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00.00.2022 / ArtsPeople

Top 5 Bookstores in Japan - A Designed Life | Japan


T-Site in Daikanyama

More than simply a bookstore, Japanese video and book retailer Tsutaya’s cultural complex epitomises Tokyo's urbane lifestyle.


Sophisticated yet relaxed, we can easily spend half a day here browsing through an incredible range of art and design books, drinking coffee, listening to music and taking in a few art exhibitions dotted throughout. 


The three low-rise buildings (completed in 2011) feature a beautifully textured lattice facade made from interlocking Ts - a subtle branding device for Tsutaya, conceived by the architects Klein Dytham.


Sensitively nestled in amongst existing large trees, T-Site perfectly complements the adjacent Hillside Terrace - an historically significant Tokyo development also filled with galleries and shops, designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Fumihiko Maki (who also designed Spiral from our last post) and built in stages over two and a half decades (1969 - 1992). 


Together these two create an edifying and elegant community feel. 


Visiting T-Site is all about wandering around soaking up the atmosphere of 'a designed life'. (And adding a few kilos in books to your luggage …


Tsutaya Ginza

After Daikanyama's T-Site, number two in our Top 5 bookstores is another Tsutaya creation - Tsutaya Ginza - found on level 6 of one of Tokyo's most stylish shopping centres, Ginza 6.


For art and design lovers, it doesn't get much better than this. They not only have an incredible collection of art and design books to choose from, they also host beautiful art exhibitions, antique and retro book displays and have an event space for pop-up cultural events.


Just visiting this bookshop makes you feel smarter and more cultured, as if by osmosis.



MUJI's curation of our lives wouldn't be complete without books.


'MUJI BOOKS' can be found in a selection of MUJI stores - two of our favourites being in the Ginza Flagship Store, Tokyo and Canal City Hakata (Fukuoka).


True to MUJI's philosophy, these bookstores feature beautifully selected and displayed books from around the world that focus our attention on the 'essence' of life.


The effect is to (yet again) elevate shopping somehow from a consumerist trap, to an artform - the MUJI book curators bring together 6 life-related themes to help us create our 'life with books'.


A Single Room with a Single Book

Japan’s unstinting commitment to the book is best illustrated by the ultimate niche bookstore - ‘A Single Room with a Single Book’ - operated by bookseller Morioka Shoten.


This Ginza bookstore is literally that - each week one title is placed for sale in the middle of the store (multiple copies are stocked). The chosen book acts as a springboard for conversations, exhibitions, and where possible, connecting with the author. 


'A Single Room ...’ is the brainchild of Morioka Yoshiyuki (1974 - ) who realised while working in Jimbocho, Tokyo's famous secondhand book district, that people often came to the store looking for one book.


He pitched the idea to Toyama Masamichi (1962 - ) creative entrepreneur and founder of successful businesses Soup Stock Tokyo (one of our favourite Japanese 'fast food' options) and Pass the Baton (the most beautifully curated 'vintage meets secondhand' recycling store). 


Morioka’s pitch document was apparently as simple as the concept - he wrote on a piece of paper 'Regeneration of the bookseller atom --> a bookstore with a single book'. Toyama loved it and agreed to invest.


The beautifully designed interiors and atmospheric heritage building are key to pulling this off. This is classic Tokyo style.


We love the simplicity and confidence - the perfect antidote to our choice-fatigued contemporary lives. 


Slow down, delve deep, read and connect. One book at a time.


Nakajima Library

Temples of learning in Japan also come in the form of exquisite libraries - although Nakajima Library (2008) at Akita International University is more of a 'book colosseum' than a temple. 


Designed by architect Senda Mitsuru (1941 - ) a long-time advocate for environmental design and designing for children, the roof structure draws on traditional Japanese joinery techniques and fans out like the inside of an umbrella. Enveloping you in local Akita cedar (秋田杉 / Akitasugi) it highlights this high-quality construction material while celebrating Akita's beautiful nature and heritage. 


It's one of the most nurturing library environments we've ever experienced - both sides of your brain are cared for here. 


In designing the perfect place for cerebral stimulation, Senda has engaged all the senses - the faint aroma of cedar, tactile warmth of exposed timber, and muffled sounds of pages turning - all designed to quench your thirst (or whet your appetite) for knowledge.


The layout also considers your field of vision, to minimise distractions - desks are lined up behind bookshelves along staircases, so you only gaze onto books or the beautiful outdoors.


The final design feature is the colour-coded chairs for different heights, helping you get in the perfect position to settle down and read - 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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