Whether you’re a book worm, intellectual, traveler, or simply a curious person, Jinbocho, Tokyo, is a fascinating place to spend your day.Known all over Japan as the bibliophile capital, this tiny district is home to about 200 bookstores.
You’ll find cramped used bookstores that sell 17th century text about Samurai culture, taboo novels in which the narrator is the devil, or classic 80s movie posters with Japanese text. You’ll find local bookstores, selling both old and new books, with shelves crammed on the walls of side streets and alleys, where Japanese businessmen and tourists alike can casually peruse throughout their day. You’ll find chain bookstores, selling massive amounts of anime graphic novels and Gudetama merchandise of all kind.
During my trip to Japan last month, I spent a solid four hours exploring as much of Jinbocho, Tokyo, as I could. I must’ve been inside at least thirty bookstores and the smell of them alone brought on a massive wave of nostalgia. (Any book nerd will tell you that the smell of a book can be intoxicating.)
I’m not being dramatic when I say some of the books that I found truly took my breath away. Additionally, the aesthetic of a lot of these bookstores were equally impressive. I particularly enjoyed this one bookstore, where the bottom floor was dedicated to children’s books, and the top floor boasted rows upon rows of tall wooden shelves. That’s where I found some of the most interesting books and, placed in-between them where the most adorable old trinkets. I’m not gonna lie, I definitely tried to buy them. Much to my dismay, however, they were not for sale.
At the end of my exploration of Jinbocho, I grabbed lunch at a famous udon noodle restaurant, Maruka. The line out the door was about twenty people deep but the fast-paced method that the restaurant employed got people in and out within half an hour. The staff took people’s orders when they were in line, and then once people were seated, they were brought their food and then whisked away as soon as they were done.
Although the udon noodles were phenomenal, the best part of that meal was the tempura chicken that I had. It was, hands down, one of the best things I’ve ever tasted in my entire life.
All in all, I had a great experience in Jinbocho, especially since I’m so passionate about literary travel. It’s not one of the main attractions in Tokyo, like the trendy Harajuku and electric Akihabara are, but it is definitely worth a visit, especially for those who like off-the-beaten-path kind of travel. And if you’re a book nerd like myself, this is a Tokyo must-see.
For the record, these were some of my favorite bookstores in Jinbocho:
Ogawa Tosho (Rare Books): 2 Chome-7 Kanda Jinbocho, Chiyoda City, Tokyo 101-0051, Japan
Kitazawa Bookstore (Used Books, many of which are in English): Japan, 〒101-0051 Tokyo, Chiyoda City, Kanda Jinbocho, 2−5 北沢ビル 2F
Yaguchi Book Store (Used Books, primarily on the topic of film and media): 2 Chome-5-1 Kanda Jinbocho, Chiyoda City, Tokyo 101-0051, Japan
Tamura Book Store (Cramped, vintage texts): 1-7 Kanda Jinbocho, Chiyoda City, Tokyo 101-0051, Japan
Ohya Book Store (Rare Books, many of which are old manuscripts from the Edo Period): 1-1 Kanda Jinbocho, Chiyoda City, Tokyo 101-0051, Japan