Ikebukuro Tokyo Japan – Ikebukuro, the often forgotten and neglected neighbourhood that’s overlooked by the glitz and glamour of Ginza, the popularised neon lights of Shinjuku, and the electric Shibuya. Well, we beg to differ in this article.
Ikebukuro is an area full of character and life, and the more you learn about this place, the more alluring it will seem. Many locals and expats will liken Ikebukuro to a tamed party neighbourhood. It is more often than not that you will encounter drunken groups of partygoers here on the weekend and even on weeknights, as the salarymen know no bounds when it comes to late night drinking here with the boss.
Of course, this is just one aspect of the area – amongst the late night bars and restaurants opening until the early hours of morning, there are stunning multi-story shopping centres selling everything from branded luxury items, bento boxes, and traditional ornaments; world-class cuisine located just a stone throw away from the station, and activities that will keep even the most well-travelled tourists engaged.
How To Get There
Ikebukuro is one of the busiest stations in Tokyo (although, let’s be real, you can say that about almost any station in Tokyo!), situated on one of the busiest train lines, so it’ll be quite easy to get to from almost anywhere.
From Shinjuku Station, take the JR Yamanote, JR Saikyo, or JR Shonan Shinjuku line. It’s 160 yen one way, and will take 8-minutes. Some of the other popular lines that run through Ikebukuro include Seibu Ikebukuro and the Tobu Tojo Line.
Where To Stay
Hostel – Book and Bed Tokyo Ikebukuro
So, who hasn’t dreamt of sleeping amongst bookshelves? Bookworms, rejoice, because your dreams can become a reality if you stay at the Book and Bed Tokyo Ikebukuro. This charming hostel offers a unique accommodation experience that you will unlikely get anywhere else in the world.
Their compact sleeping arrangements are situated right amongst gorgeously built bookcases filled with old and new books, they have books hanging from the ceiling, and plenty of areas to chill out and read and generally have a sweet time. You’ll almost feel like Belle in the Beast’s castle. This unique accommodation has made waves around the world since it first opened, so if you’re planning to stay in Ikebukuro, this might be your only chance to experience this.
Why Guests Love It: “This is such a cool concept! The book shelves are all neat and laid out nicely, the location of rooms IN the bookshelves is this librarian’s personal dream come true, and the staff are so friendly!”, ‘Super trend style, just like the pictures. Very close to Ikebukuro station.”, “10/10 for this place! The location, facilities, staff, décor – everything. Perfect for a bookworm and/or a solo traveler.”
Book It Now: Book And Bed Tokyo Ikebukuro
If you are looking for more cheap places in Tokyo, make sure you also read this article: Best Hostels in Tokyo.
Centurion Hotel Ikebukuro is located just 3-minutes from the station, easily making it one of the most popular hotels in Ikebukuro. It’s got everything you need for a comfortable stay, and you’ll be surprised at how affordable a night here is. Each room here offers air-con, a flat-screen TV, an air purifier (luxe, right?), a private bathroom with a bath tub, and and free organic amenities including shampoo, conditioner, and body wash – amazing. There’s even 24-hour concierge so you can check in after your 10pm flight, and there’s an in-house massage service that you can take advantage of. This place has it all!
Why Guest Love It: “Very convenient location, luxurious facilities, attentive staff, and just an overall amazing experience. They really made our honeymoon very memorable.”, “Great location. Very central to the station and restaurants. Perfect base for a stay in Tokyo and everything you could want to see a short train ride away.”
Book It Now: Centurion Hotel Ikebukuro Station
Ryokan – Kimi Ryokan
Kimi Ryokan is as authentic of a ryokan as you can get in the bustling city of Tokyo. Situated within walking distance from Ikebukuro Station, this ryokan is a stunning and peaceful respite from the noise and neon lights of the city. You’re in for a treat with the Japanese-style rooms complete with tatami mats, futon bedding and shoji paper screens, and traditional Cypress-wood public bath.
However, don’t feel like you’ll be out of touch, because free Wi-Fi is provided by the accommodation. If you haven’t got the time to head outside of the city but still want to experience a traditional Japanese Inn, this is your best beat – authentic, affordable, and conveniently located.
Why Guests Love It: “Great location and very comfy beds, staff were helpful and lovely.”, “Friendly atmosphere with great, clean rooms, a nice common room, and a good location.”, “It’s a delightful place – the rooms are small, but cozy; the sleeping arrangements – quite comfy; the staff are wonderfully helpful; the amenities – wonderful. Also, the rooftop is marvelous!”, “Really comfy beds, super location, cool to be in a ryokan, free green tea in the common area (which also had a foot massage machine!), amazing staff.”
Book It Now: Kimi Ryokan
If you are looking for more Ryokan recommendations in Tokyo, feel free to check this blog post: Ryokan Tokyo.
