55 things to do in Ikebukuro

55 things to do in Ikebukuro

Exploring Ikebukuro? Take your pick from our best-of lists, featuring major attractions, art galleries, bars and more

Time Out in association with Toshima International City of Arts & Culture

Ikebukuro is one of Tokyo's biggest and busiest hubs, but has long been derided as a decidedly un-trendy 'gateway to Saitama', overshadowed by the likes of Shinjuku and Shibuya. That unfortunate reputation is quickly becoming a thing of the past, as our picks of the best things to do in the area prove: Ikebukuro boasts everything from major attractions to tranquil art galleries and unique bars, plus a mouth-watering selection of ramen shops.  

Here are our top 55 picks for the famous district and its surrounding neighbouhoods, including lunch at a spicy noodle shop, tea with owls, plus an evening at a jazz bar and the Moulin Rouge. Finding things to do in Ikebukuro has never been more convenient – or exciting.

Explore these places on foot, or take a more comfortable route by hopping onto the newly launched Ikebukuro bus which costs ¥200 per ride.  


Soak in historic surrounds

Things to do Otsuka

Opened way back in 1926, when Japan's era name was changed from Taisho to Showa, the Kinen-yu bathhouse was renovated in 1989 – the first year of the new Heisei era. Its funky, space-themed interior recalls those halcyon days. Otsuka Kinen-yu

中国家庭料理 楊 2号店

Spice up your noodles

Restaurants Chinese Ikebukuro

Satisfying your cravings for extra-spicy noodles from lunchtime to late at night, every day of the year, Yan has become an integral part of the Ikebukuro food scene. Don't miss their soupless dan dan mien – a sweat-inducing speciality with just the right amount of heat. Yan No.2

お食事と甘味 たけやま

Devour some meat with the locals

Restaurants Japanese Sugamo

When you need a hearty meal in Sugamo, there’s no beating Takeyama – a local favourite where carnivorous seniors can always be found digging into hamburg steaks and beef stew topped with delicate demi-glace sauce. Takeyama


Purchase a penguin pen

Shopping Gifts and souvenirs Otsuka

Penguin-lovers, rejoice: this store is dedicated to all things themed on your favourite flightless bird. Stowed away for years to make sure they're retro enough, the black-and-white knickknacks on sale include true rarities. Penguin-do Zakkaten


Find your new favourite sake

Restaurants Japanese Otsuka

The natural tones of the wooden surfaces lend a welcoming air to this homely restaurant, which serves up healthy Japanese home cooking to go with an ample selection of sake – you can choose from about 30 different brews every day. Kuwan


Follow an urban ranger

Hotels Otsuka

Operating luxury properties throughout Japan, Hoshino Resorts are trying something different with OMO brand– a budget hotel where resident ‘OMO rangers’ are always on hand to give you a custom tour of Otsuka (some tours cost extra). Hoshino Resorts OMO5 Tokyo Otsuka


Discover magical rooftop dining

Restaurants Food court Ikebukuro

Inspired by Monet’s landscape paintings, this food court seems almost like it's floating on the rooftop of Seibu Ikebukuro. It features various seasonal flowers around a pretty pond, and a number of unique eats. The Floating Garden of Food and Greenery


Snack on a sweet classic

Shopping Ikebukuro

A Japanese reinterpretation of the traditional Chinese mooncake, the geppei from Nakamuraya in Shinjuku has been delighting dessert-loving Tokyoites since 1927. The Tobu Ikebukuro version, sold only here, bears the likeness of Ikefukuro, the neighbourhood's owl mascot. Zenkoku Meikasen Tobu Ikebukuro


Munch on huge gyoza

Shopping Ikebukuro

Feeling like some beer and a nibble? Drop by this gyoza place, found in a little alley near the station, where the jumbo-sized, succulent and chewy dumplings are sure to satisfy. Kailaku

Tabineko Zakkaten

Dig for offbeat finds

Shopping Zoshigaya

Old books, folk toys and random knickknacks collected from every corner of Japan line the shelves at this quirkiest of shops, a place sure to inspire all you tired souvenir-hunters. How about a Japanese-style brooch or a colourful paper pouch? Tabineko Zakkaten

Photo by Yuki Nakamura

Fill up like a local

Restaurants Japanese Ikebukuro

The traditional ichiju sansai – one soup and three dishes, plus a bowl of white, brown or mixed grain rice – meals at this homely eatery make for a healthy and satisfying lunch. Hours are from 11.15am to 2pm, but the more popular options tend to sell out long before closing time. Mimatsu


