The food gallery has been rebuilt, and I’ve added pictures from my trip to Ikebukuro’s Gyoza Stadium. The official propaganda describes it as the world’s first theme park specializing in gyoza; it’s a safe bet that it’s the world’s only such theme park.
For those of you who don’t care about dumplings, or gyoza in Japanese, then you might as well stop reading and go back to your lutefisk and vegemite sandwich.
Gyoza are Chinese, of course, but the Japanese have never been shy about borrowing from other cultures. The Saitama city of Utsonomiya is best-known for it’s many flavors of gyoza, just as Sapporo’s Ramen Alley is known as the birthplace of Japanese-style ramen. To find Gyoza Stadium, it’s helpful to imagine a crooked Chinese box. It’s jammed into a corner of the creepy Namja Town indoor theme park like a clogged artery, which is hidden away on the second floor of the obscenely massive Sunshine City complex in Ikebukuro.
Despite being a pain to find, Gyoza Stadium makes fantastic dumplings accesible to people who don’t want to visit the sticks for good food, and whomever decided that the world needs Gyoza Stadium should be given a medal, or maybe just a gold-fake covered gyoza.
There are a mind-boggling number of different gyoza to choose from. Deep-fried, shrimp, vegetable, mixed, spicy, lightly fried, steamed, gigantic… Simply put, it’s heaven for the gyoza afficionado. At 250 yen up to 700 or 800 yen for a handful of gyoza, the prices are fairly reasonble, and sometimes cheaper than the crapola that’s easily available in Kabukicho – even with the 300 yen entry fee.
The food is great; I got stuffed on so many different dumplings for a very reasonable price. That’s to be expected, almost. It wouldn’t have the word-of-mouth buzz that it does without the food quality to back it up.
The decor can most diplomatically be described as unique: a mix between something that Tim Burton rejected for being too weird and a traditional Japanese village. Strains of surf guitars mixed with J-pop as the music changed from one section to the next. Dark lighting and corridors that were horror-movie alleyways steered us through the rabbit warren of shops.
I’d been waiting six months to check this place out, since I arrived in October and found out about it. A restaurant complex for dumplings. It’s the closest I’ve come to being a judge on the Iron Chef. Even though the whole Namja Town theme park setting is utterly pathetic, unless you’re into bad kitschy Japanese tourists traps designed to not-so-sublty separate the guillible from their cash. But the food, the food…
Here’s a puff piece on Gyoza Stadium whose facts I can’t verify, but are probably right. Never mind that, though, go for the gyoza.