え:えほん How to get Japanese children’s books

5 Jan

May 2012 UPDATE: Please read this blog post for more ways to obtain Japanese books! :)

Trying to obtain Japanese children’s books in the United States is like looking for a 4-leaf clover. It’s difficult and takes some luck!It is worth the effort though, as I am a strong believer that books are a great way to become literate in any language!

There are a few online bookstores that sell Japanese books, but their selection is so dismal it’s not even worth mentioning here. (Edit: Okay, I stand corrected… Mitsuwa was a decent selection here).


Over the past few years I have managed to collect a modest number of good books, and here’s how I did it:

1) Japanese Language School Book Sales

- First, find out if there is a school in your area. I would just google “Japanese Language School (Your City)”.

- Then contact someone to see if they are having a sale or “Bazaar” anytime during the year. I have had great success at the sales in Cleveland and Columbus Ohio (Books as cheap as 25 cents!).

2) Find a Japanese Person and Ask for Suggestions

- They will probably be a wealth of information as far as Japanese resources in your area. They may know people who are moving back to Japan (moving sales are great places to buy books!) or may be willing to sell you/or let you borrow some of their books.  Or perhaps there are Japanese Clubs in your area. High School/College teachers who teach Japanese may also be a great resource.

3) If you have a friend or relative in Japan, ask them to send you books. This is a great option if the book you want is not available anywhere in the U.S. BUT be aware that shipping will probably cost as much as the book!

4) Check your local libraries. Once in awhile, I spot books written in Japanese at the library. If you live in California, Washington, Hawaii, New York City or Illinois (where there are large Japanese populations), you may have better luck. If your local library doesn’t carry Japanese books, maybe you could ask them to!

5) If you’re really lucky, you may find something on eBay or Craigslist.

6) Surprisingly, Amazon.com had a modest selection if you click on “SHOP!” at the top of my blog, you can see what I have found (I have closed my Amazon store). The books can get pricey though, but shipping is usually free, which is amazing.

Hopefully, someday, downloadable books (such as for the Kindle) will be available for us.

7) Amazon.jp, of course, has ALL the books we could possibly want… but unfortunately, we either can’t purchase the books or shipping costs are outrageous. I like to look on Amazon.jp’s Best Children’s Books List to see what books are new and top-rated. That way, I know what books I want to search for in other locations.

8 )Find a Japanese Bookstore- If you know of any, let me know and I’ll add it to this list:

Columbus, OH: Hana Gifts.

California, Chicago, New Jersey: Mitsuwa

New York, California, Washington: Kinokuniya

New York, California, Hawaii: Book-Off


If I had all the money in the world, I would hop on the plane to Japan and come home with a suitcase full of books :)

Do YOU have any other tips? Please share!

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33 Responses to “え:えほん How to get Japanese children’s books”

  1. Sayaka January 5, 2011 at 1:46 PM #

    Yeah, knowing Japanese people is definitely the best way to get Japanese stuff. They’re usually super generous too.

  2. Az January 6, 2011 at 11:33 PM #

    Mmm, I feel little sad your suggestion No.2
    We are friends not because of the Japanese stuff only, right??
    I’m your friend if you wouldn’t give me any material.( of course you give
    me really comfortable and relaxing feeling.That is the best part of friendship.)
    I completely understand what you want to say, and agree with that.
    You might have chance to ask moving sale or share the books.
    But you need to chose the word.

    Some book-clubs send books over sea. For example, Dowa kan and
    Kodomonotomo.
    Especially, Kodomonotomo series are good price.

    • Hiragana Mama January 7, 2011 at 8:02 AM #

      Oh no! That is absolutely not why I am your friend, or friends with any of my Japanese friends!! (I could list a 100 reasons why I like you :))You’re right, I should change the wording so it doesn’t sounds that way- thanks for your honest opinion. And thanks for your suggestions.

  3. Titi January 10, 2011 at 10:21 AM #

    Here are some other bookstores:
    Kinokuniya (NY, CA and maybe other locations)
    Book-Off (NY and maybe other locations)

    • Hiragana Mama January 10, 2011 at 12:13 PM #

      Awesome, thank you!

      • Suki May 18, 2011 at 1:35 PM #

        Hi — Thanks for this list. I have a question, though. In the descriptions of the books in your list, there is no indication of whether the book is in all English, English plus hiragana, or English plus kanji. We can’t read kanji — my kids and I are learning hiragana. But it looks, for example, like the CDs you link to are in English. Can you point me to a hiragana-only list, or just a recommendation of a few books? Thanks!

  4. Donna March 15, 2011 at 10:55 PM #

    I’ve done pretty well with Japanese books on ebay, since I’m not looking for specific books I check and see if people are selling books in lots, rather than just single books. The Cleveland Public Library has a small selection of Japanese language children’s books at the main branch location, maybe 5 shelves full? I don’t get to Columbus often, but I love Hana Gifts, particularly their used book section. I’ve bought some great books there. Sometimes library sales will get donations, I found a lovely copy of Tasha Tudor’s Christmas Book in Japanese last year at a local library sale–for fifty cents! I also like Yesasia.com. I believe they based in Hong Kong and offer free shipping for orders over 39.00. The books are more expensive than on Amazon.jp but the free shipping makes up for it, I feel.

