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!
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!