One of my favorite things to do on a rainy afternoon or when I’m in need of inspiration is to wander around bookstores. There’s something about being near so much knowledge, creativity, and art, that makes me feel inspired and ready to create. If you’re like me or if you’re an avid reader and find yourself living or visiting Tokyo, chances are you will want to wander around bookstores, smelling the books and possibly coffee, and to also pick up a few books to browse. After living near Tokyo for a few months, I still enjoyed browsing bookstores, but there’s something not quite as inspiring when I had no idea what the books were about.
Plus, if I wanted to browse to actually buy a new book to read, I found that most bookstores didn’t have a foreign language section, or if they did it was tiny. So I started researching which stores specializing in English books or had large sections so that I knew where I should aim to go.
Check out our book lovers gift guide for gift ideas for the book lover in your life.
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Bookstores in Tokyo
Before we get into the individual stores, let’s talk a little about books and literary culture in Tokyo. Bookshops in Tokyo perfectly represent the seemingly endless city that holds both gigantic vast buildings, and tiny shops squeezed between.
Each neighborhood in Tokyo has its own personality and the districts have an atmosphere of its own. We can’t talk about bookstores and Tokyo without talking about Jimbocho, an entire district dedicated to used books and publishing.
Jimbocho, Tokyo was named after a 17th-century samurai. While the entire area was destroyed by fire in 1913, one of the first businesses to rise from the ashes was a bookstore which eventually evolved into the Iwanami Shoten publishing house.
More bookstores and other publishers followed suit, pulling in cafes, bars, and restaurants until the area became a hub for readers, collectors, and students. Today there are around 175 bookshops in the area and even more pop-up bookshops appear overnight to fill in vacant retail space for a few days at a time.
But Jimbocho isn’t the only place that has bookstores. As you’ll see in the list below, bookshops are dotted across the city, and this list is far from extensive. On your wanders around the city you’ll no doubt see bookstores spilling their contents out onto the street as if they have so many stories and too little space to hold them in.
If you do find yourself in Jimbocho (or really anywhere in Japan) and want to stay for a festival, check out this list of Japanese festivals throughout the year. And here are some packing lists for Japan if you need some advice.
You’ll also see plenty of people reading. Because Tokyo residents usually commute by train, you’ll glimpse physical books everywhere as people use the time to catch up on their most recent novel or manga.
English Bookstores in Tokyo
With one million tomes across nine floors, the Yaesu Book Center is the biggest bookstore in the Yaesu area and one of Tokyo’s largest. On the 7th floor, you can find a substantial foreign-language section with everything from bestsellers to books about Japan, social science, as well as English, French, and German magazines. Free coin lockers are available on the first floor, so if you find that your bags are growing heavy, you have a place to stash them to continue browsing.
Where: 2-5-1, Yaesu, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
Business hours: 10 a.m.-9 p.m.
Selected as one of “The 20 Most Beautiful Bookstores in the World” (the only entry from Japan), this gorgeous bookstore is a theme park for any bookworm. You can find extremely rare periodicals, art and culture books, and magazines. You can also browse through several stationery and crafts shops inside the several complexes — and if you’re tired, you can also have a cup of coffee at the very elegant cafe Anjin, located on the second floor of the bookstore. Allow yourself at least half a day when you go there —we promise you won’t be able to leave. This is definitely at the top of my favorite English bookstores in Tokyo or around the world. It holds everything that I love to browse (and buy) plus it’s a beautiful atmosphere to be in. What’s better than that?
Where: Daikanyama T-Site, 17-5, Sarugaku-cho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Business hours: 7 a.m.-2 a.m.
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Cow Books sells rare, out-of-print, and first editions on topics including social movements, progressive politics, protests, the Beat generation, and other themes focusing on the 1960s and ’70s in English. Prepare yourself to be surprised upon your visit — you’ll likely run into something exceptional in this store in Nakameguro, a harmonious mix of old and new, urban and rustic. (Make sure to visit the Traveler’s Factory Flagship store when you’re in the area if you’re a stationery-lover too)
Where: 1-14-11, Aobadai, Meguro-ku, Tokyo
Business hours: 12 p.m.-8 p.m. (closed on Mondays9)
Books Kinokuniya Tokyo
Perhaps one of the best-known bookstores in all of Japan is Kinokuniya Bookstore. The Shinjuku branch specializes in books and magazines written in English, French, German, Spanish, Italian and other languages. From fiction to comics and children’s picture books, this store has a massive collection that will make you wander around for at least half a day. Kinokuniya is also one of the few stores in Tokyo that regularly organizes meet-the-author and book signing events, inviting foreign authors from across the world to meet their readers in Japan.
In 2014 Kinokuniya opened up its own separate English books floor near Takashimaya department store. It’s become a central hub for the capital’s bibliophiles.
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Where: Takashimaya Times Square Annex 6F, 5-24-2, Sendagaya, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Business hours: 10 a.m.-8 p.m. ( until 8:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays)
Kinokuniya Bookstore Shinjuku:
Where: 3 Chome-17-7 Shinjuku
Business Hours: 10:30 a.m.- 8 p.m.
