How to borrow books from a public library in Japan - Tokyo

Poste date: Sunday, March 3, 2019

If you are reading this article, chances are you are interested in finding out how to borrow books from a public library in Japan and whether or not they have English books available.

If you are a resident in Japan, you can request a library card for free in your region. Moreover, you can also apply for a library card at some libraries outside of your region in Tokyo if you are working in one of Tokyo’s 23 cities(wards). That means that as long as you are working in Tokyo, it is possible to have a library card even if you live in a different prefecture.

In regards to available books in languages other than Japanese, availability will depend on the library. If you make a library card at a Minato City Library (you can request one if you live or work in 23 cities of Tokyo), you can also borrow English books from The Library of Temple University Japan. The Library of Temple University Japan lends their books at Minato City Libraries.

If you are looking for New or Used English books to purchase, please read our article New and Used English Book Stores in Tokyo.

What can you borrow from a Japanese public library?

Most Japanese public libraries have Books covering multiple genres as well as Children Books, Magazines, CDs and DVDs for lending (free of charge).

What else can you do at a Japanese library?

In addition to borrowing books and other materials as mentioned above, these facilities are also available at most libraries located within Japan.

  • * Free Wi-Fi Access
  • * Reference Materials to Browse
  • * Old and Rare Materials to Browse
  • * Newspapers
  • * Photo Copies
  • * Study / Reading Room
  • * Computers to Use

How do you find public libraries in Japan?

To find a library, you simply type your city name and the word "library" into Google maps. You can also type the Japanese word for library, 図書館 (Tosho-kan). Another way to find libraries is to ask the municipal office.

You can visit any library in Japan if you only want to browse or read books. However, if you’d like to borrow books, you are required to make a library card and every library has different requirements. You can surely get a library card at the library in your municipal area. The requirements for each library in Tokyo can be found below.

How do you request a library card?

  • Requesting a library card can only be done at the library in person. Visit the library with a form of identification that has your current address on it (e.g. residence card or Japanese driver’s license).
  • If the library requires proof that you either work or are studying in the city, bring your employee ID card or student ID card.
  • Everything is free of charge including borrowing materials.

Which libraries can you borrow books from and how many books can you borrow at a time?

Apart from the libraries located in your municipal area, there are other libraries where you can also apply for a card. In the list below, you can find the application requirements for each library in Tokyo. The number of materials you can borrow and the lending period are also indicated (the information may be subject to change).

Minato City Library

  • Application requirements
  • * Living within the 23 cities of Tokyo
  • * Working or attending school within the 23 cities of Tokyo

Maximum number of borrowing materials and maximum lending period

Books, Magazines 10 2 weeks
CDs 3 2 weeks
DVDs 2 2 weeks

For more details: Minato City Library

You can borrow English books from Temple University Japan if you have a Minato City Library card, click here for details. All Minato City Libraries have English Children’s books as well.

Shibuya City Library

  • Application requirements
  • * Living in Tokyo
  • * Working or attending school in Tokyo

Maximum number of borrowing materials and maximum lending period

Books, Magazines 30 2 weeks
CDs 10 2 weeks
DVDs - -

For more details: Shibuya City Library

Shibuya Chuo Library has many Children’s books in English.

Shinjuku City Library

  • Application requirements
  • * Living in Tokyo
  • * Working or attending school in Shinjuku-ku

Maximum number of borrowing materials and maximum lending period

Books, Magazines 10 2 weeks
CDs 5 2 weeks
DVDs 1 2 weeks

For more details:Shinjuku City Library

Meguro Public Library

  • Application requirements
  • * Any residents in Japan

Maximum number of borrowing materials and maximum lending period

Books, Magazines 20 including CDs 2 weeks
CDs 20 including books & magazines 2 weeks
DVDs - -

For more details: Meguro Public Library

Setagaya Municipal Library

  • Application requirements
  • * Any residents in Japan

Maximum number of borrowing materials and maximum lending period

Books, Magazines 15 2 weeks
CDs 6 2 weeks
DVDs - -

For more details: Setagaya Municipal Library

Chiyoda Public Library

  • Application requirements
  • * Any residents in Japan

Maximum number of borrowing materials and maximum lending period

Books, Magazines 5-10 2 weeks
CDs 3 2 weeks
DVDs 2 2 weeks

For more details: Chiyoda Public Library

Chuo Public Library

  • Application requirements
  • * Any residents in Japan

Maximum number of borrowing materials and maximum lending period

Books, Magazines 10 2 weeks
CDs 5 2 weeks
DVDs 2 2 weeks

For more details: Chuo Public Library

Other city libraries are mentioned at the end of this article.

Borrowing English books from the Library of Temple University Japan

The library of Temple University Japan lends its books at Minato City Libraries. If you hold a Minato City Library Card, you can borrow their books (excl. Magazines, DVDs and E-books).

  • How many and how long you can borrow their books
  • Maximum 3 books for 2 weeks

English books at Tokyo Metropolitan Central Library in Minato-ku

Although you cannot check out its books, Tokyo Metropolitan Central Library has great variety of English books. Currently about 230,000 foreign language books are kept in the library. You can also read Newspapers from the last three months.

  • Other services:
  • * Subscriptions to numerous newspapers (with three months of back editions), journals, magazines and other periodicals, including a large number in English and other languages.
  • * Free Wi-Fi Access
  • * Computers to use
Tokyo Metropolitan Central Library

Are English children’s books available in Japanese libraries?

