Tokyo is full of quirky small neighborhoods, and Jinbocho is one of those town areas that’s full of personality. Located in Chiyoda city, Jinbocho is known as a bookworm heaven, hosting streets of used bookstores and publishing houses. There are also several universities nearby that contribute to its bookish atmosphere, with Meiji University and Hosei University being two most famous of them. During the day, university students flood the streets whiling their time away in cafes and curry shops (and, of course, the bookstores), giving the streets a youthful energy.
One of the first publishing houses in Jinbocho is Iwanami Shoten, which started as a simple bookstore by Professor Shigeo Iwanami. Students started to patron the streets close to their schools, and bookstores and café businesses bloomed.
Today, the used bookstores have somewhat evolved compared to the past. Rather than just stocking used books of general topics, the bookstores in Jinbocho have become more specialized. You may find bookstores that only stock Chinese language books, for example, or bookstores that only sell art books. It is in these niche stores where serious hobbyists are most likely to find rare or unusual books to add to their collections.
Other than used books, there are also shops that sell niche collectors’ items, such as retro gravure idol shops. Gravure idols are the Japanese equivalent of the pinup girls. Shops stock posters, collector books and videos (in both nostalgic VHS and the newer DVD) of gravure idols from the past, some of whom you can recognise as nowadays famous actresses, still young an struggling back then.
After a day of browsing these bookstores, people would take a break at one of the cafes that dot the streets. You can find modern internet cafes for those who are trying to do some work away from the office and their homes, and you can also find the more old fashioned establishments, the jun-kissatens (Japanese coffee shops) that serve coffee and tea to their old customers who may have been frequenting the shops since university days.