Live long in scarlet dress

Shopping Sugamo

It's Japanese tradition to celebrate your 60th birthday in red clothing. Considered a symbol of vitality and protection from harm, these garish garments are everywhere in Sugamo, but Maruji stocks the most impressive range of styles. Sugamo Maruji


Take it slow, eat curry

Restaurants Ikebukuro

Relaxation is the name of the game at Yurucafe, a decidedly laidback spot occupying an old prefab warehouse. The flavourful curry is a particular highlight, but you'll also want to consider the artisanal iced coffee, perhaps with a piece of house-made cake. Yurucafe 


Enjoy the benefits of age

Health and beauty Nail salons Sugamo

There are plenty of great deals for senior citizens in Sugamo, but this nail salon's age-related discounts take the prize. Anyone over 50 gets 50 percent off, those over 60 get 60 percent and so on – 100-year-olds can have their talons tended to for free. Sugamo Nails Uruulu


Immerse yourself in '60s-style entertainment

Things to do Ikebukuro

Opened in 1968, this certifiably retro ‘amusement building’ houses a cinema, arcade, bowling alley, poll hall,tennis courts and several restaurants, making it both a local community hub and a unique tourist attraction. Rosa Kaikan


Power up with a starry parfait

Restaurants Ikebukuro

Stroll down the Sunshine-dori street to find this sweet shrine to colourful and cute parfaits, themed on the 13 zodiac signs. They have some savoury options too, and even a cup of coffee will make you feel special – thanks to the starry cups, pots and sugar cubes. Milky Way

Music Cafe Bar "ONE's"

Lounge at a funky music bar

Bars and pubs Ikebukuro

European antiques, leather couches and a top-of-the-line sound system make for an unlikely but strangely satisfying mixture at One's, a casual cocktail bar where local DJs stop to spin house and techno tunes on Wednesdays and Saturdays..Music Cafe Bar One's


Slurp Michelin-grade ramen

Restaurants Ramen Yoyogi-Uehara

The prize: a Michelin-starred meal for under ¥1,000. The catch: you have to get there before 7am on the same day to grab a seating ticket. Is it worth it? Of course it is – you're unlikely to ever find a better bowl of ramen anywhere. Japanese Soba Noodles Tsuta


Transport yourself to Naples

Restaurants Ikebukuro

Sourcing organic veg directly from producers throughout Japan, the chefs here conjure up healthy Italian cuisine that’s best enjoyed out on the terrace on a sunny summer day. Grip

Sunshine City Aquarium

Marvel at the flying penguins

Attractions Zoos and aquariums Ikebukuro

One of the city’s top attractions is this aquarium that’s packed with interesting sea creatures. The sea lion who swims above your head in his glass, doughnut-shaped pool is a must-see, as are the little penguins who look like they’ve finally figured out how to fly. Sunshine Aquarium


Park off with a waterfall view

Attractions Parks and gardens Mejiro

Located near Frank Lloyd Wright's Jiyu Gakuen Myonichikan, this small park boasts a traditional garden designed for an optimal view over its ponds and waterfall. Take a hike to the viewpoint, then enjoy a picnic on the perfectly maintained grass. Mejiro Garden


Fall in love with firm soba

Restaurants Mejiro

Made with Hokkaido buckwheat ground on the premises, Kisshoan’s soba noodles are cut fresh and boiled to order, giving them a refined, firm texture. The lunchtime specials, which include tempura and rice bowl sets, offer excellent value. Kisshoan


Relish a rice ball

Restaurants Otsuka

There’s almost always a queue in front of Bongo, an Otsuka-based onigiri shop that offers a whopping 50 types of rice balls, but these delicacies – be it one filled with sea urchin and jellyfish or peanut miso – are always worth the wait. Otsuka Bongo

Live Jazz Bar Donfan

Give in to the groove

Music Jazz Otsuka

Otsuka is known for its concentration of gig spots and music festivals, and this comfy, long-established jazz bar offers a great introduction to the local scene. Top musicians strut their stuff here day and night. Live Jazz Bar Donfan

Otome Road

Hunt down the subcultures

Attractions Sightseeing Ikebukuro

Otome Road ('Maiden Road') runs for 200m along the west side of the Sunshine 60 building and is packed with shops including K-Books, Mandarake and a Butler Café that attracts the kind of lady who's fascinated by manga or Japan's subcultures. Otome Road 

Shisui Deux

Meet at the Moulin Rouge

Restaurants Otsuka

If you only visit Shisui deux once, make it a Tuesday night – which is when a troupe of sexy and energetic dancers take the stage for a ‘French can-can’ show, doing their best Moulin Rouge impression before an adoring, wine-drinking crowd. Shisui Deux


