Families Tokyo Life - January 20th, 2005
tokyoweekender_Nellie's book store

Kit Nagamura uncovers where to find your children the coziest covers this season

WINTER IS the perfect time to cuddle up with a mug of cocoa and a good read. If your children aren’t in the habit yet, it’s never too early to set a good example. Many schools recommend that you read to your kids every night, even if the book only has 15 words. With older kids, consider taking turns reading chapters of a classic, it’s amazing how a little role reversal nurtures linguistic and thespian skills. Not only that (and here’s the real benefit) sharing a story is prime quality time — and a nice way to wind down from the stresses of the day.

There are excellent sources for foreign books in Tokyo — Maruzen in Nihonbashi, Sanseido in Ochanomizu, Yaesu Book Center at Tokyo Station, and Kinokuniya in Times Square Shinjuku are just a few. And, if you can’t be bothered to leave your own genkan, you can order online with, or the Foreign Buyers Club. When hunting for children’s titles, however, it’s hard to beat browsing in specialist stores, many of which often offer fun extras as well.

Crayon House is one of the most well known purveyors, partly due to the multi-lingual selection of books in English, French, German, Korean and Japanese, and partly due to a convenient location in Harajuku. A pleasant family restaurant of healthy food in the basement, and an assortment of toys and sundries rounds out this option, tucked behind the Hanae Mori Building.

Ascend to the 7th floor of Tower Records in Shibuya to find their kid’s section, stocking anywhere between 4,000 to 7,000 titles to please the budding bookworm. Tower carries kid-lit in their Shinjuku branch, too, but Shibuya has a far wider selection, with a recent niche focus on books from Scandinavia. You’ll find cheerful English-speaking staff, lots of Little Golden Books, as well as trendy, up-market Newberry winners and plenty of BWAT (Books With Attached Toy).

In Hiroo, look to the second floor of National Azabu Supermarket for a selection of grade-specific books for early readers. Stroller-distance away, another second-floor establishment, Kids Books, can be found on the main shopping street of Hiroo above the Subway sandwich shop. Clean and well-organized shelves boast over 4,000 titles covering quality English reading material for nearly all ages, from tots to tweens. Enthusiastic and motivated staff members have the know-how to supply other bookstores and schools, as well as ESL students eager to test their skills.

Two other stores are Fiona in Jiyugaoka, which claims lots of language study aids in addition to seasonal books, CDs, and games. On the opposite side of Tokyo, you’ll find Nellie’s in Asakusabashi (three minutes from Asakusabashi Station on JR Sobu Line, Toei Asakusa Line), the area famed for its Shimojima stores and wholesale toyshops. Aside from a line of gorgeous pop-up books and imported games, Nellies offers periodic seminars and readings.

For pre-loved books at budget prices, try Good Day Books in Ebisu, famed for talks given by Donald Richie and Edward Seidensticker, or The Blue Parrot, which now perches one minute from Takadanobaba JR Station and wins — squawk! — the award for most beautiful sign. Caravan, in Ikebukuro, holds wine and cheese fêtes on the final Friday of each month as well as literary events, and if you can tear yourself off the Yamanote line, Bondi Books Kichijoji features a virtual inventory so you can know before you go, and no book exceeds ¥600.


3-8-15 Kita Aoyama; tel. 03-3406-6492, 11am-7pm daily

1-22-14 Jinnan, Shibuya; tel. 03-3496-3661, 10am-11pm daily

4-5-2 Minami-Azabu; tel. 03-3442-3181, 9:30am-7pm daily

Kitamura 60 Kan Building, 2F, 5-16-1 Hiroo; tel. 03-5420-1504, 11am-7pm except Sundays (11am-6pm), closed first, third, and fifth Mondays

5-41-5 Okusawa, Setagaya; tel. 03-3721-8186, 11am-8pm daily, closed Tuesdays

Sunbridge Bldg. 1F, 1-26-6 Yanagibashi; tel. 03-3865-6213,

Ebisu 1-11-2-3F; tel. 03-5421-0957, 11am-8pm except Sundays (11am-6pm), closed Tuesdays,

Obayashi Biru 3F, 2-14-10 Takadanobaba; tel.03-3202-3671, 11am-7.30pm daily,

2-21-5 Ikebukuro; tel. 03-5951-6406, 11am-9pm daily

Kichijoji 1-28-3-110 Kichijoji Honcho; tel. 04-2223-1996, 12pm-8pm, closed Tuesdays,