Top 10 English Bookstores in Tokyo

By Yuki Kobayashi Purwanto | February 22, 2022

This is our guide for English bookstores in Tokyo and is part of our series on Life in Tokyo. Learn more on how to make your life easier at BFF Tokyo.

Are you tired of looking at your smartphone 24/7 and trying to find decent reading material to fill your mind? Or you are just trying to find the section for books in English, but it is very difficult to find and has limited variety? 

Luckily, for those of us who do not speak Japanese, there are English bookstores in Tokyo that sell multilingual books that have been imported from various countries which may be found not just in large retail malls but also on small side streets. Some English bookstores in Tokyo even have a cafe so you can enjoy a cup of tea or coffee while enjoying your new book. 

This guide is not only for those who want to find the best English bookstores in Tokyo but also for those who are looking for brand new books or secondhand gems so read on for the best places to buy English books in Tokyo.

If you are living in Tokyo and want to know some basic rules and tips that would make your life easier in Tokyo, then go ahead and check out our comprehensive guides to Life in Tokyo!

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    bookshelves with different book genres

    Are English Bookstores common in Tokyo?

    Let's talk about bookshops and literary culture in Tokyo before we go into the particular stores. Tokyo's bookshops wonderfully surround the city's infinite expanse, which is home to both massive structures and little stores squeezed in between. Nowadays, it's not always simple to find English books in Japan because not every bookstore carries them. Not all book stores in the Tokyo vicinity can afford English books. However, that isn't to imply that English books, magazines, guides, dictionaries, and manga aren't available in Tokyo. 

    You are probably wondering why shouldn't I just read E-books rather than have to search for English bookstores in Tokyo?

     

    Well, people in Japan are increasingly purchasing meals, cosmetic products, clothing, and other everyday essentials, as well as books, through online stores. For instance, Amazon Japan, Rakuten, and Craigslist Tokyo. But, I believe there are several benefits to going straight to the bookstore and picking up and inspecting the book in person to see whether it's the one you're searching for. You don't get to experience touching the books you truly require and feel the calming atmosphere of bookstores from E-books. Aside from that, if you visit a bookstore, you may discover additional intriguing novels/books that you were not expecting. In that scenario, it's an excellent deal, isn't it?

    Is there any way I can save money on books or in English bookstores in Tokyo?

    Yes, there is! Keep in mind that you are likely eligible for a new library card for both where you live and for wherever you work or study. If you have a library card and know the books you want, you can get them sent from other libraries in the area. The only thing you need to do is just fill in a paper form for each book and next thing you know, you'll be reading your favorite books. Don't forget that some of the bookstores have limited deadlines for borrowing.

    There is also a Japanese library searching system called Calil where you put the name of the book in the search bar, set it to your search area, and it will tell you if the book is available in the system. Not the easiest system ever, but free is always better than not, right? You can start searching for books from Calil.jp here.

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    best english bookstores in Tokyo

    Best 5 English Bookstores in Tokyo

    Thankfully, Tokyo has a good variety of bookshops offering paperbacks in several foreign languages, from fiction to art, magazines, biographies, children’s books, and even manga. I know you have been waiting for the list so here are my top 5 recommended bookstores in Tokyo to find book gems written in English and other languages.

    1. Tsutaya in Daikanyama

    Tsutaya Books, located in Daikanyama's popular T-site, is made up of three independent buildings that house a bookshop, a stationery store, a library with a luxury lounge, a Starbucks, a travel desk, and more. All of the books are divided into categories, such as art, architecture and design, cuisine, and travel. A library in the woods is the main theme of Tsutaya Daikanyama. 

    They feature a large selection of books, as well as movies, music, antique magazines (30,000 issues), a travel desk, stationery, a salon lounge, and a cafe. You can also browse through several stationery and crafts shops inside the several complexes and if you’re tired, you can 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.

    Location: Daikanyama T-Site, 17-5, Sarugaku-cho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

    Business Hours: Weekdays & Weekends 9 AM - 9 PM

    Contact number: +81 3-3770-2525

    2. Books Kinokuniya Tokyo

    Kinokuniya is one of Tokyo's most well-known foreign-language bookshops. This book paradise is located on the 6th level of Takashimaya Times Square's south building, which is a major shopping complex in Shinjuku and carries multilingual books including English, Chinese, French, German, and a variety of other languages. This store contains a large assortment of fiction, comics, and children's picture books that will keep you occupied for at least half a day. Manga, DVDs, and other products are also housed in different buildings. The branch on the south side of Tokyo station offers a wider variety of foreign language books if you are specifically looking for those.

