Bookstores in Japan
Index and General Notes
19 Feb 2014
Bookstores in other cities of the world
General notes on address, phone conventions, hours, etc. in Japan
Looking for bargains? Buying books in Japan
Insights of the trade: Publishing books in Japan
Other sources and reference material on bookstores in Japan
Glossary of Japanese publishing terms
Cities of Japan listed north to south, east to west:
Maebashi, Takasaki, Kiryu
Tokyo and suburbs
Tokyo area Subject Index
Suwa and Okaya
Kansai area Subject Index
Other Asian cities
Other cities of the world
General notes on the Japan listings
Several Roman-alphabet spelling conventions exist for Japanese. Jimbocho is
properly (but not often) written with long lines (sometimes carets) above
the 'o's. I've tried to determine the spelling used by each store and
checked public transit systems for place names. Japanese human names are
written surname last here unless hyphenated.
Japanese addresses are block-based, not street-based and frequently chaotic.
Note directions prior to visit. Except for Kyoto and some Hokkaido cities,
passers-by can never help you with only an address. The Japanese can read
foreign languages much better than they can hear. Keep something to write
with at hand when venturing out. This also means rather mail or fax an
inquiry than ask by phone.
The seven-digit number immediately after the address is the postal code.
These are divided by underscore: 100_0000 to avoid confusion with phone
numbers: 333-4444. Some addresses are abbreviated. For complete
information look upwards in the list.
'Terminal' and 'Junction' are large railroad stations. 'Terminal' is the
final destination for many trains and 'Junction' is a preferred transfer
point. These terms have been added to aid the unraveling of spiderweb-like
Phone numbers are local numbers. Long-distance area codes appear at each
section head. The country code for Japan is 81. For converting the listed
numbers into international format, drop the first '0' from the area code and
add '+81-': 4444-5555 in the Tokyo 03 area becomes +81-3-4444-5555.
Many stores have web-sites but only those with English guidance are linked.
Store layout and selection size:
The Japanese count floors American style. Second floor Japanese is first
floor British. Most multi-level stores require purchases to be brought to a
cashier within the floor.
Selection sizes are as reported in ads, or given from store clerks.
Quantity of stock does not correlate directly to floor space. Kinokuniya,
Yaesu and Shosen tend to pack tight their floors while Junkudo and Maruzen
prefer leisurely layouts. The copy per title ratio is also different among
'Foreign book' means non-Japanese-language book and includes English books
published in Japan. Not included are Chinese classics (in the original,
with Japanese footnotes). These are widely available, found next by
Japanese classics in larger stores.
Store hours change often nowadays. Phone and check before leaving.
Traditionally, shopping districts and malls took Wednesdays off, but
nowadays they are open seven days a week. Some stores conduct inventory
checks once a month or so, usually on a Wednesday or a Tuesday. Bookstores
in and around campuses usually follow the school calendar. Business in
Japan rests for several days around New Year's Day and the 'Bon' festival of
mid-August, although the length is getting shorter recently.
A long recession is taking its toll. Failures are often announced suddenly.
The Japanese have lived with prosperity for so long; few know how to handle
bad news with grace. Reorganization continues in the financial sector:
beware of bank names when given directions.
Even with the best efforts to keep this list up-to-date, it often takes
months for news of a major opening or closure to reach the maintainer.
Feedback greatly appreciated.
Buying books in Japan
"Bookstores which sell Japanese books specialize in either new books or used
books. Very few handle both. Most Japanese bookstores are general
selections. A great diversity of titles is available even in small towns.
Condensing value into confined space is what the Japanese are best at. On
the other hand, stores too often lack character. They all look the same.
There are seldom bargains for new Japanese books. The price is the same
wherever you buy a title. Publishers determine retail price. Japanese law
allows this. Japanese custom enforces this. Deregulation has led to the
initiation of an "open price" market. This is still in the experimental
stage and such titles are rare. As of 2007, some chains are issuing point
cards which lead to small bargains when points accumulate.
