Translated by Sandy Lau
15 Popular And Less Common Things To Do In Ikebukuro
Written by MATCHA
Ikebukuro is a leading shopping and entertainment area in Tokyo. It is very popular for its shopping malls, live music venues, and anime-inspired facilities but you can also find lesser known quiet shrines and excellent dining places!
Ikebukuro – A Bustling Shopping Area
Ikebukuro, located in northwest Tokyo, is a commercial district where you can enjoy all kind of shopping and entertainment. Ikebukuro is fully equipped with popular anime shops and businesses, an aquarium, and a planetarium. There is also a quieter side to it such as temples, shrines, parks and book cafes. No matter if you come alone or with friends and family, you will surely find something to entertain yourself in Ikebukuro.
Thanks to the great convenience in transportation, the area is also ideal for sightseeing. It offers direct train lines to Shinjuku, Shibuya, and Odaiba. At the same time, there is also convenient access to popular spots in Saitama and Kawagoe.
This article introduces you to popular and little known activities in Ikebukuro.
1. Sunshine City - Amusement Park and Shopping in the Same Building
Sunshine City, located at Ikebukuro Station’s east exit, is a popular complex containing an aquarium, observatory, museum, planetarium, and a shopping center.
Address: Tokyo, Toshima, Higashi-Ikebukuro 3-1 Sunshine City Sunshine 60 60F Google Map
Access: 8 minute walk from the East Exit at Ikebukuro Station (Exit 35), 3 minute walk from Higashi-Ikebukuro Station (Tokyo Metro Yurakucho Line)
Official Website: https://www.sunshinecity-global.com/en/
Sky Circus Sunshine 60 Observatory
Pictures courtesy of Sunshine City
The Sky Circus Sunshine 60 Observatory on the 60th floor of Sunshine City has just been completely renewed and offers different activities for its visitors. The TOKYO Bullet Flight in the Sunshine 60 building utilizes VR technology to create a virtual tour where you can enjoy a futuristic Tokyo from the sky when you get into the Human Cannon Machine. It is can get crowded, so it is advised to save time by purchasing your ticket ahead of time.
Tickets: Sunshine60 Observatory Experience
Konica Minolta Planetarium “Manten”
Konica Minolta Planetarium "Manten" is also located in Sunshine City. It is a very unique planetarium which offers different shows with additional use of scents and music by popular Japanese artists such as "Glay" and "Alexandros" for total relaxation. They also provide special "lawn" and "cloud" seats which are essentially highly cushioned couches that allow you to completely lay back and float away.
Official Website: https://www.sunshinecity-global.com/en/facility/manten/
Sunshine Aquarium is located on the rooftop of Sunshine City’s World Import Mart Building. The aquarium has "oasis in the sky" as its concept. Here you can watch penguins that look like they’re swimming in the sky, and observe creatures that live on waterfronts and in the ocean. Sealion performances, penguin feedings, and underwater performances by divers are popular attractions at the aquarium.
Tickets: Sunshine Aquarium Admission
Official Website: https://www.sunshinecity-global.com/en/facility/aquarium/
Pokémon Center Mega Tokyo
The official Pocket Monster (Pokémon) shop is inside the Sunshine City main building. Along with purchasable Pokemon goods such as plush dolls and other items, events are also held at the center.
There are also beginner classes for the card game, as well as card battle games where you can compete with your skills. Be sure to participate in one of these events when you make a visit.
Located on the second floor of Sunshine City’s World Import Mart Building is NAMJATOWN. It is split into three zones: Dokkingham Plaza with a Western-style townscape, the FUKUBUKURO 7 Chome Shopping Street, a recreation of Japan in 1955, and the haunted house-like zone of MONONOKE Unnumbered Plot.
We especially recommend NAMJA Gyoza Stadium located on the FUKUBUKURO 7 Chome Shopping Street. Here you can try various gyoza (fried dumplings) at eleven different stores. How about enjoying beer or highball with some gyoza after you’ve seen the attractions?
2. Visit Otome Road - The New Anime Haven
Picture from Otome Road - Japanese Encyclopedia
The Otome Road is located right beside Sunshine City. Some people call this area the "female Akihabara". It is a place where mainly female anime fans gather to get goods of their favorite male anime and manga stars as anything they need for their own cosplay.
