Used Bookstore Crawling in Jimbocho

Mine Serizawa

Jimbocho is to books what Akihabara is to electronics, what Kabuki-cho is to sleazy hijinks, what Shibuya crossing is to first-time visitors with videocameras. Welcome to the city with a ward, a district, city block, floor, cell or capsule (you’re mostly paying for the space you take up, after all) for everything—whatever your feelings about such insistent compartmentalization, it can be awfully practical.

Tokyo’s “book town”, some 180 stores strong, draws collectors for its rare volumes–but is also a college town, centrally accessible from Hitotsubashi, Meiji, and Nihon University, among others, which makes it ideal for low-cost bookstore-hopping. Work your way down from where it begins informally at the intersection of Yasukuni-dori and Hakusan-dori. (Or if you prefer, where the blocks of outdoor sporting goods stores end, slightly south-west of Tokyo’s “musical instrument area”, and north of “the emperor”, who gets an island to himself. See?)

The first bookstore I entered, i.e. the first one I could lay my eyes on, a one-room independent retailer, sells mainly used volumes of psychology, philosophy, and literature in a roughly 1:4 ratio of English to Japanese titles; outside the store, as at many others in the area, books are sold for 100yen apiece in rummage bins.

At Bohemian’s Guild by natsume books, for example, the highlight was undoubtedly the titles for sale in wooden crates out front…vintage pulp fiction and sleaze novellas known as “nightstand books” from the 40s, 50s, and 60s, that cost 200yen apiece or 500yen for three of ’em. The interior holds mainly art books, and a gallery on the second floor.

G.I.s, Mexican prostitutes, rich nymphomaniacs, oh my | Photo by Mine Serizawa
Not pictured: early Faulkner, Steinbeck, James M. Cain | Photo by Mine Serizawa

Tokyodo is one of the larger, well-established bookstores in the area (the staircase is covered with old prints of the store from the time of its establishment). Its Paper Back Cafe offers 180-yen drip coffee, unlimited reading time in the sofas and stools on every floor, and free wi-fi.

Komiyama Books is another go-to for photography and art books; other shops specialize in ukiyo-e, vintage fashion magazines, or manga…or a derangement of all three and more by one of the more casual streetside vendors, many of which are currently holding sales–3 books for 500yen, large artist monographs for 1000yen, and so on. Not unlike the Shinjuku Lumine department store sale I wandered into later (although perhaps somewhat less frightening), shoppers should come prepared to elbow, stockpile, harass, and cradle lovingly.

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Location:Kanda Jimbocho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
Closest Station:Jimbocho Station (Hanzomon, Toei Mita/Shinjuku)
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Filed under: Shopping
Tags: Bookstore, Used Books
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3 Responses to “Used Bookstore Crawling in Jimbocho”

  1. Avatar
    eustacia_tan July 18, 2012

    Thank you for this post! So far, I’ve been shopping mainly at BookOff. It’s nice to know that there are other options(: 

    • Cheapo Mine
      Cheapo Mine July 20, 2012

      Yes, 100+ other options! You’ll find used bookstores here and there (for foreign/English-language books, in case that’s what you’re looking for, you could try The Blue Parrot Bookshop in Takadanobaba or Good Day Books in Gotanda)…but Jimbocho is the only area I know of with such a vast concentration of them. And thank you for the feedback 😉

  2. Avatar
    EustaciaT October 5, 2012

    Oops, just saw the reply (I should check the disqus updates more often). Thanks for the suggestions! I’ll check them out when I can~ (but my wallet is secretly crying 😉 )

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