Jimbocho, the area in central Tokyo famous for antique (and used, and new) bookstores might be heaven on Earth for book lovers, but there is room for more! I found this lovely little store specialized in brushes, all kinds of brushes for every imaginable purpose and of every imaginable material. Every brush had a tag attached to it, describing exactly what it was made from and why. Naturally I have a few brushes of my own, mainly for shoes and sometimes I see the kimono brush in use but I had no idea there were these many variants! In Tokyo truly there is a specialist store for anything you can imagine.
A few days ago I posted about the Jimbcho used book and bookstore paradise, but I wanted to save this one for a special post – the Komiyama Book Store (小宮山書店). This is a used book store that specializes in modern art, culture, photography, subculture, philosophy and recent history, with a heavy emphasis on art and photography. I have visited hundreds of used bookstores on three continents in my life so far but nothing comes even close to this place. They have the most random, most obscure and most well curated stock of any similar store I have ever come across. For a japanophile like me this store is pretty close to paradise on Earth. Anyone who was ever something in recent Japanese art and performance history and ever published, wrote or shot anything, is bound to be represented in this store. The collections are all incredibly jumbled, and you will find an autographed biography of an obscure 1970s political figure next to a signed poster sized silver print of a portrait of Mishima Yukio, in heaps and heaps. Even if you are not particularly interested in Japan they have plenty of foreign books and related items. For the sheer variety just have a look at their list of new arrivals. It is also a great place to sell your rare art book collection, which I sometimes do and regret shortly afterwards.
The best way to show the sheer multitude of choices when it comes to book stores in Jimbocho there is probably no easier way than just posting a lot of photos. Here are 17 more, showing just a few of the many many book stores that make the area so famous. There are of course a lot of the large book chains represented, flashy modern book stores, but in these posts I focus on the dingy smaller shops. At night they look even more inviting and mysterious!
When going to Jimbocho for a day of browsing I recommend leaving all your gear at home or in your room. The aisles in these stores are usually to narrow for even one person let alone two or someone carrying baskets or bags. If you are worried about your economy I would also recommend leaving your wallet at home – the risk of impulse purchases is simply too great!
Everyone in Tokyo knows that if you are into rare books, manuscripts, posters, art photography or anything printed or bound in any form whatsoever – you have to go visit Jimbocho. Conveniently located within walking distance of five absolutely massive universities in the heart of Tokyo, Jimbocho has been famous for books since 1913 when a university professor opened a book store in the heart of the area named after a 17th century Samurai whose residence used to be located here. The humble book store grew to become a publishing house and and gradually book stores flocked to the area to attracted to the money of tens of thousands of book hungry students and scholars. Virtually any kind of speciality book retailer can be found here, no matter the subject, the language or the era. Even if not actually looking for anything it is very interesting to spend a few days just browsing all the stores. One doesn’t realize the width of Japanese publishing since medieval wood block prints to today’s laser printed porn until one has been to Jimbocho! More photos to come tomorrow, of a very few stores of the hundreds of stores in an area overflowing with books!