Address: Tokyo, Toshima, Higashiikebukuro 3-1 Google Map
Access: 5 minute walk from the east exit at Ikebukuro Station
Cosplay at Otome Road
Ikebukuro Halloween Cosplay Fest
Anywhere anime and manga lover gather there will always be cosplay involved. Some people meet up in costumes just to go shopping but there are also special events around this area such as the Ikebukuro Halloween Cosplay Fest. So if you want to do some cosplay yourself, you might want to consider checking events in this area.
Animate is an anime, comics, game, and character goods specialty shop that has expanded to over 100 locations in Japan. The flagship store is a five-minute walk from the east exit at Ikebukuro Station. Products such as character-related T-shirts, plush dolls, figurines, plastic models and everything you need for cosplay line the store’s shelves across all the way from the first to the ninth floor.
Maidreamin Maid Cafe
A maid cafe in Japan
Maidreamin is a national branch of maid cafes offering food and entertainment to diners with a location in Ikebukuro. The staff here are dressed up in adorable maid outfits, bring diners perfectly-arranged food and drink, and will do special performances. A visit to this cafe is a one-of-a-kind experience and ideal for groups.
The travel reservations website, KLOOK, offers a fun maid cafe experience that includes a souvenir photograph you can take with the maids. It is available at the Maidreamin location on Sunshine Street, a short walk away from Ikebukuro Station. We suggest booking ahead of time to better plan your future trip.
Butler Café SWALLOWTAIL
Picture from 當一次大小姐！執事喫茶Swallowtail一窺從漫畫走出來的紳士
As Otome Road is more geared towards females, there is probably no surprise that the most popular cafe is not a maid cafe but a butler cafe named "SWALLOWTAIL". Here you can feel like a princess or queen and be waited on by butlers of all ages.
The butler cafe is not only popular with the female clientele. In fact, it is very popular for its high quality, monthly changing cake menu and the great service. There are just as many returning male visitors as female. So if you want to feel like an aristocrat for a day, make sure to pay Café SWALLOWTAIL a visit.
3. EVANGELION Fan? Visit the Only Official Store in Tokyo
Are you a fan of Neon Genesis Evangelion? Then this place is for you! EVANGELION STORE TOKYO-01 located on the 2nd floor of P’PARCO is one of the only two official Evangelion stores in Japan and the only one in Tokyo. The other shop is located in Hakone.
Here you can get everything your EVA fan heart wants. Clothes, bags, random goods, and even jewelry. Get fully emerged in the world of EVANGELION!
4. Relax At A Book Café or Hotel
Ikebukuro offers the perfect place for any book lover, not just manga fans. They even offer a book café and hotel.
BOOK AND BED TOKYO
BOOK AND BED TOKYO is a lodging facility with the concept of being a “bookstore you can stay at.” They have many locations all over Japan but Ikebukuro is one of their most popular locations. Their guest rooms have the general concept of the popular Japanese capsule hotels but embedded in huge bookshelves. You can pick your favorite book and retrieve for unlimited reading pleasure.
While Japanese books are the main focus, they also have a steadily growing selection of books in the English language. The majority of the books are on travel.
Picture courtesy of Doutor Coffee Co., Ltd.
Fukuroshosabo is an eccentric book café. Their books are lined up in bookshelves with both their titles and bindings hidden. They only have reviews of the book written on them. Visitors can purchase a book purely based on the reviews.
The homey interior is another charming appeal of the café. Visitors can enjoy drinks and a snack in different areas while reading their new book. You can relax in the lounge decorated with sofas, in the Forest Room, where sunlight comes in from the terrace, or outside on the Green Terrace when the weather is clear.
5. Animal Cafés - Friendly Owls and Shelter Cats
Animal Cafés are very popular in Japan. We introduce you to two rather unique ones. One features the main animal associated with Ikebukuro, owls, the other is a cat cafe housing only adoptable shelter cats.