Originally opened in 1902 to support research at nearby universities, this store is now dedicated to selling used books on English and American literature and humanities. All kinds of works from old paperback novels to rare books are generally displayed in very well-preserved conditions. There’s also a small selection of German and French books.
Where: Kitazawa Building 2F, 2-5, Kanda, Jinbocho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
Business hours: 11 a.m.-6:30 p.m. (weekdays); 12 p.m.-5:30 p.m. on Saturday (closed on Sundays and holidays)
The Isseido Booksellers
The Isseido Booksellers is a secondhand bookstore focusing predominantly on foreign and art books. Boasting a history of over a century, the store is currently run by the grandson of the founder, who kept his business alive despite years of war censorship and major upheavals in Japan. A rare gem with an ancient library atmosphere, this store offers a great selection of books in English — from classics to rare tomes on Asian history and literature, to travel journals and even books about books.
Where: 17, Kanda Jinbocho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
Business hours: 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Located just a 5-minute walk from Asakusa station, Infinity Books and Events Space is another secondhand bookstore in Tokyo, specifically carrying thousands of English books across a wide variety of genres. Not only can you purchase a print the old-fashioned way with cash, but you can also exchange one of your pre-loved books a new read to dive into. The store is also an event space holding live readings, poetry, music, and charities of all sorts.
It also has, and this is crucial, a well-stocked bar of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. So what better than spending a few hours peacefully walking the aisles of this wee gem and then finishing off with a hard-earned drink?
Where: 1-2-4 Azumabashi, Sumida-ku, Tokyo
Business Hours: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. (until 9 p.m. on Sundays and closed on Mondays)
Maruzen Marunouchi Oazo
Maruzen Bookstore is one of Japan’s best-loved book chains with branches scattered across the city. A few steps from Tokyo Station, bibliophiles will find a modern and well-stocked Maruzen within the Marunouchi Oazo shopping and restaurant complex.
Its English language (and other foreign language books) floor is huge and stocks new titles in addition to newspapers, magazines, journals and stationery. It’s the ideal spot to stock up on reading material before a long shinkansen trip and for quieter evenings stuck in a hotel.
Where: 1-4F Oazo Shops & Restaurants, 1-6-4 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku
Business Hours: 9 a.m.- 9 p.m.
Ikebukuro isn’t usually associated with culture. However the mammoth Ikebukuro branch of Junkudo is well worth a visit. With nine floors devoted to books, magazines, kids titles and more, it’s any book lover’s dream come true.
The building’s top floor is pretty much devoted to English language books, magazines and newspapers and hosts the latest novels and non-fiction work from the English language world’s best authors.
The kids section is huge, compared to other stores, so if you’re looking for a birthday or Christmas book for a young’un then Junkudo will almost certainly have you covered.
Where: Junkudo Ikebukuro: 2-15-5 Minamiikebukuro, Toshima-ku
Business Hours: 10 a.m.- 10 p.m.
Tower Records Shibuya
Things have changed over at Tower Records. A much-needed refurb a few years back saw the foreign language section moved from the 7th floor to a more compact position next to the cafe on the 2nd floor.
Tower Records English section has become more known for its comprehensive English magazine selection, particularly fashion and lifestyle titles such as Vogue, GQ and Monocle though it still plays host to a neatly curated section of English novels and nonfiction titles.
Where: 1-22-14 Jinnan, Shibuya-ku
Business Hours: 11 a.m.- 8 p.m.
Bonjinsha is a bookstore dedicated to the teaching and learning of the Japanese language. The store in Tokyo stocks a wide variety of teaching materials for all levels, from beginners to advanced. If you are studying or living in the country and need to polish your Japanese language skills, then Bonjinsha is a good place to start. The variety can get overwhelming but the courteous staff will be more than happy to assist with recommendations. Not only is Bonjinsha an established bookstore but they are also a respected publishing house in Japan.
Business Hours: Temporarily Closed for Covid-19
Good Day Books
Good Day Books is an English bookstore that sells used books, a rare commodity in Japan. Books for all ages and from any genre can be found, from the classics to contemporary bestsellers. If you are on a budget and would love to snuggle up to a good read, then Good Day Books is the best place to go book shopping. Not that the books are dirt-cheap, they are just much more reasonably priced in comparison to new English books in Japan, so this place offers an opportunity you simply cannot miss.
Where: Good Day Books, 2-4-2 Nishi Gotanda, Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo, Japan, +81 3 6303 9116
Business Hours: Temporarily Closed for Covid-19
Shibuya Publishing and Booksellers
Shibuya Publishing & Booksellers is a trendy bookstore founded in 2008. Unlike other bookstores, Shibuya Publishing encourages new discoveries and stocks books that are sometimes hard to find rather than focusing on bestsellers. The company also publishes its own volumes, offers editing and design workshops, and holds thematic exhibitions on a monthly basis. Both used and new books and magazines can be purchased at Shibuya Publishing, as well as manga and art collections, most of which are written in Japanese. However, you will find a few English titles in stock.
Where: Shibuya Publishing & Booksellers, 17-3 Kamiyama-cho, Shibuya, Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan, +81 3 5465 0577
Business Hours: 11 a.m.- 9 p.m.
