Off the shelf

Off the shelf
Sometimes we get caught up in something that takes us by surprise. Maybe that's why we came to Japan - to be injected into our new future without regard to our past. It's a rewarding, frustrating, happy and sad journey with different paths for us all. And suddenly, quietly, in a brief moment, we can look back and realize that we have grown in experience and life and all of us have a story. Perhaps the story of Tokyo Classified is the story of our life in Japan.


National Diet Library
This is Japan's main library, the repository for everything published in the country. It also boasts the largest number of foreign-language books and materials. But only a fraction is on shelves (mainly reference material), so you have to go through the catalogues to find what you want and then submit forms so the books can be fetched from the stacks. The size makes it confusing and it's stuffy (you even have to fill a form just to get in), yet it's your best chance to find foreign language materials.
- Over 2 million books, 50,000 magazine titles and 1,500 newspapers and periodicals
- Reference only
- Must be 20 or older
- 9:30am-5pm; closed Sat, Sun, 3rd and 4th Mon and public holidays
1-10-1 Nagatacho, Chiyoda-ku
Tel: 03-3581-2331
Yurakucho, Hanzomon lines; Nagatacho station

Tokyo Metropolitan Central Library
Located in Arisugawa park, this one has a friendlier atmosphere than the National Library. Although most of the materials are in stacks too, there are more on shelves (more recent books) to give an idea of what could be there. As the main library for the Tokyo government, this is where you're likely to find the largest collection about Tokyo. And, unlike many libraries, it's open on weekends and holidays. Ask for their detailed English guide.
- Over 150,000 titles in foreign languages
- Reference only
- Must be 16 or older
- Mon 1-8pm, Tue-Fri 9:30am-8pm, Sat, Sun, holidays 9:30am-5pm; closed 1st Thu and 3rd Sun
5-7-13 Minami Azabu, Minato-ku
Tel: 03-3442-8451
Hibiya line, Hiroo station (walk through Arisugawanomiya park)

Hibiya Library
Also part of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, but this one is for lending so, unlike the above, you can find novels here. Since it's right in Hibiya park, you can retreat to a bench or cafe for a few hours. The library faces closure due to government cutbacks, but recently won a reprieve.
- No approximate number but there's enough there to find something to read
- Lending
- No age restrictions
- Mon-Fri 10am-8pm, Sat and Sun 10am-5pm
1-4 Hibiya Koen, Chiyoda-ku
Tel: 03-3502-0101
Hibiya, Marunouchi, Chiyoda lines, Kasumigaseki station; Mita line, Uchisaiwaicho station


Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum Reading Room

A small library but it contains only art books, mostly Japanese, but there's a number of foreign books, as well as a few foreign magazine titles. Overall it has a reasonable selection, but you can't even make copies.
- Of around 30,000 books, perhaps 10-20% are in English
- Reference only
- 18 years or older
- Open 10am-5pm, closed holidays and the 14th of each month
Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum,
1F 8-36 Ueno-Koen, Taito-ku
Tel: 03-3823-6921


Japan Foundation Library
For those interested in or doing work related to Japan, this is the place to go. It holds an impressive collection of books, magazines, reference material and doctoral works on all aspects of the country. It specializse in humanities and social sciences, and also has translations of Japanese novels. It's modern, spacious, well-organized and, as an added bonus, has great views of the city and beyond.
- About 25,000 books and 300 magazine titles
- Lending and reference
- 18 years or over; you need your gaijin card which must be valid for at least two months
- Open Mon-Fri 10am-5pm, closed holidays and last Mon of the month
Ark Mori Bldg, West Wing 20F
1-12-32 Akasaka, Minato-ku
Tel: 03-5562-3527
Ginza line, Tameike-Sanno station, exit 13

Japan Foundation Asia Center Library
Its collection concentrates on Asian (predominantly Southeast Asian) culture, society and the arts. About half the materials are in English, the rest in various Asian languages. It has a relatively large collection of audio-visual materials (videos, CDs and tapes) and facilities to watch and listen. The entrance is behind the elevators.
- English materials total only about 2,500
- Reference only
- No age restrictions
- Open 10:30am-7pm weekdays, closed holidays and Oct 2
Akasaka Twin Tower Bldg, 1F
2-17-22 Akasaka, Minato-ku
Tel: 03-5562-3895
Ginza line; Tameike-Sanno station, exit 12

The Japan External Trade Organization is the place to find business information about trade, the economy and investment for just about any country. As well as basic business directories, they have a lot of statistics. There are also many newspapers and magazines. The reference desk will take any enquiry, and even pass it on to other offices in the world if necessary.
- Almost 150,000 titles in all languages
- Reference only
- Must be 18 or older
- Mon-Fri 9am-4:30pm; closed 3rd Tue and Wed
Kyodo Tsushin Bldg, 6F
2-2-5 Toranomon, Minato-ku
Tel: 03-3582-1775
Ginza line, Tameike-Sanno (exit 9) or Toranomon (exit 3) stations

Asia-Pacific Culture Center for UNESCO
The ACCU is a non-profit organization for the promotion of mutual understanding and cultural cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region. In line with this the library keeps UNESCO publications, textbooks, literacy materials and many children's books. There's something in every Asian language, and plenty in English, too. The library is small, and while the selection seems a bit dated generally, it's worth a look, especially since you can borrow material.
- Around 30,000 titles
- Lending
- No age restrictions
- 10am-5pm Mon-Fri
Japan's Publishers Bldg, 3F
6 Fukuromachi, Shinjuku-ku
Tel: 03-3269-4446
Tozai, Yurakucho, Namboku and JR Sobu lines, Iidabashi station


