Category Archives: Shinjuku & Ikebukuro

St. Patrick’s Day Parade- Tokyo

Asia’s largest St. Patrick’s Day parade takes place in the heart of Tokyo’s Harajuku district. A section of Omotesando Street is closed to traffic for the parade and you will see everything from marching bands to the Tokyo chapter of the U2 fan club. It is a lot of fun! Also, don’t miss the I Love Ireland festival held in neighboring Yoyogi park, for food, entertainment and fun! The date varies every year, but this year (2016) the parade is being held on March 20, and begins at 1:00pm. (A quick google search will tell date and time for subsequent years).- Jamie Cowan March 20162014-03-16 13.37.00

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DIRECTIONS: Take the train to Harajuku station. Yoyogi Park and Omotesando are a quick walk from the station.

Kawaii Monster Cafe

My daughter and I were looking for something to do, and of course Japan never disappoints. 03715006-e6c0-457b-9d3a-7c3a490dcb68We went to Kawaii Monster Café in Harajuku, and what a treat it was! It all started with the friendly hostess, she informed us that there’s a Y500  per person table charge, then we got to choose a place to sit. There are four sections to choose from, my daughter choose Mel-Tea Room. Once we were ready to be seated they have you wait by the door and say “you ready”? My daughter said “yes” and they opened up the door and WOW,  all you see is nothing but amazing decorations all over the place. You feel like you stepped into a magical place. My daughter couldn’t stop smiling.icecream
Once we were seated they handed over the menu, which in itself was different. We only had dessert,  but the food looked delicious too. My daughter had the Monster Girl ( Nasty) ice cream.
I’m not 100% sure if this always happens, or we got lucky, but when she ordered her ice cream  a guy dressed in a tutu skirt and mid drift top with pink hair came to our table and started playing with her hair and tickling her.
She got picked on by a kawaii monster! He did speak a little English and tried to talk to her, but my daughter was a little freaked. As for me, I couldn’t stop laughing! After all, we did come here for the kawaii monster experience, so if you don’t feel like getting messed with, you might not want to order the Nasty girl ice cream!
20160112_154909 As we were getting ready to pay, all the lights turned off and they said something in Japanese. I asked the hostess what was going on she said ” the performance was about to start”. I couldn’t believe our luck. In the middle of the Café there was a merry-go-round that actually moved, and two kawaii monster’s where dancing around.
After the performance was finished we got to take a picture with them.502198d2-5b87-4850-912a-47c16815d71f
Once we were ready to leave, a kawaii monster grabbed my daughter’s hand and escorted us to the exit where they have a small gift shop. In total we spent Y2,480 for the entrance and two ice creams.
It can be a little pricy but you have to keep in mind that you are paying for the Kawaii Monster experience.I highly recommend this café as a great family outing, or  just a great night out with friends. Some info that you should know, Lunch time 11:30-4:30 (Last entry 3:30) Dinner time 6:00-10:30-Yasmin Cruz, January 2016
Phone: +81-3-5413-6142 (Reservations accepted)
Directions: From Harajuku Station take the Omotesando Exit once you get to the major intersection make a left go all the way down until you get to the major intersection cross the street and make a left you will keep going straight once you pass American Eagle Outfitters its going to be in the YM building 4F. Take the escalators all the way up.

Tokyo Toy Museum, Shinjuku-Yotsuya

DSC09030This is a good outing for all ages, but particularly good for kids under 9 years of age. It’s also great for those days you find yourself in Downtown Tokyo, you’re staying at the New Sanno, or you need something to do on a rainy cold day. The museum is located inside an old elementary school and consists of three floors. Each room within the building is dedicated to a different type of play and learning. Some of the attractions include a toy workshop in which you can make your own toy/craft, a wooden toy room, and a room dedicated to the all-time classic toys.

DSC09025Strollers aren’t ideal within the museum, but can be left outside the gymnasium. There is also a small playground outside for nice weather. Take footwear that is easy to slip on and off, if possible, as a couple rooms do not allow shoes. There are no restaurants within the museum. We took snacks and ate outside. However, there are a variety of restaurants back towards Yotsuya-3-chrome station.

IMG_3012The Museum is open from 10:00 – 16:00 all days (last entry is 15:30), but closed on Thursdays. Admission is ¥700 for adults, ¥500 for kids over 2, and free for kids under 2. A parent and child combo ticket is ¥1000 (for a child over 2 years old). For more information, please go to (you made need to use a translator). If you finish early at the Tokyo Toy Museum, the Tokyo Fire Museum is another attraction that can be visited near Yotsuya Sanchrome Station, and it’s free! Linda Bell, October 2014.

DIRECTIONS: The GPS coordinates for the toy museum are N35.68951, E139.71805. By train, take Exit 2 at Yotsuya Sanchrome Station, on the Maronuchi Line. The Museum is a 5 minute walk from the station. It’s quite difficult to find as it’s down a mainly residential street. Look for the red flags with yellow writing, TTM (Tokyo Toy Museum) on the right hand side. Parking is not advised, according to the website.

