Tokyo’s Kanda-Jinbocho district, east of the Imperial Palace and west of the Sumida River, doesn’t loom large on tourist itineraries. This, conversely, makes it an area where you can find exactly what travelers increasingly seek: the chance to hang out and relax just as the locals do. Be that by savoring specialty ales; browsing endless racks of outdoor sports gear; or combing used bookstores for that elusive first edition; you’ll find something to enjoy in Kanda-Jinbocho.
Shop for rare books and magazines
Kanda’s Jinbocho area has long been the capital’s hub of all things book-related. Here bookshops line the streets, particularly around the Yasukuni-dori and Hakusan-dori intersection, and though Jinbocho is synonymous with the musty-smelling antiquarian booksellers it has dozens of, nowadays the neighborhood also boasts used bookstores specializing in more contemporary tomes.
Komiyama Shoten is a popular four-floor shop dedicated to Western and Japanese art, design, fashion, and history books, and is notable for its selection of rare photo books. Elsewhere, Magnif Zinebocho is dedicated to hip magazines from decades past, and try Ohya Shobo for books on Edo period ukiyo-e art as exemplified by the legendary Hokusai.
Get your outdoor sports gear needs covered
Kanda-Jinbocho is also a hotspot for shops selling outdoor sports gear: this may or may not have something to do with a road named Hakusan-dori (‘White mountain avenue’) running through the district. Figures carry snowboards and surfboards along the city streets, with the wealth of stores including both specialized retailers (for winter sports try Liberty Snow, or Kandahar) and all-rounders such as L-Breath and Murasaki Sports.
Join the hordes of business people on a night out around Kanda Station
Photos of Japanese salarymen passed out in the street after a heavy drinking session regularly appear in the global media, proving that these guys truly know how to let rip. While we can’t condone partying to that extreme, there is a lot of fun to be had literally rubbing shoulders with Japanese office workers as they let off after-work steam in Kanda-Jimbocho’s packed drinking spots: especially on a Friday evening, or the day before a public holiday. Head to the Nishiguchi Shotengai shopping street, by Kanda Station, and duck into the noisiest establishment for the full experience.
Find that hard-to-get bottle of craft beer at Beer Ma Kanda
This district is also somewhere you can lay your hands on less common craft beers. The Kanda branch of specialist chain Beer Ma is a two-floor affair, where the upstairs is filled with bottles and cans bearing such esoteric labels as Lazy Hazy Boy (a New England IPA brewed out in Ibaraki Prefecture, northeast of Tokyo) and the California-made IPA Marine Dream. You can take home and enjoy your beer at home.
Get hands-on with traditional culture at Kanda Myoujin’s EDOCCO
Kanda Myoujin, a Shinto shrine with a history stretching back some 1,300 years, recently unveiled the EDOCCO, or Edo Cultural Complex, in its grounds on the north side of the Kanda River. This sleek building is intended to convey Japanese tradition to both new generations of Japanese and, especially, foreigners. All glass and concrete outside but employing shrine-like wooden architecture within, here you can get a quick schooling on areas such as cuisine, the arts, and of course Japan’s indigenous religion Shinto.
Informative without being dry or academic is the approach, with visitors invited to discover traditional costume by trying on, and perhaps even buying, a kimono. One highlight is an artwork up on the fourth floor, ‘Creating of Forest of Light’, that sees natural light filtered through canvas to moving effect. EDOCCO’s comprehensive gift shop doesn’t disappoint either.