Sanei, located on the ground floor of the Shibuya Old Book Center, is run by a long-haired eccentric who wears white gloves when paging through his merchandise. It’s chaotic and messy, but hot damn there is good stuff in there if you’re willing to dig. (Also, um: a huge vintage pornography section. Just sayin’.) We scored a few PG-rated Japanese film rags from the 1950s and ’60s, ranging in price from 500 to 3,000 yen ($5 to $28 USD a piece).
One floor up, Flying Books is an exercise in restraint—each aisle and shelf impeccably curated. Here’s where you go for the real collectibles; some cellophane-wrapped first editions and rare magazines cost hundreds of dollars. We spotted books on everything from Art Deco to American Ski Fashion, plus a 1939 issue of Vogue. On the inside: an essay explaining how one runs a successful nightclub without gangster backing; a fashion editorial weighing the merits of gabardine springerhosen vs. knickers on the slopes of Saint Moritz; and a tsk-tsking instructional on “How Not To Be So Fat.” (Once Vogue, always Vogue.) Just as delightful is the shop’s arsenal of old Physical Culture magazines, targeted at Depression-era women and asking such thoughtful questions as “Are You Too Chaste?” It’s a trip.
One more thing: Don’t leave the building without visiting Postalco on the third floor. The coolly minimalist #zakka shop sells handsome leather wallets, business card holders, calendars, notebooks, office supplies, and rainwear.
Shibuya Old Book Center, Dogenzaka 1-6-3, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, Japan; +81-3-3463-8151.