Book lovers who like to get lost among shelves stocked with piles and piles of endless bindings, filled with words of knowledge, wisdom, and tales, will be happy to discover the best places in Tokyo where books can be purchased. Here’s our guide on where to find the top ten bookshops in Japan’s capital.
If you are on the hunt for bestsellers, then Kinokuniya is the best place to shop. The main store in Shinjuku comprises eight floors and stocks a wide variety of books, comics, magazines, stationary, CDs, and audio-visual software. There is even a separate building dedicated to manga, DVDs and other items. The branch on the south side of Tokyo station offers a wider variety of foreign language books if you are specifically looking for those.
Yaesu Book Center
If you are into subjects such as science, philosophy, economics, politics, information technology and business, or if you are looking for language books and translations, head to Yaesu Book Center. The eight story building that houses the bookshop is located close to Tokyo station. What is most fascinating about this place is the beehive on the roof, so don’t miss out on some of the honey in the café inside the bookstore.
Located on the west side of Tokyo station, Maruzen Nihonbashi is perfect for anyone looking for English language books. They have everything from novels, memoirs and travel guides to books on fashion, business, art, self-help, children’s books and of course, manga. Manga lovers will be thrilled to learn that Maruzen Nihonbashi has a large section devoted to English translations of popular manga. The books are very reasonably priced and there’s a cafe where you can read your books whenever you stop by.
Junkudo Ikebukuro could be considered the Barnes and Noble of Japan. As the largest bookstore in Tokyo, Junkudo features ten stories of magazines, children’s books, bestsellers, classics and anything else you can imagine. A whole floor is dedicated to English books only, which can be hard to find in Japan. The inviting feel of the store is further enhanced by the chairs on every floor where you can sit and read before you decide whether to buy a book or not. There is also a café inside and a Starbucks nearby.
Bonjinsha is a bookstore dedicated to the teaching and learning of the Japanese language. The store in Tokyo stocks a wide variety of teaching materials for all levels, from beginners to advanced. If you are studying or living in the country and need to polish your Japanese language skills, then Bonjinsha is a good place to start. The variety can get overwhelming but the courteous staff will be more than happy to assist with recommendations. Not only is Bonjinsha an established bookstore but they are also a respected publishing house in Japan.
Kitazawa Bookstore, Jimbocho
Kitazawa Bookstore has been around since 1902 and specializes in English books covering a wide variety of topics, mostly academically inclined. You will find books on subjects such as oriental studies, psychoanalysis, literary criticism, humanities and linguistics. Antique books dating back to The Middle Ages can be found there, as well as paperbacks and hardbacks of more recent publications. You can also choose from a variety of second-hand books in excellent condition. Join the many foreign exchange students, academics and Japanese students of English who shop at Kitazawa.
The Isseido Booksellers
The Isseido Booksellers is an old bookstore that specializes in second-hand and antique books on foreign languages, archaeology, fine arts, sociology and others. An entire floor is dedicated to English language and other foreign languages books for those who have an academic or personal interest in the languages. The Isseido boasts a large collection of manuscripts and woodblock-printed books that any historian and antiques lover would be thrilled to get their hands on. The shelves are well-organized with subject labels to help you find a good read.
Good Day Books
Good Day Books is an English bookstore that sells used books, a rare commodity in Japan. Books for all ages and from any genre can be found, from the classics to contemporary bestsellers. If you are on a budget and would love to snuggle up to a good read, then Good Day Books is the best place to go book shopping. Not that the books are dirt-cheap, they are just much more reasonably priced in comparison to new English books in Japan, so this place offers an opportunity you simply cannot miss.
Shibuya Publishing & Booksellers
Shibuya Publishing & Booksellers is a trendy bookstore founded in 2008. Unlike other bookstores, Shibuya Publishing encourages new discoveries and stocks books that are sometimes hard to find rather than focusing on bestsellers. The company also publishes its own volumes, offers editing and design workshops, and holds thematic exhibitions on a monthly basis. Both used and new books and magazines can be purchased at Shibuya Publishing, as well as manga and art collections, most of which are written in Japanese. However, you will find a few English titles in stock.
If you are a history buff or a lover of all things antique then you must pay a visit to Ohya Shobo. Ohya Shobo holds perhaps the world’s largest collection of Japanese woodblock prints and illustrated books from the 18th and 19th centuries. Here you can easily lose yourself for hours with all the fascinating antique maps, artifacts and books dating back to the Edo period. The ukiyo-e woodblock prints, which are a traditional Japanese art that depicted everyday life from the 17th to the 19th century, are true gems.