Shopping Hotspots: Ginza, Ikebukuro, and Ginza

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Most big cities are often known for shopping trends and hotspots, and Tokyo is no different in this respect. Massive shopping malls, sprawling clusters of markets, and neon-sign-clad shops litter the city, but some areas are better than others. Here are a few of the (rightfully) most well-known shopping centers in the city.

Ikebukuro

Ikebukuro is a large entertainment district, and is home to a number of great shopping venues, entertainment areas, and restaurants. Notably, though, it’s home to Sunshine 60, a massive, 60-story building housing a shopping mall, a number of restaurants, an observation deck, a theater, a museum, a planetarium, an aquarium, and even a hotel! All this is just a short walk from the Ikebukuro subway station.

The mall has plenty of stores to shop in, including a Disney merchandise shop and a Pokemon Center, a store entirely devoted to Nintendo’s popular franchise.

While “Sunshine City,” as it’s known, is a great attraction, along the way from the station are a number of other shops, restaurants, and more unique attractions, including cat cafes, where patrons can hang out in an internet-cafe-like setting, surrounded by a number of friendly felines. A personal recommendation is “Super Potato,” a tiny retro video game store just a few blocks from the station, which is jam-packed with video games from all countries and generations.

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A view of Electric Town from the sixth floor of a shop

Akihabara

Of course, there’s no way to bring up video games without mentioning Akihabara, the main shopping center for all things Japan. It’s a hub for retailers selling electronics, video games, anime, manga, and all sorts of hobby merchandise. It’s also home to a peculiar trend in Japan: cosplay and maid cafes. Most days of the week, “Electric Town,” as the central street is known, is packed with tourists and local Japanese.

If you have no interest in this sort of media, commonly referred to as “otaku” culture, then Akihabara might not be the ideal destination, as the shops are mostly limited to this sort of goods. However, if you have even a passing interest in this major component of Japanese media and culture, Akiba (as it’s often abbreviated) shouldn’t be missed. Multi-level arcades are jammed next to bookstores and cafes, and tinier shops are often in between. Massive posters advertising popular idol groups, anime, or television shows adorn the buildings, storefronts, and even passing trucks.

Ginza

To be perfectly honest, I can’t in good faith recommend visiting Ginza without first offering the warning that you should be prepared to spend if you visit. The major shopping area is home to plenty of internationally-renowned department stores, boutiques, and theaters. Personally, I avoided spending money and just went for the experience, but for plenty of tourists, it’s the go-to spot for luxury shopping.

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The streets teeming with shoppers during “pedestrian heaven”

Fortunately for visitors, the city planners seem to know that. Every Saturday and Sunday, from noon until 5:00 in the evening, the main street through Ginza is closed off, allowing shoppers to mingle in the wide roads. This time is referred to as “Hokōsha Tengoku,” literally meaning “pedestrian heaven.”

 

Let me give you a taste of the sort of shops here: It has prominent shops from Chanel, Dior, Gucci, and Louis Vuitton. It’s home to the headquarters for Ricoh, a flagship Apple store, and the Sony showroom. It’s also home to Wako, a department store that’s more than 100 years old. I really have little interest in spending a ton of money on luxury goods, but even I couldn’t resist spending a few hundred yen in Hakuhinkan Toy Park, one of the most impressive and largest toy and novelty stores in Tokyo.

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A few of the many imposing shopping centers in Ginza

Tokyo is home to plenty of amazing shopping districts, but depending on taste and willingness to spend, the few that I listed here are must-sees.

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