Picture from Japanese Encyclopedia: Animal Café
Ikebukuro’s Ikefukuro Café is an animal café where you can enjoy having an owl on your shoulder and taking photos. The café is open on the weekdays from 13:00 to 19:00, and on weekends and holidays from 12:00 to 18:00. Ikefukuro runs on a one hour shift system. Customers can enter the café at every hour slot, so on the weekdays be sure to head directly to the café when it’s your time.
The café is sometimes busy during the holidays, so we suggest waiting in front of the Lawson located nearby about five minutes before your time.
Neco Republic is a cat cafe with a good cause located all over Japan. Visitors to this cafe can not only play with adorable cats, but they can also adopt them! All of the cats are either friendly stray cats that have been neutered and vaccinated or pet cats that can't be kept by the original owner for some reason.
Even if you are just here on a visit and can't adopt a cat, the proceeds from your visit go towards the care of these cats. Neco Republic tried their best to give their cafe an at-home feel so people can imagine what it would be like to take their chosen feline home.
Neco Republic Ikebukuro
Address: Tokyo, Toshima ward, Nishi-Ikebukuro 3-27-3, Nakane Building 4th floor Google Map
Access: 5 min walk from West Exit of JR Ikebukuro Station
Official Website: http://www.neco-republic.jp/
6. Higashi Ikebukuro Park- Outdoor Cat Café
Ikebukuro is home to many small parks. The most famous of them all must be Higashi Ikebukuro Park. It is also known as "cat park" or "outdoor cat cafe". While the cats in this park are all strays, they are friendly and looked after. You will see that most of them are "sakura cats". Sakura cats are cats that have a v-shape in their ear missing, so the ear looks like a cherry blossom petal. This is the official sign that these cats have been neutered in order to prevent them from breeding uncontrollably.
While the cats are completely safe to be around, they are still strays, so please make sure to wash or disinfect your hands after playing with them. Especially if you have children with you!
Higashi Ikebukuro Park
Address: Tokyo, Toshima, Higashiikebukuro 3-14-１ Google Map
Access: A 10-minute walk from Ikebukuro Station
7. See a Small Band in a Local Livehouse
How about doing something out of the ordinary? Ikebukuro is home to many small live houses. While the style of bands performing limits itself mostly to Visual Kei* or Japanese Rock, it might be fun to see how completely different Japanese music, performance, and style is compared to bands overseas.
Concerts are rarely sold out and walk-ins always welcome. Some lives are even free and you only have to pay for a drink ticket!
*Visual Kei - A music genre unique to Japan with a strong focus on the visual appearance of the performers. The term describes the look rather than the music.
8. Tokyo Metropolitan Theatre
Picture courtesy of Tokyo Metropolitan Theatre
If you are in the mood for something more sophisticated, the Tokyo Metropolitan Theatre is an art and culture facility hosting concerts, plays, and exhibitions. The world’s largest pipe organ is found in the concert hall, built exclusively for classical music performances.
Additionally, art goods shops, restaurants, and cafés perfect for having a snack are located next to the theatre. A lecture where you can experience playing the pipe organ is also sometimes held depending on the date and time.
9. Temples in the Middle of the City
Although Ikebukuro's image might lean itself to an entertainment and shopping district is also home to some popular temples.
Zoshigaya Kishimojindo Temple
Located about a fifteen minute walk from the east exit at Ikebukuro Station is a temple enshrining the god of safe birth and child raising.
Located on the temple grounds is Kamikawaguchiya, a small candy store that has operated since 1781. Its exterior, which has never been changed and is said to be Japan’s oldest structure, became the model for Studio Ghibli’s animated film “Only Yesterday.”
The shop sells dagashi (inexpensive Japanese sweets) and keychains of Fumi and Ishimatsu (400 yen each), the shop’s two mascot cats that lived for seventeen years. You’ll also find a postcard of the shop depicting the thirteenth generation store owner (200 yen per card).
Every Sunday and 8th, 18th, and 28th of every month, you can also purchase a type of dango (sweet dumpling) called Osen Dango at the central building on the temple grounds.
Picture courtesy of Gokokuji Temple
Gokokuji Temple is a historical temple established in 1681. The Kannon-Do, the main building, has not changed its appearance despite encountering earthquakes and disasters.
