Near Chiyoda-Ku is the Jinbocho Book Town, so called because its streets are a maze of used and new bookstores, mostly in Japanese, but a little smattering of English here and there. They seem to be mostly used bookshops, smaller ones with shelves to the ceilings, but there are a number of larger, multi-floor, new bookstores, some with cafes or selling stationery or gifts. Several of the smaller bookshops, not unlike many (most?) independent specialty shops in Japan, have signs indicating no photos, so these are just a tiny sample of the ones that do allow photos.

It is well worth a breezy, dreamy afternoon of strolling and wandering in and out of bookshops, even if you don’t speak any Japanese. Just imagine it! Pick up a book here or there, stop by at a cafe to read a bit before moving onto the next one. If you do a little research ahead of time, there are a few specialty bookshops, like manga or that have a selection of English language books, for you to look out for based on your interests. The area is quite large so you could easily spend your day there and see only a small part of it.

And books outside! I don’t think there was a day that’s gone by I didn’t wish I spoke or read Japanese at least several times over, but visiting this area—what I wouldn’t give to read even the titles on some of these books.

Many of the bookstores offered presumably sets of books that are presumably second hand, collected volumes that are sort of like encyclopedia sets, sometimes in 4-5 volumes, sometimes as many as 20. I can’t even imagine the libraries some of these sets come from, or any of these books for that matter.

You can get both an English or a Japanese map of the area, listing out bookshops and other pertinent places. With the two kids, we only went into a handful of shops, although we walked past dozens admiringly.

We did some very limited research ahead of time, and made sure to visit Kitazawa, one of the seemingly few English language bookshops in Tokyo—with second hand books to boot. It’s a third-generation run bookshop that’s been around since 1902—what an incredible history.

Kitazawa is located on the second floor of the building, and you enter through a different bookshop on the ground floor, Book House Cafe, going up the internal stairs. Kitazawa offers mostly second hand and rare books, like early editions, with a small selection of used or discount children’s books.

You enter in through the first floor bookshop, Book House.


Back in Toronto, we visit the library maybe one or twice a week. We’ve been in a bit of withdrawal, so this was a great break from all the traveling to get our fill.

Kitazawa is beautiful, with shelves of old editions of books, including a wall of art history books. They had a small basket of inexpensive children’s books, and we picked out a few readers for Caleb.

The ground floor Book House is filled with illustrated children’s books as well as a few toys, games and other children’s printed materials.

We recognized a few family favourites, like Rosie’s Walk, and it was fun to follow along in Japanese.

While the selection from Book House was almost completely in Japanese, I was delighted to stumble across these two little books translated from the Japanese into English, small but filled with stories from Japan, with both colour and black and white illustrations—perfect for keeping in a bag for unexpected time to kill in the car, or to read during a snack break at the park or beach.


What an incredible and unique part of Tokyo, this entire book district. It’s located close to several Tokyo universities, and so the area has continued to cultivate an aura of reading and learning and studying that has sprouted up so many independent bookshops. We spent an afternoon there, and I feel like if we were spending more time in Japan, I might make more than just one trip.

After a long day, we stopped at McDonalds for ice cream. Nothing like the familiarity of the Golden Arches.

It’s been long days for these kiddos. We’ve had our share of hostile negotiations and meltdowns and waking up cranky from uncomfortable stroller naps, and I continue my demoralizing internal debates about robbing these kids of proper educational vacations touring Europe or proper relaxing vacations at the beach instead of slogging through Asian countries in summer heat looking at stationery shops and bookshops and other shops.

But we’re in Japan, and what a gift. It’s been a learning curve and a balance for us, as we try and savour the moment along with catching the train to make it to the next meeting, leaving enough room for spontaneity and rest along with adventure.

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July 13, 2019 — wonderpens



Cecily said:

Ah, I should have expected such a carefully considered response. I agree with what you’re saying, that a knowledge of historical places and events from Europe would benefit your two in this current school system. What I hope we eventually move to, is a system that considers world events more holistically, with many other players and points of view. I don’t know if this will happen in time for your children’s time in the system. However, I don’t doubt that the more you and Jon can expose them to different parts of the world and different ways of living, the more curious and educated they will be. Have a wonderful rest of your trip!!


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Anonymous said:

Yes, what an incredible area! If only something like this existed in every major city of the world.


Anonymous said:

Thanks so much for reading! We are having a blast, if there are a few things falling through the cracks! :)

The answer: not enough.


Anonymous said:

What an adventure, for sure. We are having so much fun, and I can only hope the kids are also! :)

Thanks for reading, as always.


Luciana said:

I have spent a lovely afternoon in Jinbocho last year. Totally worth it.
Thanks for sharing.


Cecily said:

I enjoy so much seeing your slice of life and the wonderful adventures you bring your children on. I’m sure this is instilling in them an appetite for adventure and travel!

I do hope though, that you realise that an trip through Asia is also extremely educational. I’m not sure how to interpret your comment about a “proper educational visit touring Europe” because how could one not learn while touring a region with arguably equal history and culture, and a unique outlook to living? Much of our educational system here in Canada is Euro-centric, and understandably so, but there is plenty to learn outside of that system too.


Anonymous said:

Oh, Cecily, you are (of course) absolutely right about everything you’re saying about Asia and Asian history and all of its unique cultures and stories and architecture and ways of doing things. Doubly so in that it’s an opportunity for our children to learn, as we learn, more intimately about our business and the relationships we have with the vendors we’re lucky enough to work with.

It was a bit tongue in cheek—-perhaps too much so, as I’m always learning—-for the blog, in that I value and am learning to value so much of my own heritage and culture, being Chinese, and very, very much want my children to value this as well, but it’s arguably, in Canada, a much stronger advantage in our education system to learn about European countries and their histories. So often in Grade 10 history class we learn about WWII in Europe, and to have gone to Poland or Germany or France and to have seen some of this firsthand would be a tremendously rich experience for a child to bring back to his classroom, but perhaps we don’t get a chance to look at how Asian countries fared and the experiences of the Chinese or Japanese in the same war. We learn about immigration patterns in geography class, but sometimes that has to do with immigration from Europe to North American, rather than, say, immigration from China into Hong Kong. Of course we do live in Canada, and our history is very much tied to that of the UK and Europe and the United States. That’s all to say, though, that while I couldn’t agree with you more, that a trip to Asia has so much to offer, in our great and amazing country that I couldn’t be more thankful to live in, there are sometimes more traditional educational opportunities that could, in relatively meaningful ways, influence a child’s experience through the Canadian education system, for better or worse.

Thank you for reading, as always. I always so appreciate your support and your thoughts.


Nina said:

Thank you for this gift!
Your kids will see it that way too, don’t worry, just enjoy.

Your stunning photos inspired me to book a flight. One thousand thank yous for sharing this fascinating trip…

Allyson Scott

Allyson Scott said:

It is amazing that you are managing to do all these, things, go all these places, work, look after kids, maintain a sense of humour…AND share your experiences on the blog! Love reading about what you’re doing. The question remains, how many rolls of washi tape do actually fit in a suitcase?

Joy Dale

Joy Dale said:

What an adventure for your family! You mustn’t question, this is an amazing experience for both the babies. I love hearing about your trip too.



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