Japan is a country that is rich in attractions to see and it is a fact that attractions that are spoken more of usually get visited more. This leads other quality places to be neglected along the way. When this happens the only loser are those tourists missing out on the memories that can make if they just give these lesser known places a chance to impress them.
In lieu of that, this article aims to shed light on a destination that almost everyone in Japan passes every single day but seems to never be seen as more than a hub for travelers. This place is the district of Ikebukuro found in Toshima, Tokyo and it truly is a hidden gem in Japan.
Ikebukuro Station in Tokyo: One of the Busiest Transportation Hubs in Japan
To get the obvious out of the way, let this article start by looking at Ikebukuro as it is most commonly seen by both local and foreigners every day. Those who are first-time travelers to this area, it is important to know that if you are riding either the Seibu Ikebukuro Line or the Tobu Tojo Line, this station would be your only Tokyo Terminal. Luckily, since it is a hub, it is very easy to alight on another transportation line, like the JR line, from this station.
It is a blessing and a curse to have one of the busiest stations in Japan which come in the form of the Ikebukuro Station. It is considered a blessing because of the huge crowd of people brought in by the transportation systems that in turn brings in a great deal of money to the several businesses that are situated in the various buildings found in this district. To give you an idea of just how many customers are brought in by these transportation systems, the railway station in Ikebukuro accommodates a number of passengers that is second only to the busiest station in the world which is the Shinjuku Station.
In 2007, there was a study done to monitor the daily number of passengers that use this station and the findings were that it served about 2.7 million passengers on a daily basis which is also why it was deemed the official 2nd busiest station in the world. One could assume that in the present time now, this figure could have easily grown along with the general growth of the world’s population which would mean that this hub provides roughly about 3 million potential customers to all businesses in this area on a daily basis. Getting half or even a quarter of that amount of customers would surely be a heavenly day for any of the stores there.
Looking at the other side, the negative thing about having a district known for such a thing like being one of the busiest stations in Japan is that travelers might not look at the destination as a potential touring spot. Because of the major focus on this reputation, tourists might not even bother visiting its golden attractions like the Sunshine City or its huge department stores like the Seibu or Tobu. This is obviously a coin toss because the reaction of the people touring this area differs from person to person. This is also why this article aims to highlight why Ikebukuro is a place worth discovering so that future tourists to this area may know what to look forward to if they decide to spend time in this district.
The Anime and TV Series that give Ikebukuro a Dangerous Image: Ikebukuro West Gate Park and Durarara
Lovers and fans of Japanese television or anime may have heard of Ikebukuro from a certain anime or TV series they watched. This would come as no surprise, especially for the anime, because Japan produces anime and TV series with a quality that can only be described as world class. This popularity in the arts, however, has somewhat given the district of Ikebukuro a bad reputation because of what the anime and TV series depict the area to be.
Ikebukuro West Gate Park is the TV series that is being pertained to in this case and as you may already know, this show is set in Ikebukuro. It is a drama show based on a novel written by Ira Ishida and in this show, the district is brought out to be a place of gang warfare, rape, drug abuse, and all other bad things that come along with those things. It revolves around the adventures of a young man named Makoto Majima and his adventures in the area of Ikebukuro. Don’t be mistaken though, it is truly a great show. It just so happens that some people believe what they see on television and they let it change their thoughts about the place in reality. This show was great to the point that they followed the series up with a manga and that says a lot about it because it is usually the other way around these things. The manga is made and then the adaptations into a TV series or an anime.
The other show mentioned above is the anime called Durarara. Much like Ikebukuro West Gate Park, this anime is also set in Ikebukuro and also depicts the district as a place wherein danger lies in every corner. This, of course, is fiction but it was so well made that sometimes people forget that it isn’t really like that in Ikebukuro. If you like crime and suspense, you should definitely check this anime out.
In reality, once you get passed the crowds brought about by the transportation systems, you will notice that this place is quite peaceful and well developed. There are great gourmet restaurants to eat in and huge department stores to shop in. This would also be the place to find the Tokyo Metropolitan Theatre which hints that this district also appreciates the arts. If you are interested to find out what other things are in store for you when you wander this district, keep reading. These topics are up next.