Where To Eat
Ikebukuro Restaurant #1 – Nabezo
Shabu-shabu is one of the best dishes to originate from Japan, especially in winter when you need something to just warm up your soul after wandering around in 0 degrees on the streets. Nabezo has dominated the shabu-shabu scene for a very long time, and it’s not hard to see why. Their meat tastes premium, their range of fresh vegetables are mind boggling (you’ll be presented with just so many choices), and their ice cream desserts and extensive drinks will keep you going all night long (although there is a time limit, so we actually mean all the way until you get asked to leave). There are two Nabezo restaurants in Ikebukuro.
Hours: 11:30am – 3:00pm, 5:00pm – 11:00pm
Hours: Sat-Sun: 11:30am – 11:00pm, Mon-Fri: 5:00pm – 11:00pm
Ikebukuro Restaurant #2 – AIN SOPH. Soar
This is a popular vegan restaurant, but not as you know it. Forget about bland tastes and expensive salads, this place is the real deal. The comfortable, clean and modern restaurant is decked out on wood and white furnishings, making it feel openly inviting and homey. Japanese fusion vegan dishes pepper the menu, and you can feel rest-assured that only the finest seasonal ingredients are used – you can taste the freshness in your first bite. They normally recommend daily specials which may include curries, soy-meats, and even pasta. There’s also a plethora of vegan desserts to choose from, so we think even regular meat-eaters will find this place agreeable.
Hours: 11:30am – 4:00pm, 5:00pm – 10:00pm
Ikebukuro Restaurant #3 – Kairaku (or Kailaku)
Want to go back in history? All you need to do is visit Kairaku. Located just minutes from the east exit of Ikebukuro, Kairaku has been operating for more than 60 years in the exact same location, serving up piping hot, delicious gyoza using a recipe that’s been kept secret for generations. Their most popular dish is their signature ‘jumbo gyoza’, and it’s most commonly ordered in a teishoku (Japanese set meal). At 640 yen, you get three jumbo gyozas, rice, soup, and Chinese pickled vegetable. What a bargain!
Hours: 11:00am – 11:00pm
What to do in Ikebukuro Tokyo #1 – Spot The Owl At The Station
This may sound a bit unusual, but if you’ve ever been to Japan before, then you’ll know something like this is right up their alley. Ikebukuro station is one of the busiest transport hubs in Tokyo; there are so many exits, so many underground shops and above ground malls that even after visiting a handful of times, you’ll probably continually find new exits to use every time.
However, if you’ve ever taken the station’s East Exit, you may (or maybe not, since it’s always bustling with crowds of people) have noticed the Owl Police Statue there. It’s situated near the Koban Box (police box), and it was designed to be easily spotted by anyone requiring services from the police. Before heading out of the station, find this unique statue and snap a pic! There will be crowds there at different times of the day, as it is quite the popular meeting area.
Interesting Fact: the owl became an unofficial symbol for Ikebukuro because of a play on words – ‘bukuro’, the abbreviation of Ikebukuro, sounds similar to ‘fukuro’, which means owl in Japanese. That’s why many of Tokyo’s owl cafes are located in Ikebukuro.
You will find it at the East Exit of Ikebukuro Station, across the street from the Seibu Department Store. It’s a one-minute walk away.
What to do in Ikebukuro Tokyo #2 – Anime Shopping
Sure, any anime-lover who’s a true fan would have heard of Akihabara, but Ikebukuro is the true hidden gem when it comes to shopping for anime products. Whilst you can expect hoards of male otakus trawling the streets of Akihabara at any time of the week, the crowds are way more diverse at Ikebukuro. The shops are also more spread out, so in between aisles of manga and cartoon figurines, you can also shop for clothing, accessories, souvenirs and gifts – the list goes on.
One of the most popular places to head to is the Animate flagship store in Ikebukuro. This place is an anime-lovers dream, spanning eight levels of all the goodies you can imagine. From original soundtrack CDs to limited edition books to novelty items such as key rings, miniature figurines, notepads and pens to t-shirts and phone cases and costumes – you can literally spend hours here.
There’s also plenty of other stores such as ‘Kbooks’, known for their concentrated manga and books collecitons (there are three ‘Kbooks’ in total in Ikebukuro), Mandarake, which is similar to Kbooks selling old manga, figurines and collector’s items, but it also has an exclusive X-rated content section, and the popular ‘Otome Road’, also known as ‘maiden’s’ road, which is a strip of shops aimed specifically at the female population.
What to do in Ikebukuro Tokyo #3 – Visit The New Chinatown
The three biggest Chinatown’s in Japan are in Yokohama, Kobe, and Nagasaki, but Ikebukuro offers its own slice of China right in downtown Tokyo. Although it’s not as big as the Big Three, it’s fairly thriving and lively, and makes for a good place to visit for a few hours if you’re in the area.
You can get to the Chinatown from the North Exit of Ikebukuro Station. Unlike the other Chinatown’s where you’ll be greeted with immediate Chinese storefronts and decorations, majority of the Chinese businesses reside on the upper levels of the buildings in Ikebukuro, with the ground-floor shops mainly operated by Japanese storeowners.
Here, you will be able to do a grocery run to get delicious Chinese ingredients, and if you come during lunchtime, many Chinese restaurants will display affordable lunch specials for you to sample. One of the most popular places to go is ‘Yongxiang Sheng Jian Guan’ pan-fried bun restaurant, which sells Shanghai style ‘xiao long bao’.
