For most book lovers, there’s really no better pleasure than stepping into a well-stocked bookstore. The nation of Japan knows this feeling well, as the country is one built on the unadulterated love of printed prose. In Japanese, there’s even a specific a word for that ever-growing pile of yet-to-be-read books you’ve collected over the years: tsundoku (積ん読). Given the sheer amount and variation of bookstores in Japan, it only makes sense that the term tsundoku exists. Explore Japan‘s literary world via some of the most beautiful stores you can visit in the country, and arguably the world.
Cow Books in Naka-Meguro, Tokyo
Museum, Store, Bookstore
This is one store for the proper book nerds. Cow Books in Tokyo’s artistic suburb of Naka-Meguro is a rather compact, though meticulously designed store stocking some of the world’s hardest to find, out-of-print books. Rather specific in their offerings, the shop focuses on books about progressive politics and 1960s-70s social movements. Feeling more like a well-kept museum of an eclectic collector than a store, it’s beautiful encapsulation of Japanese collector culture. Their English selection is minimal, but it consistently stores some serious gems.
Spread over three buildings and three levels, T-Site feels more like a Disneyland for book lovers than a simple store. The flagship store of famous chain Tsutaya Books, T-Site is located in Daikanyama, a stylish pocket of Tokyo just a few minutes from Shibuya. Architecturally speaking the store is a masterpiece. A latticed façade, built from the store’s iconic T logo covers huge floor-to-ceiling glass windows, allowing sunlight to flood the store. The store stocks everything imaginable, but for the casual reader it’s their selection of gorgeous magazines, design books and art displays that capture most people’s attentions (and wallets).
It only makes sense that one of the most beautiful shopping complexes in the world houses one of the most beautiful bookstores in existence. Located inside the massive and stunning Ginza Six shopping centre is another Tsutaya store. The sister store of the Daikanyama outlet, this one also features floor-to-ceiling windows and the chain’s first-ever art gallery and exhibition space. The team behind Tsutaya Books will have to probably build a store on the moon to even come close to topping their recent efforts.
Sekaibunko is an example of when a hobby takes on a life of its own. Originally opened somewhere to display her huge collection of books, the store’s owner Suzunari Koga turned the display into a fully functioning store. Those who visit the endearing little outlet are quick to fall in love with Koga’s now available-to-buy collection. Given the store’s origin, its stock is very much a refection of the owner’s personality. Featuring a very diverse selection of rare out-of-print books, art novels and small run publications, a visit to Sekaibunko is a one of a kind book-buying experience.
Standard Books in Osaka is anything but standard. This cult favourite has amassed fans across the world with its anti-bestseller ethos and unbelievably diverse selection. Decked out in hip, but cheap thrift store furniture and fittings, the incredibly unique outlet is the best place to discover small-press publications, indie comics and stunning art coffee table books. Very unorthodox in their business dealings, the store also allows customers to sit down with a coffee from the café and read one of the books on offer before purchasing – try before you buy, if you will.
Forget bestsellers and mega-star authors, the crew at the incredibly stylish Shibuya Books are all about unearthing gems from Japan’s thriving world of publishing. A little hidden from the manic energy of Shibuya’s shopping strips, the tastefully minimalist store features an open design, the perfect way to display their eclectic collection of manga, indie releases, magazine and, of course, novels – all both new and pre-loved. What’s most fascinating is that the stock is arranged by theme, giving visitors a new way to uncover their new literary love.
More than just a bookstore, Kyoto’s Keibunsya is a self-proclaimed ‘select shop of books, and things around books’. Its stock is hand-selected by the passionate book-loving staff, meaning it’s the perfect place to lose yourself and find your new favourite author. Though it’s a little further out from main heart of Kyoto, the shop’s uniquely cozy interior design make it worth the trip.
In the heart of Shimokitazawa, Tokyo’s trendiest suburb, sits the humbly titled store B&B. The name B&B comes from the store’s two main loves: books and beer. It was founded by Koichiro Shima from creative agency Hakuhodo Kettle, and editor, producer and book coordinator Shintaro Uchinuma. Tucked up some stairs just a short walk from Shimokitazawa station, B&B is a bookstore, bar, and live space all rolled into one. If that wasn’t enough you can also nab vintage furniture provided by interior shop Kontrast. Built on the owners’ desire to produce a ‘chance encounter’ – don’t stress about finding that specific book you’ve been after. Grab a beer, waste some time, and let the right book find you.