Things to do in Ikebukuro: Ikebukuro Sushi, Sunshine City and the many places in it
Ikebukuro is an innovative district. This may be unnoticed by people but the proof of this claim stands with their gem within the gem, Sunshine City. This is quite witty considering that Japan, in general, is known as the land of the rising sun so to have your biggest attraction connected to that notion is pretty awesome.
This establishment was opened to the public in the year 1978 and back then, it was the first “city within the city” in Tokyo. From its name, one could already tell that this is a massive structure. It is a complex surrounded by various attractions and topped off with the Sunshine 60 skyscraper as the center of this complex. Do not undermine the claim of this place having various attractions because the entertainment and leisure activities you can easily do here might drop your jaw. These attractions vary from planetariums, museums, giant aquariums, restaurants, shops, and so much more. This place even has offices and an indoor theme park in its vicinity called the Namja Town. Of course, hotels will always be a part of areas like these too. The options of places to go to and things to do in this place alone could take up a huge amount of time for your trip and that should be taken as a good thing because it is not only time and energy efficient to shop in a single establishment and get all you could possibly want, it is also a once in a lifetime experience to be able to say that you rode rides, shopped around, and eat in a place known as a city within a city. You should also know that this area is a family area so there are no age restrictions for any of the stores here.
If a food trip is what you’re after, being in Ikebukuro is actually a good thing especially if sushi is what you’re craving for. There are a lot of sushi restaurants in this district but narrowing it down to those you definitely will regret not trying would lead you to have 2 restaurants to try.
The first of the two is the Kura Sushi Ikebukuro East Entrance Restaurant. This place is ranked 13th from the 3645 restaurants in this district. You don’t need to be good in math to know that being ranked at that level means good to great things from the restaurant. It is close enough to the Sunshine City that you can walk the distance. One of the best things about this place, aside from their tasty dishes, is the price you pay for the quality. The sushi here is quite cheap coming at about 108 yen per plate. That is a great deal already but once you see what you get for that amount of yen, you will surely put this place as one of the top 5 places you can go to for sushi. They also have this game for customers as they eat but you have to eat at least 5 plates to play the game with the people. If you are a tourist in the area, this would be worth it because the food is delicious and you get to experience something unique along the way.
If you are willing to spend a bit more for your food, go to the top one restaurant on the list. This place is called the Tachihuimidori, Echika and it is ranked 4th out of the 3645 restaurants in Toshima. It is a place that serves great quality food for a reasonable price. Reviews from former customers say that spending 400 yen could already give you 3-days’ worth of dinner. With that being said, a filling dinner for one night should cost you around 150 yen. Again, that is a great price for the premium seafood you will be getting in exchange for that very low cost. There aren’t any games played in this restaurant but just the mere fact that it was ranked 9 slots higher than the previous restaurant should indicate that spending 50 yen more for dinner is definitely worth it.
Looking for Hotels and Wanting to See Sunshine City? Check Out the Sunshine City Prince Hotel
Any adventure needs rest and the place you rest in should be a place that will give you the quickest access to the places you want to be in after you rest up. In the case of the Ikebukuro district, since their biggest attraction holds the majority of the other attractions found in the city, it would be a no-brainer to look for a place near here. Luckily, the great minds of the businessmen of Japan thought of this in advance and that is why they placed a great hotel in the city within the city.
The Sunshine City Prince Hotel isn’t an attractive place to stay just because it is situated in Sunshine City. It is also situated near vital areas for travel like the train station. If you stay here, you are practically living in a giant mall so finding food and other treats would be easy. The restaurant in the hotel is also known to serve amazing food so if you aren’t in the mood to go to the restaurants in the complex, you can easily just dive into the delicious buffets of this hotel. The stay in this hotel is quite pricey when compared to the other hotels found in the area like the Centurion Hotel but no other hotel can offer that the Prince Hotel does to its customers. Choosing to stay here would be both a unique experience and a pampering vacation. You should definitely consider this establishment as your temporary home.
Hopefully, you have seen all the other things that Ikebukuro has to offer the people that get to go here. If you are fascinated with trains, food, shopping, or anything else, you will surely find something in this district to quench that thirst. There are many other attractions to be found in the city so feel free to research on your own about it too. Ikebukuro is a hidden gem. Give it a shot and it will amaze you.