  5. Hiragana Mama May 18, 2011 at 3:16 PM #

    Suki- are you talking about the books on Amazon.jp? If that is the case, you can probably assume most of the children’s books are written in hiragana, or at least have furigana (hiragana over the kanji).

    If you are referring to my list of books here: http://hiraganamama.wordpress.com/2011/01/07/my-favorite-books/ , they are all great for learning hiragana- they are all written in Japanese. I have a few more book reviews coming up, you might be interested in those.

    If that doesn’t answer your question, maybe you could point me to what books you are specifically wondering about and I can tell you if they are written in Japanese or English.

    • Suki May 18, 2011 at 3:34 PM #

      Hi — I’m not using amazon.jp because my Japanese is rudimentary (speaking positively of my accomplishments!). I was looking at your STORE list and I see a bunch of books, some of which I know are all in English such as Japanese Favorite Stories. I would really, really love bilingual books with hiragana, but would settle for very easy all-hiragana books on the level of an easy reader. Given how long it’s taking me to shove hiragana into my head, I’m not expecting to tackle Kanji anytime soon! Thanks.

      • Hiragana Mama May 19, 2011 at 7:12 PM #

        Hi Suki, I don’t have the time right now to go through all the books in the store but it’s pretty easy to tell by just looking at the cover… if the cover is in hiragana, the book will be in hiragana. I will try to do a post about which books might be good for people like you(who only know hiragana) soon.

  6. Shelly Floyd July 4, 2011 at 9:07 PM #

    Hello, I found your post because I was searching for a place to sell my extensive collection of Japanese children’s books and books for adults learning Japanese. Do you have any recommendations for that? I got a lot of them off of eBay — and that’s the only place I can think of to sell unless you know of somewhere else. Thanks!

    • Hiragana Mama July 4, 2011 at 9:11 PM #

      eBay is probably your best bet if you want to reach a wide audience! You could try places like Craigslist but I’m not sure how successful that would be. You could also contact local Japanese teachers, Japanese clubs, Manga clubs, etc. Good luck.

    • Erika September 19, 2011 at 5:28 PM #

      Extensive collection of Japanese children’s books? Wow! I’d like to buy them!!

      Try selling them on furuhon.us .
      You sell directly to buyer, no fee. I’ve experienced no trouble, as Japanese people are normally good at paying and shipping on time.
      Usually payment is done by personal check or paypal on receipt of the books.

      If you want to sell bulk, you could ad comment that you’ll give discount on bulk buy.

  7. KT November 26, 2011 at 8:30 PM #

    I just started reading your blog. Thank you for the useful information!

    http://www.kinokuniya.com (Bookweb USA) has the most selection and free shipping over $100. The site is in Japanese.

  8. spellsingerthemovie January 28, 2012 at 5:12 AM #

    My Partner and I putting out an electronic children’s book (ages 2-4) which will be in Japanese/English with Japanese translation and narration. I read your article and we may be overlooking a niche market!!! People interested in reading Japanese!!! We shall be publishing on itunes but does anyone have android sites where they download Japanese books from?

    • Hiragana Mama January 28, 2012 at 9:19 AM #

      Let us know when your book is out! I don’t know anything about android, gomennasai :(

  9. Carmen February 9, 2012 at 1:26 AM #

    The International Children’s Digital Library has 13 Japanese titles that can be viewed online. Some of them are from the 1940’s and have very sweet illustrations!

    http://en.childrenslibrary.org/

  10. S.Respicio February 11, 2012 at 2:52 AM #

    My husband and I like to go to Kinokuniya, inside Uwajimaya. They have the best and such a huge selection of books in Japanese, for all ages. Just google Kinokuniya and do a store locator at the top. They have in California, New York and Washington for sure, but im not too sure about other states. I live in Seattle so we have that here. :)

  11. Janie Lancaster February 26, 2012 at 3:42 PM #

    I have a Japanese picture you would love. “Edwina Beena’s Polka Dot Day,” is in English, Spanish and Japanese. I live in the US and print the Japanese edition myself, wrap it in polka dot paper and include a cello bag with stickers, cards and a small magnifying glass. The book is a great gift that can be sent direct form me, the author. The artist is Japanese.

    Please look at the book on my website and contact me.

  12. Harmony Hill July 22, 2012 at 7:14 PM #

    Thanks a lot. this is a great help!!:D

  13. Kiyumi Nakagawa September 16, 2012 at 1:04 AM #

    For people in Washington or Oregon, the Uwajimaya stores have amazing bookstores with a huge selection of books in Japanese and magazines!

  14. Barry Brewer January 9, 2013 at 4:12 PM #

    Thanks for posting this blog. I am really interested in finding Japanese Children’s audio books that also have the book along side of it. Any suggestions as to where I might be able to track it down?

    • Hiragana Mama January 11, 2013 at 10:26 AM #

      I’m not sure right off the top of my head!

  15. Bonnie West May 31, 2013 at 2:49 PM #

    We have just published a Japanese English children’s book on Amazon! Check it out.
    Hideki and Kenji Save the Day by Bonnie West and Diane Carter for ages 4-8 or anyone learning Japanese. !

  16. annabella September 14, 2013 at 3:46 AM #

    For anyone in Honolulu, we have a Tenri cultural center (in Nu`uanu) with a library full of Japanese children (and adult) books to borrow. :)

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