Jimbocho is famous for their used bookstores.
There are rows and rows of books, both inside and outside of the stores, just waiting for someone to come pick them up. So many different genres can be found in an array of colors and sizes. It’s really a kind of organized chaos of books. I love it.
Jimbocho (神保町) is a corner of Tokyo, located in Chiyoda ward, and it has a very interesting history with books. There’s said to be approximately 180 used bookstores in the Jimbocho area.
During the Edo era, many samurai residences, or buke-yashiki (武家屋敷), were located around this area. After the Meiji Ishin (明治維新), when the Tokugawa shogunate crumbled, many of the lords and vassals who resided in this area moved back home or headed to Shizuoka with Tokugawa Keiki (徳川慶喜), and a large part of this area was left vacant.
When the new government started, not only was this area a residence for new officials, but many schools and hospitals were built in the large vacant areas as well. Many well-known schools such as University of Tokyo, Gakushuin University, Juntendo University, Meiji University, Chuo University were first established in this area during the Meiji era. Because there were so many schools located here, inevitably the number of professors, students, and researchers in the area increased, along with the need for books. And as students tend to be poor in any day and age, the need for used books also increased!
So that was apparently the start of Jimbocho’s affiliation with books. The Jimbocho area has seen its share of difficult times, from the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923, which burned down the entire area, to during the war, when food was scarce. But each time the bookstores got back on their feet in search of books to sell in their store.
It had been awhile since I’d been to Jimbocho and, even though I didn’t buy anything, it was a great way to spend the afternoon. I poked my nose into a lot of bookstores. My favorites were the used bookstore with design/art books, old old old Japanese calligraphy books, and the one with classic English books. But there were too many to see at once so I want to drop by again. And hopefully next time, I’ll be able to make up my mind about which book I want to take home with me this time!
Here are some photos: