Where to Buy Cheap English Books in Japan

Mei-chan

After being in Japan for a couple years I realized there is such a thing as too much Tokyo. Shinjuku simply becomes too loud, Akihabara game centers all start to look alike, and Shibuya just becomes a mass of people and buildings. Sometimes you need to take a break from the craziness that is Tokyo and just curl up in bed with a good book.

Everyone knows that books can be expensive, especially if they are being imported from overseas. So if you’re like me and don’t care about hard-bound, paperback, limited edition, or whether the book is in mint condition or not, then obviously secondhand books are the way to go. The best Cheapos are, after all, never choosers, but always winners in my book*.

*Pun intended. You knew that was coming, didn’t you?

While everyone here is doing their best to learn Japanese and boast their skills at finishing the latest Murakami, let’s face it, we still can’t resist a good English read. So here we go with my top picks on where to buy cheap English books in Japan:

1. Book Off

Book Off in Shibuya - cheap english books Japan
Book Off in Shibuya

What book aficionado doesn’t know Book Off? There is one near every major station filled with people standing and reading, sometimes for hours. The books there range from 108 yen to less than 1,000 yen for foreign books. Not only that, to spare us Kanji-phobe customers, there is usually a special section marked 洋書 (yousho meaning, “Western books”) where all foreign books are collected.

Book Off bargain-hunting is really like a lottery, where you can get awesome deals, while some are just a total flop. But, as long as you know where to look, the odds will be ever in you favor. There are 3 major Book Offs that you should know about if you are an avid reader living in Tokyo.

Gotanda Station Book Off

This is by far my favorite used bookstore in Tokyo. From the front you can see a sign boasting its 10,000 foreign books that it has for sale.

Gotanda bookoff front - cheap english books Japan
Photo by Devan Baird

These books are not just the same old Harry Potters and Da Vinci Code that you can find everywhere (though they do have those). This location has the best selection, in my opinion, of new and bestselling books. From The Girl on the Train to Red Queen, you can find a vast selection of bestsellers to cater to every readers’ literary desire.

Because much of their selection is so highly sought after, prices are also a bit higher than at other Book Offs, with the average ranging between 500 yen to 1,000 yen, or about $5USD to $10 USD

Akihabara Book Off

Akihabara is the holy land for otaku and anime enthusiasts, and that is no different when it comes to books here. If you want to find the best selection of used English manga (otherwise known as Japanese graphic novels) just visit the Akihabara Book-Off. A three-minute walk from the station and you can have all of the magical girl, teen angst, and One Punch Man adventures you can carry home. These manga usually sell for 200 to 300 yen, or about $2USD to $3USD.



Ikebukuro City Center

This is a magical place for books. You never know what you are going to find once you go up that escalator.

Ikebukuro bookoff - cheap english books japan
Photo by Devan Baird

From the newest Bill Bryson to a shelf full of Jane Austen’s classic love stories, it has a the widest and most surprising range.

2. Craigslist Tokyo

Not just for job ads and personals anymore, Craigslist offers a wide range of free services, which includes an online haven for used clothes, secondhand books, and even food.

Craigslist Tokyo Homepage - cheap english books japan
Craigslist Tokyo Homepage

Craigslist can be a wonderful resource no matter what country you are living in. Especially in Tokyo this site is a goldmine for bargains on anything you can imagine. The legendary “Sayonara Sale” can furnish apartments for next to nothing. These are held by exchange students who are going back to their home countries and selling their textbooks, to residents who are moving and need someone to take their furniture—essentially this is a buyers’ and sellers’ paradise. Here you will find people selling a large number of books for dirt cheap, most of them in good condition.



Unfortunately, this site is also a favorite of scammers, so please remember to be careful.

