Part two of Arnaud and Adrien’s Japanese trials and tribulations takes us to Jimbocho, Tokyo’s mile-long ode to ink on paper, for a couple of hours of obssessive rummaging. The day spent amongst the shelves had somewhat of a pilgrimage feel to it for Arnaud, an avid collector, connaisseur and “amoureux” of photography books of all genres (the prized Japanese rareties he brought back soon to be reviewed on these pages). Book buffs, bookstores and, you guessed it, books galore:
“Arnaud’s mad for books, essentially photography books: well, believe it or not there’s a whole neighbourhood dedicated to his passion in Tokyo: Jimbocho. Although the name’s sounds exotic, this is a place for people who take their hobby seriously. Streets of tightly packed bookstores that spill their content onto the pavement.
All the shops are on the same side of the street, constantly bathed in shadow. You see, the sun’s harmful rays could alter the beauty of their books (told you they took it seriously). You’ll find shelves packed with books along walls into alleys and ‘cul-de-sacs’, it’s like a living entity of paper veins and arteries pumping ink and spreading for miles on end.
I suspect the owners have interconnecting galleries or tunnels from the Second World War as each shop gives exactly the same price for the same book… No competition here then? Meanwhile, Arnaud’s running up and down the street like a 4-year old on a sugar high, trying to decipher the symbols on his little piece of paper with the ultimate bookstore’s address on it. I tag along, smoking cigarettes, desperately looking for the rare and endangered street ashtray.
Didn’t I tell you? You’re not allowed to smoke on the streets of Japan, except in designated areas and you’ll need at least a pigeon’s magnetic-field-recognition-system to find them. No bins either, how in Buddha’s name do they keep their streets so clean? These guys are the Swiss of Asia…”