Ghosts of the Eastern Capital

Trawling Chinese Bookstores in Tokyo – Dylan Levi King

The accounts of the life of an overseas Chinese student in Tokyo almost universally mention bookstores. But if you go to looking for traces of these early exiles, you will be disappointed. The Ginza cafes that Tian Han and Yu Dafu met in to drink wine and talk Ibsen and Hamlet disappeared not long after the Chinese students left. The theaters and bookstores that brought the Chinese students to Kanda are gone. The blooming banks of the Sumida River that Yu Mantuo wrote about in his poetry have been poured over with concrete. Not much is left standing in Tokyo that dates to before the Showa period (1926–1989) and most of the city was turned to rubble in the Second World War and then rebuilt in the 1950s and 1960s. But one place worth visiting, if you’re making a pilgrimage, is the cluster of bookstores in Jinbocho in Kanda.