I assume you’ve heard of the anime Durarara!! (DRRR!!) if you’re here because Ikebukuro as an area is rarely on the top of anyone’s to-visit list, local or international. And if you haven’t, I would suggest checking this supernatural slice-of-life anime out. This anime location scouting post is part of a side project I started in my last months before moving out of Tokyo. I had a part-time job, so with the remaining time, I wanted to do something that would get me to explore the city more and give me a reason to take photos.
What follows is a map of the sites for the anime that you can preload onto your phone for your own walking tour and juxtaposed screencaps and photos by yours truly. The text is my random commentary about the stories in Ikebukuro that fascinate me.
A first arrival at Ikebukuro Station will probably throw you back to the opening scene of Durarara, where Mikado waits anxiously for Masaomi. The station is the intersection fo the JR trains, the Tokyo Metro’s Marunouchi, Futoshin, and Yurakucho lines, and 3 private rail lines. Ikebukuro’s traffic is second only to Shinjuku Station, carrying 2.71 million people daily.
Unlike Shinjuku Station, it is possible to cross underneath Ikebukuro Station to get between the East to West sides, both of which have landmarks. Ikebukuro’s West side is famous for the TV drama West Gate Park. Most of Durarara’s most iconic scenes are on the East, which is where I head to take the rest of the photos.
Ikebukuro’s East exit has a prominent Seibu department store, which has a nice rooftop beer garden for chilling with friends on a warm evening. In addition to the wall that is Seibu, you can head north towards the BiC Camera electronic department store. Personally, I like shopping at this location more than the ones at Shinuku and Shibuya because it’s usually less busy. Competitor electronic stores are also across the street, so you can do all your electronic shopping with much less of the touristy jostling here.
From the Seibu intersection, one can simply follow the crowd down the main shopping area towards Sunshine City. The area livens up at night and are often so lively the cars know to use other routes.
When I told a local Japanese friend I wanted to go to Ikebukuro, she asked, “Ikebukuro? What’s there?” She is the Ebisu type. Ikebukuro, especially on the North-East side of the station reveals its rougher edges as an immigrant area.
Ikebukuro was once a village that – as the name suggests – once had multiple ponds. The current Ikebukuro Station actually stands on the area historically called Sugamo (stations and area names tend to shift a few kilometres in modernization). Since the Taishō and Shōwa periods, its relatively low land prices as an outskirt of Tokyo attracted artists and foreign workers. To this day, the area is one of Tokyo’s most international, with over 7% non-Japanese residents. Personally, I would come here for everything from Chinese supermarkets to Middle Eastern restaurants.
For a somewhat underdog area, Ikebukuro boasted the tallest building in Asia between 1978 and 1985. As the name suggests, the Sunshine 60, has 60 floors and held its position as Asia’s tallest building until 1985 when it was surpassed by the equally imaginatively named 63 Building in Seoul. But the Sunshine 60 would remain Tokyo’s tallest building until the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Buildings were completed in 1991 and soon became another anime landmark.
Sunshine 60 is part of Ikebukuro’s most famous complex, Sunshine City. Sunshine City occupies the old location for the Sugamo Prison, but now consists of four buildings that make up this city complex. Housed in Tokyo’s largest “city within a city” is a vast shopping mall, an aquarium, an arcade observatory, museum, planetarium, hotel, and office buildings.
The Studio Ghibli‘s licensed store the “Donguri Kyowakoku” and the Pokemon Centre are both housed within Sunshine City.
Note that the photo above is the Tokyu Hands entrance to Sunshine City, where many face offs take place in Durarara.
Perhaps unintentionally, Durarara also immortalized Ikebukuro’s highways and overpasses through one of the series’ most beloved characters: the headless rider, Celty. The overpass is right beside the Tokyu Hands and wraps around Sunshine City, where the motorcycle chase scenes take place. The entrance ramp to the highway is further down (and on my map).
If you are wondering how I concluded this unassuming side street is the location for Simon’s sushi shop, the red flute-like decorations on the wall of the building in the corner gave it away. It took me a bit of circling around before I found it!
Lastly, I want to circle back to the Ikebukuro Cinema Sunshine near the top. Given all the “Sunshine” names in the area, one would have thought it was an Ikebukuro thing. Maybe it is, but Cinema Sunshine is actually a cinema chain that began in Ehime Prefecture, off the main island of Honshu. The company was founded in 1943, and its first building was opened in December of 1978, but the Ikebukuro branch opened only in 1985.
While I could go on about this area that quickly became one of my hang-out staples after moving to Tokyo, I figured I would stop here for now. Rest assured, I’ll share other shots I take of the area that are so familiar to us fans. 🙂
In the meantime, you can check out other mapped & photographed anime locations in Shinjuku!