Jimbōchō Book Town is one of the world’s oldest surviving and largest-scale book towns, perhaps second only to Kaifeng, China. There are said to be at least 400 bookstores in the district, where one-third of secondhand books in all of Tokyo can be found.
The book town can trace its roots to the early 1880’s when several law schools were founded in the Kanda-Jinbōchō area. This was followed by the opening of several bookstores that served the needs of the students, many of whom sold off their textbooks by the end of the semester. Freshmen would come to buy cheap secondhand textbooks, creating a tradition that would go on for years.
Miraculously, the district survived the Bombing of Tokyo during World War II, which destroyed most of the city. The book town flourished again once the war was over.
And today, Jimbōchō is known for its hundreds of bookstores specializing in a variety of specific genres, such as classic literature, philosophy, art, pop culture, science, paperbacks, foreign and antiquarian books. Visitors can find anything here from everyday novels to centuries-old maps, vintage film posters to heavy leather-bound tomes. There’s no better place in Tokyo for bibliophiles to walk around, taking in that distinct scent of old books.
Know Before You Go
As stated above, each bookstore specializes in specific genres and media. If you’re looking for English books, you may want to check out the Kitazawa Book Store, Sū-bunsō, or the Isseidō.
Also worth noting is the wall decorations of Jimbōchō Station, which imitate shelves full of books.