Address: 1-29-2 Nishi-Ikebukuro, Toshima-ku
What to do in Ikebukuro Tokyo #4 – Visit Cat Café Nekorobi
You’ve heard of the shiba inu café, and the owl café, and the hedgehog café, but if you’re a feline-lover, then you absolutely need to visit Nekorobi, Ikebukuro’s resident cat café where you can pay to spend an hour just playing with adorable cats. No strings attached!
The café is generally kept super clean by the employees, so all you need to do is rock up, pay 1,110 yen for one hour (or 1,300 yen on the weekends and holidays), and roam around the café to play with the 13 different cats there. You’re also permitted to use all of their facilities for free, including a vending machine for drinks, a laptop, any of their books and magazines, the common room TV, the Nintendo Wii machine, and their music players.
Things To Know: between 11:00am-5:00pm, they are generally busy, so try to go there super early or after if you’re not fond of crowds; there is a separate smoking area on the porch; you can bring your own toys to play with the cats; and you can take as many pictures as you want!
Hours: 11:00am – 10:00pm
What to do in Ikebukuro Tokyo #5 – Sing At A Karaoke
Ikebukuro is the downtown party district of Tokyo, so you can expect there to plenty of entertainment. One of the most popular activities for foreigners and locals is heading to a karaoke bar and singing until the sun rises the next day. If you’ve ever trudged through Ikebukuro at night, you would have encountered the many groups of drunk (or just high on life) friends who are still singing on top of their lungs on the streets after a wild session, whilst slowly making their way to the station.
The karaoke bars are sprinkled all around Ikebukuro – some are literally a stone-throw away from the station, but if they’re busy or crowded, you can walk a little whilst longer and be presented with strips of karaoke bars with representatives at the front practically begging you to go in.
However, one thing you need to look out for is which ones offer English song selections. We’ve listed two popular ones below that you can check out which offer the latest top hits as well as old classics that you can belt out:
Uta Hibora – this is a popular chain that’s present all over Tokyo. They charge per half-hour, and their price includes the unlimited drinks option. However, this is non-alcoholic. They also have an all-you-can-drink alcoholic option for a premium price, but even then, it’s not expensive.
Hours: 11:00am – 6:00am
Karaoke-Kan – another popular chain in Japan, this one offers special rates for members so if someone on your group is game enough to sign up, you might save a bit of money.
Hours: 11:00am – 6:00am
What to do in Ikebukuro Tokyo #6 – Visit Namjatown for Gyoza, Dessert, and Attractions
As one of the hidden hems of Ikebukuro, Namjatown in Sunshine City is a great date option for couples, or else a great way to spend a few hours with the kids. It’s a small indoor theme park located within a shopping centre where you can participate in some game activities, experience a gyoza museum, explore a dessert alley, and win some toys from their ultimate skill tester collection.
One of the tips we can give you is that before heading there, make sure you haven’t eaten. You’ll want to try the gyozas at the museum here, as they offer a few varieties that you may not be able to experience whilst in Tokyo. There are gyozas from the Shiga Prefecture, made with Omi beef, gyozas from Saitama, made from Keodo black pork, and even from Gunma, made from ingredients brought over from Gunma. There are plenty of fried and steamed varieties, as well as other dishes such as fried rice, noodles, and other types of dumplings to make your entire meal an exciting one.
Once you’re finished here, head on over to the dessert alley where you can grab an adorable cat sundae at the many dessert parlours there, or else you go straight to Ice Cream Paradise and order a platter of weird flavours that you can only get in Japan (we recommend this option!).
You can choose to get one flavour, or six flavours in one platter, but since the scoops are small, we recommend getting 12 between two people to really make the most of the experience (even people without sweet tooths will be able to finish this, we guarantee it!). Some of the flavours you may come across include Yamanashi Peach, Royal Milk Tea, Japanese Plum, and Shizuoka Canteloupe, which all sound special and delicious.
You will then run into some puzzling flavours such as Salt of Okhatak, Tulip Gelato, Soy Milk, and Basil, where you may raise eyebrows at each other at first, but then decide why not. And then, my friend, you will come across flavours so unique, you’ll do multiple double-takes to make sure you read it correctly. These flavours include the likes of Miso Noodle, Beef Tongue, Eel, Oyster, Indian Curry, Mascapone Cheese, and Gold Tomatoes just to name a few. I mean, where else in the world will you be able to taste a crab-flavoured ice cream but Japan? We urge you to get one platter of ‘normal’ flavours, and one of whacky flavours just to make it a memorable experience!
From there, you can walk around and participate in some skill-tester machines, play fishing arcade games, and hunt for ghosts all around the stadium. Majority of the games are aimed at the younger audience, but if you’re young at heart, then why not?
Ikebukuro is an amazing city that’s just taken a little longer for foreigners to realise what it has to offer. We think an entire day dedicated to this area is enough time to see what it has to offer in terms of food and entertainment and really make use of a good 12-hours in Tokyo – it has everything you need for an exciting day of exploration!