3. Amazon.jp

Amazon really sells everything from A-Z, just as depicted on its logo, but it’s also my online shopping site of choice when buying furniture (no need to lug it home with free delivery!), birthday presents (you can choose the gift option and have them wrap the item for you if you’re also lazy like me), and secondhand books. When you are trying to find that specific book you’ve been dying to re-read there is no more need to browse rows and rows of bookshelves, just type the title of the book and voila! Hardback, paperback, new and used.  Everything is arranged for you by price.

Amazon gift cards can be bought at any convenience store.
Amazon gift cards can be bought at any convenience store. | Photo by lawson.jp

Based on my experience, there are fewer scammers in Amazon.jp than other online shopping websites (tip: still read the buyer reviews and comments of the seller before committing to an item!). But for me, the most amazing thing about Amazon.jp is that you don’t need a credit card to buy something. Your payment options consist of using a credit card, cash on delivery, or paying at a convenience store. However, some items do not have these options available, usually because of the seller, so what you can do is just buy an Amazon gift card from the convenience store. There are 1,000 yen, 3,000 yen, 5,000 yen, and 10,000 yen cards available.

4. Infinity Books & Cafe

Infinity Books and Cafe (infinitybooksjapan.com) - cheap english books japan
Infinity Books and Cafe (infinitybooksjapan.com)

A recent find of mine, Infinity Books is a great website for people in Tokyo who want to read something, but have no idea what book to read. Arranged by genre and topics ranging from adult to graphic novels to physics, it is like browsing through a bookstore without having to leave the comfort of your own home. For some books, you also have the option of looking at the picture of the book in its present condition. If your order total is above 5,000 yen, it’s free shipping as well!

Infinity Books, besides being an online shop, is also an actual bookstore and café, and is located at 1F Komagata Bashi Heights Bldg, 1-2-4 Azumabashi, Sumida-ku, Tokyo. Call them at (81)-080-3432-2564.

Tip: Need to unload those books to make room for new ones? You can sell your books in to all the above options as well. (You can also trade new and used books at Infinity Books & Café.) Or they would make a wonderful gift for this Cheapo writer who could always go for a good book.

This post was last updated on Feb 25, 2016 by Devan Baird.

Location Map:

Name: Infinity Books Japan
Address: 1F Komagata Bashi Heights Bldg, 1-2-4 Azumabashi, Sumida-ku, Tokyo
Location(s): Akihabara, Asakusa, Gotanda, Kanda, Shibuya,
Access: Asakusa Station or Honjo-Azumabashi Station
Web: http://www.infinitybooksjapan.com/
Phone: (81)-080-3432-2564 (81)-080-3432-2564
Business hours: Tuesday-Saturday: 11 am–11 pm; Sundays (and some holidays): 11 am–6 pm
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6 Responses to “Where to Buy Cheap English Books in Japan”

  1. Don’t forget Book Mooch.

    • The system of Bookmooch is actually quite complicated, especially the point system. Not to mention that it is a pain to use the mailing system here for foreigners.

      • 1. It’s not complicated at all. If you’re shipping inside of Japan, you get 1 point. If you’re shipping overseas, you get 3 points. Opposite if you’re mooching a book from someone else. The only other twist is the 0.1 points you get for adding a book to your inventory. It’s all handled automatically by the system.

        2. It’s really easy to use the postal system here. I was using bookmooch when I spoke next to no Japanese, and I never had any trouble mailing books, or anything else.

        The problem with bookmooch is that most Americans will only ship books here in quantities of 3 or more because of the expense (it costs an American more than double to ship by sea than it does someone living here to ship via SAL).

        But the point of this article is cost, right? If you have books to get rid of, Bookmooch is a pretty solid contender despite its drawbacks.

  2. good day books, used to be in Ebisu, looks like its in Gotanda now. Used english books that you can trade back in after reading for credit towards the next book.

    • Kaitlin Kawabe

      The owner at Good Day is super rude. Spend your money elsewhere

  3. It’s been a while but when I lived in Takadanobaba there was a used English book store east of the station. I think it was called Blue Parrot or something. Not sure if it’s still there since it’s been about four years but I found some interesting stuff to read there.


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