Tokyo’s book town.
Book lovers dream of famous libraries like the Citadel in Game of Thrones or Hogwarts’ library in Harry Potter; but visitors to Japan get their own open air library, not confined to one building but to a whole district in Tokyo.
Piqued your interest? Then unleash your inner bibliophile in Chiyoda ward’s Jimbocho.
Grown from an 1880s literary hub for law students at the nearby Meiji university, Jimbocho has developed into a sprawling urban book town, with hundreds of stalls and shops catering to an array of bookish interests. Tattered (meaning well-loved) boxes of second-hand fiction can be rifled through as part of a store’s outside display, with many items going for as little as 100 yen. Jimbocho is also home to many of Tokyo’s publishing houses and literary societies, including the prestigious but very accessible Tokyo Bookbinding Club.
Books on art, and art itself, is also a thriving industry in Jimbocho. Any number of beautiful treasure-troves of original ukiyo-e prints to tomes on traditional Japanese fashion line the streets, hidden between the shops specialising in old comic books (even American ones) and fiction.
English language books can be found too. Kitazawa Bookstore, The Isseido Booksellers, Books Sanseido and Italia Shobo (specialising in Latin languages) all come highly recommended.
They take books seriously here.
Most businesses have chosen to set up on the south-side to protect their precious collections from sun damage. There is also an information centre, Hon to Machi Annaijo (Information Centre for Books and Town), providing advice and recommendations using a language app catering to English, Chinese, Korean, Russian and Thai-speaking customers.
Even if you’re more of an e-book reader, Jimbocho is a rare opportunity to breathe in the euphoric scent of old books or amble around galleries of classic art. You never know, you might be converted.