Old Paper and Lost Loves: Used Books in Tokyo
By Cynthia Popper
On April 26, 2014
Guilty pleasure confession #387: I love the pen-and-paper culture of Japan. The endless supply of cute notebooks and agendas, the shops that specialize in fancy pens and handmade papers that would die in many Western countries, thrive here.
Yes, the digital age makes life much easier, but for those of us with a Luddite edge, writing and reading on paper is still a beloved pastime. So imagine my glee when I stumbled across a rare sight: a used English-language bookstore in Tokyo. Say konnichiwa to Good Day Books in Gotanda.
A quiet, smart space where you can flip through well-worn volumes and hang out for a while and find your next literary love.
To be clear, you can absolutely buy English books pretty easily. There’s BookOff, and Kinokuniya, and of course, Amazon JP. But a used bookshop is different. A quiet, smart space where you can flip through well-worn volumes and hang out for a while and find your next literary love. Maybe chat with the owner about Whitman, or Murakami, or the upcoming political lecture on the calendar. For me, it’s a comforting reminder of home, and finding it here in Tokyo makes the discovery especially endearing.
Owners Steve Kott and Taeko Kobayashi have been running the shop for over twenty years. “She started it. It’s her shop, I’m just here.” Steve declared. But both he and Taeko have shared a long love for literature, having bookshop dates over twenty years ago at spots well known by book lovers in the States, like Green Apple Books in San Francisco.
We chatted about the state of print culture and publishing as a whole, and agreed that because of Japan’s lean toward paper, bookshops here actually have a fighting chance, if readers continue to be willing to support them
Good Day relocated to Gotanda about two years ago to a third-floor space, just a few minutes from the JR Station. (Note: don’t let the love hotels in the area dissuade you. It’s still a tame area, though Steve claims, “the guys hanging out in around here… aren’t necessarily looking for books.”).
The shop itself is small, but the selection is nicely curated. Loads of language texts, NYT bestsellers, classics, Japanese history, detective fiction, all in great condition and at super reasonable prices. I picked up a nearly new copy of ZEN AND THE ART OF MOTORCYCLE MAINTENCE for 500 yen (a steal). And if you still want to buy local but can’t make it to the shop—you can order titles online through their site.
Good Day also offers author talks, literary salons and book discussions for both non-native and native English speakers. The listing of dates and topics is updated regularly. Accessible, practical, and a wonderful little find for Tokyo lit buffs. Go now.
Good Day Books
3rd Floor Tōkai Building 2-4-2 Nishi Gotanda, Shinagawa-ku 141-0031
HOURS: Monday – Saturday 11:00 – 20:00; Sunday and Holidays 11:00 – 18:00