As mentioned above, some libraries have English children’s books. It depends on the library however, the chance to find them in libraries in Tokyo is high. Certainly all Minato City Libraries have many English children’s books and in Shibuya, the Chuo Library has them as well.

Application requirements for other city libraries as mentioned above

Adachi City Library

  • Application requirements
  • * Living in 23 cities of Tokyo, Soka-shi, Yashio-shi, Kawaguchi-shi
  • * Working or attending school in Tokyo

Maximum number of borrowing materials and maximum lending period

Books, Magazines 10 - 20 2 weeks
CDs 3 2 weeks
DVDs 2 2 weeks

For more details: Adachi City Library

Arakawa City Library

  • Application requirements
  • * Any residents in Japan

Maximum number of borrowing materials and maximum lending period

Books, Magazines 30 15 days
CDs 5 15 days
DVDs 2 8 days

For more details: Arakawa City Library

Bunkyo City Library

  • Application requirements
  • * Any residents in Japan

Maximum number of borrowing materials and maximum lending period

Books, Magazines 15 - 30 2 weeks
CDs 5 2 weeks
DVDs 1 1 week

For more details: Bunkyo City Library

Edogawa City Library

  • Application requirements
  • * Living, working or attending school in Edogawa-ku
  • * Living in Katsushika-ku, Koto-ku, Sumida-ku, Adachi-ku, Ichikawa-shi, Urayasu-shi

Maximum number of borrowing materials and maximum lending period

Books, Magazines 10 2 weeks
CDs 3 2 weeks
DVDs 2 2 weeks

For more details: Edogawa City Library

Itabashi City Library

  • Application requirements
  • * Living, working or attending school in Itabashi-ku
  • * Living in Toshima-ku, Kita-ku, Nerima-ku, Wako-shi, Toda-shi

Maximum number of borrowing materials and maximum lending period

Books, Magazines 20 2 weeks
CDs 5 2 weeks
DVDs - -

For more details: Itabashi City Library

Katsushika City Library

  • Application requirements
  • * Living, working or attending school in Katsushika-ku
  • * Living in Adachi-ku, Edogawa-ku, Sumida-ku, Koto-ku, Misato-shi, Yashio-shi, Matsudo-shi, Ichikawa-shi

Maximum number of borrowing materials and maximum lending period

Books, Magazines 30 2 weeks
CDs 4 2 weeks
DVDs 1 2 weeks

For more details: Katsushika City Library(English)

Kita City Library

  • Application requirements
  • * Any residents in Japan

Maximum number of borrowing materials and maximum lending period

Books, Magazines 30 2 weeks
CDs 10 2 weeks
DVDs 1 1 week

For more details: Kita City Library

Koto City Library

  • Application requirements
  • * Living, working or attending school in Koto-ku
  • * Living in Chuo-ku, Minato-ku, Shinagawa-ku, Sumida-ku, Katsushika-ku, Adachi-ku, Edogawa-ku

Maximum number of borrowing materials and maximum lending period

Books, Magazines 20 2 weeks
CDs 5 2 weeks
DVDs 1 1 week

For more details: Koto City Library

Nakano City Library

  • Application requirements
  • * Living, working or attending school in Nakano-ku
  • * Living in Nerima-ku, Toshima-ku, Shinjuku-ku, Shibuya-ku, Suginami-ku

Maximum number of borrowing materials and maximum lending period

Books, Magazines 15 2 weeks
CDs 5 including DVDs 2 weeks
DVDs 5 including CDs 2 weeks

For more details: Nakano City Library

Nerima City Library

  • Application requirements
  • * Living, working or attending school in Nerima-ku
  • * Living in Nakano-ku, Suginami-ku, Itabashi-ku, Toshima-ku, Musashino-shi, NishiTokyo-shi, Niza-shi, Asaka-shi, Wako-shi

Maximum number of borrowing materials and maximum lending period

Books, Magazines 15 including CDs 2 weeks
CDs 15 including books 2 weeks
DVDs 2 2 weeks

For more details: Nerima City Library

Ota City Library

  • Application requirements
  • * Living, working or attending school in Ota-ku

Maximum number of borrowing materials and maximum lending period

Books, Magazines 12 2 weeks
CDs 6 including DVDs 2 weeks
DVDs 6 including CDs 2 weeks

For more details: Ota City Library

Suginami City Library

  • Application requirements
  • * Living, working or attending school in Suginami-ku
  • * Living in Nerima-ku, Nakano-ku, Shibuya-ku, Setagaya-ku, Mitaka-shi, Musashino-shi

Maximum number of borrowing materials and maximum lending period

Books, Magazines 15 15 days
CDs 4 15 days
DVDs - -

For more details: Suginami City Library

Sumida City Library

  • Application requirements
  • * Living, working or attending school in Suginami-ku
  • * Living in Chio-ku, Taito-ku, Koto-ku, Arakawa-ku, Adachi-ku, Katsushika-ku, Edogawa-ku

Maximum number of borrowing materials and maximum lending period

Books, Magazines 20 2 weeks
CDs 10 2 weeks
DVDs 2 2 weeks

For more details: Sumida City Library

Taito City Library

  • Application requirements
  • * Living, working or attending school in Taito-ku
  • * Living in 23 cities of Tokyo

Maximum number of borrowing materials and maximum lending period

Books, Magazines 15 2 weeks
CDs 3 2 weeks
DVDs 2 1 week

For more details: Taito Library

Toshima City Library

  • Application requirements
  • * Any residents in Japan

Maximum number of borrowing materials and maximum lending period

Books, Magazines 15 15 days
CDs 3 15 days
DVDs 2 15 days

For more details: Toshima City Library

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