Photography bookstores in Jinbocho

Exploring the photography bookshops of Jinbocho, Tokyo

Last week I explored some great photography bookshops in Jinbocho with my buddy Mike. I’m going back to the neighbourhood this weekend for a photowalk, some photo-history chit-chat and to explore the shops again.

I was spoiled in the UK by living just 40mins drive from the second-hand bookshop capital of the world: Hay-on-Wye. Hay is also home to the international festival of literature and myself, my parents, my own family all spent some lovely times there, exploring the shops and the surrounding countryside.

I don’t have Hay-on-Wye down the road anymore but in Jinbocho, Tokyo’s book district, I have found one or two awesome specialist bookshops which deal with photography and the arts. In fact, they are both better than anything I ever found in Hay, which was sadly lacking on a specialist photography bookshop.

Komiyama was the first shop Mike and I explored and not one he’d been to before. Spread over four floors, the shop has some surprises at every turn and as well as the great supply of photography books there are also some wonderful limited edition original prints and other memorabilia. Their catalogue is 500Yen and well worth the money although the owner treated myself and Mike to a copy each – very kind of him. Everyone there is very kind. The fella in the shot below works the photography section on the ground floor and kindly posed for me.

Ground floor guardian and font of all knowledge at Komiyama bookstore, Jinbocho

Mike also took some time to hang out with a young Anakin Skywalker although we seemed to have missed the beginning of the Jinbocho Annual Pod Races. Shame. Mike had the hat for it.

Mike waits with Anakin for the start of the Jinbocho pod races

Mike and Anakin at Komiyama bookstore, Jinbocho

The shop also has some wonderful odds and ends, including an original limited edition, full-size C3-PO figure – who is guarding the gallery upstairs along with R2-D2. The photo below is from the second floor, where they have a great stock of figurines, books, toys and various other film-related items.

Some of the figures and toys at Komiyama bookstore, Jinbocho

Komiyama is a great place to start exploring Jinbocho and the surrounding area. Nearby are a host of characterful little old shops in interesting streets and the walk that Mike and I did – from Jinbocho through to Kanda – is a really good one, ending up with a sweet little shotengai near Kanda.

Not far from Komiyama is Genkido; the place that Mike had originally been looking for and somewhere that is pretty well-known for its photography books; both the amount in stock and the bargain nature of most of them. I pointed Mike at a superb book on French photographer Jacques-Henri Lartigue and he got one or two others as well. A lot of the books start at 500Yen and run through 750Y, 900Y, 1000Y up to much higher prices for some of the obscure titles.

Two books I was looking for – admittedly rare – he didn’t have. Shame. But I’ll be trying again as he seemed confident they’d be in stock one day.

Photowalk on Sunday 5th February: Jinbocho to Kayabacho

This is gonna be part walking workshop, part photo-history workshop. We’ll be starting at Suidobashi and walking down Hakusan-dori into Jinbocho, then visiting both the bookshops mentioned above. There are lots of bargains there and I can give you an idea of some of the photographers’ names you may not recognise. It’s a good opportunity to perhaps find some work you haven’t been exposed to before and to pick it up cheaply.

After the bookshops we’ll find a nearby cafe and have a sit in the warm to go over one or two core concepts of ‘visual literacy’ and some photo history, discussing some pictures in a book I will have with me already or in any of the books people may have picked up.

You can see some information on the visual literacy here and the video section of this site has a nice collection of photo-history articles, to whet your appetite. There is also a photo-history section here.

I will have some information with me, for people coming on the walk, which will give us criteria to begin assessing and interrogating images, deconstructing them and learning how to improve our own visual skills as a result.

It’s a great excercise and always a good one to follow-up with some shooting; using the discussion to fuel some creativity with our cameras,  out in the streets.

The Walk, the theme…

The route we’ll be taking is here on this map.

It takes us from Jinbocho through some wonderful bakstreets to Kanda, on to Ningyocho and ending up in Kayabacho where one of our jobs will be to find the izakaya I saw on the TV this week… where they do a 2.7kg plate of wonderful kara-age for just 999Yen. That’s where we will be finishing off the day.

Our theme or themes? Well, hopefully our visual literacy and photo history chat will have given you some new eyes on the world. With this in mind, I propose a couple of themes for the photos we’ll take on our walk:

1. As If I’m Seeing Tokyo For The First Time: learning some new visual skills, reading up on some of the masters of this art we love… it’s a great way to grow new eyes. So, one of the things I’d like you all to imagine as we walk the quaint backstreets is that you are on your first walk around Tokyo, ever. That you are seeing everything with fresh eyes, with a child-like enthusiasm. Might not sound easy but let’s see how we go. This is about allowing yourself to be fascinated or captured somehow by the potential in even the most mundane of subject matter. It’s also about stepping outside of a known reality – the fact that for most of you this won’t be your first walk around Tokyo – and to step into the realm of imagination. Cultivating your imagination is a key skill in delivering creative work for clients or just for keeping yourself stimulated with your own hobby shooting. The aim will be to produce a series of shots, maximum number six, that sum up this feeling for you. I’d also like you to write a few words to go with your photos, explaining the experience of imagining yourself a first-time visitor, why you shot what you shot etc.

If this theme doesn’t interest you or you find the whole idea a bit daunting, then here is something a little less conceptual:

2. Beauty In The Mundane: quite simply this is about finding the beauty in everyday things and capturing it in a way that can really transmit that beauty you have seen to the viewer of your shots. Something to make them go; “Wow, I’d never have thought that could look so cool”. The streets we’ll be walking through are littered with suitable subject matter for this and you could either go for the close-up approach – shooting small things with a macro lens or extension tubes [both of which I will bring]. Or, you could you go wider, larger and pick sections of street or larger objects to get your visual point across. The output will be the same as theme no. 1: six shots and some words.

Meeting place: Suidobashi JR Station, east exit. It’s marked on the map.

Meeting date/time: Sunday 5th February at 10.30am and we’ll be aiming to finish walking around 5.30/6pm and grab a bite to eat.

Max number of students on this walk: 8

Gear: totally up to you what lenses you bring. Here’s what I will be bringing: Nikon D700 and 50mm, 105 Macro lenses plus extension tubes. I will also have the Epson rangefinder, 21mm, 35mm and 50mm L/M mount lenses.

Workshop fee: 5000Yen

Drop me a line back to book your place: alfiejapanorama [atmark] gmail.com

Look forward to seeing you on the weekend.

Here’s a few more shots from the walk Mike and I did last week.

 

 

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Japanorama is run by British professional photographer, Alfie Goodrich, and provides practical photography teaching in Tokyo. Weekly workshops, group and one-to-one lessons bring together photographers of all ages and abilities.

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