japanese bookstore turned lifestyle empire 

Amazon started out as a bookstore. Netflix started out as a video rental service. Tsutaya was kind of both, and in my book has had the best glow up of them all. Bookstores in Asia are next level. They rival department stores, and are often in company of or embedded within department stores.

Tsutaya is more than a bookstore, but a comprehensive lifestyle brand that has really extended its influence far beyond its humble origins as a media shop selling books, videos and music. For nearly four decades since first opening in Osaka, Tsutaya has used its platform to become a hub for contemporary lifestyle, evolving from a retain chain embedded within the bricolage streets of the city to an all encompassing commercial complex in Daikanyama that invites visitors to step into a curated brand experience. Now, it permeates Japanese society and other Asian cosmopolitan hubs.

But no matter where and how grand or how small, books remain at the core of the Tsutaya experience. The floor to ceiling shelves are filled with books, from categorized shelves to peruse to art books on display to entice you into the literary environment that is simultaneously intimate and airy. Tsutaya is what Barnes and Noble could never be (sorry): the kind of place that lures you in with an aspirational lifestyle by surrounding you with books. Warmly lit wood accents, contemporary, inviting. Add in the cafe, ample seating, free wifi, and you’ll wonder why you’d ever need to leave.

the details

Address various locations around Japan, Taiwan, China and Malaysia
Website https://tsutaya.tsite.jp/
Instagram @tsutaya.official
Hours varies by location
Price $$ – pretty standard prices, not discounted but books are generally market price
Aesthetic contemporary grandeur, public luxury

good to know

Go here for: books, inspiration, a haven on a rainy day

Don’t miss: Wired cafe, their casual cafe restaurant often adjacent or within the bookstore; grab a book and settle in

Amount of time to spend: you could easily spend hours here but give yourself at least half an hour to peruse

When to come: any time is a good time, and any time is a bad time; it’s pretty much always bustling, though earlier in the day may be better

Getting here: it’s Asia, everything is conveniently connected to highly efficient, clean and reliable public transportation

Other things to note: 

  • Many of the locations in Japan are the “fast casual” version on the street, and some locations are small outposts embedded within department stores, so if you’re seeking the stunning architecture, be sure to double check.
  • They carry a lot of international books, varying by market but all have significant amounts of Japanese books and English books.

Last visited: September 2021

Last updated: October 2021

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