British Council Library and Information Center
The materials are limited to the UK, apart from the section on language. While the concentration on the UK makes it quite similar to an embassy library, it emphasises arts and social sciences instead of business. There aren't that many books (around 7,000), but a good selection of magazines (about 100 titles). Access to the Internet is available, BBC World is always on and for JY500 you can use all the facilities for one day.
- Around 7,000 books, 100 magazine titles, newspapers and many government publications
- Loans are only for members
- 18 years or older
- 11am-8pm Mon-Fri, closed Sat-Sun and holidays
Kenkyusha Eigo Center Bldg, 1F
1-2 Kagurazaka, Shinjuku-ku
Tel: 03-3235-8031
Tozai, Yurakucho, JR Sobu lines, Iidabashi station

World Magazine Gallery
This is not really a library, but this gallery in a publisher's building displays magazine titles from 55 countries around the world. While they are mainly from the US, UK, Canada, France, Italy and Germany, you'll find some Chinese or Egyptian ones for example. You can take them to the coffee shop upstairs and make photocopies.
- About 900 titles
- Reference only
- No age restrictions
- 11am-7pm Mon-Fri, closed Sat-Sun and holidays
The Magazine House, 1F
3-13-10 Ginza, Chuo-ku
Tel: 03-3545-7227
Hibiya, Asakusa lines, Higashi-Ginza station

Art Catalog Library
This small library specializes in art catalogs of exhibitions held in Japan (in galleries, museums and even department stores) and of Japanese art shows and collections abroad. It's cramped, opened short hours and locating information might be difficult, but it's worth visiting if you're interested in art.
- Over 10,000 catalogs and books
- Reference only
-18 years and older
-1pm-6pm Mon, Tue, Thu only; closed national holidays
1-12-31 Akasaka, Minato-ku
Tel: 03-5562-9574
Ginza line, Tameike-Sanno station

Yushodo Gesner Library
An unusual place. Not strictly a library but visitors are allowed to check and use their rare books collection for research. They have old books, in English and other languages, and maps. Treat them with care as it's almost a privilege to access such items. There are two different rooms, both small, on 1F and 6F, the latter holding more recent, but still rare, materials.
- Around 3,000 books
- Reference only
- No age restrictions
- Open 9am-5pm, Mon-Fri
29 San-ei-cho, Shinjuku-ku
Tel: 03-3357-1411
Marunouchi line, Yotsuya-sanchome station or Toei-Shinjuku line, Akebonobashi station

Francois Trahan

299: Pokemania
Pikachu conquers the world by stealth and cuteness
298: Snow time like the present
When, where and how to get your share of the white stuff this winter
297: Helping Hands
The spirit of giving through volunteering
296: Stop the Music
Tokyo's nightclubs under attack
295: Just Do It!
Staying in shape in the city
294: 2 can play that game
The next generation of games consoles
293: Vegging out in Tokyo
Some of Tokyo's meatless oases
292: Multiplicity
The belated arrival of the multiplex
291: After a Fashion
Zita Ohe walks through Tokyo's fall/winter fashions
290: Used and Abused
Second-hand shops in the city
289: Microbrew - a mini guide
Tour the best of Tokyo's independent suds makers
288: The Delusions of a Kabuki Addict
Visit Ginza's Kabuki-za
287: Live and Learn
Studying traditional culture in Tokyo
286: Are you quaking?
Preparing for the big one
285: Sagawa Kyubin guys
Faces behind the takkyubin phenomenon
284: South Park
Christian Storms, creative producer and transwriter of the Japanese South Park
283: A saner Tokyo
Counselling and healing options for Japan's foreign community
282: Trainspotting
The Yamanote Line trivia quiz
281: The Lost World
Graham Hancock, inventor of a new genre of history mystery investigation
Graham Hancock: Transcript
280: Body of Art
Working out with traditional Japanese arts to work out
279: Open all hours
Japanese convenience stores
278: The Rice Stuff
A guide to sake
277: Get out!
Feasting al fresco in the summer
276: The Empire Strikes Big
The force behind Star Wars
275: Don't worry be happy!
A definitive guide to Tokyo's drinking deals
274: Off the hook
Tokyo's Central Wholesale Market
273: Books
Donald Richie, worldwide authority on Japan and Japanese culture
272: What's up pussy cat?
Hello Kitty turns twenty-five
271: Moving mountains for Freedom
The Tibetan Freedom Festival
270: So you think you're safe?
Women's safety in Tokyo
269: Are these the droids you're looking for?
Japan's new robot army
268: From beast to beauty
Catering to the beauty needs of foreigners
267: Perfect TV
Exploring Japanese TV
266: Let's do talk
The portable phenomenon of keitai
265: Get ready to rock!
The third annual Fuju Rock Festival
264: Kichijoji uncovered
A delightfully different day out
263: Tour Japan one bite at a time
The eleventh annual Furusato Fair
262: Golden getaways
Get you out of town this Golden Week
261: Millennium fudge
Can Tokyo survive the Millennium bug?
260: Ueno Park
A walk in the low city
259: Stressed to kill
Lifethreatening stress in Tokyo
258: Oodles of noodles
A day in a life of a local ramen shop
257: Off the shelf
Tokyo city libraries
256: Lord of light
Tokyo Classifieds founder Mark Devlin
255: Are you game
Indoor sports to get your blood on the boil
254: Eat your heart out
Valentine's Day in Japan
253: The way of wagashi
A friendly face in Japanese cooking
252: Face to face with Harajuku
Yoyogi Park street culture
251: What a grind!
In search of the perfect cup of coffee
250: The year of the rabbit
Chinese astrological signs