Unsold new books are not discounted but returned to the publisher. The
cycle is fast and prints are small, which means chances of meeting an
interesting minor publication are small. Many Japanese booklovers make it a
rule to pick up and buy whatever book that may seem interesting, regardless
of price. In the past, some orders took weeks to process. Online inventory
systems have reduced the typical wait to about a week.
Prices of imported books are determined by the bookstore. In the past, the
price was often in dollars or pound and converted to yen at the counter at
an exchange rate about double the bank rate, but nowadays it is in yen.
Because imported books cannot be returned, clearance sales are periodically
As of March '08, imported paperbacks cost 900 yen and upwards. Sidney
Sheldon paperback novels are about 1300 yen. WAR AND PEACE (English
translation, Penguin) is 2400 yen. Time Magazine Asia Edition is available
at the stands at 840 yen.
One type of bookstore that gives discounts, albeit small, on new titles is
the college coop bookstore (Seikyou Shoten). To get a discount you become a
coop member by buying a small share in the concern, to be redeemed upon
retirement. It is worth checking whether the coop accepts outsiders as
members. Non-members can shop here, only with no discount.
Another way to get bargains with new Japanese books is to buy with
'toshoken' (book certificates). These are available at second-hand ticket
brokers (many around JR Kanda Station) at a discount of a few percent.
Bought from an ordinary bookstore, there is no bargain. Used book stores
rarely accept them.
Large used booksellers is a growing business in the major cities.
Traditionally centered around manga, their selections are coming near to
those of the new book dealers. Aside of public libraries, quite a few book
rental shops exist but they usually handle only manga comics. Another
service is the 'manga kissa' coffee shops with large comic libraries in
which the reader pays by the hour or by the title."
"Once I ordered a foreign book in Nihombashi Maruzen. The next week I saw
the same title in Kinokuniya Shinjuku Main. I resisted the temptation and
decided to wait, only to discover, three weeks later, in a message from
Maruzen that the book was out of stock." (This was before the internet.
With the major importer offering service at this level, it was easy for
online stores to make inroads.)
"In Japan apartments are small. That makes used books very appealing, you
can rotate them through and keep some open space in your rabbit hutch. I
figure why pay the full Kinokuniya price just to be ignored."
"First of all when buying new foreign books be sure to shop around. Foreign
books are going to be expensive anywhere in Tokyo but I have discovered huge
price differences between stores at times. Recently I saw the same book for
3000 yen at one store and 5000 yen at another. In general I've found
Kitazawa to be a relatively good deal compared to Maruzen/Tuttle/Kinokuniya.
But it varies a lot depending on the book, sometimes for little apparent
reason. The general rule I go by is that if something seems absurdly
expensive (rather than ridiculously expensive like everything else in this
country) you can probably get it cheaper elsewhere."
"If you're coming to Japan, bring some books to trade or share."
Publishing books in Japan
"Japan has an efficient machine to distribute books and magazines. It has
indeed contributed to keep the work force informed and inspired.
Here we examine the darker side of this business.
So diverse and complicated is the market today. Most bookstores are now
entirely dependent on wholesale distributors when it comes to title
selection. They order whatever, and only whatever, recommended, get a
margin for whatever is sold, send back a small order slip to replenish the
stock, and return whatever that is left over, at no penalty. The rate of
return rose to 41% in 1998, price based. (I'd like to know the statistics
for other nations.)
Stores are larger than ever, but they have come to resemble revolving doors
for profanity. Owners who have given up training apprentices rely on cheap
part-time labor. Customers are heard complaining of poor service. Writers
who consider themselves increasingly distanced from potential readers are
raising their voices. Like any other trade in Japan, publishing is confined
under a fine web of bureaucratic regulations, rules, seldom written, and
customs, never to be questioned. The target of criticism is retail price
control (saihan-kakaku iji seido) of publications.