    Location: Takashimaya Times Square Annex 6F, 5-24-2, Sendagaya, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

    Business Hours: 11 AM - 7 PM (closed on Wednesdays)

    Contact number: +81 3-5361-3316

    3. Kitazawa Bookstore (Jimbocho)

    Kitazawa Bookshop is a bookstore in Tokyo's Kanda Jimbocho neighborhood, which is famed for its abundance of bookstores. Kitazawa Bookstore was founded in 1902 to promote research at surrounding institutions. Since then, it has focused on selling a wide selection of English titles imported from various countries, with an emphasis on English literature. Examine the numerous shelves filled with around 12,000 used (academic) books. 

    There are antique books from the Middle Ages as well as paperbacks and hardbacks from more recent editions. You may also choose from a wide selection of excellent-condition secondhand books. A collection of children's books and a nice café may be found on the first level. It is a perfect spot to get great books for kids as their first reading experience in easy Japanese with helpful pictures!  

    Location: Kitazawa Building 2F, 2-5, Kanda, Jinbocho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo

    Business Hours: 11 AM - 6:30 PM (Weekdays) | 12 PM - 5:30 PM on Saturday (closed on Sundays)

    Contact number: +81 3-3263-0011

    4. COW Books

    COW Books is located a 7-minute walk from Nakameguro station, with books focusing on social movements from the 1960s through the 1980s. This wonderful, intimate bookstore is situated beside the Meguro river, which is famous for being one of Tokyo's most popular sakura viewing places. Yataro Matsuura, the editor of the well-known travel magazine "Tabi no Techo", founded it in 2002. 

    They specialize in out-of-print literature from the late 1960s to the early 1970s. Novels, art books, poetry, periodicals, children's books, and other publications have been carefully chosen. Other titles include progressive politics, protest,  and first editions of modern authors who have been forgotten. Prepare yourself to be surprised upon your visit, it is very likely that you’ll run into something exceptional in this store in Nakameguro, a harmonious mix of old and new, urban and rustic.

    Location: 1-14-11, Aobadai, Meguro-ku, Tokyo

    Business Hours: 12 PM - 8:30 PM (closed on Mondays)

    Contact number: +81 3-5459-1747

    5. Yaesu Book Center

    Yaesu Book Center is a great place to go if you're interested in science, philosophy, economics, politics, information technology, business, or if you're seeking language books and translations. The Yaesu Book Center is the largest bookshop in the Yaesu neighborhood and one of Tokyo's largest. A large foreign-language department on the 7th level has everything from blockbusters to books on Japan, social science, and periodicals in English, French, and German. On top of that, the beehive on the roof is the most intriguing aspect of this location, so don't miss out on some of the honey in the bookstore's café. If you are a coffee-lover or someone who just enjoys spending time in cafes, we have created a series of guides to help you explore cafes in Tokyo.

    Location: 2-5-1, Yaesu, Chuo-ku, Tokyo

    Business Hours: Weekdays & Weekends 10 AM - 7:30 PM

    Contact number: +81 3-3281-1811

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    Must visit 5 second-hand English bookstores in Tokyo

    Do you ever wonder where I can get cheap and affordable books that are worth a read? I guess you are not alone, everyone knows that books can be expensive, especially if they are being imported from overseas. So if you're anything like me, a secondhand store fan who will go to any length to get the best deals on used products, then this list will be worth your time.

    By the end of the day, we know that everyone here is doing their hardest to study Japanese. Let's be honest, we can't get enough of a good English book. But, if you are still keen on learning and improving your Japanese, then go ahead and explore our blog articles on how to learn Japanese.

    Anyways, here are my top 5 must-visit secondhand bookstores in Tokyo.

    1. Sunny Boy Books

    Sunny Boy Books, an artsy and trendy bookstore located in Meguro, Tokyo features a well-curated and elegant assortment of books covering a wide range of genres and themes. You'll likely come across more creative and design-oriented titles, as well as numerous photo and coffee table books, but you'll also come across cerebral reading, some of which tackle political and historical topics. 

