Tokyo’s Top Five Cafes for Book Lovers

By Alexandra Homma
December 28, 2015
Food & Drink

Sometimes nothing can replace the luxury of spending an afternoon in the company of a good book and a freshly brewed cup of coffee. Luckily, Tokyo is home to some of the best book cafes in the world, many of which provide free access to a great collection of tomes—even some in English. If you’re in search of a new spot for some quality time with yourself, a hot mug of tea or java and a good read, the following five cafes are definitely worth a visit.

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1. Brooklyn Parlor, Shinjuku

Run by the same company as Blue Note Tokyo, Brooklyn Parlor is a spacious restaurant-cafe that invites you to “take a walk on the wild side” by recreating a cozy New York-style bohemian hangout that will appeal to your art senses. There are three walls of books and magazines, which customers are welcome to flick through as they sip their coffee, and even purchase if they choose to. Located just a few minutes’ walk from Shinjuku Sanchome station, this brick-walled cafe is a must-visit venue if you’re into good music, delicious coffee, books, food and, of course, Brooklyn Lager. The food is good and reasonably priced if you’re visiting at lunch time, but if you’re after some “me” time with a book, aim for after 3 p.m. when it gets less crowded.

Address: B1F Shinjuku Marui Annex, 3-1-26 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku

Tel: 03-6457-7763

Open: Daily, 11:30 a.m.–11:30 p.m.

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2. Paperback Cafe, Jimbocho

Jimbocho, Tokyo’s used books hub, also hosts the three-story Paperback Café, housed in a nearly century-old Tokyodo bookstore. Located a three-minute walk from Jimbocho station, Paperback Cafe is the perfect venue for anyone who wants to get some work done away from the office or home, and not spend much on pricey coffee. Prices start at ¥200 for a regular coffee and rise to ¥420 for the caramel macchiato. Sandwich sets and quick curry plates are also available for up to ¥780 with a drink. The coffee is served in paper cups, so you won’t find anything luxurious here, but the vast collection of books will surely give you food for thought.

Address: 1-17 Jimbocho, Kanda, Chiyoda-ku

Tel: 03-3291-5181

Open: Daily, 10 a.m.–9 p.m. (last order 7:45 p.m.)

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3. Anjin, Daikanyama

Anjin is a posh cafe located on the second floor of Daikanyama T-Site, one of Tokyo’s most modern and collection-rich bookstores. As you climb the stairs to the cafe, you are greeted by handsome waiters dressed in attire fit for five-star restaurants, who will guide you to a leather couch or chic table and give you an iPad menu to choose your food and drinks. With its relaxed atmosphere, dark lighting and quiet bossa nova sounds, this comfy escape is a great location at which to spend a luxurious morning or afternoon. Though a bit pricey, this is by far one of the most inspirational cafes I have visited in Tokyo, not only for the vast collection of rare books and magazines of all kinds, but also for the simple pleasure of allowing yourself to enjoy what is perhaps the best cup of cappuccino in town.

Address: 2F Tsutaya Bldg. II, 17-5 Sarugakucho, Shibuya-ku

Tel: 03-3770-1900

Open: Daily, 9 a.m.–2 a.m.

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4. Blue Books Cafe, Jiyugaoka

Largely similar in concept to Brooklyn Parlor (it is also produced by the Blue Note Tokyo brand), the basement-level café-restaurant-bar Blue Books Cafe in Jiyugaoka is a smaller, more compact, yet equally comfortable space ensconced in upbeat jazz tunes and good vibes. Its book may not be that large, but it still offers a decent selection of photo journals, fashion books and light essay pieces fit for a slow afternoon read. Famous for its unique collaboration of East and West (cheesecake with sudachi citrus sherbet, anyone?), this newly opened cafe is an inspiring rest stop after browsing the fashionable streets of Jiyugaoka.

Address: B1F Yureka Bldg., 2-9-15 Jiyugaoka, Meguro-ku

Tel: 03-6825-8686

Open: Daily, 11:30 a.m.–11 p.m.

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5.  Rainy Day Cafe, Nishi Azabu

Inspired by the famous Japanese saying, “Work when it’s sunny outside, read when it starts raining,” Rainy Day Bookstore & Cafe is everything you’re looking for in a quiet coffee shop—once you find it. Though a bit difficult to locate (it’s about a 15-minute walk from any of the closest stations—Omotesando, Hiroo or Roppongi), Rainy Day Bookstore & Cafe is definitely worth a visit and at least a few hours’ stay. Home to a vast collection of rare books—with a whole wall of English texts and children books—this store is perfect for an afternoon devoted to nothing but yourself. Its basement location cuts all mobile reception so you can disappear from the modern world and focus on your books and neatly brewed coffee, milled and hand-poured upon order, distraction free.

Address: B1F, 2-21-28 Nishiazabu, Minato-ku

Tel: 03-5485-2134

Open: Wed–Sun, 11 a.m.–7 p.m.

Originally from Bulgaria, Alexandra (Ally) came to Japan with her family at the delicate age of 15 and has never left ever since. After attending (and surviving) a public Japanese high school, she went to an American college in Japan, and later a Japanese grad school, studying international affairs and journalism. Ally is the current managing editor of Savvy Tokyo and also a writer/translator for GPlusMedia's other channels, including Japan Today. She's made of coffee, wine, and books.

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