December 05, 2008


The fourth stop on my Yamanote line journey was Ikebukuro, the first of the major hubs on the loop line. It's a large station and reportedly the second busiest in the world (after Shinjuku) with over two million people passing through each day. There are major exits on the east and west side, and I started my exploration from the west side.
The literal translation of the kanji that are used to write Ikebukuro is 'pond bag', though the sound of the second character is the same as the word for owl. As a result there are a number of owl statues in the area. This was on the main road leading away from the west exit.
This bar was located just off the main road. Sometimes it's better to have no memory of what happened the previous night, I think.This was an old style coffee shop that I popped into for a short refreshing cuppa. Judging from the decor it's been around for some time, and there was a nice, slightly run-down feel to it.
Doubling back slightly towards the station you reach the large Tokyo Metropolitan Art Centre which holds exhibitions, theatre performances and other such events.

Crossing over to the other side of the main artery running from the station you can find a street called Romance Dori, though it doesn't really live up to its name, as it's part of the entertainment district. The area is filled with noodle restaurants, pachinko parlours, karaoke boxes and hostess bars, and is undoubtedly a lot busier at night.
Not far from there is this dog hotel where you can check your pooch in for a short rest or a longer stay as well as booking it in for a cut and blow dry.

Odd choice of name for a shop selling sporty clothes, but somehow I like it.
Not sure what's so funny about this dining bar, as they hadn't quite started serving lunch at this point.
I headed back towards the station and decided to head over to the east side for something to eat and carry on my exploration there. Near the main east exit there is this statue of an owl which is a well-known meeting point.

After a cheap and tasty lunch of mabodofu in a basement izakaya, I headed along the aptly named Green O-dori, lined with trees. Branching off to the left in Sunshine 60 street, which heads towards the Sunshine building, and off to the right you can reach Minami Ikebukuro Park. The public park area is quite small and unexciting, but the rest of the block is taken up with the grounds of several temples, some of which are literally next door to each other.
Playing shogi (a kind of Japanese chess) in the park.
The largest of the temples is the impressive Honryu-ji, with a fairly large cemetery behind it.
From there I headed back towards the main road and went towards Sunshine City, a complex of shops and restaurants in the Sunshine building.

There's another small park next to Sunshine, this one called Higashi-Ikebukuro Central Park.
The Sunshine building is sixty floors high and the lower floors are filled with shops, though it hardly ranks as one of the great Tokyo shopping experiences. For a small fee you can take an express lift up to the top floor to get a view over Tokyo. On a clear day you can see as far as Mount Fuji, but sadly it was a bit cloudy on the day I went there.

The Shinjuku skyscraper district in the distance.
As it was getting later in the afternoon I headed back towards the station using a slightly different route. I stumbled across this great second-hand record and CD shop called Daruma on a quite little street and spent some time browsing. They had some real collectors' items on sale, including some Blue Note albums from the fifties and sixties with price tags running as high as £1,000.
A little closer to the station on a slightly busier street is the main branch of the computer and appliance store Bic Camera, one of the leading competitors in that market.

Ikebukuro isn't a place I go very often, but it's an area with an energetic feel to it, and in the few hours I spent wandering around I probably only scratched the surface of what there is to see and do.

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