When the government decided to reconsider this regulation in 2001, it
aroused stiff opposition: 'Fixed end price gives high profit margins to
popular titles, which is used to subsidize the less popular academic titles.
If the regulations were lifted, serious books would become prohibitively
expensive or go out of print. There would be less diversity and not only
consumers but also Japanese culture as a whole would suffer.'
Japanese newspapers too demanded that regulations stay intact: 'Deregulation
would mean higher prices for subscribers in rural villages.' Articles by
scholars defending the status quo filled pages. Even the 'Asahi Shimbun',
usually a crusader for economic and political reform, preached through their
editorial column that publishing is different: 'The press is a cultural
entity and thus outside economic logic.'
Although bright minds are coming up with new service concepts, the dominant
trend among retail bookstores is toward colossal store size. Traditional
stores are closing in the shadows of the new towers. The number of
bookstores nationwide went down from about 25,000 to below 20,000 in a
decade. Mammoth stores are not immune from Darwinian forces, either.
Shinshindo, a chain based in Osaka, established 1881, tried rapid expansion
and went bankrupt in 2000. Shinshindo Kobe, then half as large as all the
other stores in downtown Kobe combined, lasted only 4 years. By 2007,
bookshops only 2 years in business were closing.
Behind stores growing to dinosaur-size is a market becoming more and more
fragmented. Owners of large stores speak with pride that they are
fulfilling the needs of the modern consumer. On the other end of the market
stream, publishers are becoming picky as print units get smaller. They
don't want to send a copy to a tiny store which is likely to return it.
Often the initial print is too small to cover all stores. Regional
middleweights are putting on mass in a hurry from fear of being ignored.
Large inventory is not a concern for a bookstore if it can be refreshed at
little cost, especially so, when it sits atop cheap real estate. Big stores
let cash registers report what items are moving. They have little incentive
to hire the librarian type. Shoplifting is a greater threat to the bottom
line. Here too, electronic gear is the preferred remedy for labor costs
must be kept low.
Land is cheap along major roads on the outskirts of cities. Mall owners
offer rent discounts to bookstores, for they generate visits.
Unlike Japanese books, foreign books cannot be returned to the publisher,
and thus carry a risk. This risk is very high for computer texts, which get
outdated rapidly. Quite many stores which boast size hold but a small stock
of foreign books. One can measure a store's attitude toward inventory
management by examining whether or not classic bestsellers, such as GONE
WITH THE WIND, THE ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES and THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA
are present in the foreign section.
Critics say the 'high profits' which come from selling popular titles are
too often spent on flashy advertising, imitations and remakes of past hits,
all which do nothing but confuse consumers. The rotation is now so fast
that it works against good new books which have to be digested by patient
readers before word spreads out." [03/08]
An honest American businessman with a good product that failed to break the
barriers has advice for those who wish to publish a book in Japan. Read the
following online essay: 'Japan, A Country on Planet Earth: Tokyo Central'.
The author, Paul Abramson, writes that he wants people to learn from his
experience; he doesn't want mistakes repeated.
"Many bookstores wish to do all their buying through distributors. Such
stores do not welcome direct approaches by publishers. Complain that your
title is out of stock on their shelves and the store manager will instruct
you to go to the distributor and tell them to disperse more copies."
Other sources and reference material:
This web-site is among the most detailed online lists of bookstores in Japan
in any language, including Japanese. No foreign-language books listing
bookstores in Japan are known to exist.
The Antiquarian Booksellers Association of Japan (http://www.abaj.gr.jp/)
Intercontinental Marketing Corp. (2F Centre Bldg. 1-14-13 Iriya, Taito-ku,
Tokyo 110_0013; http://imcbook.net/) "Distributor of foreign
publications. Page has many useful links. Also see their Japan
Publication Guide Service (http://jpgsonline.com/) for publications
Japanese-language web sites:
Antiquarian bookstores of Japan (http://www.kosho.or.jp/) "Search engine
available. You can look for a title or locate a store."
