Japan and Reading culture

Hello everyone. I was planning for some things to do in Tokyo in a upcomming trip I’m making; among those activities I’m considering go into some cool bookstores.

So I started by looking at yt for some recommendations. And I found this video

I’m very surprised by the huge reading culture that Japan seems to have, and even more now that I’ve seen some of those very cool bookstores.

People living in Japan, have you notice this much of a difference in the reading culture there?

In my country (Chile) reading it’s an activity that’s mostly dying, so when I moved to Spain I was really surprised to see how much more of a thing it was on daily life. Then going to France it seems to be even more popular, as there’re so many bookstores and in general people are much more likely to have a book at hand while waiting for iddle moments to pick it up.

Any bookstore you could recommend in Tokyo / Osaka?? Some cool place to read while maybe eating/ drinking?? :heart_eyes:


Hmm it depends what you mean by cool.
Many Tsutaya bookstores have a built-in Starbucks, so you can just read your stuff there.
I hear that the ones in Daikanyama and Roppongi are quite decent, but it’s still 200% corporate.

There’s café comme ça, in Shibuya. It’s the same kind of concept: it’s sharing space with a bookstore, but their cakes are amazing.

One of my favorite spots was Free Factory in Shimokitazawa, a cafe with a huge collection of books you could read at will, but they closed :frowning:


There is a lovely little independent bookstore in Kagurazaka with a nice café. I will try to find the exact address.

Chile has so many excellent writers, but I have the same impression that people do not read a lot. I’m currently living in Santiago and any recommendations for good bookshops are more than welcome :blush:!

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There’s always the Book Offs. They’re Japan’s largest chain of used book stores, and they’re everywhere. Spending time in them was one of my favorite parts of my trip. The manga sections always have people just standing around reading without a care, and there’s often a ton of large, interesting looking volumes for cheap. It’s not the cool, Cafe atmosphere you may be looking for, but it’s distinctly Japanese, and something I think should be experienced.

I found a series of hardcover coffee-table books on Japanese mythology by region at one. They were immaculately kept and less than 300 yen each. I regret not picking them up, but I know I wouldn’t have had room in my bag.

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Here are links to the lovely bookshop cum café in Kagurazaka that I mentioned before (an area that’s worthwhile a visit in any case): http://kamomebooks.jp
Kagurazaka: WEEKENDERS COFFEE All Right (ウィークエンダーズコーヒー オールライト)

Following @Naphthalene’s recommendation, I also consider the Tsutaya in Daikanyama a great place. Yes, it’s a chain, but the space is beautifully designed and I can recommend the lounge upstairs for a drink.

Close to Tokyo station, there is a massive, multi-floor Maruzen bookshop (inside the OaZU complex). They have an incredible selection of foreign books in various languages, including many books on Japan related topics, all Japanese language textbooks you ever dreamt of, and - of course - novels, textbooks, mangas of all sorts in Japanese. http://www.marunouchi.com/e/sp/shop/detail/2015_index

I haven’t yet watched the video you posted but I assume they also mention the area of Jimbocho? There are many used bookshops around there.


Thanks!! A lot of good recommendations. I was watching some videos too about Book Offs… The prices are incredibly cheap :star_struck:
I guess walking around Tokyo’s caffes and bookstores will be as entertaining as many of the main attractions I’m planning on seeing as well. :slightly_smiling_face:


Yep, that’s why I almost exclusively buy from them. However, since it’s a second hand shop, availability may be a problem, especially for smaller ones.

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i loved book off! they often have stuff for ¥100 but it’s generally older stuff, but like @Naphthalene says, smaller stores won’t always have what you want, and you really need to wait at least a month after a book is released to expect it to appear anywhere…

i found some really nice イラスト books in there for pretty cheap, they were a few years old and i checked several times and no new ones showed up.

In related news, last time I was there i thought i would buy a book from book off and then return it to get like ¥20 or something (it was more about not wanting to use the weight in my luggage) but you need to be a resident (have a resident card or japanese passport) to sell them back ahaha

ohh, you should also be aware of hard off (consumer goods / appliances)
mode off (clothing, i think, i didn’t really go in there)
liquor off (alcohol… second hand alcohol seems so weird to me, but i think it’s people’s unwanted gifts)


Don’t forget Hobby-Off (Games, figures, model kits) and Off-House (Appliances, home goods, and most importantly- Suitcases. I ended up buying a cheap suitcase on my last trip to get everything back. One of my tripmates ended up buying a large case originally intended for DJ equipment from a Hard-off to bring his ridiculous amount of manga back. I think he bought like, 80 volumes.)


They have at least a couple of Book Off!s in California - I’ve been while on vacation there… Soooo great!

Re: your last comment about your friend’s DJ case - NICE!

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That does sound nice, though ultimately a used book store in the US is going to have English books. The magic wouldn’t quite be there for me.

Actually no!!! I found tons of Japanese… bought a few manga when I was there, and a couple of JP CDs. It was harder for me to find something in English there. California has a huge Japanese population. (At least around L.A., which was primarily where I was hanging out.)

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Hm. And it’d be an easier flight out to Japan…

Gotta get a job out in Cali.

I’m not living in Japan, but in the time I’ve spent there it appears that bookstores in Japan are more popular and numerous than in Canada where I live. Not that people don’t read here, they do and in Toronto, the public library system is excellent, but at least from a traveller’s perspective, it looked like a more popular activity in Japan. It might have something to do with the four hour commutes. Or maybe it’s just because kanji is so easy!

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I went to a Book Off in Manhattan a few years ago, and maybe half the collection was Japanese books.

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Hi Ncastaneda!

I have some recommendations for study cafes which work as reading cafes too I guess.

Recently I discovered Mos Cafe. It is MADE for reading and studying with an incredibly cozy and relaxed atmosphere. They only have 8 stores across the country. Some in Tokyo, but only 1 in Kyoto. It has free WiFi, but it has been broken in the Kyoto store for many weeks now… :sweat:
Picture of the Kyoto one:

If you ever come to Kyoto, I recommend Shinshindo(進々堂)。It is a bakery/restaurant with several stores in Kyoto. Especially the Kitayama store(北山)is amazing for studying with free WiFi.

Starbucks is also very good, but haven’t been there for over a year or so. Too many people and not a good variety of food choices.

Tully´s Coffee is also quite good for reading/studying. It is a large chain with shops everywhere.

Again, Kyoto (:sweat_smile:)ですが、there are lots of cozy small (non-chain) cafes scattered all across the city, so please come to Kyoto if you want to snuggle up with a good book! People take old buildings (e.g. “Machiya” townhouses), restore them, and make a cafe out of them. It gives a very nice Harry Potter atmosphere perfect for reading :books:


Another note about Starbucks in Japan, at least in Kyoto, they are STINGY with their access to power outlets. There’s even little signs saying “Not for customer use”. Jerks.


The Reading Culture here in Japan is really something. Back where I came from, Philippines, reading isn’t really a thing and I always see myself as the only one reading a book when I’m on commute or on idle times at public places. We have a community of book readers back there but we’re quite a handful. Here in Japan, wherever I am, particularly on the train, reading is a very common thing and it feels like home.

I collect books but the volume of English books available here is kinda scarce. You have Book-Off for secondhand books. The one at Ikebukuro has a lot of options. But, for me, I always buy my books at Kinokuniya, it has branches outside the country. Although their prices are a bit high, since all of them are brand new, it’ll be fairly easy to find something for your fix.

For Travel, I recommend Infinity Books at Sumida, Tokyo. :slight_smile:


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