Possibly the world’s most beautiful paper shop, a quirky hut café, stylish hole-in-the-wall coffeeshops and, of course, countless stores selling antique books, posters and vintage woodblock prints make this area a perfect destination for an afternoon of going back in time.
Most stores in Jimbocho don’t open until 11am, so start your day first with an artisanal coffee from GLITCH COFFEE & ROASTERS, a small, but popular coffeeshop just south of Jimbocho where the baristas roast coffee beans in store, filling the shop with an irresistible aroma of coffee. After quenching your caffeine cravings, head to the center of Jimbocho, a quaint neighborhood based around a large main street and several small side streets which are lined with vintage bookstores, print shops, small galleries and cafés.
Bohemian’s Guild, just around the corner, is quite a bit smaller than Komiyama, but also has a great selection of art and design related vintage books on offer, featuring many well-known Japanese and non-Japanese artists.
Over at Ohya Shobo, you will find yourself transported back in time, while browsing through its illustrated books and ancient maps of Japan from the Edo period. Ohya Shobo is also a great place to pick up an original woodblock print (ukiyo-e) from its stack of works by slightly less famous artists, or, you might want to opt for a copy of one of the world-renown works of Hokusai, Hiroshige, Eisen and others.
Across the street at Yamada Shoten, make your way up to the second and third floors where you will discover a small, free gallery space showcasing a wonderful selection of woodblock prints from the Edo period along with more recent works of printed art. If you are in for a serious art buy, this is also your chance to pick up an original woodblock print for your art collection. Price start from a few hundred US dollars.
With its razor-sharp triangular steel façade and an eye-catching design, Jimbocho Theatre stands in stark contrast to its slightly dated surroundings. Located in a small side street of Jimbocho, it’s easy to miss this architectural gem, which houses a cinema, theatre and community art space.
Further down the street enter TAKEO’s Tokyo flagship store, where you will find yourself overwhelmed by the selection of approx. 7000 papers on display. TAKEO is not only legendary for its wonderful selection of paper, but even more so for its stunning shop design, where papers are arranged in a rainbow of colors, making it almost impossible not to pick up a few sheets during your visit.
After filling your mind with inspiration for your next paper-based project, head north to SUPER LABO, a sleek store-meets-gallery of one of Japan’s most exciting independent photo book publishers, which distributes works by some of the photography world’s biggest names as well as up-and-coming artists.
After recharging your batteries, make your way back towards Jimbocho’s main street to explore three more stores. Anegawa Bookstore Nyankodo is a legend among Jimbocho’s bookstores, and not for its history, but because it might just be Tokyo’s only bookstore dedicated exclusively to books and goods featuring cats.
Across the street at Vintage Jimbocho, delve into the world of colorful retro posters, magazines and panflets of films, TV dramas, idol groups, music bands and more from various periods of the last century. Whether its an original Star Wars Episode 5 poster, or a tacky magazine featuring your favorite 90s boy group - Vintage Jimbocho will not disappoint.
Finally, for your last stop head to Kitazawa Book Store, at the west end of Jimbocho, which can be reached by climbing the vintage staircase inside Book House Cafe. Founded in 1902 with the aim of bringing international books to Jimbocho, Kitazawa Book Store still carries one of the area’s best selection of rare English literature and philosophy books which are housed in antique European display cases, making you forget - just for a moment - that you are still in the middle of Tokyo.
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