Kanda Jimbocho is said to be the world’s largest bookstore district and is the home to more than 170 bookstores. All kinds of books from idol magazines to medical books are available. There are also many good cafes and restaurants. How about a holiday to spend slowly while reading a book you bought in Jimbocho?
Kanda Jimbocho is centered around Jimbocho Station on the Toei Mita Line, the Toei Shinjuku Line, the Tokyo Metro Hanzomon Line, or a 10 minute walk from Kudanshita Station on the Tokyo Metro Tozai Line and Suidobashi Station on the JR. It is very famous as the world’s largest book town with more than 170 bookstores. There are also large bookstores that sell new books, but most of the bookstores are small and sell secondhand books. For here is the area where historical and valuable bookstores gather and is said to have been an area where air strikes were prohibited by the U.S. military during WWII. As here has been prevented from air strikes, this area didn’t become burnt ruins and still remains many old buildings.
Jimbocho was developed in the 1910s as a book town. Shigeo Iwanami, who was a high school teacher, opened a secondhand bookstore in a place that was burned down in Jimbocho. He published and sold novels written by Soseki Natsume(a famous novelist, his well-known masterpieces being “Bochan”, “I Am a Cat” and “Kokoro”) and books on philosophy which became a great success. This bookstore, called Iwanami Shoten, is still famous for publishing the Japanese dictionary “Kojien” nowadays. Because of the success of Iwanami Shoten, educated people and college students gathered in Jimbocho and bookstores opened one after another.
Many antique bookstores are lined on Yasukuni Street, Kanda Suzuran shopping street (one block south street of Yasukuni Street), and Hakusan Street. Jimbocho has all the specialty bookshops of various genres such as idols, railways, arts, religions, medicines and children’s books. You can buy any book if you go to Jimbocho.
The Nyankodo section in Anekawa Bookstore sells books about cats. It is not only possible to purchase novels about cats or photo books of cats, you can also buy miscellaneous cat products, like bags or button badges, etc. Roko Shobo gathers books of miniature size, called mamehon. Small books from palm size to thumb size are very pretty, but they are truly books. There are 4 mm square bibles and 1 cm square constitutions in a show case.
As there are many bookstores dealing with English books, how about looking for books you want? Kitazawa bookstore is a long-established book store that deals with British and American Literature. Ogawa Tosho sells English books specializing in British literature and history. Isseido Bookstore, Subunso Bookstore, and Keizo Books also sell English books.
There are also bookstores which deal with foreign books other than English. Italy Shobo has books in Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese. Oshima Bookstore has German and French books. Chinese books are available in Uchiyama Bookstore and Yamamoto Bookstore.
Book town also spreads along Hakusan Street and continues until Suidobashi Station. There are many Universities like Meiji University, Senshu University, Nihon University and prep schools around here. So Jimbocho has also the side of college town and is called the Latin Quarter of Japan. Along Hakusan Street, there are bookstores for student textbooks, but it is striking that there are many adult bookstores including Tozai-do Bookstore.
When you are tired of walking around, there are many classy cafes to take a rest in while reading books. A famous one is Cafe Sabouru, established in 1955, located near the exit of the subway Jimbocho Station. This retro cafe is like a small cottage in a mountain and there is a big tree, a totem pole and an old public phone near the entrance. Inside is a little dim but it is spacious and has a divided second floor. There is numerous graffiti written using white pens on brick walls of the semi-underground room. Most of them are memorial graffiti written by lovers.
The picture above is of toast and strawberry juice(500 yen). This cafe is very famous and has been pictured in dramas and movies. In the movie “Paradise Lost(Shitsurakuen)” the hero Hisaki, who is a middle-aged publisher, often visits the cafe to goof off while working. By the way, Sabouru was not taken from the word “saboru”(goof off in Japanese), but from the Spanish word “sabor” (meaning taste).
There are also other fantastic cafes in Jimbocho. Milonga Nuoba is nestled in an alley behind Jimbocho Station. It was established in 1953 and has a chic appearance of a brick wall to attract people. In the cafe, Argentina Tango is always played in the background for you to relax. “Homemade coffee liquor” is an original drink made from coffee beans dipped in shochu. It has a high alcohol content and smells great. Try it!
[How to go] near Jimbocho Station on the Toei Mita Line, the Toei Shinjuku Line, the Tokyo Metro Hanzomon Line, or a 10 minute walk from Kudanshita Station on the Tokyo Metro Tozai Line and Suidobashi Station on the JR
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