You’ll find a large statue of Buddha 2.5 meters in length when you continue through the Furo-Mon Gates located above the stone steps. It may seem small when compared to the famous Kamakura Daibutsu, but is something rarely found in a city temple and quite impactful.
10. Lesser-Known Shrines in Ikebukuro
You can also find some quiet shrines a little of the beaten path. The following two shines are located in less than 5 minutes walking distance from each other so you can easily visit them both.
Ikebukuro Mitake Shrine
Ikebukuro Mitake Shrine is another place where you can find Ikebukuro's adorable owls. The owls are meant to present Ikebukuro's community and it is also said that people pray here for the health of their family and safe birth. It is a small and little known local shrine that many people of the area use for their daily prayers. You can purchase small owl good luck charms here as well.
Ikebukuro Mitake Shrine
Address: Tokyo, Toshima, Ikebukuro 3-51-2 Google Map
Access: A 14-minute walk from JR Ikebukuro Station
Sanja Shrine is a tiny and quiet shrine worshipping the deity Inari. Inari is the Japanese god of foxes, fertility, rice, tea and sake, agriculture and industry as well as general prosperity and worldly success. As popular for inari shrines, foxes guard the red gates. Foxes, as well as the color red, are strongly associated with the deity Inari.
If you want to visit a smaller Inari shrine, this might be a great place to start. When the shrine is open, you can also purchase a couple of adorable 3 d fox ema (praying plates).
Address: Tokyo, Toshima, Ikebukuro 3-52 Google Map
Access: A 14-minute walk from JR Ikebukuro Station
11. Explore Tokyo’s Best Shopping District
Seibu Ikebukuro Flagship Store
Events like bargain sales and exhibitions are always taking place in the department store event hall at Seibu Ikebukuro.
Inside the department store you’ll find high-end brands such as Louis Vuitton and HERMES, as well as Loft (Japanese), a specialty household goods store, situated on the ninth to twelfth floor of the south wing. MUJI (Japanese) is located on the first and second floor annex.
Salespeople that speak English and Chinese are usually available at the store, so go to the information desk if you have any problems.
Tobu Department Store Ikebukuro
Tobu Department Store Ikebukuro is a store with a slightly casual image. UNIQLO, located on the ninth and tenth floors, offers a full lineup of apparel and products, complete with a baby and kids corner.
Located on the eleventh to the fifteenth floor is the restaurant street Dining City Spice (Japanese).
Over 40 restaurants line this street from spots where you can have a short coffee break during your shopping to shops serving Japanese, Western, Chinese, and other Asian cuisines.
12. Bic Camera Ikebukuro
Bic Camera Ikebukuro is a large electronics retail store located at the east exit of Ikebukuro Station. In addition to the main store, there are several buildings in the entire area of the east exit like the Computer Building, Camera Building, and Outlet Building.
We highly recommend the outlet if you are looking for some bargains. The outlet store also offers popular snacks and cosmetics, usually at a reduced price. Make sure to have a look!
Airport Delivery (Japanese) is a paid service that will deliver your purchased items for you to Haneda, Narita, Chubu Centrair International, or Kansai International Airport available at the store.
With this service, you can enjoy your trip without carrying around heavy luggage.
13. Japanese Cosmetics and Necessities at Drugstores
Drugstores have a selection of medications, cosmetics, and daily necessities. In Ikebukuro, there is a selection of the most famous stores such as Matsumoto Kiyoshi (Japanese) and Sun Drug (Japanese). Sun Drug Ikebukuro is very accustomed to non-Japanese visitors and usually has staff available at the store speaking Chinese and English.
Not only can you buy products at affordable prices, but each store also sells their own brand of original items. How about visiting one to look for souvenirs?
14. Five of the Best Ramen in Tokyo
Ikebukuro doesn't only have great places to see and shop at. It is also known as highly competitive ramen neighborhood, with a large number of popular ramen eateries.
Mensobo Mutekiya Rich Tonkotsu Ramen
Mutekiya is a ramen shop known as having the longest line in Ikebukuro. Their specialty is a rich tonkotsu (pork bone) soup, which lacks too much fattiness and is easy to eat even if you’re not good with rich foods.
