Created for expats living in Japan

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

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 live in Setagaya-ku, you can also borrow English books from the Library of Temple University Japan.

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 to 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 to 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.

In which libraries can you borrow books 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).

Chiyoda-ku 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-ku 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


Meguro-ku 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


Minato-ku Library

All Minato City Libraries have English Children’s books.

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 15 2 weeks
CDs 3 2 weeks
DVDs 2 2 weeks

For more details: Minato City Library


Setagaya-ku Library

You can borrow English books from Temple University Japan if you live in Setagaya-ku. Please see this page for more details. 

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


Shibuya-ku 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-ku 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 2 2 weeks

For more details:Shinjuku City Library


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

English books at Tokyo Metropolitan Central Library in Minato-ku

Tokyo Metropolitan Central Library

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

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 in Tokyo

Adachi-ku 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-ku 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-ku Library

Application requirements

* Any residents in Japan

Maximum number of borrowing materials and maximum lending period

Books, Magazines 15 - 30 2 weeks
CDs 5 - 10 2 weeks
DVDs 1 - 2 1 week

For more details: Bunkyo City Library


Edogawa-ku 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-ku 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-ku 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


Kita-ku 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-ku 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-ku 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-ku 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-ku 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-ku 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-ku 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-ku 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-ku 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