By Mike Kato
The giant Tower Records store in Shibuya has long been a popular place to find English books in Tokyo. However, the shop underwent some renovations and those who haven't visited for a few years may be surprised to see how much this section was cut down in terms of size. While the new version of the book section here may not include all it once did there is still lots to be found here, and it remains one of the more unique English book collections in Tokyo.
Located on the second floor, the "Tower Books" section is now a mix of English and Japanese books together. There's still quite a collection of books here, ranging from older classics to the newest bestsellers. However, since the renovation, Tower Records seems to have put a greater focus on quality than quantity. The books on the shelves all seem to be very well-known authors, and include very comprehensive collections of their work. No longer can you find obscure books by lesser-known writers, but you can certainly find the complete works of Stephen King, Irvine Welsh, Ayn Rand, and Vladimir Nabokov, for instance. Is that a bad thing? Not at all. It's just different from what it used to be.
This is also the place to go if you're looking for some very high-quality, high-end books. There is quite a collection of large, hard cover coffee-table books. You can find beautiful, full-color books on photography, design, and cinema history. There is an enormous wall of such books in the "Music" section, deep studies in the careers of great musicians across all genres.
If it all sounds a bit highbrow, it is. Available copies of the "Paris Review" prove it, and that makes Tower Records unique among Tokyo bookstores, whose English book collections tend to be paperback-heavy. It gives readers in the area new options. And for those of you who are looking for something a bit more mainstream - never fear. They've got those too - just not as many as they used to. There's still a nice collection of both Japanese and English magazines and graphic novels, as well.
The book section now shares a floor with a large cafe, which has a counter situated alongside the book aisles. It's a great place to flip through the pages and enjoy the afternoon.
Tower Records can be reached by a 3 minute walk from Shibuya Station (JR Yamanote, Saikyo, and Shonan-Shinjuku Lines, Tokyo Metro Ginza, Fukutoshin, and Hanzomon Lines, Tokyu Toyoko and Den-en-Toshi Lines, and the Keio Inokashira Line).
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