Inside is the terribly spacious lobby, with an escalator that must rank as one of the highest in the world. The Met holds several exhibitions including fabric work and paintings. It also houses several theaters and a concert hall. There is also a charming cafe at the top, with a delightful view of the city.
The name means "suprised donkey", while we're not entirely sure of the significance behind this name, we certainly know that you'll be a surprised customer when you open up the desert menu and lay your eyes upon the massive two foot tall ice cream sundae. Not particularly known for their desserts, most come here for their famous Salisbury steak burgers. For 1000 yen (about 10 USD) you can purchase a large Salisbury steak patty, with veggies and rice on the side. Cheese is extra and so are French fries.
For more info: http://www.bikkuri-donkey.com/
No doubt you've heard of Chinese and Mexican pizza, but how about Japanese Pizza? Possibly conjuring up images of rice pizza crust and teriyaki sauce, you'll be quite surprised when you see exactly just what Japanese Pizza is.
Running with the success of Japanese Crapes, they take it one step further by, cooking up a French crepe, dumping some freshly fried meat and veggies, then throwing on some mozzarella cheese, next: drizzle some secret sauce, and then roll it into a neat cone in cute pink paper. Voila, it’s a Japanese Pizza and unfortunately it is not delicious, at all. But judge for yourself at Ikebukuro's Japanese Pizza shop.
See our map for directions
JR Yamanote Line - Ikebukuro Station