I visited Jimbocho in Tokyo in July, 2015
I have always loved books, always been an avid reader. My love goes back to when I was a child, when my mum would use to read to me before I went to bed. As I have grown older my love for books have stayed with me, and now I always try to combine my love for books and my love for travel.
I read a lot of travel books and novels from where I travel, and I love to visit book stores while travelling (See my post on Daunt Books in London). Even if the book stores do not stock english books, I love walking trough the store, looking at the books, dreaming I could read them.
When I first heard about Jimbocho in Tokyo I knew I had to go. A whole neighboorhood full of books. That is exactly what I want to see.
Jimbocho, also spelled Jinbocho, has been an area for intellectuals and students for a hundred years. Today it is located close to several universities and has a large student population.
Jimbocho is today the biggest second-hand book district in Japan. Jimbocho is crowded with second-hand book stores. Here you can find stores specialising in almost any subject, and the store keepers are experts in their fields.
As I exited the metro station the book stores were easy to see. They all had piles of books on display out on the side walk. Pile after pile of books could be seen down the street, some of the stores even had book shelves outside.
I simply walked around for a while just to take it all in. At least every second shop was a book store. And they all had some sort of specialty. There were stores focusing on art, on maps, on old english books about Japan, on old and valuable Japanese scrolls, old publications, manga. I had been warned there were not many English book stores. I found plenty.
A few stores stand out. There was one store which had all its outside walls lined with books. Thousands of them. Not their most expensive of course.
In another one they had a whole room full of old Japanese books and scrools, some of them costing tens of millions of yen. They were all displayed in glass counters, it felt like a museum.
In a tiny international book store, I barely had enough room to move between the shelves, it was all packed with books, I found a whole book case with english books about Japan, some of them more than a hundred years old. I bought quite a few books there.
Another bookstore was huge, with Japanese books downstairs and English books upstairs. Whole shelves of old travel literature and even more old books about Japan. I made the decision to only buy books about Japan, there was too much I wanted there.
I passed countless other stores, just a quick glance through the window, maybe a quick stop to see what that had to offer out on the street.
The place was amazing, I loved it. So many second-hand book stores crammed together, so many books for sale. So many of the books were quality books as well, not just cheap paperbacks that so many second-hand books stores have tons of. Here you could easily find hundred year old hardcovers, some effort would find you just the book you are searching for. The prices were not bad either. A lot cheaper than in Norway for sure.
After spending a few hours there I had to force myself to leave, neither my wallet nor the airline baggage allowance would allow me to buy more books. It was with regret that I got on the metro back to my hotel. I wanted to stay longer, but deep down I knew that if I stayed I could not resist buying more.
Checking in at the airport a few days later my bag was still overweight.
The books I bought were:
Every-day Japan by Arthur Lloyd (From 1911)
Japan – Real or Imaginary by Sydney Greenbie (From 1920)
Japan Here and There by Seuchi Umemoto
The Meiji Restoration by W. G. Beasley
Japanese Literature by Donald Keene
The Tale of Genji by Lady Murasaki
To get to Jimbocho simply take the metro to Jimbocho station. You can take the Shinjuku line (station 6), the Mita line (station 10), or the Hanzomon line (station 7).