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Goin’ Japanesque!

A Tour of Tokyo Jinbocho, the Largest Town of Used Book Stores in Japan

There Isn’t A Book That You Can’t Find in This Town

Writer’s Photo

In Tokyo, where two major streets called Yasukuni-Dori and Hakusan-Dori intersect, there is an area called Jinbocho. Jinbocho is famous for the fact that the area is filled with a large number of used book stores.

As you walk in the town, indeed, whether you look right or left, you catch sight of some kind of book stores. Large book stores do exist, however what stands out most is a large number of small, privately-owned used book stores. Considering the current trend that privately-owned used book stores throughout Japan have been forced to close their businesses, it is very unusual to see an area so densely populated with used book stores.

Because of the abundance of stores, which is around an astonishing 150, the rumor has it that there isn’t a book you can’t find in this town. Agreeably that seems to be a bit of an exaggeration, but it is certain this town has piles of books to be explored and their amount is far beyond commonsensical imagination.

Writer’s Photo

It is a common sight that a book store is next to another book store.

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Almost all the tenants of this building from the first to eighth floor are book stores.


Surrounded by Educational Institutions

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No objection is likely to be heard if one calls Suzuran-Dori the central street of Jinbocho, the core of aggregation of book stores. In the latter half of the 19th century, so the historical account goes, when Japan was in the process of modernization, educational institutions were established one after another in this area, and to conveniently serve educators and students, book stores spontaneously gathered in this area.

Today multiple colleges exist around this area as they did in the past, and you can see students arrive at Jinbocho, looking for specialized books in their respective fields of study. Official Website


Used Book Stores That Specialize in Various RespectiveFields

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When you go around the stores, you will notice each store has different characteristics and specializes in a unique field. Some may specialize in history, religion, art, oriental philosophy, or antiques. Even stores that specialize in documents relating to fortune-telling exist. The store in the photo mainly handles old books bound by threads, which was the traditional way to make books in Japan.

If you look around many of these stores, you can often discover valuable books that went out of print and are hard to obtain. You can often buy them less expensively here than obtaining them via the Internet. This is the thrill of a treasure hunt, no less!

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The signs indicate that the store on the left specializes in “Professional Books in Japanese Linguistics & Literature” and the store on the right handles books on “History, Folklore, Archeology, Japanese Literature, and General Literary Books”.


Global Variety of Used Books

Writer’s Photo

The amount is no comparison to Japanese books, however, a significant amount of foreign books are also offered for sale. The photo shows a corner that gathered Russian books. Of course English books are available, and books written in a variety of other languages are there too, including Chinese, French, German, and Italian.

It is a strange feeling to witness the sight of so many foreign books in a variety of languages of the world stacked up for sale in Japan.

One minute walk from the Jinbocho Station on the Toei Shinjuku Line, the Toei Mita Line, or Toei Hanzomon Line.
Seven minute walk from the Ochanomizu Station on JR, or Toei Chiyoda Line.

Related Articles:
Great Finds at the Kanda Used Book Festival, Annual Festival of Books in Tokyo

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About the author

I am an otaku that likes rare and unusual things. My hobbies are martial arts and touring historical sites, shrines and temples! These days, I want to learn more and more about the world. I am currently studying Ancient Western History.

View all articles by Momoi