Sunshine City: Chaotic Family Fun in Tokyo

Ikebukuro

[23rd in a series of posts about a recent trip to Japan]

On our last full day, Thom had a couple of destinations in mind, but time for only one. He chose “J World” in Sunshine City. It took about an hour on two subway lines to reach Ikebukuro, a district semi-famous for being home of “Hello Kitty.” When you emerge from the station, you wade into a chaotic, joyous shopping and entertainment district lit, of course, by gigantic electronic billboards, with flags and signs – and sometimes video and musical advertisements —  competing noisily for attention. It’s visual and auditory cacophony.

Hello Kitty on display in Ikebukuro

Sunshine City entranceWalking briskly for ten minutes, we found the huge complex of buildings that is Sunshine City. It is a city. One of theaters, entertainment venues and retail stores in a set of buildings that includes an aquarium.

J World is one of two indoor amusement theme parks. To enter, you pay an admission fee of about $15. It’s a seasonal theme, this summer including attractions related to Dragon Ball Z, which Thom has liked since he was young. J World wasn’t exactly the Mall of America; it’s as if a department store floor was stripped out and carved into colorfully decorated spaces. One area features interactive videos projected onto circular walls; another has a merry go-round featuring animé characters.

Son Goku was on hand

Son Goku was on hand

The major Dragon Ball Z attraction turned out to be not a ride but an interactive game where you receive an electronic game piece that you place on game challenge stations throughout a maze that matches the aesthetics of the video game and movie. The attraction costs extra (of course), $8 per person. All of the instructions were in Japanese, which explained what you had to do to secure one of the Dragon Ballz necessary to save the world. One challenge looked like a slot machine, another involved shouting as loud as you could for the “god.” I was momentarily flummoxed by a group of eight boys shouting so loud that it made my ears ring until I found out that they were supposed to yell. After you shouted for the god, you proceeded down three floors to the “temple” where you went behind a curtain and found out if you had succeeded. Thom learned that he had saved the world! His reward? A souvenir coin. [If you go, ask if they have information in English. The attendant has a notebook that helps a little, but not a lot, as the actual challenge instructions are all in Japanese.]

Next: Saying Sayonara to Japan

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