17th August 2016.
My prejudices about Ikebukuro stems mostly from seeing Durarara!!, so I was a bit disappointed when I visited the real Ikebukuro to find there were no spontaneous gang fights breaking out in the streets, bouncers in monkey suits destroying public property and throwing appliances or headless riders on motorcycles ripping the roads.
Instead, Ikebukuro felt like an alternative mix between Shibuya and Akiba, as Ikebukuro is the home for Otome Road; the Akihabara-equivalent district aimed towards the female otaku crowd lined with stores filled with otome-related goods. It was also a pretty normie district in general with a lot of interesting spots targeted towards millennials.
Ikebukuro has been referenced into oblivion in modern anime – such as the aforementioned Durarara!!, Tokyo Ghoul, Mawaru Penguindrum and even Idolmaster Cinderella Girls. Ikebukuro and parts around the area was also modelled in Mamoru Hosoda’s The Girl Who Leapt Through Time.
So I decided to change things up a bit for this day – planning my general route around Ikebukuro by marking spots seen in anime as waypoints while checking things out in between as usual.
Meeting up with Otamega has to be done at the famous Owl statue in the East Exit of Ikebukuro Station. Owls are the icon of Ikebukuro since the Japanese name for owl “Fukurou” sounds similar to the “-bukuro” part in Ikebukuro.
Dozens of people were sitting to the side in the park on their phones. Judging from their stance and focused attention to their screens they were probably playing Pokémon GO.
Just let you know as disclaimer I’m an uncontrollable die-hard fan of MUJI products. Since MUJI stores in the UK are often tiny stores sometimes with an additional floor above or below, I was absolutely stoked to enter this humongous department-sized store just off the East side of Ikebukuro Station. It made me realise how little the UK branch are scratching on the surface of the range of MUJI goods because I never knew MUJI had their own food line and specialised household goods!
It was an extremely sunny day so I had a bit of trouble controlling the exposure settings on my camera. Even with the slightest shutter time and ISO my photos were always overexposed.
The face of Ikebukuro as you step out of the East Exit of the train station. Will be extremely familiar if you’ve seen Mawaru Penguindrum.
The most peculiar thing you’d probably find in Ikebukuro is this statue of two figures forming an ‘O’ shape just across the road from the Seibu Department Store. I’ve tried to look up the context to this statue but had no luck in finding out its background nor who the sculptor is (any tips are welcome).
Ikebukuro’s city scape with some otome billboarding.
We visited Ikebukuro’s PARCO department store which happens to house the Evangelion Store and the Nico Nico Live studio where a bunch of livestream events take place!
Evangelion and Shin Godzilla shirts and merch at the Evangelion Store! Godzilla gets a free pass in the shop since Hideaki Anno is directing the new Shin Godzilla film.
The shirt designs are cool but not what I’d casually wear in a general environment. They were also hella expensive at ~£40 a shirt.
Was surprised to bump into this Expelled from Paradise pop-up store! Expelled from Paradise is a 3DCG anime film from 2014 written by Gen Urobuchi about a lewd-looking agent in a futuristic virtual reality world hunting down an alleged cyberspace hacker.
The shop was selling a bunch of merch spun off from the movie as well as displaying art and production stuff from the movie!
We visited the Tower Records store on the way up the PARCO department tower with these nifty promotional anime tie-in posters!
YAMADA Ikebukuro had a dedicated Gundam floor with dozens of shelves full of Gundam model kits!
Not much of a Gundam person but I appreciated the level of detail they put into the shopfloor!
One of our waypoints was Cafe Spazio – located just off the main wide road straight ahead once you exit the east exit train station. The cafe was used at the very start of Tokyo Ghoul where Kaneki and Rize had their date!
Made it to the Ikebukuro Animate store! The Animate store here was far more focused on otome goods which explains the 9:1 female to male ratio inside and otome-oriented advertising (
hyperbolic ratio not to scale). I did feel a bit awkward going inside with my camera so I didn’t take any noteworthy shots.
We later arrived at Sunshine City! As featured in a bunch of anime but more recently Idolmaster Cinderella Girls, Sunshine City is a massive shopping center that also has an aquarium, a planetarium and even a museum!
A little too massive for my liking as I got overwhelmed at how big the complex was and how confusing the map is. We came here primarily for the Pokémon Center store which, at the time I thought was the only Pokémon Store in Tokyo (according to Google Maps) until I later found out there’s a couple more around Tokyo!
Inside Sunshine City housed J-World, an amusement park based on Shonen Jump.
Namja Town was also nearby which I never actually realised was a pretty popular spot.
Surprised to find a Chibi Maruko-chan store inside Sunshine City! I remember always watched this with my family a long time ago.
And so we arrived at the Pokémon Center Mega Tokyo!
Giant display for then latest movie Pokémon the Movie: Volcanion and the Mechanical Marvel inside the Pokémon Center. They were playing the full ending theme of the movie on an endless loop in the store which had been ingrained in my brain for the rest of the trip.
I remember while lining up in the long queue to pay for the stuff I picked up I noticed nearly everyone in line were on their phones playing Pokémon GO, which made me boot up the mobage and witnessed the most chaotic gym battle the game could ever handle, the store was a Pokémon Gym as well as a Pokéstop in the game.
The Ikebukuro branch of Super Potato was our next stop as I tried to find an orange Gameboy Advanced for my university buddy back home. Turns out orange GameBoys are a rarity even in Japan…
Walked into Ikebukuro’s Tokyu Hands branch and Love Live! was the first thing we saw stepping in.
Tokyu Hands had these Love Live! branded pens and realised you’re only buying the pen shell; you had to buy the pen ink sticks separately.
Tokyu Hands also had a pets section with these lovely little critters hanging about!
Risked getting my phone swatted by staff by taking this photo of a genuine vintage shikishi by Kenjirou Hata for Hayate no Gotoku! Sadly these shikishis weren’t for sale.
Night suddenly fell before we knew it and it was time to look for a place for dinner.
Inspired by that scene in Hayate no Gotoku! where Nagi runs up to the top of Sunshine City to scream at the top of her lungs at the beginning of their Doujin Namek arc, I assumed Sunshine City had an observation deck of some sort to let you see Ikebukuro from above.
We wounded up after dinner coming back here to investigate and found this stunning view on the 50th-something floor which housed a couple of open air fancy-looking restaurants. I think the staff were annoyed at us for loitering around because they were closing up for the night.
After visiting a few more shops including Toranoana’s Ikebukuro branch it was getting pretty late and called it a day. Picked up a lot of nice gems throughout my time in Ikebukuro!