Bookworm's Paradise

Small is good

There's no shortage of big bookstores in Tokyo. There is, of course, the Kinokuniya Books in Shinjuku, as well as Junkudo, and Parco Books, as well as the Aoyama Book Store. All of these stores have their merits, but they carry only new books.

But just like there is something important you lose when you do all of your grocery shopping in a major supermarket that gets lost in these big stores. It is even more so if you get all of your books via Amazon or somewhere else online. These bookstores pride themselves on their selections, but I find that it is more interesting to find something among items already selected by someone who has a strong interest in something special.

Nishi Ogikubo is a paradise for the bookworm. Most of the bookstores and cafes are veritable holes in the wall - well traveled holes.

The hand drawn Nishiogi used bookstore map is from April 2013. It is drawn by Hiroko Nishimura, and includes 10 used bookstores, 10 cafes, and at least 20 other venues that have somewhat related themes, including antiques. (A store I reviewed previously, nombre, is on the map, too.)

Especially Specialties

Many of the bookstores in the area have very distinctive tastes. Nasunaya, pictured above on the left, specializes in art books, for one, and history.

Niwatori Bunko, on the right, is a bookstore with a wide and distinctive collection of picture books. The books include a fairly good selection of books in English, including some from the 1950s and 60s. I'm particularly fond of Dr. Seuss books as well as the Peanuts books that is prominently celebrated in the poster on the front window.

Other specialty subjects covered extensively by Nishiogi bookstores include one that features travel guidebooks and maps, literature and mystery novels, a Christian bookstore, and a manga shop.

Monga Books

One bookstore that is located very much off the commonly traveled paths is Monga Books. It is around 1km away from the station itself, along Ome Kaido. It is actually closer to a part of that main road which is known as "Automobile (dealership) Drive."

Monga Books is a rather recent addition to the used bookstore circuit, celebrating its two year anniversary in September 2014. And, while it maintains a very good collection of literature and poetry, the bookstore is really a collection of many tastes.

Among the items that are extremely interesting are a pile of movie programs. In Japan, new releases (as well as some revivals) always publish a program, that provides a plethora of information about the movie, its characters, actors, director, and the "making of" the movie. Of course, there are collectors, as well as leftovers from movies that flop. The collection here is very eclectic.

The CDs sold in Monga Books are a treat, too. The CDs come from three different sources, who sell their music through the store. All three are collectors who also sell their music at other venues. One, in particular, apparently writes a music oriented blog, too. The reseller I particularly like has a fancy for old British rock - including punk, ska, and two-tone, lounge music - especially of the Irma/Martin Denny/Easy Tempo variety, and neo-Brazilian chill. Where else might one find Manfred Mann, Bob Dylan, the Association, the Specials, Elvis Costello, and Esquivel in the same box?

Once you find a book that is perfect, hop into one of the 20 or so cafes that dot the Nishiogi landscape. If you're like me, you are sure to find yourself slipping either in time or in space - or both! Don't waste your time, just take the slow road and enjoy the stroll.

by mikekato