"Super Genji") "Old bookstore web site. Interesting is the survey
by the students of Sophia University about college students and used
Used bookstores of Kanda (http://jimbou.info/) English directory gone.
Most text in Japanese (even for foreign booksellers).
Used bookstores of Yokohama (http://www.pat.hi-ho.ne.jp/y-hirano/)
Used bookstores of Kyoto (http://www.kyoto-kosho.jp/)
Japan Association of International Publications
(http://www.jaip.gr.jp/jaip/index.html) Stores, distributors and
Bookstore guide (http://www.bookstore-guide.net/) 17,000+ stores listed.
Bookstore list (http://www.shoten.co.jp/) From the trade association.
Publishing links (http://www.hir-net.com/link/shop/book.html) Libraries,
bookstores, publishers, writer & copyright associations.
Japanese book search engine (http://www.books.or.jp/)
NTT online directory (http://itp.ne.jp/) Japanese only. English version
cancelled September 2010.
TOKYO BOOK MAP 2005-2006 (TOKYO BOOK MAP Henshuu Iinkai, 2005.3, ISBN
4-915999-14-9, 800 yen tax included;) "Handy guide which was
updated every other year or so. Floor guides of 18 major
bookstores, maps of 8 districts, guides to 3 major Tokyo libraries
(National Diet (detailed), Metropolitan Central (Hiro-o),
Metropolitan Hibiya), lists of principal stores and public libraries
within 23 wards of Tokyo. 251 specialty stores and 204 specialty
libraries listed. Total 500,000 copies printed. The 2005-6 edition
was the last." 366 pages
KANSAI BOOK MAP (KANSAI BOOK MAP Henshuu Iinkai, Sogensha, 2001.6.20,
ISBN 4-422-25026-4, 880 yen +tax;) "Kansai version of TOKYO BOOK
MAP. 145 bookstores, 110 libraries of Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe area."
ZENKOKU FURUHON-YA CHIZU 2000 (NATIONWIDE OLD BOOKSELLER MAP, Nihon Kosho
Tsuushin-sha, 1999.5.15, ISBN 4-88914-007-7, 2000 yen +tax)
"Information on 2700 used & antiquarian bookstores around Japan.
Used to be updated frequently, but the 2000 edition is the last
we've seen." 480 pages
MANGA MAPPU '97-'98 (MANGA MAP, Manga Tankentai, Natsume Shobo,
1997.9.25, ISBN 4-931391-30-3, 1200 yen +tax) "Information on
manga bookstores of Tokyo, Osaka and Aichi areas." 262 pages
TOKYO KOSHOTEN GRAFFITI (GRAFFITI: USED BOOKSTORES OF TOKYO, Isao Ikegaya,
Tokyo Shoseki, 1996.11.7, ISBN 4-487-75473-9, 1456 yen +tax) "A
book famed for its unique concept and artistic quality. Fine
sketches of the shelves of 71 stores and 3 seasonal markets, and
some light essays." 167 pages
SANTO KOSHOTEN GRAFFITI (GRAFFITI: USED BOOKSTORES OF THREE (KANSAI) CITIES,
Isao Ikegaya, Tokyo Shoseki, 1998.8.3, ISBN 4-487-79318-1, 1600
yen +tax) "Beautiful interior illustrations of 33 used bookstores
of Kyoto, 24 stores of Osaka, 15 of Kobe." 167 pages
RETTO SHOTEN CHIZU: GEKISENCHI WO YUKU (BOOKSTORE MAP OF THE ISLES: VISITING
THE MARKET BATTLEGROUNDS, SHINBUNKA editorial office, Yuyu
publishing, Co. 1998.11.25, 2000 yen +tax) "Visits 71 cities and
shopping districts which see stiff competition between bookstores.
