The Tokyo neighbourhood of Ikebukuro is the closest to my house, about 20 mins on a train. Often referred to as pikey or a bit cheap and dirty, Ikebukuro is actually an excellent little neighbourhood, with museums, cool shops and quaint little areas. It’s also home to some of the cheapest shopping in town and a massive, and quite tacky, entertainment and shopping area called Sunshine City, named after a giant building, 60 storeys high, under which is an also giant shopping mall – both of which are called Sunshine City (though the building is called Sunshine 60 to be exact).
I’d been meaning to go to Sunshine City for a while – I normally go shopping for my smoking needs in Tokyu Hands (a mental, giant shop with a few Tokyo locations). It turns out rizlas in this country are a bit of a rarity, and to get mine I need to go to the pipe and lighter section of Tokyu Hands where rizlas are to be found being a locked glass cabinet! Anyways, Sunshine City is behind Tokyu Hands, so on a sunny day off Ella and I went off to Ikebukuro and walked around, before heading to Sunshine City.
There we went to the observatory on the 60th floor of the building – crazy little fact, the elevator to the observatory is one of the fastest in the world, taking you all the way up in about 30 odd seconds. Not a pleasant feeling though. The view from there was amazing, looking out into the vast sprawling metropolis that is Tokyo. Buildings until your eyes can’t see. Skyscrapers blending with houses, parks, towers and more. An amazing view of Tokyo, as you can walk all the way round the floor, seeing everything and realising that Tokyo really is friggin huge. London’s got nothing compared to this. It’s also a little dizzying – I don’t suffer from vertigo that I know of, but I didn’t feel too good after a little while.
We then went back down (in the slower elevator), and found our way to Namjatown. An incredibly tacky indoor amusement park sponsored by Namco, the video game company. It was a most odd experience – between the tackiness and not really understanding what it was all about. There are various areas, including a ghost town with little attractions and games for kids to play. Best I could figure out was that the main attraction of it was that kids had to play some sort of treasure hunt style game, running around the area and looking for clues. Weirder than that is the rest of the ‘park’ (bear in mind this in a giant building/mall spread over two floors): one area offered massages from around the world, another was dedicated to gyoza (the excellent Japanese steamed raviolis), another to desserts and a last one to ice cream . It was fun walking around in a wtf kinda way but I must admit I struggle to understand what you’re supposed to be doing there for a whole day. Luckily an entrance pass is only about a pound!
We rounded the day off with a trip to Animate, a giant manga shop – geek heaven! And then I put my foot in it by walking us into the wrong restaurant. We ended up in a Monja restaurant – the Tokyo version of Okonomiyaki. Only problem was: the menu was all in Kanji, the waiters spoke no English and once I’d ordered was I thought would be a decent option I got it totally wrong when it came to cooking it. Prompting the waiter to shout, the rest of the restaurant to look at us and the waiter to cook our meal for us. Monja is cooked on your table, which has a giant hot plate and is a kind of ‘stick anything on the plate and cook it’ food. It wasn’t the nicest experience unfortunately as we felt like we were the subject of much looking at and talking about . Still food was ok, but I’d like to check it properly, with someone who can read the menu and knows what they’re doing!