When I was living at Roppongi in my first two months in Japan, one of the places I visited regularly (after Roppongi Don Quijote near my apartment) was Aoyama Book Center (ABC) bookstore near the station. The bookstore — while still have this intimidating upper-class ambiance — was the place that at least, fitted with my nerdy personality that not matched with a whole atmosphere of Roppongi. Unfortunately, this infamous bookstore closed its door around July 2018. Even though I already moved and rarely visiting Roppongi, the news is still broken my heart. Many memories left there, like when I visited the store at 10 AM, still in my pajama to bought AnAn magazine with Perfume as the cover or the cute geek guy behind the register. So, when last week I had a chance to strolling around Roppongi alone, I was curious about what kind of store that replaced ABC bookstore and to my surprise, it’s another bookstore, with a slightly unusual concept named “Bunkitsu Roppongi.”
I was suddenly hit by nostalgic feelings when I went inside the bookstore. While the interior style of the bookstore had changed, the layout itself isn’t really changed. The stairs, the magazine’s shelf, the register still on the same position. I reach the stairs to the books area when I stop, stumbled upon a sign written “Paid visitors area only” in Japanese.
Visitors of this bookstore slash paid library slash cafe slash common space need to pay JPY 1,500 (before tax.) as a cover charge to gain access for reading — and buy — any books & magazines in the library area, enjoy Sencha (green tea) or coffee free flow, also using their wifi and electric plugs in the lounge, cafe, or study area. They also provided lockers so visitors can search for books without hassled by their stuff. Hungry? you can buy some fancy foods and dessert at their cafe.
Another nostalgic feeling came after I entered the paid area, but not a nostalgic feeling from the old ABC bookstore. Instead, there’s a mixed feeling that reminds me over my junior high school library and one of the paid libraries in my hometown called “Zoe Library shop and cafe” which share a similar concept, a place where you need to pay for reading books while sipping your tea or eat french fries and sausage. The feelings that brought me back to 10-15 years ago when I was a poor student looking for a cozy but affordable place to hide from the world. I can’t say Bunkitsu is affordable tough since JPY 1,500 is equal with a lunch set at nice restaurants in Tokyo.
Is Bunkitsu bookstore worth to visit? in my opinion, it depends. If you love books AND can read Japanese (since perhaps 90% of books here are in Japanese) you can give it a try. Or maybe you can still give it a try even if you can’t read Japanese as long as you love books because their photography and art books collection are awesome. Or in cases when you desperately need access to wifi or electric plug because free wifi and electric plugs in Tokyoーand Japan in general ー existence are equal with rare Pokemon. This place has Insta-worthy aesthetic but since the main purpose of this place is to enjoy the books (and sometimes, working?) you better go for the real fancy cafes or restaurants that scattered around Tokyo if you prefer to chat and taking lots of pictures 😉 *Ps. All pictures in this post are taken in ‘incognito mode’ by smartphone camera.
This time, my curiosity and dramatic mind was successfully brought me into the new place that filled with many nostalgic feelings. Would you like to try to follow your sense to somewhere?