Tokyo Neighborhood: Used Books Hunting at Jimbocho, Tokyo, Japan

jimbocho
Jimbocho is the designated “book town” of Japan. Home to several publishing houses and shops selling used books, unusual books and rare collectors find.

Journey to the book town starts at the Jimbocho subway station, where the subway walls is appropriately decorated with stacks of books.
Taking exit A7 will lead you to the main alleyway of book shops.
jimbocho

I explore the streets in search for a shop that has wide selection of used books in English, hoping to have an alternative store to my favorite Kinokuniya in Shinjuku.
jimbocho
jimbocho
jimbocho

Apart from Books Sanseido, here are some of the bookshops around the area.
jimbocho
jimbocho
jimbocho

My attempt to find one has been futile, still majority of the books are in Japanese, nonetheless, I tried to maximize my afternoon by browsing some coffee table books and old edition of Life magazines.
jimbocho
jimbocho

Apart from books, it is also a good place to purchase souvenir Japanese arts and scroll paintings (“ukiyo-e” – picture of the floating world). If you are an avid collectors of classic “Gravure idol” (Japanese female models often in swimsuits and underwear) photo books, most shops has plenty of second hands.
jimbocho
jimbocho
jimbocho

Formerly known as “Kanda-Jimbocho”, Jimbocho is considered as a hotbed of literal intellectuals. More than just a street selling used paperbacks, the book town is also home to the prestigious Literature Preservation Society and Tokyo Book Binding Club. It is also a few walks away from several major universities in Tokyo,thus adding further importance to the over-all purpose of the district.
jimbocho
jimbocho

Not everything in Jimbocho is about literature, manga series (in Nihongo obviously) are widely available too.
jimbocho
jimbocho

You can also trade books (buy-sell) in some of the shops. Let me warn you not to expect that you will receive a reasonable amount when you sell English books particularly. I remember selling a very good condition book which I bought around 800 yen originally and received only 10 yen in return. I agreed since I accidentally bought two copies of the same title, but then again I vowed to myself not to ever sell any books again, let it crowd and mess my room for all I care.
jimbocho

If you will be working soon or studying in Japan and you can’t live without books, still I would suggest to bring as much books as you can. Purchasing at Kinokuniya should be a back-up plan in case you finished reading everything you have.

I love the smell of paperback, how frustratingly heavy they are most of the time. Sorry but no Kindle or any eReader for me.

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13 thoughts on “Tokyo Neighborhood: Used Books Hunting at Jimbocho, Tokyo, Japan

  1. I don’t live here but I live here. 😀 (I actually DID live here, in Kanda, before I moved to Asakusa. Now I just visit. A lot.)

    “Then again I vowed to myself not to ever sell any books again, let it crowd and mess my room for all I care.” I concur. My favourite book saying: “I don’t find books. Books find me.”

    1. wow, you live in two of Tokyo’s best neighborhood! and you traded jimbocho for the sky tree 🙂

  2. I read a lot and vowed I would never convert but books are heavy and can be hard to source when travelling, they also take up a lot of space in my home so I went electronic. I now read almost exclusively on my ipad and kindle. I always have a selection of books with me and while I miss the tactile experience its the availability and selection of reading material that matters most to me.

  3. I had a hard time finding second-hand books in Indonesia. Buying new ones was just too expensive, and like you, I love the smell and having a book in my hand 🙂

    1. Hi Lydia, i worked in Jakarta for almost 3 years and like you i faced the the dilemma of trying to find a worthy read at not so “mahal” cost 🙂

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