Tokyo Fire Museum

firemuseumtokyo1The Tokyo Fire Museum, located in Shinjuku, is fun and free.  We took our four-year-old son on a weekday with visiting relatives and practically had the place to ourselves. He really enjoyed trying on the costumes and playing in the firetrucks and rooftop helicopter. I enjoyed the museum itself, as it’s one of the few museums in Japan that I have been to that has information in English.  Stars & Stripes ran an excellent article on the museum titled: Red-hot destination: Tokyo Fire Museum.  Hours: 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., closed on Mondays.

DIRECTIONS:  Located at Yotsuya -Sanchome Station, Exit #2.   – Emily Gyimah, February 2014.



Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building at Shinjuku

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From the two observatories in the Tokyo Metro Government building near Shinjuku Station you can see an amazing 360 degree view of Tokyo and it is FREE!  Look at a map when you get off the train at Shinjuku to locate the TMG building – it  is about four long blocks away.  Once you are near the building, signs will direct you toward the elevators and there is staff at the bottom and top to assist.  Depending on when you go there may be a line.  My husband and I went after sunset to the North Observatory.  There are windows all the way around, a little store, and a bar at the top. 2013-09-02 15.29.24

After walking around to enjoy the view from each window we had a beer at the bar.  The bar faces windows that overlook both Tokyo Tower and Skytree. Very romantic!  On a clear day you can even see all the way to Mt. Fuji. The walk to and from the TMG building from Shinjuku Station is also fun at night.   North Observatory hours: 9:30pm -10:30pm.  South Observatory hours: 9:30-5:30pm.  Every Monday one or the other observatory is closed.  They are both closed from Dec 29th through Jan 3rd.  There is a cafe in the South Observatory and a Cafe plus bar in the North Observatory.  – Sarah Straus, December 2013.

Ikebukuro’s Sunshine City

Photo by Jason Tsay

Sixty stories tall, Sunshine City is a mall, a science center, a museum, a theme park – in short, an amazing indoor world.
 When you enter the building on the B1 level, you traverse a long hall with a “people mover” escalator to the main entrance. There is an information desk with computers where you can get directions printed for places in the complex. Or, you can just wander through and follow the color-coded lines on the floors. The red lines lead to the World Import Mart, the aquarium and planetarium. The blue lines lead to the Ancient Orient Museum and Sunshine Theater. The orange lines lead you to Shopping Center Alpa.
You can make a circle tour of the Bl level as there are two main corridors the length of this level. When you are facing the information desk, if you take the entrance to the left, you will come to a beautiful fountain which has a show of dancing water accompanied by organ music at 1pm, 2:30 and 4pm. The first three levels are mostly department stores. In taking the escalators up, you will find some interesting shops and restaurants on the other floors. 3-1, Higashi-Ikebukuro, Toshima-ku, Tokyo

The big features:
•Sunshine 60 Observatory: Eyes over Tokyo from the 60th floor. It’s a fantastic view on a nice day. 10am-9:30pm. Tel: 03-3989-3457
Adults (high school) ¥ 620
Children (junior high school students) ¥ 460
Child (over age 4) ¥ 310

•Aquarium: Tenth floor, on top of the World Import Mart. There is a seal show, and exhibits of seals, flamingos, penguins, etc. There are many fish not seen in the States as they are only found in this part of the world. Allow at least one hour for the aquarium. 10am-6pm (-8pm in summer.) Tel: 03-3989-3466
Adults (high school) ¥1,800
Children (junior high school students) ¥900
Child (over age 4) ¥600
Interested in aquariums?  Also see Shinagawa Aquarium.

•Konica Minolta Planetarium: 10am-6pm with shows on the hour, Tel::03-3989-3546
Adults (high school) ¥1,000
Children (junior high school students) ¥500
Child (over age 4) ¥400

•Namco Namjatown: An indoor theme park by Namco, a Japanese company that produces video games. Themed dining, carnival-style games, a creepy haunted house and character mascots in the form of giant kittens. There’s an entire gyoza village and a “dessert republic.” 10am-10pm.
Adults ¥300 (More for games and activities)
Children ¥200

•Tokyu Hands: This store, at the Bl entrance to the Sunshine Building, will delight crafty-minded shoppers. There is something different on every floor and the breadth is astounding, from toys to stationary and leathercraft to hardware. Bonus: There’s a “cat cafe” on the top floor. It’s one of those “only in Japan” things.
DIRECTIONS: Take the Ome line to Tachikawa, and change to the Chuo Line. At Shinjuku, transfer to the green Yamanote Line in the direction of Shin-Okubo and get off at the fourth stop, Ikebukuro. Head for the east exit towards Seibu Department Store. You will see signs for Tokyu Hands also.
Coming out of the station, look for the tallest building (sometimes the top is hidden in the mist) and walk towards it. This will be Sunshine City. It will be in front of you as you come out of the station. You will have to go right a little bit to pick up the tree-lined street to the building.

Our Story: My family and I took the train to Sunshine City during winter break 2011.  Ikebukuru Station is pretty large and we ended up asking someone to help us find the correct exit for Sunshine City.  The mall is down a store lined street which was closed to traffic the day we went.  With small kids we didn’t do much shopping, but headed straight to the 3rd floor devoted to restaurants.  We found a nice Japanese place to eat, but also noticed Mexican, Chinese, Italian, and French restaurants.  We also went to the Aquarium on floor 10.  It was larger than expected.  It was pretty crowded, but I think that was because of the holiday season.  The kids enjoyed all the giant aquariums.    Sarah Straus, 2011