Discover Japan’s Love of Literature in Jimbocho
If you’re a fan of books and travel, and you find yourself in Tokyo then look no further. Jimbocho (神田古書店街) in the heart of Tokyo is a bookworm’s paradise with over 200 book stores to choose from that serve both Japanese and English readers. The range of books on offer, and the diversity of style and beauty amongst the bookshops themselves, is wonderful and massively varied. You’ll also find lots of art shops, vintage shops, and wonderful local restaurants.
Watch our video for some tips of where to go and shots of this wonderful space or find out the best places to stop off and how to get there below. You’ll also find links to our other Japan content and a review of Japan’s Book Hostel, Book and Bed.
It’s no secret that we love book towns and we seek them out wherever we go. You can easily spend a day wandering Jimbocho, with more than enough shops, cafes, and restaurants to keep you busy and bookish. If you’re interested in discovering other book towns around the world then check out this list we made of books that are perfect for literary travellers – ‘Forty Five Paradises of the Printed World‘ will be perfect for you. One of our other favourite book towns is Hay-on-wye in the UK, which we created a guide for you to check out here.
How to Get to Jimbocho:
You can find Jimbocho Book Town by getting of the subway at: Jimbocho subway station | Kudanshita subway station | Shin-Ochanomizu/Ogawamachi/Awajicho subway stations (connected underground) | JR Suidobashi station.
Here’s the Japanese address (if you’re using a taxi):
We went for Jimbocho subway station. If you’re travelling around Japan, don’t forget your JR Pass. Trains are expensive and this will help an awful lot!
Here are some of the places we loved in Jimbocho Book Town:
While a lot of the charm of Jimbochobook town comes from simply wandering around, browsing the outdoor bookshelves, and taking in the atmosphere, there are still some must-visit bookshops in the area. And each of them has something unique to offer, be it vintage Japanese manga to collect, western comic books in English, or sections dedicated to translated Japanese literature and Japanese study guides. Here are a few of our favourites, along with why they’re our favourites, but we also urge you to explore by yourself when you get to Jimbocho because we’re sure you’ll find your own.
Absolutely jam-packed with second-hand and rare books with that addictive and gorgeous old book smell. You could spend a couple of hours browsing these shelves. Kitazawa is one of the best for its atmosphere and aesthetic alone. It looks and feels like an old academic library with knowledge and adventure stories spilling out from its shelves. As the English books are generally sourced from the nearby universities, you’ll find many academic texts and classic literature. Like any good secondhand bookshop, not knowing what you’re going to find is all part of the fun.
Where: 2-5 Jimbocho Kanda, Chiyoda-ku
When: Weekdays 11:00-18:30 | Saturday 12:00-17:30
Read More: Where to Start with Japanese Literature by Genre.
Okay, this isn’t a bookstore, but you’re going to be browsing Jimbocho all day and you’re going to need fuel. If you’re looking for somewhere cheap and delicious to eat then this self-serve Udon and tempura restaurant gets our vote. It’s health-oriented chain based on the Sanuki udon concept, a type of udon originating in Kagawa. A cheap option with delicious food. Pick your ramen, toppings and pick up as many pieces of tempura as you can manage.
Where: 101-0051 Tokyo, Chiyoda, Kanda Jinbocho, 1 Chome−９−７
When: 8:00 – 23:00 daily.
Essentially a department store for books. There are over 1.4 million books to choose from in this Jimbocho treasure house. There’s a huge range of English books and Japanese books in translations as well as some gorgeous literary gifts on the bottom floor, mostly Japanese-themed as well. We spent a long time browsing here. The literary gifts are very much inspired by Japanese art, origami, and calligraphy. Upstairs you’ll find t-shirts with bookish designs in English – ideal for fans of authors like George Orwell and Ray Bradbury. This is also the floor which houses all the English books, with a special focus on Japanese literature in translation, Japanese history, folktales, and study guides. A must-visit for English-speakers living in Tokyo and wanting to learn more about Japan.
Where: 1-1 Jimbocho Kanda, Chiyoda-ku
When: 10:00 – 20:00 daily.
We love book cafes so we immediately sought this adorable place out. It’s a great place to sit and read those books that you’ve inevitably just bought, or even bring one of your own. The coffee’s great and there are bookshelves with some gems to peruse.
Where: 1-17 Kanda Jimbocho, Chiyoda, Tokyo
When: 10:00- 17:45
A gorgeous shop full of beautiful prints and artwork, if you’re looking to decorate your Tokyo flat or take some souvenirs home then this is an ideal stop. It’s a quiet space, decorated in an Edo art style, and everything on sale is a piece of Japanese history. In many ways, it’s a celebration of artists like Hokusai, and the iconic aesthetics of geisha. There isn’t a better place to pick up a real piece of Japan’s artistic history to decorate your home with.
Where: 2-5-5 Hitotsubashi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 101-8002 Japan
If you love Western comics and used books then you’ve found your home at @Wonder, you’ll find old single issues of DC and Marvel comics downstairs, and lining the staircase itself, and second hand and new comics upstairs. There’s a massive collection! There’s even a cafe with a selection of drinks and snacks to enjoy on the second floor. There, you can pick up a comic and read it with a coffee. If you’re a lover and a collector of Western comic books, like I am, but you find yourself living in Japan far from your local comic book store, consider this your new one! If you want to learn more about @Wonder, we’ve written a dedicated guide to the store right here.
Where: 神田神保町2丁目5-4 Chiyoda, 東京都 〒101-0051 , Japan
As a starting point from Jimbocho subway station, we’d recommend going straight for AtWonder then just head down the street from there. You’ll find so many places to duck into, including all of the ones we’ve mentioned in both this article and our video. Everything we visited was on the right side of the street so just take your time, wander, get a little lost, and enjoy.
Looking for a bookish stay while in Tokyo? Consider a stay at Book and Bed Tokyo.
Jess is the creator and editor of Books and Bao. She's passionate about the world, its literature, food, culture, and people. She enjoys sharing her travel tips with others and capturing those perfect moments.