Book Town in Jimbocho

A sanctuary for bookworms

By Michelle Madden    - 3 min read

Book Town in Jimbocho was one of my best discoveries. Admittedly I am a bookworm; I find it really difficult to walk past a book store without going inside. In Tokyo I found some great places to buy English books such as the Tower Records book section in Shibuya. However, nothing has come close to Book Town. Just a one minute walk from the A7 exit of Jimbocho Station is sanctuary for all book lovers. This street primarily consists of secondhand book stores with an impressive collection of art, design and fashion books. I read about Book Town on the internet, while looking for book stores that specialised in traditional Japanese art books. I decided to have a look and see if I could find anything worthwhile.

The first store I went to was at the beginning of the street. There were plenty of old Japanese paperbacks; which were not very useful to me. Nevertheless I ventured inside where I found some authentic woodblock prints available, although they were a bit pricey. The prints were really outstanding, but if authenticity does not concern you I saw many shops on the street selling copies of the real deal. The next store I went into was probably my favourite; it was called Magnif Zinebocho. It had the most amazing collection of secondhand art books and magazines. I would say the real speciality in this shop is the catalogue of vintage fashion magazines. If you are into fashion I highly recommend stopping by this shop, though you may want to bring lots of cash and suitcase when you go.

Further down the street is the trendy Book Tokyodo store that sells new books. You can get a coffee here and sit at the bar by the window while engaging in some light people-watching. I didn’t see any English books in this store so I decided to move onto the next one, The Bohemian’s Guild. This shop was my second favourite. They had a terrific collection of art books separated into different categories. There were both books on Western artists as well as Japanese artists. I saw a really great collection of Yayoi Kusama books that I was tempted by. I also saw that English books were slightly cheaper than Japanese ones. After much searching I found myself two books on traditional Japanese art. I think both books were under 1000 yen which is really cheap. Satisfied with my purchases I headed back to the train station.

One thing I have noticed about any second hand stores in Japan is how thoroughly organised they are. Even second hand clothing stores are meticulously organised with the store being divided up into different fashion brands. My idea of a secondhand store conjures images of chaos, where a couple of hours are necessary to excavate the hidden gems among the clutter. Japanese second-hand stores seem to offer a more peaceful bargain hunting experience. If you are ever in the area, Book Town is well worth the visit.

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Michelle Madden

Michelle Madden @michelle.madden

I'm a young South African who has traveled many hours to visit the land of the rising sun. I'm a film studies postgraduate, with an interest in cinematography and photography. My mission is to document as much of Japan as possible for the duration of my stay.

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Shozo Fujii 6 years ago
I'm so happy to know there is someone like you who love Jimbocho. Because this town is where I spent my college days - I was a student at Meiji University close to Jimbocho - almost 40 years ago.
I miss my younger days as much as this town and its book stores.