See also: 35 Best Things to Do in Tokyo
Tokyo is a Japan’s capital for a reason – it is large and thriving on high-energy. For the travel freaks, it offers a lot of tourist destinations, including the much-popular places of Shinjuku and Shibuya. Yet, in the light of other places, most seem to forget about Ikebukuro, which is one of the capital’s bustling city centers, housing the second busiest railway station. It is quite famous for its excellent entertainment and shopping facilities, but the city is also seen to be sheltering nice cafes, heavenly streets filled with anime and owl figurines in each and every corner in that sprawling area.
Sunshine City is a humungous structure, situated at the east exit of Ikebukuro Station. The building is mainly a shopping center, but it also has, quite surprisingly, an aquarium, an observatory, along with a wholes museum and a planetarium. Quite a wholesome package, isn’t it? It was opened in the year 1978, and has been the number one visited place from then. There are more than 200 retail shops, as well as cafes and eateries. People generally crowd to pay a visit to the observatory (Sky Circus Sunshine 60 Observatory), the planetarium (Konica Minolta Planetarium ‘Manten’), and the aquarium (Sunshine Aquarium). Other important attractions within this structure include Namjatown and Pokémon Center Mega Tokyo.
A visit to Animate
Animate is any anime-lover’s dream come true! While the store’s branches are dispersed all over Japan, its flagship shop is situated in Ikebukuro. Since it’s a small walk away from the station, right next to Sunshine City, there is seldom a time when the shop is less crowded. The shop offers reasonable prices over T-Shirts, plush dolls, models and figurines, and everything that a cosplay will need. And yet, I have included only some of the stuff this shop sells. The store is a whopping nine-storied building – you can literally see how I am not exaggerating about the range of products it provides.
Explore Global Ring
The Global Ring theatre is a popular outdoor space located within the West Gate Park. This recently renovated area is home to a range of performances throughout the year and includes a fantastic cafe. It's is the perfect place to take a break with a cup of traditional Japanese tea.
Otome Road is one of the hotspots for tourist destination, and an ultimate paradise for anime lovers. The road runs right beside the Sunshine City building. The alternative name for this road is ‘female Akihabara’, owing to the fact that mainly women anime fans are seen crowding on the road. They are seen either buying their favorite anime or manga characters’ products or any other products needed for their cosplay. The is a true shopping area, with dozens of shops selling books, DVDs, collector items, items related to cosplay and not to forget, dojinshi, which are self-published texts, including comic books and novels. While Animate has its own place in the list, it is a prestigious addition to the shops in the Otome Road. Some popular shops, other than Animate, include Mandarake, K-Books, Lashinban and HACOSTADIUM cosset.
Rampo Museum - or better yet, Edogawa Rampo House - is just beside Building 6 of Rikkyo university. Many of the literary enthusiasts are seen visiting this place on a regular basis, for the house (now museum) belonged to Edogawa Rampo, one of the well-known novelists of Japanese literature, who wrote in the much-loved genres of mystery and suspense. It was also later used as a residence by two local artists, namely Junichi Iwata and Yumeji Takehisa. All of these great people lent their grandeur to the place, helping it transform into a proper tourist destination. This house is not always open though; visitations are allowed only on Wednesdays and Fridays, between 10:30 AM to 4:00 PM.
Zoshigaya Kishimojindo Temple
Zoshigaya Kishimojindo Temple, accessible from 10-15 minutes’ walk from Ikebukuro station, is epitome of a peaceful place. An ancient Buddhist shrine, it was built during Edo period of the Japanese heritage, which lasted from 1603 to 1868. The temple houses the divine figure of Kishimojin, who is the goddess of safe childbirth. Very many festivals – whether big or small – are conducted and celebrated in the temple. A popular one, by the name of Grand Festival, is seen to be celebrated every October. The temple has become a tourist destination, and therefore, a certain amount of entry fee is charged for the visitors. However, you can always walk around the grounds, huge and expansive, where you can lay in the cool shade of Sakura and Gingko trees.
Nishi-Ikebukuro Park is a quaint little place in the city, offering peace and calm in the middle of the hustle bustle. The park, situated at the west side of the Station, houses an outdoor theatre, a picturesque fountain and offers artists a place for their art installations. A flea market is seen to be held every month, where groceries and second-hand products are seen to be sold in abundance. You can also get to pet cats to your heart’s content; the place is filled with stray cats. The park’s visitors especially increased in numbers, when the game Pokémon Go was first launched. If you see, therefore, some people in the park walking with their heads in their phones, understand that they are playing the game; the park is filled with Pokémon.
Finding the best Ramen in the city
People usually come here to eat some of the best ramen in the country. Ramen shops are many here, and it would be fun to check which of them offers the best one. Be assured though, that every shop is more than reasonable, and serves you the most delicious and high-quality bowl of ramen. Mendokoro Hanada Ikebukuro Store, Mutekiya, Ore no Sora Ikebukuro Store, Kuwabara, Tori no Ana are names of only handful of the best Ramen shops. It is up to you now, to decide which is the best.
