With the advent of e-readers and smartphones, getting your hands on English language literature in Japan isn’t the challenge it once was. However, whether the book you are looking for isn’t available online, or you just like the feel and smell of turning pages, sometimes you just have to hold the book in your hands.
The following is a list of just some of the places where you can find English language books around Tokyo.
While they may not be up against the strongest of opposition, Good Day Books’ claim to be the largest used English Language bookstore is hard to refute with a staggering 40,000 books on premesis. They stock new, rare and hard to find titles as well as trading or buying books you no longer have use for. There is also a community based around the shop with a series of author presentations by writers on Japan, as well as a book club.
Where: 3rd Floor Tokai Building, 2-4-2 Nishi Gotanda, Shinagawaku 141-0031
When: Mon-Sat 11:00-20:00, Sun and holidays 11:00-18:00
Another large (by Japanese standards) selection of English language fiction and non-fiction, Kinokuniya also focuses on audiovisual and stationary products. There are two stores in Shinjuku station, with the main eight floored one found at the east exit, but the Southern Terrace exit perhaps has a wider selection of English language fashion, style and current affairs magazines.
Where: Performing Arts Theatre 2, 5-24-2 Sendagaya, Shibuya, 151-0051
If you’ve got a touch of the beatnik about you, Cow Books is a great place to check out. With a collective choice of reasonably priced oddities from the 1960s and 70s, you can find all manner of books on progressive politics and protest works as well as other more quirky titles on the likes of Timothy Leary, Underground poetry and hippy counter culture. Throw in a free cup of coffee when you make a purchase, and Cow Books might be just your idea of bookshop heaven. Keep an eye out for them On The Road in their travelling book mobile.
Where:1-14-11 Aobadai, Meguro-ku, 153-0042
When: Tue-Thur 13:00-21:00, Mon closed
Aoyama Book Center has a particularly impressive selection of magazines, with special attention paid towards arts and design. In fact ABC seems to cater particularly well to denizens of the art world, stocking plenty of books on the subject on top of the usual (though expensive) English fiction
Where: 6-1-20 Roppongi, Minato-ku, 106-0032
When: Mon-Sat 10:00-17:00, Sun 10:00-22:00
Depending on where you live, Book Off can be a little hit and miss. As part of the ‘Off’ recycling empire found all over the country, they stock second hand goods. This means the more foreigner friendly your shopping area is, the more likely you are to come across something you want, with the bigger stores such as the one in Shinjuku having an extensive English language stock. This however does not mean that the smaller stores won’t throw up the odd gem. You never know where you might get lucky.
Where: All over the city. See website for details of your nearest store.
Despite being just five minutes from Shibuya train station, Shibuya Publishing Booksellers is hidden away on a quiet little street meaning you can forget about the city’s hustle and bustle as you browse their incredible selection. The staff are helpful and just the right side of chatty and will help you find what you are looking for amongst their choice of books, magazines and even the odd record. If you own a record player that is.
Where: 17-3 Kamiyamacho, Shibuya, 154-0047
When: Mon-Sat 12:00-00:00 Sun 12:00-22:00
You kind of know what you’re going to get with Tower Records: plenty of pop culture books and magazines. In recent years the English selection has been slimmed down but UK customers can occasionally get the Guardian Weekly or The Times. However it is the massive collection of Lonely Planet tourist guides that makes Tower Records the ideal spot for adventurers.
Where: 1-22-14, Jinnan, Shibuya-ku, 150-0041
This article is for informational purposes only. Inclusion is not an endorsement!
By Mark Guthrie
Image: By Lin Kristensen from New Jersey, USA (Timeless Books) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons -Modified