Ikebukuro District - Tokyo
Tokyo's Ikebukuro district is one of the centers for entertainment and popular culture in Japan. Giant Japanese arcades, pet cafes, indie stores for anime and manga stores abound. We were fortunate to have a guide from Context Travel help us dig in and sample a handful of games and experiences.
Our first stop was one of the mega complexes of floor after floor of video games. This is clearly the thing to do for youth in Japan. Many of the games were so complicated we had to just watch as the experienced kids mastered the different levels and groups of friends played against each other. We tried the Mario Kart and the Taiko no Tatsujin, a Japanese drumming game.
Our second stop was one of the popular pet cafes. Living in Tokyo with very small houses, it is not practical for kids to have pets, so these pet cafes have become very popular. Rabbits, hedgehogs, cats - all animals you can pay to spend time with. You go inside, dress in a smock and hang out and feed the animals in small pens. We got to experience both rabbits and otters in our cafe.
Finally, we ventured down to see some of the manga and anime stores. These were floor after floor of products from hundreds of different Anime.
Shibuya and Teen Fashion
That afternoon, we headed to Shibuya to visit Shibuya 109 - a multi-level iconic building just off the famous Shibuya intersection that houses the most popular teen fashion. It is where you need to bring your teenage daughter in Tokyo. So many of the department stores have beautiful fashion but crazy high prices. Shibuya 109 houses many small boutiques with reasonably priced options and is great for people watching as well. The Japanese have such a better sense for fashion than Americans. The only downside is that many of the clothes only came in one size. Yes, one size, but that didn't seem to be an issue for the majority of girls shopping.
Popular culture in Tokyo was incredibly fun to experience, although I'm sure we only scratched the surface. We kept wanting to go back and explore these areas more but there was just so much to see in the city.