Here in Ikebukuro you'll find the world's largest department stores, one of the world's largest car showrooms, one of the fastest lifts in the world, and Tokyo's second tallest building.
Situated in the north west of the city, Ikebukuro owes its development to the investments made by various competing railway companies. The evidence stands to be seen too. The world's two largest department stores, one built by the Seibu Railway Company and the other by Tobu, cut the district right in half, forming as they say, "Ikebukero's Berlin Wall". For maximum impact it's best to leave JR Ikebukero Station via the East Exit and then cross over the road to stand opposite.
The Seibu department store was first to be built. In 1915, having pushed a line out to some villages in the north, the Seibu Railway Company, hoping to cash in on the hunger of long distance commuters, promptly placed a supermarket inside Ikebukero Station. Thereon success speaks for itself. But it wasn't without disaster. In 1962 seven people were killed when a huge fire broke out on the seventh floor. The cause was an unfortunate accident involving matches and a can of insecticide. It happened whilst workman were trying to rid the restaurant of cockroaches. Needless to say, the shop had to close for extensive refurbishment. On the first day back after re-opening, closure was forced yet again. The crowds were so big, the shop couldn't cope! (Both, Seibu and Tobu are open 10:00am to 8:00pm, seven days a week).
Staying on the east side of Ikebukero Station, Sunshine City (otherwise known as "Sunshine 60") is a complex of four buildings. The second tallest building in Tokyo is amongst them. It was finished in 1978 and sits on land that was once occupied by Sugamo Prison. The prison's closure was heralded by shopkeepers. It was always felt highly distasteful and bad for business that shoppers in nearby department stores could see straight into the grounds ( but whether in all honesty the replacement leaves a better taste in the mouth, is really open to question).
Sunshine City's tallest building is 240 meters high. Entrance to the observation gallery, which is located on the sixtieth floor, costs 620 yen for adults and 310 yen for children. Think twice before parting with the money though - the Tokyo Metropolitan Building in Shinjuku is free and has far bigger windows. However, the lift ride up costs nothing. It's the fastest in the world - takes only thirty five seconds - and with illuminated dolphins and unicorns, ambient music and smartly dressed lift operators, it's quite an unforgettable journey.
Sunshine City also has shops, a planetarium, an aquarium, a small oriental museum, a theatre and the Namja Town theme park for children. (For admission prices and opening times see below). Have your wits about you, follow the signs carefully, all these attractions are extremely difficult to find.
The planetarium and the aquarium are on the tenth floor of the World Import Mart Building. Don't be surprised to find yourself walking through the passport office to get to the entrance, it's quite correct. Namja Town is also in the World Import Mart Building. It's on the 2nd floor. The museum and theatre are in the Bunka Kaikan Building. The theatre is on the 4th floor and the museum on the 7th. Suffice it to say, in any of these buildings if you get lost take full advantage. It's priceless! You won't beat the amusement of accidentally ending up in the middle of a trade fare, an office, or even a company canteen!
Next to Sunshine City you'll find the futuristic Toyota Amlux Auto Salon. The cars are spread over 6 floors making it one of the largest car showrooms in the world. Admission is free, it's open 11:00 am - 8:00pm Tuesdays to Sundays. (Closed Mondays except national holiday and Tuesdays if the day before was a national holiday).
Moving over to the west side of Ikebukero Station, and directly opposite the exit, you'll find Tokyo Metropolitan Art Space. Enhanced only by wet weather, the building contains a concert hall, exhibition rooms and theatres.
The fire station is also something to look out for (follow the signs from the train station and it's the brick coloured tiled building next to the police station). Inside, as part of an interactive exhibition, you can test your ability to survive an earthquake. Admission is free and hours are 9:00 am to 4:00 pm.
Seibu and Tobu Department stores:
10:00am to 8:00pm, seven days a week.
Toyota Amlux Auto Salon:
11:00 am to 8:00 pm Tuesdays to Sundays.
Closed Mondays and national holidays (If Monday is a national holiday it's closed on Tuesday instead).
Ikebukero Fire Station:
9:00am to 4:00pm.
Closed 28 Dec to 4 Jan.
Sunshine City Observation Gallery:
10:00 am to 8:30 pm (9:30 Jul 31 to Aug 31). Last ticket sold thirty minutes before closure.
*Adults: 620 yen Under 15's: 310 yen.
10:00 am to 10:00 pm
*Adults: 1,600 yen - 3,900 yen. Children: 800yen to 3300 yen depending upon the number of rides.
10:00 am to 8:00pm
*Adults: 1800. Children: 900
10:00 am to 8:00pm
*For the observation gallery, aquarium, planetarium and Namja Town, combination tickets are available as follows. (Be careful though, these may not entitle you to every ride in Namja Town).
Combination A: Adults 1,200 yen, children 700 yen - entrance to the observation gallery, the planetarium and Namja town.
Combination B: Adults 1,900 yen, children 1000 yen - entrance to the observation gallery, aquarium and Namja Town.
Combination C: Adults 2,400 yen, children 1,200 - entrance to all four attractions.
The Sunshine City Web Site (Japanese only).
Sunshine City telephone information (03) 398 3331 (Japanese only).
Ikebukuro Station is on the Marunouchi Subway Line, the Yurakicho Subway Line, the JR Yamanote Line and the JR Saikyo Line.