If you are a history buff or a lover of all things antique then you must pay a visit to Ohya Shobo. Ohya Shobo holds perhaps the world’s largest collection of Japanese woodblock prints and illustrated books from the 18th and 19th centuries. Here you can easily lose yourself for hours with all the fascinating antique maps, artifacts, and books dating back to the Edo period. The ukiyo-e woodblock prints, which are a traditional Japanese art that depicted everyday life from the 17th to the 19th century, are true gems.
Where: Ohya Shobo, 1 Chome-1 Kanda Jinbocho, Chiyoda, Tokyo, Japan, +81 3 3291 0062
Business Hours: 10:30 a.m.- 5:30 p.m. Closed Sundays
The name says it all: Bohemian’s Guild is a place for those who love to surround themselves with the work of the leftfield greats. The ground floor will greet you with books on painting, photography, fashion and architecture from around the world, as well as poetry compilations, philosophy and critical theory. Up the narrow staircase in the back is a gallery of paintings, sketches and handwritten essay drafts, as well as calligraphy by the likes of Kenzaburo Oe and other authors that penned modern classics.
Where: 1 Chome- 1Chiyoda City, Kanda, Jimbocho
Business Hours: 11:30 a.m.- 6 p.m.
Where to Buy English Books in Japan Online
If you’re not near Tokyo or another major city in Japan, you might be wondering how to get English or other foreign language books while in Japan. Luckily there are some really easy options for you.
I’ve found that Amazon Japan has a good amount of English books. They’re really easily labeled as which language edition it is, and they’re pretty comparable to what I would find the same book for on the American site. Plus, shipping is either free (if you’re a prime member) or cheaper than shipping from another country.
Another great thing about Amazon Japan is you don’t need a permanent physical address to receive a package. So if you’re traveling, or are renting a house and you’re not sure about where to send your new book, you can search for nearby your location and select a pick up location such as your local Lawson, 7-11 or even the post office.
This is always what I do because my physical Japanese address isn’t super easy to receive packages to, so I choose a Lawson about a mile from my house, and it can be held there for a week. All I do is show the pickup receipt and sign for the package. Super easy, even for people with minimal Japanese language skills.
Shop for English Books on Amazon.jp here.
Amazon U.S. (or U.K. etc.)
You can also have a book sent to you from another Amazon site that has a larger selection. This is easy to buy, but not always easy or convenient to receive. The shipping can be expensive and it usually takes a while to get here (no 2-Day shipping here). If you don’t have a convenient physical address or are moving around a lot if might not make the best sense. But, if you’re here for a long while and aren’t in a rush, go for it!
Another option is Infinity Books. They have a huge selection of English books and sell online in Japan and all over the world. The great thing about this is you’re patronizing a local business, shipping will be faster than from abroad, and you can pay in Yen. It may not be as convenient as Amazon, though, as shipping can be expensive and is not a fixed price. There are a few shipping options and they’re based on weight, so you could be quoted a price on an estimated weight, and then have to pay an additional fee to meet the actual weight. But, if you find yourself with too many books to fit in your suitcase, you can sell English Books in Japan at an Infinity Books location.
English Bookstores in Tokyo Map
Our map of English bookstores in Tokyo is a a great resource to help you decide where you want to stay or how to most easily fit in the most bookstores in the shortest time. For an even easier way, check out my custom Google Map of all things creative in Tokyo for even more bookstore locations, coffee shops perfect for reading, stationery shops, and museums to spark even more inspiration.
See some other options of things to do in Tokyo.
THIS ARTICLE MAY CONTAIN COMPENSATED LINKS. PLEASE READ THE DISCLAIMER FOR MORE INFO
Are you ready for Japan?
- Book Your Flights– To find the cheapest flights, flexibility is a must. Some great options are Google Flights for the calendars to find the cheapest options, Skiplagged, and Skyscanner. For more options see our resources page. For Japan, check flights for both Tokyo Airports (Haneda and Narita), as well as Osaka (Kansai).
- Find Transportation- Buy your JR Pass for your bullet train and inter-city travel before you leave home. Research a Suica card, the public transportation card you can either buy before or as soon as you arrive.
- Book Your Accommodation– Look at Booking.com, Hotels.com, or Expedia for hotels in Japan. You can also look at AirBnB or VRBO as we’ve had great luck finding inexpensive, large, and clean homes to rent.
- Book Tours and Experiences- Check Klook or Viator for some of the best tours and attractions for a great price for experiences like Tokyo Skytree, TeamLab Borderless, and Universal Osaka. For Tokyo Disney Resort, check my guide here.
- Stay Connected– Order a pocket WIFI for airport pickup if you’re with a family or group, or order a SIM card just for your phone. Check out our guide to staying connected here.
- Buy Travel Insurance- I always recommend World Nomads for insurance. It’s better to protect yourself in case of mishaps. Learn more about World Nomads in this FAQ post.
- Pack Your Bags– Check out my packing lists, or my favorite travel gear to help you remember all of the essentials.
- Learn About Japan– Learn about Japan with guidebooks like Lonely Planet, or, shameless plug, search around my site for more info.