Book ShopsJimbocho is the largest secondhand book shopping district in Japan. It's the place to go for cheap used books, unusual books and rare collectors editions. Most of the books sold in the area are Japanese but several shops specialize in foreign books (mostly English).
The Jimbocho area is home to publishing houses and literary agents. It's also home to the prestigious Literature Preservation Society and Tokyo Book Binding Club.
Fires, Authors and LiberalsIn 1913, the entire Jimbocho area burned to the ground in a great fire that destroyed 4000 buildings and threatened the Imperial Palace (burning a pine forest on the palace grounds).
In the wake of the fire, a university professor started a small publishing company in the area. The company grew to become Iwanami Shoten (one of Japan's largest publishers). Other publishing houses opened up offices in the area followed by bookstores. Cafes sprung up everywhere — the area became a favorite hangout of authors (and aspiring authors).
By the 1920s, Jimbocho had a reputation as a hotbed of liberal intellectuals. Leading up to WWII, Japan's secret police (Kempeitai) kept a close watch on the area.
Today, Jimbocho still attracts authors and intellectuals who spend hours reading or debating in the area's many appealing cafes.
Sports ShopsJimbocho is also known as one of Japan's largest sports shopping neighborhoods. There are around 50 sports shops in the area — many specializing in snowboard and ski gear.
Sports shops in the vicinity are extremely competitive with each other (particularly when it comes to snowboard gear). It's the cheapest place in Japan to buy snowboarding equipment.
B-Class GourmetJimbocho is packed with small cheap eateries that target the area's budget shoppers and students. The neighborhood attracts B-Class Gourmets who are willing to stand in line for an hour for a perfect bowl of ramen.
University TownJimbocho is within walking distance of numerous Japanese universities including Meiji University, Hosei University, Toyo Gakuen University, Nihon University, Senshu University, Kyouritsu Women's University, Juntendo University and Chuo University.
MapJimbocho is in the center of Tokyo northeast of the Imperial Palace.
The book and sports shops of Jimbocho are centered around Yasukuni-dori (Yasukuni street).
Jimbocho is part of a much larger shopping district that extends to Akihabara to the east and Ochanomizu to the north. Akihabara is known for electronics and otaku related shopping. Ochanomizu is filled with musical instrument shops.