Japan Today
Image: SoraNews24

Tokyo’s Ikebukuro is looking very different, and also pretty sad, these days

By Dale Roll, SoraNews24

There was a period of his life when our reporter Seiji Nakazawa was in Tokyo’s Ikebukuro neighborhood all the time. Not only did he spend six years living in that part of the city, even after he moved to a new apartment Ikebukuro remained his go-to destination on his days off. After all, the place has tons of affordable restaurants, casual clothing stores, movie theaters, and anime and video game specialty shops – pretty much everything he needs to enjoy himself.

So when Seiji stopped by the Ikebukuro branch of beef bowl chain Sukiya to check out their "Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba" decorations, it wasn’t his first time in the neighborhood. It was his first time there in quite a while, though, and he was shocked, and a little sad, at how Ikebukuro has changed since his last visit.


As he walked from Ikebukuro Station to the restaurant, Seiji realized it had been two years since he’d been in Ikebukuro. From his new apartment, he doesn’t pass though the district on his work commute, and since the pandemic started he’s been trying to stay closer to home on his days off. He knew that during that time Sega’s landmark Ikebukuro arcade had closed down, but seeing the entire storefront covered up by tarps and scaffolding, as shown in the photo above, was still a gut punch for someone whose youth coincided with the height of Japanese arcades’ glory days.

Likewise, the Ikebukuro branch of Tokyu Hands, a multistory home furnishings, lifestyle, and DIY store at the end of Sunshine-dori Street, is also out of business, and the outdoor plaza in front of its ground-floor entrance, which usually hosted special events and promotions for new or quirky items, was empty.


But the biggest surprise wasn’t the empty buildings, but the buildings that are just straight-up gone, like the one across from the Adore’s arcade, which used to have a suit shop as its biggest tenant, if Seiji’s memory serves,

▼ The building itself is now just a memory, in any case.


▼ Another newly created gap in the urban landscape


Ikebukuro may not have quite the world-famous pop culture and fashion cachets of Tokyo neighborhoods like Akihabara or Harajuku, but its location at the northwest edge of downtown made it a major draw for people coming on day trips from farther out in the suburbs and even the southern parts of Saitama Prefecture, Tokyo’s neighbor to the north. But with so many people staying near home during the pandemic, Ikebukuro’s visitor numbers are way down, as the small number of pedestrians on Sunshine-dori attests to.


Granted, the pandemic can’t be blamed for each and every business closure in the neighborhood. The arcade business has been in a steady decline for years, for example, so it was probably inevitable that a large-scale facility like Sega’s wasn’t going to last much longer. Still, the Ikebukuro Seiji knows is one of streets crowded by happy people walking in the shade of skyscrapers on all sides, and that’s the Ikebukuro he hopes to see again someday.

Photos ©SoraNews24

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

-- Tokyo losing another iconic video game arcade as Ikebukuro landmark is closing for good

-- Demon Slayer teams up with beef bowl chain to excite fans, test their dexterity with Tanjiro bowl

-- New world record – Tokyo capsule toy shop will have more machines in one spot than anywhere else

© SoraNews24

©2024 GPlusMedia Inc.

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More and more are landmarks disappearing. Lumine EST in shinjuku will also be gone soon. As an anime fan I hope they don’t plan to tear down otome road. I have many fond memories of this place.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Population decline without immigration and not tourism...

The sight of Ikebukuro's decline is happening all across the country.

6 ( +9 / -3 )

And the Marui building in east Ikebukuro is being torn down. And the same thing has been going on here in Shinjuku for a few decades. I know some buildings are really old, but still, you could replace the building with the same building. But that never happens. The scenery of our youth is disappearing. Take lots of pictures!

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Weird article. Why does SoraNews always report on what their “reporter” reported? But Ikebukuro has been going through redevelopment since way before the pandemic. And to be fair Ikebukuro has always looked sad. It actually looks a lot nicer than it did 10 years ago. If you’re sad that a gaming arcade closed down, then you need to get a life!

12 ( +15 / -3 )

Many of the local and regional businesses that were fonts of culture are fast disappearing. Japan is being stripped of elemental aspects that made it unique.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Ikebukuro is a train hub, isn't it? Just as Shinjuku is. So it's not just the location being close to Saitama that matters. People will pass through it and shop or dine there on their commute.

The article also fails to mention the elephant in the room which is online shopping. For older folks like me who remember pre-Internet, shops like Tokyu Hands and Loft were treasure troves of interesting craft and interior stuff, so I can understand the regret in seeing that one disappear.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

I lived for a long time close to Ikebukuro, and during that time it was the place I went most for shopping or drinking. I never liked it, and any redevelopment is welcome in my opinion.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

Everywhere in the world is closing their biz...is not new in Japan alone. But there are always 2 sides to a coin.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Try opening the borders and see if that helps, I'll come spend my money.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

it will bounce back. slated for the largest anime store in the world. rebranding of Sega arcade and multiple new ventures. check back soon for a world class station attraction.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

let me preface this comment with both “Allegedly” and *sarcasm incoming…

Ha… yep it is sad when the article also doesn’t mention that there are construction notices on the 2 photos with “buildings missing”. It doesn’t mention the fact that to stimulate the economy in though times the construction industry is still booming (comparatively). Nor the fact that many politicians have their fingers in the construction industry pie.

I feel sorry for the people that lost their job due to the downturn of their industry. But guaranteed there is nothing truer in Japan than taxes and the construction industry. Look it’s coming to winter we better dig up the road every year to check if the snow sprinklers work. Can’t we just turn them on? Nope there may be cracks in the pipes… Ok checked… now let’s check the gas quick dig up the road and check the gas pipes… ok gas checked what else can we check… oh we need to check the electricity… but they have overhead power lines… Yep let’s dig up the road just in case… while we are down there let’s check the internet and we might as well check the satellite too. wait it’s almost winter let’s dig up the road to check the water… hang on did we check under the sidewalk? Quick we need to dig it up.

Ikebukuro will bounce back to the skyscrapers of yester year. Although of course it will look different after 6 years. That’s the nature of both town planning and business. Rant over.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Ikebukuro is always crowded -- I have been a resident since 1988. You could buy a signed Andy Warhol print in Seibu department store when I first got here. Times have changed and most people don't have that kind of money anymore, but there are still plenty of interesting shops and restaurants.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Frankly, it always has.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Tokyo changes very fast and each time it transforms, new places will appear and others will return.. No drama here..

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Ikekukuro? huh? the place has never been anything... it's literally consider "tokyo" for people living in the country side.... it's never been anything special.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Its just a matter of time before Chinese investments come in and take over the vacant retail space! Mark my words it will happen.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Ikekukuro has gone full circle. In the early 1980's it was a bland, characterless place.

It was revamped steadily over the years, and at one time, as the reporter states, was becoming on par with Shibuya.

Seems it is going back to the 1980's again. Bland with little to see.

Mind you, Harajuku, and certainly Roppongi are not what they used to be.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Too many Chinese thugs hang out there.

I stay away.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

'Bukuro also seemed soulless to me.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

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