Dangerously Expensive Free Times in Tokyo

After I moved to Tokyo, the company I work for used to send me around town to teach various classes at various companies and schools. Because of the nature of the scheduling, I often found myself with a couple hours to waste before my next job.

This is a dangerous thing for a pen addict.

One of the dangerous things about giving a pen addict lots of free time in Tokyo is the store Ito-Ya. It is several stories of pen, ink, paper and paraphernalia that in its prime (before it became the Apple Store for stationery) was a great place to explore. Like a good bookstore, every time I went there I found something I couldn’t live without and had to take home. The fountain pen store (located in the alley behind the main store) is still worth a visit.

Near Ito-Ya is a large LOFT, a large MUJI and Tokyo station. Near Tokyo station are two other dangerous places: Maruzen Books (link in Japanese) and the Yaesu Book Center. I spent lots of time perusing the English sections of both of those bookstores. Yaesu is nice because it meets my standard for creepiness. The English section is on the eighth floor and you can only take the elevator halfway. Once you get there it’s kind of cramped.

For book lovers, the most dangerous place in Tokyo is the Jimbocho area. It has dozens of tiny bookstores selling a variety of used books in a variety of languages. In one store I could have bought an entire James Joyce research library with scholarly books and journals in English and Japanese. You can easily waste several hours here just looking at old Japanese books.

Last, of the most dangerous areas is Shinjuku. It’s got two Kinokuniya bookstores (one older, one relatively new), a modern, but very nice Tokyu Hands, an entire block of camera and electronics shops and Kabukicho, Tokyo’s red light district.

Kabukicho isn’t that interesting during the day, but it’s worth a quick walk through. But also hidden away in Shinjuku is Kingdom Note, a fairly posh pen shop with lots of original goods, including pens and ink, and lots of used pens.

Near all of this, on the other side of the station is the SeKaiDo main store, which has several floors of art supplies.

I’m glad I didn’t learn about it when I had all that time to kill. I might have tried to become a painter.

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