    Sunny Boy Books also features a feminist section with art and literature from various feminist writers from Japan and throughout the world. Despite its small size, the shop boasts a large selection and constantly updated micro art shows on its walls. A nice cafe is right next door, and the area is full of elegant bookstores and bars.

    Location: 2 Chome-14-15 Takaban, Meguro City, Tokyo 

    Business Hours: 12 PM - 8 PM (closed on Mondays)

    2. Book Off

    Have you ever heard of the Japanese retailer "BOOK-OFF"? This is a large recycling store that offers used books, magazines, and DVDs, as well as worn clothing, shoes, purses, jewelry, watches, and other items at various BOOK-OFF locations. Book Off bargain-hunting is a lot like playing the lottery; some offers are fantastic, while others are a complete disaster. The foreign books there range from 108 yen to less than 1000 yen! If you are an avid reader, Below are 3 major Book Off stores in Tokyo, you can also check more stores on the list of their shops in English

    Akihabara Book Off

    For otaku and anime fans, Akihabara is a dreamland, and it's no different when it comes to books. Simply go to the Akihabara Book-Off to locate the greatest variety of secondhand English manga (also known as Japanese graphic novels). You can enjoy all of the magical girl, adolescent angst, and One Punch Man adventures you can take home in a three-minute stroll from the station. These mangas are normally priced between 200 and 300 yen, or about $2 to $3.

    Location: 1-6-4 Kanda Sakumacho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo

    Business Hours: Weekdays & Weekends 10 AM - 10 PM

    Contact number: +81 3-5207-6206

    Shinjuku Book Off

    Located near the Shinjuku exit station, this bookstore has varieties of second-hand Japanese and English books, periodicals, and mangas available on one level. All of the books are packed in a budget-friendly package. If you're a big lover of Japanese manga, take a look at their bulk deals. The other level is dedicated to electronics and gadgets, such as laptop computers. There are a variety of reconditioned laptops available, including MacBook and other models. There are also music players and other electronic devices. For collectors, there are also a variety of Japanese trading cards available, ranging from common to ultra-rare. Every card is priced appropriately.

    This is a tax-free store so you can get tax refunds when you purchase your items here. Prepare to spend some time here if you are looking for some good deals and bargain hunting.

    Location: 3 Chome-18-1 Shinjuku, Shinjuku City, Tokyo 

    Business Hours: Weekdays & Weekends 10 AM - 10 PM

    Contact number: +81 3-5909-4721

    Nishi-Gotanda Book Off Plus

    This large bookstore engaged in buying and selling books, CDs, DVDs, digital appliances, brand goods, and more. Video games and books are on 1F. Menswear, DVDs, and comics are on 2F. This store, in my view, provides the finest collection of new and bestselling books. From Harry Potter to the Da Vinci Code, there's a wide range of blockbusters to satisfy any literary whim. 

    Because much of their inventory is in great demand, prices are a little more than at other Book Offs, with average prices ranging from 500 to 1,000 yen (about $5 to $10).

    Location: 2 Chome-29-5 Nishigotanda, Shinagawa City, Tokyo

    Business Hours: Weekdays & Weekends 10 AM - 10 PM

    Contact number: +81 3-5437-6192

    3. Claris Books

    Claris Books is located on the second level of the Ichibangai Shopping Street building near the north exit of Shimokitazawa Station, surrounded by several cafés, restaurants, and bars. This shop contains a diverse assortment of books from across the world as well as Japan. Science fiction novels can be found next to biographies of iconic rock performers, or a variety of philosophical treatises can be found next to a shelf of books about architecture, hobbies, and fashion. Books are organized by genre and types inside the shop to make it simpler to locate exactly what you're looking for. Claris Books also has a shelf dedicated to books offered at discounted rates, so if you're searching for bargains in the ¥100 to ¥300 area, you'll have no trouble finding them.

