Right outside the north exit of Chofu Station in western Tokyo is Shinko Syoten, a brick-and-mortar bookstore that Hideharu Yahata’s father-in-law opened in 1968 — back when Japan was on one of the most rapid economic growth trajectories the world has ever seen.

A spate of major magazines were founded during the 1960s including Josei Seven, Shukan Post, Weekly Playboy and the Weekly Shonen Jump, a manga anthology that has since become the best-selling comic magazine in history. Writers like Seicho Matsumoto and Sohachi Yamaoka were churning out blockbuster novels while how-to-books on improving everything from English language skills to sex lives sold in the millions.

By the time Yahata left his job as an engineer at a manufacturing firm and began working at his family’s bookstore in 2002, however, the golden age for booksellers seemed to be over. Japan was mired in a prolonged period of economic stagnation following the burst of the asset price bubble in the early 1990s, and while there were still plenty of bookshops in Chofu, things soon took a downward turn with the emergence of new technology.