After the first (fast) forty eight hours in Tokyo, my jet lag had receded to something resembling an old friend, a gentle reminder at odd times throughout the day. Why was I craving a cup of coffee at midnight? Or dinner at six a.m.? Blame it on the jet lag. But I was quickly getting into a daily routine, which helps even out the ups-and-downs.
On Friday, it seemed like a good idea to head out to the suburb of Mitaka, a 30 minute train ride from Shinjuku Station. Some of you may be familiar with Mitaka: the Studio Ghibli Museum is located in this neighborhood. Having visited the Ghibli Museum on a previous trip (it’s amazing), this time I was on the prowl for stationery.
After reading about Yamada Stationery in one of those swoon-inducing Japanese office supply mags, I knew I had to see it for myself. And I wasn’t disappointed. It was every bit as delightful as I had hoped:
Entering through a small café, I found myself standing in the middle of the store, surrounded by wooden tables and shelves. Vintage glassine envelopes, unusual washi tapes, and sheets of airmail stickers were displayed in old racks and printer’s trays. Poking around in each tray and drawer yielded another discovery. I thought I’d faint, I was so happy.
It was hard, prying myself away from such a heavenly spot. But I had my eye on another store, just a fast train stop away: 36 Sublo.
Unfortunately, the shop staff wouldn’t allow a photo of the inside of their space. But you’ll just have to trust me when I say that it was another jewel-sized store, filled with a wonderous assortment of items I’d never seen before: German drafting supplies, letterpress greeting cards (there’s a renaissance of letterpress happening in Japan right now), glass jars filled with things like paper clips or erasers.
More than three people in the space? Things get pretty crowded. I shopped a little bit more (they had a few things that Yamada had, for less money), then made my purchases. Walking back to the train station, it was time to head to Jinbōchō – Tokyo’s famous “used book town”.
So. There’s something to keep in mind here, when you visit this particular neighborhood: well over a hundred used and new bookstores are at your disposal. That may not seem particularly daunting, but I’m here to tell you: that’s a lot of books. Most stores deal in primarily Japanese language books (with a few foreign language stores thrown into the mix). Visiting Jinbōchō is easily an all-day undertaking, should you want to wander and discover.
I did find a few treasures (including a “free box” of books on the sidewalk) here and there. Mainly, the fun was in roaming the side streets and bookstalls, browsing. I was reminded that used bookstores share similarities, no matter where one is in the world: the smell of old paper, a gentle whisper of turning pages, the weight and feel of a volume as you remove it from the shelf.
Time passed quickly in this neighborhood where, inside each bookstore, it feels as if time is standing still. My stomach (or was it the jet lag?) was telling me that it was time to eat, rest up a little bit for the evening to come.
I made my way back to Shinjuku, already planning tomorrow’s rambles.