Articles contain some numbers on population, floor-space, opening
dates and occasionally daily sale figures. Store owners and
managers interviewed. Sees bookstores from a commercial angle. But
no words from local customers. SHINBUNKA is the trade journal of
INTERNET DE BUNKEN TANSAKU (SEARCHING DOCUMENTS WITH THE INTERNET, Jissen
Women's Univ. Library http://www.jissen.ac.jp/library/frame/, Nihon
Toshokan Kyoukai, 2000.9, ISBN 4-8204-0021-5) "Research of
internet catalogs and archives of books, magazine & newspaper
articles. Collection size and search facilities of online
bookstores and libraries compared." 187 pages
SHUPPAN NENKAN (PUBLISHING YEARBOOK, Editorial Office of SHUPPAN NENKAN,
Shuppan News k.k. ISBN 4-7852-0104-5) "Volume 1: Statistics,
address lists. 579+363 pages. Volume 2: List of publications,
index. 2612 pages."
DARE GA HON WO KOROSU NOKA (WHO KILLS THE BOOK?, Shin'ichi Sano,
President-sha, ISBN 4-8334-1716-2, 2001.2.15) "Critical
examination of what the author, a prominent non-fiction writer,
calls the 'publishing crisis'. Many store owners, distributors,
local publishers, editors and librarians interviewed in length."
Glossary of Japanese publishing terms
Akahon: 'Red book'. (1) Initially, a book with a colorful cover, to attract
infant eyes. In turn, childish writing fancily bound. (2)
First-aid book. Household remedy volume. (3) Collection of
university entrance examination problems. One for each school,
Akutagawa-shou: Most important literary prize in Japan. Awarded to new
Anchoko: "Made easy" style study aids (slang). Complete translations of
high-school classic textbooks, etc. that strict teachers frown upon.
Bakuro-bon: Exposure book (slang).
Banzuke: Ranking list. Such lists are popular in Japan. The most important
is the Sumo Banzuke.
Bungou: Great novelist.
Bunko-bon: Hand book. 'Bunko' means bookcase.
Butten: Buddhist scripture.
Chokusen: Collected or edited by imperial doctrine.
Dou: (The 'do' in the name of many bookstores.) Hall, auditorium. (Buddhist
temples have study halls and libraries.)
Doujinshi: A minor publication circulated among those who share an interest.
Eiin: Facsimile reproduction.
Eiken: Short for 'Eigo Kentei'. English proficiency test. Usually the
STEP: Standard Test of English Proficiency. Bookstores handle
various exam applications and are active in their promotion.
ELT: English Language Teaching.
Ero-hon: Carnal print (slang). 'Waihon' is archaic.
Fudoki: Study of local climate, culture, folklore. "The" Fudoki completed
in 713. Only the Izumo Book remains in whole today. (short 'u')
Furuhon: Used book.
Gunki: Military chronicle. Often classic.
Hakkin: Publication prohibited. Short for 'hakkou-kinshi'.
Hakusho: White book. Government periodicals are sold at designated stores.
Hirazumi: Stacking books face up for display (trade jargon).
Hisshou-bon: 'Victory guaranteed'. Bullish pachinko or derby guides.
Hon'ya: Bookstore. More colloquial than 'shoten'. The Chinese character
for 'book' is written "tree with a mark near the stem" and means
also 'trunk', 'main', 'real'. 'Honten' means 'main store' of any
Jikokuhyou: Timetable. Indeed there is an official 'Jikokuhyou Kentei'.
Junbungaku: 'Pure' literature. Appreciated by only a small circle of
Kaeriten: 'Goto' marks on Chinese text which the Japanese use to invert word
order. (Japanese is subject-object-verb while Chinese is
subject-verb-object.) Japanese students learn this system, called
kundoku, instead of the underlying Chinese language. Kanseki are read
in a unique classic style of Japanese.