    Location: 3-26-2 KITAZAWA, SETAGAYA-KU (2F)

    Business Hours: Tuesday - Saturday 12 PM - 8 PM (Closed on Mondays) | Sunday 12 PM - 7 PM

    Contact number: +81 3-6407-8506

    4. Hyakunen

    Hyakunen (meaning "Hundred Years") which is located along the Showa Dori in Kichijoji, just a few minutes from Kichijoji Station, provides a calm break from the bustle of its bustling surroundings. The bookstore urges customers to take their time examining the store's art, secondhand books, and independent items, with an inspirational attitude combining "purity" and a desire to develop "dialogue" in the purchasing and selling of books. Their well-curated inventory, which is provided at moderate pricing, reflects the proprietors' refined preferences and would please anyone looking for more creative and intellectual titles. Hyakunen represents its neighborhood's underground and niche tendencies by focusing on art books, design books, philosophical books, and domestic and international literature. 

    Location: 2-2-10 KICHIJOJI HONCHO, SUGINAMI-KU (2F)

    Business Hours: THURSDAY – MONDAY 12 PM – 7 PM (CLOSED ON TUESDAYS AND WEDNESDAYS)

    Contact number: +81 422-27-6885

    5. MAIN TENT

    MAIN TENT in Kichijoji is a children's bookstore where your kids will fall in love with reading. They specialize in offering a wide range of used children's books in a number of languages, including Japanese, English, German, and others. As soon as you go into the shop, you'll be greeted by lovely plush animals and adorable décor, allowing you and your children to spend hours there peacefully. 

    You'll discover well-known writers as well as less well-known but entertaining and intriguing titles among the hundreds of gorgeously designed picture books from Japan and throughout the world. Although the majority of the titles are in Japanese and English, there are also several picture books in Czech, German, Hungarian, and a few other languages. Inside the store, they have a lively and fun carnival theme, featuring a red-and-white striped curtain, stuffed animals, and cute toy figurines that kids and adults alike will surely love.

    Location: 2-7-3 KICHIJOJI HONCHO, SUGINAMI-KU

    Business Hours: THURSDAY – TUESDAY 10:30 AM – 5 PM (CLOSED ON WEDNESDAYS)

    online shopping

    Where can I buy online English books in Japan?

    You might be still wondering what if I still couldn't find the books that I want in bookstores? Luckily, there are a few simple solutions available to you. This online platform will definitely help you purchase English or other foreign language literature. If you are not sure or don't know how to do an online payment, then go take a look at our comprehensive guides to debit and credit cards in Japan!

    Amazon Japan

    I discovered that Amazon Japan provides a large selection of English books. They're clearly labeled as to which language edition they are, and they're reasonably priced compared to what I'd pay for the identical book on the American site. Plus, delivery is either free (if you're a prime member) or less expensive than international shipping. 

    Another excellent feature of Amazon Japan is that the one-click payment will get your desired book right away. Also receiving a shipment does not require a permanent physical address. So, if you're traveling or renting a place and aren't sure where to mail your new book, you may search for nearby pick-up locations such as your local Lawson, Family Mart, or even the post office.

    You can start shopping for English books from Amazon.co.jp

    Craigslist Tokyo

    Craigslist is no longer only for job advertising and personals, it also offers a wide range of free services, including an online marketplace for used clothing and books. Craigslist may be a great resource no matter where you are in the world. This site is a treasure for savings on anything you can think of, especially in Tokyo. There are tons of people selling a significant number of books for dirt cheap, most of them in decent condition, may be found here. Keep in mind that this site is also a favorite among scammers, so please remember to be careful! Look for books on Craigslist Tokyo here.

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    So is it worth visiting an English bookstore in Tokyo?

    Yes, we believe that our guide has what you are looking for!  If you're looking for a decent book to read in Tokyo, these selections should help you get started. If none of these options work for you, consider places like Amazon Japan or other online purchasing sites if you want something particular that isn't available in one of the mentioned bookstores. 

    Final Thoughts and Conclusion

    As you can see, there’s certainly no shortage of places to buy English books in Tokyo. While online shopping is becoming increasingly popular, nothing beats going to a bookshop. Browsing the bookshelves and discovering your hidden gems is a fascinating experience that you can't get anywhere else. We hope the above recommendations help you to find what you’re looking for and have you turning pages in no time!

    If you want to know more about interesting events in Tokyo besides English bookstores, then go check our articles on Events in Tokyo. Or if you are bored reading books and you want to go out enjoy what the city has to offer at night, then take a look at our article on The Best Thing to do in Tokyo at Night.