Beloved Bookstore Lives on Under New Management; A Fixture of Tokyo’s Literary Asagaya Neighborhood

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Kazuhiro Sato, president of Yaesu Book Center, welcomes customers at its Asagaya shop in Tokyo.

The last remaining bookstore in front of JR Asagaya Station in Suginami Ward, Tokyo — a neighborhood known as one of the cultural hubs that dot the JR Chuo Line — has restarted under new management, a decision made by the head of a major chain amid the nationwide decline in the number of bookstores.

Yaesu Book Center opened its Asagaya shop on Feb. 10, stocking around 85,000 copies of literary books, children’s books, paperbacks, magazines and more in its 350 square meters of floor space. The store will be open every day of the year.

Asagaya and nearby areas along the JR Chuo Line, which runs through western Tokyo, are known for literature, music and art. Asagaya is called a “town of literary greats” because Masuji Ibuse (1898-1993) took up residence there and often had gatherings with Osamu Dazai (1909-48) and other writers.

The Shogaku bookstore had been in business for over 40 years but announced its closure last November due to a decline in sales amid a trend away from paper books. Many local residents and people on social media said they felt sad about the closure.

The news reminded Kazuhiro Sato, president of Yaesu Book Center, of when the chain’s flagship store in front of Tokyo Station closed last year due to a redevelopment project. “Many people also said they felt sad [when our main store closed],” Sato said. “That scene and [the news about] Shogaku had similarities, and I felt the need to protect the light of [Asagaya’s] bookstore.”

Yaesu Book Center, which operates multiple bookstores along the Chuo Line, concluded that it would be feasible to operate in Asagaya and decided to take over the site of Shogaku, which closed at the end of January. The company retained Shogaku’s interior and has expanded the children’s book section to attract families.

A 57-year-old local resident said he had frequented Shogaku. “I felt sad when the bookstore was gone as it had been a part of my life since childhood,” he said. “Even though it has a new operator, the store remains the same for the wide array of books on shelves, which makes me feel relieved.”

Said Sato: “We hope to facilitate chances for locals to encounter books, thus contributing to print culture.”