Free to visit, this huge rooftop is one of the best places to take a break from the chaos of the city. 

French painter Claude Monet was enamoured by Japan, using famous ukiyo-e prints as inspiration for his art, which many credited for the development of his Impressionism. In return, Japan holds a soft spot for Monet, with not one but two locations in Japan dubbed “Monet’s Pond”, due to their likeness to Monet’s Water Lilies series, which depicts the artist’s garden in Giverny.

While you usually have to travel out of Tokyo to visit Monet’s Ponds, there’s a secret spot in the heart of the city that’ll whisk you away to the artist’s world of Water Lilies, and it’s located in an unlikely location — atop a department store building.

This unexpected oasis is waiting for you on the roof of the Seibu Department Store in Ikebukuro, a neighbourhood more commonly associated with anime and Halloween cosplay events than gardens and fine art.

Opened in 2015 as an oasis in the city, this rooftop area is known as the “Food and Green Aerial Garden” and it’s directly connected to the 9th floor of the Seibu Ikebukuro Main Store. It’s one of the largest rooftop spaces in all of Tokyo, boasting a spacious seating area…

▼ …a wide range of vending machines…

▼ …food stalls, where you can order famous dishes from around the world…

▼ …and an abundance of flowers and trees, including a lawn area.

The pièce de résistance, however, is the beautiful garden at one end of the roof, where you’ll find “Monet’s Pond”.

The “Water Lily Garden“, as it’s called, was adorned in a pumpkin-filled Halloween display when our reporter Mariko Ohanabatake visited in late October.

Climbing the stairs to the deck here will take you to a pond and garden that’ll make you feel as if you’ve stepped out of Japan and into a European country.

There, on the rooftop of the department store, you’ll find the famous emerald green bridge and swaying willow trees that look exactly like the ones in Monet’s garden. The landscaping here was modelled after the actual garden, and the pink cosmos blooming around the pond in autumn adds even more artistic beauty to the scene.

▼ Walking around the pond reveals there’s even a small boat at the back.

The flowers, trees, and pond are carefully maintained by staff, creating a magical scene that’s arguably even more beautiful than a city park.

Mariko didn’t even mind seeing the nearby smoke stack and skyscrapers, as they added an urban feel to the otherwise bucolic environment.

With all the butterflies, dragonflies and bees flying about the garden, it was hard to believe that all this beauty was hidden away on the rooftop of a Tokyo department store.

This was an ideal place to spend a few hours on this sunny day, and as she snapped photos of the garden, Mariko could hear other visitors around her all expressing their surprise that such a place existed on top of this building.

Best of all, this garden is absolutely free to visit  — simply enter the department store from the street and take the elevator up to the roof, and you’ll be instantly calmed by the relaxing scenery.

There are plenty of other sights to keep you entertained on the rooftop, with colourful benches that kids can use as slides…

▼ … a store selling a large selection of indoor plants and succulents…

▼ …and a tropical fish store.

For Mariko, however, the best thing about the garden, aside from Monet’s Pond, is the chance to sit back, stare up at the clouds and enjoy a quick power nap before having to go back downstairs and deal with the chaos of the city.

As it turns out, this rooftop currently has an uncertain future, as the Sogo and Seibu Department Store chains were sold by 7-Eleven operator Seven & i Holdings to U.S.-based investment fund Fortress Investment on 31 August, and Yodobashi Camera, a mass electronics retailer, is planning to open a store in this Ikebukuro branch of Seibu.

With the department store changing hands, it’s unknown whether the new operators will decide to keep the Food and Green Aerial Garden, and its Monet’s Pond showpiece, so now’s the time to see it while you can.

Mariko sincerely hopes this precious urban oasis will remain, because with another Tokyo rooftop set to disappear in the near future, the places for her rooftop naps are slowly dwindling.

Store information
Seibu Ikebukuro Main Store / 西武池袋本店
Address: Tokyo-to, Toshima-ku, Minamiikebukuro 1-28-1
Hours: 10 a.m.-8 p.m.

Photos ©SoraNews24
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