Ikebukuro is sometimes referred to as Shinjuku’s little sister. Japanese people call it “Bukuro” for short. Sure, it isn’t as central as Shinjuku, but it is a pretty bustling place with most major stores and several train lines going through it.
I actually like to shop in Ikebukuro more than in Shinjuku because there are not as many crowds and there is the Junkudo booksellers (ジュンク堂) flagship store, Sunshine City Mall, Animate’s flagship store, the flagship store of Kohmen ramen (光麺) , one of the largest Book-Offs (a second-hand book store) and much more.
I especially recommend Ikebukuro for manga fans. Akihabara is geared towards figures, anime, and series aimed at men. Ikebukuro is more about manga and series aimed at girls.
Manga spots I would recommend:
-The basement of Junkudo. It is all manga, not only that, but it is full of displays of copies of the actual manga pages that the artist drew. I may be a dork in thinking this, but it is super cool to see the full-size pages. When manga gets printed, it gets shrunk, and the details that the artist put into the pages sometimes get lost. Beside the pages, there are also small boards here and there with doodles and signatures of the manga artists.
-The Sunshine 60 Dori Book-Off There are many Book-Offs in Japan, but I have noticed that each one stocks its books differently. The Sunshine 60 Dori Book Off is all about manga and manga art. I think it is the Book Off with the most selection art book-wise.
-The Animate Flagship Store On a side street to your left as you walk down Sunshine 60 Dori. You cannot miss it, because it is a huge blue building with “ANIMATE” written on the top of it. This store is floors and floors of manga/anime paraphernalia. They also do special events where you can meet manga authors and get books signed.
- Otome Road Otome means “maiden,” but there is a joke that no girl on Otome Road is anywhere close to being a maiden. The answer why that is lies in the content of most of the books sold on Otome Road. They sell doujinshi (self-published zines), the content of which is mostly boy on boy. It can get pretty graphic, but the majority of it is on the tamer side. Girls from the countryside flock here with rolly suitcases and eagerly fill them up with zines from their favorite artists. The landmark that indicates the beginning of Otome Road is the old Animate flagship store. It is blue and has “ANIMATE” written on the side of it.
-Otome Road Animate For the most part, this Animate does not sell goods. It is more of a special event space and cosplay shop. They usually display special displays for popular or up-an-coming manga series, so it is quite fun to visit.
-J-World Tokyo A small amusement area that displays attractions from Shueisha Jump Comics. I have yet to go because it is 1,300 yen just to enter, and I am poor. There are several attractions there that you must pay extra for. The attractions are themed after Naruto, Dragonball, One Piece, and so on. They also have a special exhibit area that changes periodically. They also have manga-themed foods.
-Sunshine 60 Observatory It costs 620 yen to come up here, but sometimes it is really worth it. The view of Tokyo here is very nice, and there are not that many people that think to come up here. There are also sometimes exhibitions here that have to do with certain manga series. You can see what events they are currently holding here: http://www.sunshinecity.co.jp/observatory/index.html#topEvent
All this stuff is accessible from the East Exit (Sunshine Exit) of Ikebukuro Station. The West Exit has a maze of restaurants and drinking spots. The best feature of the west side is the amount of Chinese people running Chinese restaurants (there is a big Chinese population in Ikebukuro). The most authentic Chinese I have had in Japan was around Ikebukuro. It is good if you are craving it.