Thursday, August 7, 2008

Tokyo's Jimbo-chi bookshops

A short stretch of the Jimbo-chi neighborhood in Tokyo is crammed with bookshops, dozens of them, one after another. They mostly look like the one to the left, except that they do not all have the cartoon samurai statue. They did have - I swear, every one of them - the outdoor browser. Almost every book in almost every shop is in Japanese, so these shops were not much use to me, aside from the pleasing thoughts about humanity a crowded book shop can engender. I also like that, very thoughtfully, they are all on one side of a busy street.

The Subun-so shop specialized in foreign language books - English, overwhelmingly, and German and French. It was not much use to me either - see right. First editions and gigantic multivolume sets. The Centennial Nathaniel Hawthorne in twenty thick volumes, that sort of thing. Hume's History of England in six volumes - that one's bottom center in the photo. Those are not going home with me.

Now here's a view of books you don't get very often.

Keenly aware of the problems of body as well as mind, a similarly packed stretch of the same street is devoted to sporting goods stores. Snowboarding equipment, mostly. And apparently if I had turned there rather than here, I would have found Tokyo's musical instrument shops. The books, violins, and snowboards are all within a half mile of each other, maybe less.


  1. When I lived in Japan I was not anywhere near Tokyo (I lived on Kyushu) and so finding books (in English or any language) was really tough. I did visit Tokyo twice and both times managed to cart home as many books as I could pack into my suitcase. I don't remember visiting this street and am disappointed for that - what a find!

  2. This fall I only passed through Tokyo on my way to Korea and so I saw nothing of the bookshops. South Korea has a very strong publishing industry that I had hoped to spend more time with but instead I spent most of it hiking in the mountains.