Wolf down a fish bowl

Restaurants Ikebukuro

Despite the ‘stand’ moniker, Gen-chan is not a standing-only joint; rather, it’s a regular fish-focused izakaya renowned for its lunchtime kaisendon (sashimi over rice), which features generous amounts of tuna, salmon and other marine treats. Stand Gen-chan


Enthuse over brand-name eel

Restaurants Mejiro

Lighter and softer than your average unagi, Kyosui eel from Shizuoka prefecture is offered at only 30 or so restaurants in Japan – including this one, where sitting at the counter lets you watch the chefs do their thing up close. Mejiro Zorome


Write your name in Japanese

Things to do Sugamo

Listening to stories about Japanese history while trying to keep up with your calligraphy teacher sounds like a multi-tasking nightmare, but it's actually both educational and fun. Once you’ve written your characters, your calligraphy will be printed on a t-shirt with a high-tech fabric printer. It’s safe to machine-wash the printed t-shirts so you can wear your work over and over again! The two-hour class costs ¥6,500. Togenuki Jizo Calligraphy Class


Start your night with dumplings and beer

Bars and pubs Otsuka

Founded and owned by a group of American craft beer importers, this craft beer pub by Otsuka Station has 12 taps, a plentiful selection of canned and bottled brews, and different atmospheres on all three floors – just pick the one you like and settle in. The gyoza dumplings are worth a shot, too. Titans


Recharge with a savoury bite

Shopping Specialist food and drink Sugamo

The perfect mid-afternoon snack, inarizushi (sweet tofu skin stuffed with vinegared rice) doesn't come much simpler – or tastier – than at this takeout-only shop, hidden away in a quiet residential street. You can choose from five varieties, all priced at ¥70 per piece. Somei Inari


Mingle with the artsy crowd

Art Komagome

After snapping a photo of this warehouse-like space's colourful, highly Instagram-friendly exterior, open the door and you just might stumble upon a congregation of local artists and creatives, who regularly get together here to show off their work. Note the irregular opening hours. Komagome Soko + Kayokoyuki


Watch films all night long

Cinemas Independent Ikebukuro

A legendary repertory house in Ikebukuro showing a wide range of films, from Japanese classics to Hollywood no-brainers. The all-night screenings on Saturday nights are particularly popular. Shin-Bungeiza


End your night out with dessert

Restaurants Ikebukuro

Tokyoites' around-the-clock love for all things sweet has spawned a number of late-night dessert dealers, among them this parfait specialist where you can dig into plentiful servings of seasonal fruit, gelato and whipped cream until the wee hours. Momobukuro


Sing like you're winning

Bars and pubs Otsuka

There are countless tiny bars in the cluster of alleys known as Otsuka Norengai, but only this one offers free karaoke to go with its ¥2,000, 90-minute all-you-can-drink deal. Pour yourself a beer, order a plate of gyoza from the shop downstairs, and get that show started. Karaoke Bar Tao Pai Pai


Ponder the impermanence of beauty

Things to do Sugamo

Besides literary pilgrims seeking out the nearby graves of renowned authors, this sanctuary of peace and quiet gets most of its visitors in spring, when the cherry blossom trees on its grounds burst into a spectacular bloom. Somei Cemetery


Pick up some emergency skills

Museums Ikebukuro

This centre offers a fire and earthquake drill simulator that gives you evacuation training for four different emergency situations. It’s all in Japanese though, so best bring someone along to translate for you. Ikebukuro Safety Learning Center

Photo by Yuki Nakamura

Take on a bunch of tentacles

Restaurants Sugamo

A quirky bar dedicated to Osaka's famous octopus balls, Ogo-chan rules over the local competition with its uber-fluffy takoyaki, which can be paired with homemade sangria, whisky and – if you're really hungry – a plate of chewy yakisoba noodles. Takoyaki Stand Ogochan


Concentrate on a fruity cocktail

Bars and pubs Mejiro

Peek into this comfy little bar between 10pm and 1am and you’re likely to find it packed, so we recommend going earlier or later than that for the chance to appreciate one of Ihara’s renowned fruit cocktails in peace and quiet. Bar Ihara

ikefukuro - owl cafe

Meet a playful bunch

Things to do Ikebukuro

Once you arrive in 'owl town', why not start out at an owl café? Each bird here has its own character: one is kind to humans, another one is demanding to its fellow owls. Pet and carry them around, and you might be able to make friends with one of the round-eyed fellows. Ikefukuro Cafe


