The beautiful photo of Ikebukuro above is courtesy of Tsutomu Kuriyama from the
Ikebukuro is one of the new hearts of Tokyo these days. It used to
be a small station in the suburbs if you can believe that and was not
developed or crowded like it is today. When it became the link to
Saitama prefecture in the north-west it grew rapidly in density and
population. Today it is arguably one of the four busiest stations in
Tokyo, handling close to a million passengers a day, or more. The
other three being Shinjuku, Tokyo and Ueno stations. Shibuya station
is also becoming incredibly busy these days. In fact the busiest
stretch of track in Tokyo, is the Yamanote line between Shibuya Station
and Ikebukuro Station. It is not wise to live between these stations
because there are always massive crowds of people on that route. Meaning it is always busy, even during the non-rush hour period.
Ikebukuro is also home to some first class department stores. According to The Lonely Planet Japan, Seibu and Tobu department stores are
the two largest department stores in the world. They are constantly
being added on to. A few years ago Seibu on the east side of the
tracks was the biggest. Then for competitive purposes, Tobu, on the
west side of the tracks, added an extra 8 or 9 floors onto a section of
it's store making it the biggest in the world. The stores are quite
massive. Each one dominates the entire area around the station and
the skyline, besides the Sunshine 60 building. The stores are
basically cities in a building. The goal of each store is to carry
the widest assortment of goods possible. This means you can find literally
anything at one of these stores, making them a great place to shop, but
sometimes the price is a bit too high class.
me take a minute to try to describe the Japanese department store. You might think, huh?
aren't they the same as a department store
where I live, well, yes and no. They are fundamentally the same, but
taken to the extreme. One thing that might be different from a North
American approach is that there are few if any shopping malls in
Japan. They don't fit well into the economics of the country. This means department stores are huge companies that own everything from
the trains you ride, to sports teams, usually baseball. For example
Seibu department store is not only one of the largest in the world they
also own the Seibu Lions pro baseball team in Japan
and the private Seibu train corporation. Shopping malls in North America
have taken business away from the private business owner and small
businesses, but in Japan small businesses can still thrive, and
succeed. So again the largest retail owners are department
stores. Stores are usually split up into the same general floor
plan, which makes it easy to find things. The basement floors are
usually for the food floors (meaning pre-cooked or prepared food) sections
and the grocery and produce etc. The next being just under the main
floor will be where the train station is, which is of course run by the store
so it goes right into the building. Convenient. This may be
more than one floor or maybe a store has no station, depending. On
the main floor is usually the jewelry, fragrance, and accessories
section. All floors above the main floor up to the roof are a separate
floor for women's and men's clothing, usually books, children's clothes,
sports, and everything else you might expect. All employees are
almost always extremely knowledgeable, polite and do everything with
extreme speed and precision. It is to such a degree that it is
almost too much.
case you didn't know this. When you enter any Japanese store someone
will always greet you with "irasshaimase!"
which means basically, "welcome
to our store". Sometimes everyone will shout it at you and it can be kind of alarming if
you're not prepared. It's just part of customer service.
service at a Japanese department store could be easily rated as best in
the world. They take it as being the most important part of their
business to please the customer and make everything perfect. This
will in turn mean they will have loyal customers that keep coming
back. Anyway the extra parts of many stores might be a floor near
the top for nice restaurants, a floor for variety goods, like stationary, souvenirs,
etc. A floor for electronics, appliances, household goods, a floor
for top fashions by famous fashion designers, a floor for furniture,
travel supplies, or a camera's and photography. After all this on
the roof there is usually a place to buy plants and shrubs, a beer garden,
children's play area, or rest area with a view, making the department
store experience something to remember here.
to Ikebukuro, the station is again like almost every station split into
east and west sides. the division is not as contrasting as most stations
though. Probably because of the two department stores both sides of
the station have developed along the same paths. My personal favorite
side was the east side, or the Seibu side. The Seibu side seemed
busier and more active than the Tobu side, but that's just an
opinion. Along with busy streets, bars, restaurants, and many
stores, the east side also has the ever looming Sunshine 60
building. It is really out of place as the only huge skyscraper in
the area. It used to be the tallest building in Tokyo before the
Metropolitan Gov. Offices were completed in Shinjuku. The '60' of
'Sunshine 60' means it has 60 floors. At the base is another city in
a building called Sunshine City.
Copyright ©1999 3DeeArts. All photos property of 3DeeArts Tokyo Virtual Tour.
Copy or re-use in any way is prohibited.
Background photo by Tsutomu Kuriyama ©1999.
Main text by 3DeeArts ©1999/2000. Additional
text by Donald Richie from
Introducing Tokyo ©1987 Kodansha International Ltd.