For once we managed to plan ahead and take advantage of a holiday to give us a nice long weekend to start our remote work stint. It’s always nice to have an extra day to get adjusted and settled before the work week begins. The holiday was Canadian Thanksgiving and we were kind of chuffed to be spending it in Japan. No plans for Thanksgiving dinner, we’d figure that out on a whim!
Episode 4: https://youtu.be/Ftw8suB3KAo
Since Mike was still feeling under the weather we decided not to be too ambitious and stay close to home. Lucky for us the 2nd busiest train station in the world was only a 5-7 minute walk from our home away from home. We knew we’d be frequenting this station often during the next month and we thought it’d be a good idea to get acquainted with it early on in our trip. Especially considering that these larger train stations in Japan are wonderful complexes where you can find pretty much everything you need. From shopping, to groceries, to take-out, to sit-down restaurants, and of course all your train travel needs.
Let’s look at Ikebukuro Station as an example. As mentioned it’s the second busiest station in the world, second only to Shinjuku Station which is an even larger station. It’s a massive complex more or less oriented on the North-South axis giving it an East side and a West side to the station. We lived South of the station and always used the East side.
Being a train station let’s first discuss transportation options here. They are mind boggling to us Torontonians. There are 3 rail companies and a metro company all operating out of the station, each with their own gates and platforms. JR East, Seibu Railway and Tobu Railway all operate train lines, and Tokyo Metro operates some metro or subway lines. All in all there are 8 lines all converging at this station. In Toronto the most you’d see in a single station are 2 subway lines, other than 1 station, Union Station which does have a few rail lines. I remember the first time I saw a Tokyo metro map. My head exploded, compared to our Toronto subway system. Keep in mind that was back in 2007 before the rise of today’s smartphones with Google Maps. Don’t read this and get overwhelmed, it’s very easy to navigate with the current tools. Check out last week’s post where we discuss the IC Cards in Japan that make this super easy.
So you definitely have no shortage of transportation options at Ikebukuro Station, and because there are so many different companies in one place it’s a great station to run your train related errands. There is an office on the West side (accessible from outside the station) which is setup to do JR Rail Pass exchanges and buy tickets for travel. There are several JR ticket offices in the station where you can use your JR Rail Pass to book rail travel. You can load your IC Cards (to be honest you can do this anywhere really…). You can pretty much get anything you need at one of Japan’s large train stations for travel.
The next category on the list is food. And there are endless options for food at these massive train stations. But to keep this short let’s just discuss a few things to look out for. Department stores generally have several food options, and since there are several attached to the train station, they are good places to start. In the basements you’ll usually find prepared food halls where you will have many many options of prepared foods you can purchase and take with you. In the past we’ve definitely gotten some great train bento boxes and takeout food for when we had long train trips in these food halls. On this trip we also at times got some great food we reheated at home. You’ll also usually find grocery stores in the basements of department stores, where you can buy, well groceries.
If you are looking for restaurants as opposed to takeout and groceries department stores have you covered there as well. Go in the other direction, up, and you’ll find entire floors dedicated to restaurants. Most of the larger department stores will have 2 floors of restaurants in the top floors. We ended up on one of these floors for lunch in this episode, check it out if you want to see the wealth of options you’ll find.
The last category to touch on is shopping. Lots of options for shopping at these massive train stations. We’ve already mentioned department stores, which have a large range of products on offer as you’d expect. You can also find specialty stores such as Loft, which we visit in this episode. You’ll also find little shopping areas where there’ll be a cluster of stores in various hallways of the train station complex. There is usually a wide range of options, from clothing stores, to gift stores, to drug stores, to souvenir shops, to, well you get the idea. You will have no shortage of shopping options in one of Japan’s large train station such as Ikebukuro Station.
For a glimpse at Ikebukuro Station check out the accompanying episode!
There were several locations featured in this episode
- Ikebukuro Station – The second busiest train station in the world is our home station while we spend our month in Tokyo. Like many of the large train stations in Japan, you could spend a whole day in there exploring, shopping and eating.
- Soba Tanakaya (明月庵ぎんざ田中屋) – An example of a sit-down restaurant on a food floor of a department store. This place was excellent, where we had tempura and soba noodles.
- Seibu Event Space 7th Floor (Hokkaido Food Fair) – We happened upon a special food fair going on in the Seibu department store. This was a food fair displaying all sorts of products from Hokkaido.
- Bake Cheese Tart Ikebukuro – We first discovered this establishment back in 2016 in Sapporo Station and were very happy to find it again. The cheese tart is reminiscent of a Japanese style cheese cake, light and fluffy, but in little tart form.
- Robata Nihou – A short 2 minute walk from home, this felt like our local neighbourhood izakaya. The food here really blew us away and we vowed to return again during our stay in Tokyo.
Thanks for watching/reading!