Appreciate fruit fit for a king

Restaurants Otsuka

Arranged to look like little bouquets, the fruit parfaits at this unassuming greengrocer's excite both the eyes and the taste buds. They're wildly popular, so you'll need to pick up a ticket at the shop before it opens to secure a seat for an afternoon time slot. Fruits Sugi


Try some 100-year-old wine

Bars and pubs Wine bars Otsuka

A bar and café specialising in fortified wines from the Atlantic island of Madeira, Leandro holds the Guinness world record for the greatest variety of such wines available in a single place. The attentive master is happy to recommend specific bottles, the oldest of which date back to the 1700s. Leandro


Survey the latest art trends

Art Sugamo

Low on inspiration? You’re bound to find something to stimulate your creativity at XYZ Collective, an art gallery where the frequently changing exhibitions are all curated by up-and-coming Japanese artists. XYZ Collective


Say a prayer

Attractions Religious buildings and sites Zoshigaya

Feel the atmosphere of old Edo at this solemn temple, revered since 1664 as a site of prayers related to children and safe childbirth. It’s also famous for its huge ginkgo trees, which are over 700 years old. Zoshigaya Kishimojin


Swing to jazz over pan-fried pork

Restaurants Komagome

Pony’s combo of velvet sofas and down-to- earth home cooking has struck a chord with locals of all ages, who have been supporting this quirky café ever since it opened 31 years ago. The third Wednesday evening of the month is live jazz night (¥1,000 cover charge required). Pony 

Photo by Yuki Nakamura

Scale the Mt Everest of kakigori

Restaurants Cafés Ikebukuro

A former fruit dealer turned shaved ice shop, Hachiku is one of the most popular kakigori cafés in all of Tokyo. Seating tickets are given out for specific time slots, so there’s no need to queue for the chance to taste their towers of icy delight. Note the irregular closing days. Hachiku

Mori no Chashitsu

Study the way of tea

Restaurants Sugamo

Savouring a cup of tea master Masami Mori’s extra-rich matcha – known as the ‘espresso of tea’ – while hanging out by the counter in his casual shop is a surefire way to arouse an interest in the intricacies of verdant brews. Mori no Chashitsu


Sleep amongst books

Hotels Ikebukuro

nviting bibliophiles to fall asleep with one of the many books on display, this library-style hostel provides one of Tokyo’s most weirdly specific accommodation options. It also has a bar floor where you can enjoy the tomes while sipping a drink. Book and Bed Ikebukuro


Hide out with happy babies

Restaurants Cafés Daikanyama

Hidden away on the ninth floor of Lumine Ikebukuro, Chano-Ma looks like your typical trendy café but stands out with its many family-friendly details. We love the huge, bed-like seats, where babies can crawl around freely and fall asleep whenever they feel like it. Chano-Ma

China Chakan | Time Out Tokyo

Have a cheap Chinese feast

4 out of 5 stars
Restaurants Chinese Ikebukuro

A proper dim sum brunch usually doesn't come cheap in Tokyo, so this modest second-floor eatery is really pushing the envelope with its weekday deal: about ¥2,900 for two hours of all-you-can-eat action, with over 80 house-made dishes to pick from. Chakan

二ナオ 三軒茶屋店

Give exotic ice cream a try

Restaurants Ikebukuro

Originally from Taiwan, this soft-serve ice cream outlet entices passers-by with a different pair of flavours every day. Popular import varieties include almond tofu and 'salty milk'. Ninao


Find pleasure in the art of coffee

Restaurants Komagome

Enjoy a quiet moment over a cup of impeccably balanced pourover coffee at this classic second-floor café, which feels a world away from the bustle of central Ikebukuro and also sells its own home-roasted beans. Note that laptops are no allowed. Hyaqtoh Coffee


Take a break in the park

Attractions Ikebukuro

Re-opened in spring 2016 after five years of renovations, this park is a popular hangout and lunch spot for locals. You'll find a few cherry blossom trees here and there too, so checking it out in spring should be well worth it. Minami-Ikebukuro Park


Bite into classic pork

Restaurants Otsuka

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it – the chefs at Sansetsu have used the same recipe for their ginger pork ever since this local favourite first opened its doors 41 years ago, and the thick, juicy cuts are still some of the best in all of Tokyo. Sansetsu

Q Plaza Ikebukuro_

Hit a home run on the roof

Things to do Ikebukuro

Opened in July 2019, the latest must-see spot for Ikebukuro’s money-spending hordes houses boutiques, restaurants, cafés and one of the largest multiplex cinemas in Tokyo, but the rooftop offers relief for less trend-conscious types in the form of an old-school batting cage. Q Plaza Ikebukuro

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