Animal-friendly cafes is another specialty of this city – or rather in whole of the Japan. As for this place, there are plentiful of cafes like this, but one which I would like to mention here is Ikefukuro Café. They have owls there in abundance, where you can pet one of them while have another one perched on your shoulder. It is open all days, but the timings vary during the weekdays, weekends and holidays. As the café offers hourly visits, make sure that you are there on time, or five minutes earlier before your hour to visit will start. Another café worth mentioning is the cat café by the name of Neco Republic. Cats are not only available to play, but also to adopt. The café also works as a rescue team; Neco Republic either get their cats from the streets or are disowned by their owners and left to look after themselves. Besides these, there are rabbit cafes and even penguin bars!
Mejiro Garden does not come in the frequently visited places of Ikebukuro, but happens to be one of the best places to visit. While it is closer from Mejiro station, it can still be accessed from Ikebukuro, in an easy walking distance. The garden is fashioned in a traditional Japanese way; it is a beautiful garden, where a silent pond exists right in the middle. The pond has ducks and koi swimming leisurely around; looking at them alone would occupy couple of hours. The Garden was chiseled to life by Kunie Ito, one of the respected garden creators of the country. A perfect place to experience the beauty of the nature, it is most visited during the season of Autumn. In the month of November, the whole of the garden is lit up delicately and becomes a lovely place to go during that time.
Alice in An Old Castle
This might have a Japanese name alternatively, but it is much more popular as ‘Alice in An Old Castle’. The name is vague in telling what kind of service the place offers. Let me put your mind at ease then – it is a restaurant, judiciously following the theme of ‘Alice in Wonderland’. The theme of the food served there is also based on this book, while the décor is painstakingly made to look like the castle of the Queen of the Hearts. The experience is surreal, and not to be missed, if you are a big fan of ‘Alice in Wonderland’. As for the rest, the restaurant also happens to one of the best around the city, and it would be a shame if you don’t pay a visit.
If you are looking for a place to relax, before covering up the next best things in your itinerary, then this temple is a must place to visit. It is hardly 20 minutes away from the station, and that too, just by walk. It was built in the 17th century, the builder being Tokugawa, Edo Government’s fifth shogun. A miraculous thing about this temple is that it survived through not only the Great Kanto Earthquake, but World War II also. The grounds have a large cemetery, a beautiful statue of Buddha and a pagoda, while the cherry trees offer cool shade to the grounds. Entry fees are none; let yourself in and get immersed with the peace this place offers you in abundance.
Jiyu Gakuen Myonichikan
Jiyu Gakuen Myonichikan was built in 1921, by Frank Lloyd Wright, an American architect, with the help of Arata Endo, his student. It was built to serve the purpose of a school for girls, but now it is used for various occasions, right from conducting marriages to even seminars and meetings. If you are wondering about the importance of the place – enough that you will add this in your ‘places to visit’ list – it is actually declared to be an Important Cultural Property. The architecture is pretty amazing and if you choose to go there, you will not be bored.
Ancient Orient Museum
If you are in Ikebukuro and have not yet paid a visit to the Ancient Orient Museum – well, what are you waiting for? It is a private gallery, situated in the Sunshine City, a 7 minutes’ walk from Ikebukuro Station. Nestled among its walls are Japanese artifacts and archaeological discoveries coveted from Central and East Asia. While the museum is nothing more than just two rooms, the historical energy around there will make us feel that we have actually traveled back in time. Regarding exhibition details, the Museum offers rotating as well as permanent exhibits. The meager entry fees range from $2 to $6 dollar; I say meager because the experience it offers is worth more than that.
Count the owls, starting with the Ikefukurou
Last but not the least, Ikefukurou is perhaps one of the best tourist places one can visit in Ikebukuro. The name is given to an owl statue seen in the station’s basement. It does not come across as a surprise, since the city is called as ‘owl central’, as locals have fondly named it. You can see owl figurines scattered all over the city, besides the station owl. To while away your time here, you can keep track of all the owls – statues and figures, not real ones, mind you - you saw here. It might be a fun thing to do, don’t you agree?
Book and Bed Tokyo Ikebukuro
Even if this sounds something a book lover would be interested in, anyone – and everyone – can enjoy the experience it offers. Book and Bed Tokyo works over the concept of ‘practically living in a bookstore’. While this lodging facility has its branches spread out all over Japan, Ikebukuro happens to one of the properly maintained and famous ones. The facility uses the Japanese concept of capsule rooms, where the visitors are seen inhabiting capsule shaped, small private rooms, with enclosed beds. As for book and bed Tokyo, these capsule rooms are stacked away among huge bookshelves, which gives you the unique experience of living in the midst of books. The place is a 5-minute walk from Ikebukuro station’s west exit; which means you are just five minutes away from a silent, books-filled paradise.
Ikebukuro is a hidden tourist attraction; not many people know about the beautiful places this town offers for the tourists. It is an ethereal blend of traditional Japanese culture with modern world. If you are in Tokyo, you should definitely visit Ikebukuro.