Shopping Fever in Ikebukuro
Along with Shinjuku and Shibuya, Ikebukuro is the third and northernmost of Western Tokyo’s great centers. Built around an enormous train station, this is yet another mind-blowing conglomeration of people, buildings, entertainment, shopping and chaos that could easily be its own city. And a large one, at that.
Ikebukuro Station serves nearly three million passengers a day, but perhaps even more than transportation, the neighborhood is focused on shopping. The station is squished between two enormous malls: Seibu on the east, and Tōbu on the west. The electronics retailer BIC Camera also has its flagship store abutting the station, and an endless array of anime shops line the broad pedestrian shopping streets.
We didn’t plan on shopping during our initial exploration of Ikebukuro, but when we boarded the train back home, it was with a few bags full of goodies. We’re weak, but you try visiting a store like Tokyu Hands and walking away without making a purchase. It’s impossible! I’m not even sure how to describe this place, but everything it sells is everything you’ve ever wanted. Weird Japanese products, souvenirs, toys, household gadgets, luggage, clothes, and even a cat cafe are spread across seven unbelievable floors. When we finally escaped the clutches of Tokyu Hands, we were several thousand yen lighter.
Thanks to its wide streets, Ikebukuro feels less congested than Shinjuku or Shibuya and we enjoyed the vibe here. As the sun went down and the lights came on, we walked by a few anime shops. Ikebukruo’s Otome Road is a center of manga and cosplay culture, where some of Tokyo’s biggest anime stores are found. By this time, we had given up any semblance of self-control, and bought whatever anime merchandise caught our eye, however useless.
The night got expensive, but it was also a lot of fun, and we were immediately ready to declare Ikebukuro as one of our favorites neighborhoods in Tokyo. But for some reason, we never returned. I’m not sure why that is, but it’s probably for the best; our wallets probably couldn’t have survived another Ikebukuro-style bashing.