The soup tastes delicious with the free garlic on the tabletop, so please be sure to try it. The shop has already gained support from international guests.
You will feel rest assured with menus available in multiple languages including English.
Torinoana's Chicken Paitan Ramen
Shirotori Ramen (740 yen plus tax)
Torinoana is a popular ramen shop located about a five-minute walk from the east exit at Ikebukuro Station. You can try a dish called chicken paitan ramen, which consists of a cloudy soup which was created by slowly simmering chicken.
The soup looks similar to tonkotsu ramen, but it has a completely different flavor. It is both rich and light at the same time.
Kotobuki's Lemon Chicken Ramen
Do you prefer something lighter? How about a light chicken ramen with the refreshing addition of lemon? Kotobuki is a secret tip in Ikebukuro for everyone who prefers a healthier kind of ramen. The soup is light, creamy and not to heavy. The lemon chicken ramen is also great if you feel a little sick as it is packed with vitamins, proteins and healthy fats.
The lemon chicken ramen is not the only highlight on the menu. Their creamy sesame chicken ramen is also worth a try if you prefer something richer.
Address: Tokyo, Toshima ward, Nishi Ikebukuro 1-18-1 Google Map
Access: 5 min walk from Ikebukuro West Exit
Rock*anDo Noodles Green Euglena Ramen
Deluxe Shio Green Noodles (1200 yen plus tax)
At Rock*anDo Noodles, about a seven-minute walk from the east exit at Ikebukuro Station, you can taste delicious and healthy ramen. The soup is made only with seafood ingredients and contains no MSG and additives, and the green handmade noodles contain highly nutritious euglena.
This is a shop for customers with hesitation about high-calorie ramen should definitely try, as we have no doubt that these noodles will change your mind about ramen.
Kikanbo's Fiery Miso Ramen
Maybe one of the spiciest ramen in Tokyo. Made with a variety of spices you can choose your favorite level of hotness. We highly recommend to start with a mild level and work your way up if you desire.
The shop itself is a place worth visiting even just for the interior and decoration. You are greeted by a variety of oni, or Japanese ogre, that will make you feel the heat as soon as you enter the shop!
15. Places to Satify Your Sweet Tooth
Ikebukuro also offers a variety of places for big and small sweet cravings.
Blue Seal Ice Cream
How about dropping Blue Seal on your way to Sunshine City? This Icecream shop originated in Okinawa and offers delicious ice cream, floats and Japanese style crepes! try unique ice cream flavors such as purple sweet potato and shikuwasa (a popular citrus fruit from Okinawa) or have a delicious crepe filled with cream, cake and ice cream. One of the best places in Ikebukuro to satisfy your sweet tooth!
You can't get enough of sweets? How about an all you can eat sweets buffet?
The popular sweets buffet chain Sweets Paradise has a branch in Ikebukuro as well. Eat as many sweets as you want for up to 90 minutes and sample all the delicious treats Japan has to offer. They also offer salad and a couple of savory dishes as well as non-alcoholic beverages, coffee, and tea.
Extra - Spot all the Cute Owls
Picture from Ever Noticed It? The Owl-Themed Police Box In Ikebukuro
The owl has been a community symbol in Ikebukuro since a long time. It is thought to bring luck and represent Ikebukuro's unity. The owls in Ikebukuro a lovingly called Ikefukuro, hence the Ikefukuro owl cafe. Ikefukuro is a word game consisting of Ikebukuro and the Japanese word for owl, fukuro.
You can find owls all around Ikebukuro. How about trying to spot as many of them as possible while you explore this exciting part of Tokyo?
Ikebukuro – A Great Place for Every Kind of Entertainment
Ikebukuro Station is large and serves various lines such as the JR, Seibu Railway, Tobu Railway, and Tokyo Metro Lines. Shopping spots are gathered at the front of the station, so it’s a district that’s easy to shop in even on rainy days. Many people from Saitama like to meet up there because it is the easiest place for them to meet their Tokyo friends so it is always lively in Ikebukuro.
We hope this article could spark your interest in the area and you will give Ikebukuro a try next time you are in this Tokyo.
* This article is a revision updated for 2020 of an article originally published on November 12th, 2016.