Kaizokuban: Pirated edition.
Kanseki: Chinese book. Modern Chinese books usually not included.
Kawaraban: News bulletin. Flyers sold during the Tokugawa Era and the press
which printed them. Often wood-block. Many a modern grass-roots
circle newsletter borrows the term.
Kibyoushi: 'Yellow Covers'. Highly illustrated publication: part fiction,
part cultural reportage. Widely enjoyed in the late 1700s.
Kikou-sho: Rare book.
Kisho: Bizarre book.
Kojiki: 'Book of Old Tales'. Collection of myths. Oldest Japanese book.
Kokkeibon: Classic humorous book.
Kosho: Old book. Some antiquarian booksellers insist that this is different
Kouryakubon: 'Attack book'. Usually a solution guide for video games.
Manga: Cartoon, comic.
Man'youshuu: Oldest poem collection in Japan. Verses from all corners of
Nara Era society found.
Monogatari: Tale. "The" Monogatari: 'Tale of Genji'.
Mukku: A new genre that falls between book and magazine.
Naoki-shou: Literature prize of equal prestige as the Akutagawa, awarded to
Rubi: Small kana pronunciation marks beside kanji (furigana). Ruby-point
was the usual size.
Sankousho: Study aids for students. Also 'Gakusan', short for
Sanmon-shousetsu: Three-pence novel. Cheap literature.
Seiten: Holy scripture.
Senki: Military chronicle. Modern term for 'gunki'.
Senmon-sho: Specialty book.
Senmon-shoten: Specialized bookstore.
Sharebon: Romance in the adult playgrounds. Popular in the later 1700s.
Shijuu-hatte: 'Forty-eight hands'. Sumo techniques. Often: "all the tricks
of the trade revealed".
Shinansho: Guide book. 'Shinan' means 'point south' thus 'compass'.
Shinkan: New book.
Shinkoshoten: Used bookstore selling new (young) used books.
Shinsho: Collection of standard size. Usually academic.
Shohan: First printing.
Shobou: Bookstore. 'Bou' means 'chamber'.
Sougou-shoten: General bookstore.
Soushi: In the Heian Period, a bound book (opposed to a scroll) or a book in
Japanese kana. Later, a novel with pictures.
Suiri-shousetsu: Detective mystery.
Tachiyomi: Reading without buying. Traditionally not welcome; recently more
and more tolerated. Many bookstores provide tables and chairs, a
custom started by Junkudo.
Tane-bon: Original plot.
Tehon: Originally, calligraphy textbook. Now, any model, especially ideal
performances by instructors.
Tondemo-bon: Preposterous book (recent slang).
Toranomaki: Secret doctrines. Originally those of military strategy.
Literally 'scroll of the tiger' (from the name of an old Chinese
Toritsugi: Distributor. These middlemen, not bookstores, decide what
bookstores should stock in Japan.
Toshoken: Book certificate. Ideal gift for schoolchildren.
Ukiyoe: High quality wood-block print from the Edo Period. 'Image from the
Ukiyo-zoushi: Novel of life in the 'unstable' social classes. Popular in
Kyoto and Osaka around 1680-1760.
Wahon: Book made of Japanese paper and bound by traditional Japanese
Washo: Japanese book.
Yomiuri: The selling of kawaraban along with a distinct pitch. Today the
name of Japan's most popular daily newspaper.
Yousho: Foreign book. A book from Europe or America, to be accurate.
However, modern Chinese/Korean literature is sold in yousho
Yunyuu-sho: Imported book.
Zenshuu: Complete works.
Zeppan: Out of print.
Zokki-bon: Books sold by cash-starved publishers through unofficial routes
(trade jargon). The polite word is 'tokka-bon'.
Thanks to Wayne Lui (firstname.lastname@example.org)] and Steven Fossoy for
Thanks to Project GNU and Project Linux for providing the free software used
to edit articles and maintain the database.
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