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Living - Book Stores

As a life-long book addict, one thing I missed when I first came to Japan was London’s excellent selection of bookshops. A decade ago, Tokyo only had a handful of English-language bookshops, and prices were outrageous. Ten years later, I am browsing for three, and Tokyo has many more foreigner-friendly bookshops. The bad news is that prices are still painfully high.

The newest mecca for English-language books in Tokyo has to be Maruzen’s

flagship store in the Oazo complex on the Marunouchi side of Tokyo station. The English children’s section here (fourth floor) covers several aisles, with everything ranging from cloth and board books for babies through to novels for established young readers. Maruzen is strong on graded reading schemes, activity books, and junior reference. It is also very browser-friendly, with wide aisles and a play table.

Nearly as big is Kinokuniya’s foreign section on the sixth floor of its main store, next to Takashimaya Times Square in Shinjuku. Kinokuniya has more novels for young readers, but less of the educational material. It is also worth watching out for Kinokuniya’s annual book sale (usually in March) when they take over a section of Takashimaya department store to sell off foreign books at discount prices.

Children in popular gaijin areas are increasingly well served with bookshops. Hiroo has National Azabu supermarket’s book section (upstairs) and Kids Books (down the street from Starbucks, on the 2nd floor); Shibuya Tower Records and Book First (near Bunkamura); Omotesando has the Aoyama Book Center (behind the UN university) and Crayon House, as well as the hidden gem of Intelligent Idiot, in the same complex as Las Chicas restaurant, selling a small but good selection of English books at discount prices.

The oddly named Tokyo Random Walk, on the side street heading down from Almond in Roppongi towards Azabu Juban (other branches in Jimbocho and Akasaka), is another place to pick up a bargain - there are usually shelves of ¥500 paperbacks outside, including some children’s fiction, and sometimes more bargain boxes inside.

Then of course, there is always, if you know what you are looking for. The US and UK sites have the largest selections in English, but also has an English interface and most of the same stock. Prices are slightly higher, but delivery is free onover ¥1,500.

If your children are fast readers, the cost of new books soon adds up, so used books start sounding attractive. Good Day Books in Ebisu is still going strong, and the Blue Parrot has recently expanded from its original branch in Takadanobaba with a new shop in Akihabara. Other good sources are jumble sales at Tokyo Union Church, the Franciscan Chapel Center and Tokyo American Club. Some of the international schools also have bookstalls at their annual fairs.

Metropolitan Children’s Hall:

Blue Parrot:

Good Day Books:

Intelligent Idiot:

Kids Books:

Crayon House:

Tokyo Random Walk:

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