For those staying in Tokyo for more than a passing visit it is essential to know where to go to get your hands on a good book to either while away one’s free-time or aid your pursuit of higher learning, and Yaesu and Maruzen are two of the best and lie within walking distance of each other.
Yaesu Book Center is located near Tokyo station, or similarly a short walk down Sotobori Avenue from Ginza Station, and is a huge eight storey affair with the foreign language books situated on the eighth floor. Somewhat annoyingly, the elevator’s only go up to the fourth floor so a bit of a trudge up the last few flights of stairs is involved. At the top of the stairs the floor splits into two with the foreign language books taking up the right side. A selection of foreign magazines like Playboy, Forbes, Dazed and Confused, and National Geographic can be found, as well as art books, classic and contemporary literature, and Japanese language learning materials. However, Yaesu’s real strength is the selection of books on academic subjects such as philosophy, science, politics, economics, IT, and business which is truly comprehensive and means Yaesu should be your first port of call for non-fiction / academic material. In addition there is a small but robust section dedicated to English translations of Japanese writers (Edogawa Rampo, Kobo Abe, Kenzaburo Oe etc.) for those that wish to explore the country’s unique and prestigious literary culture.
Maruzen is a large department store located just a little bit further North near Tokyo station’s Marunouchi exit (or equally, and less confusingly, Otemachi station) and the foreign language section is located on the fourth floor and fully accessible via the escalators so getting to it certainly burns less calories than at Yaesu! Also different to Yaesu, the whole floor has been allocated to foreign language books except for a small café which greets you at the top of the elevator. Maruzen’s range of non-fiction is broadly similar to Yaesu’s with books on science, politics, history, and design etc. but in comparison with Yaesu, the selection of individual titles seems considerably smaller. However, Maruzen more than compensates for this with a greater amount of magazine titles, a formidable selection of poetry, and a much better range and contemporary literature (I was very satisfied when I came away with a copy of Phillip K. Dick’s ‘Valis’). In addition, Maruzen also has a much bigger language learning section where, in addition to Japanese language learning materials, books on French, German, Italian, Arabic, Chinese, Korean etc. can be purchased.
So all told, the selections at the two bookstores complement each other very well and the proximity of the two stores means should you draw a blank in one, a short walk later there is every possibility that you will have your reading requirements met before you can even blink and say “Amazon”.