Ikebukuro station will instantly make you realize that this area has to be a very popular and crowded venue and center of attraction. The station is one of the biggest ones in Tokyo, there are many exists that may confuse you at first. Very similar to Shinjuku, there are always crowds of people populating the streets around Ikebukuro.
That´s because Ikebukuro is indeed a great place to go shopping. There are several stores of the “Bic Camera” and “Yamada denki” chains where you can buy all sorts of eletronics, the “Seibu” department store above in the upper floors of the station building, the Don Quichote or UniQlo branch stores as well as an entertainment district with many nightclubs, bars, restaurants, a bowling center and not to mention the karaoke bars, hotels, a museum, a concert hall (Metropolitan Art Space) and of course the “Sunshine City” (see below) are a magnet for pleasure-seeking visitors and shoppers regardless of the daytime.
You may notice that there are several owl statues around and inside of the station. That´s because an (incorrect) variation of the Japanese kanji for “Ikebukuro” means “owl” (fukuro).
After nightfall and especially on the weekends, Ikebukuro comes to a second life slightly different to its daytime clientele. Many will populate the streets of the Toshima district, coming from or going to one of the many (sports) bars, karaoke bars and restaurants.
However, the station itself will be locked down at around 1am, if you have to change from Ikebukuro West to its East side (or vice versa), you´ll have to take a longer walk as you won´t be able to use the station anymore.
Even at 3am, streets will be populated quite a lot, as most of the nightclubs or karaoke bars won´t close until early morning, or are open 24/7 anyways.
The heart of Ikebukuro, the Sunshine City street walk, consists of a variety of shops, which will be pulling in visitors especially in the early evening hours. In the centre of Sunshine City, you´ll notice the rectangular shaped, 240m (787ft) tall “Sunshine 60″ building, being located right next to the Toyota Amlux, in which people can test drive the newest Toyota cars. Sunshine 60 houses 130 shops, restaurants, an amusement park and aquarium. Its top serves as observation deck with a great view for a comparably small admission fee.
This viewpoint is really impressive. Located on the 60th floor of the building, it offers an amazing view over the city, regardless of the respective daytime. If you are not affected by vertigo, you can even access the outside of the platform on weekends. On the “Sky Deck,” you can expose yourself to the wind for a more intense experience. In its “Blue Sky” souvenir shop, you can buy all kinds of goods ranging from small owl figures to fans or settle down in front of the giant windows at the “Air Ship” coffee shop in order to enjoy the breathtaking view.
The admission fee is only 620 Yen, which is a lot cheaper than the Tokyo Tower or most of the other observation decks in Tokyo (a visit of the Tokyo Sky Tree eventually costs up to 5000 Yen).
I personally like the Sunshine 60 observatory a lot, especially as it features huge glass windows, from which you can take amazing pictures or just enjoy the view.
Opening hours: 10:00 am to 9:30pm, last admission is at 9pm
Official website link: www.sunshinecity.co.jp
Apart from its observation deck, Sunshine 60 actually offers a lot more. You can also visit an aquarium (1800 Yen), a planetarium, the indoor amusement park “Namco City”, 60 restaurants and a cinema if you´d like to watch the latest movies (American movies are usually subbed in Japanese language and not dubbed, so you can go ahead and watch it, as the language will be still English).
Not only for F1 and car lovers: Toyota Amlux is a huge car showroom with roads (!) on wich people can test-drive the latest cars or enjoy driving simulators. In its museum, there are over 70 cars and futuristic concept cars to be gazed at.
Opening hours: 11am – 7pm, closed on Mondays
Website link: www.amlux.jp/amlux.shtml
How to get to Sunshine City
Best and easiest way to get to there is getting off at the “Higashi-Ikebukuro” station on the Yurakucho Line. From there, it´s only 2 or 3 minutes by foot. Yet I do recommend taking the 10 minute walk passing Sunshine city and its shops. Get off at the JR Ikebukuro station and take the East exit, following the signs from there. You can´t really miss it if you keep your eyes on the Sunshine 60 building.
Metropolitan Art Space
The Metropolitan Art space is an arts center including a beutiful concert hall, where all kinds of events are taking place, ranging from ballet to operas and concerts
Opening hours: 09:00am – 10:00 pm
Website link: www.geikei.jp