Japan 2010: Kinokuniya Bookstore – Shinjuku JR East Exit

On our walks through Shinjuku, we’ve already been to the flagship Kinokuniya store, located at the New South Entrance of Shinjuku station. Renown for having more-or-less the best collection of English language books available for sale in Japan, nearly a whole floor devoted to them.

But there is… another.

Perhaps this will be shocking to those of you who’ve grown up in North America, but the Kinokuniya bookstore chain has another massive, multi-floor location on the other side of the train station! It’s busy too, and while there is a dearth of English language books the Japanese manga section is perhaps even larger than the flagship.

I thought it might be fun to visit the Kinokuniya found at the East exit (actually, it’s the North End, but you get to it by the East exit), and take you on a walk through yet another bookstore full of delightful treats that will make you ache to visit Japan the way I do. 😉


Walking in through the entrance above, I encountered the incredible display. Apparently it was magazine season, and, better still, each of the magazines also came with their own cloth shopping bag. Apparently reusable shopping bag fever had hit Japan, and so with your Yves St. Laurent magazine/catalogue/lifestyle product, you could also get a rare YSL-branded shopping bag. But it was slightly more illustrated periodicals that I was looking for, and so we headed onwards through the store.

So if you walk into the complex pictured at the top, and then walk through it you will come to an annex to the main book store, and it is called “Forest”, and it’s where the manga and the DVDs and all of that reside. It’s pretty fantastic.

Here’s the floor-guide!

By far the grandest display was for the then-newest volume of Thermae Romae, a collection of short stories about the history of bathing and public bathing in manga form! A surprise hit, the first volume featured a roman fella (a senator I think) being magically transported from ancient Rome to present-day Japan, to draw parallels between both sorts of public bathing!

It seems like a fun series, and I love that the book covers all feature the great statue illustrations. I’m kind of hoping that the series eventually makes its way to North America, but given how uniquely and weirdly Japanese it is, I’m not holding my breath.

Here’s a wide shot of the manga floor, with some after-work shoppers lining up with their purchases. It’s an absolutely sprawling store, with shelf after shelf of manga, art books, manga magazines, and other assorted bits and bobs.  You can see a bunch of different signing boards from visiting mangaka, and it’s cool to see them around. I like that even in a ‘corporate’ store, there are great touches like this.

Zooming in closer we get a look at some of the popular art books of the day, including the two One Piece collections, something called “Blue”, the Gelatin collection (sort of like ‘ROBOT’), and more.

And here we have the shelf that’s present in basically every book store or manga store I’ve visited in Japan–the Tezuka shelf. I don’t think it’s possible to overstate the reverence with which Tezuka is held in Japan, nor the ubiquity of his manga.

This shelf featured a selection of classic manga, and what looked to be contemporary classics. I was drawn in by these collections of the Speed Racer manga (called Mach Go Go Go in Japanese), available here in 3 volumes (a 2 volume slipcase in North America), but a lot of the manga on this shelf looked really neat, and I had almost no familiarity with any of it. It’s kind of amazing how much is out there, what a huge and great history of material… and how very little of it we’ll ever see in English.

This was a neat shelf, consisting of the work of Shigeru Mizuki. To me, this looked like the Japanese edition of the recent Drawn & Quarterly release Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths, but there are three volumes here. I can only wonder if these are additional volumes? Expanded books? Or perhaps text/novelizations of those books? It’s all there, alongside other famous Mizuki works including Kitaro and his recent autobiographical collections. I could have spent a small fortune here.

Speaking of which, this is actually a novelization of Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s A Drifting Life, published in English by Drawn & Quarterly. It never occurred to me that someone might write a novelization of a manga but I guess they do. That’s kinda neat.

Another shot of one of the many large aisles.

More still!

So one of the cool manga-related happenings is that mangaka Fumi Yoshinaga’s Ooku had been adapted into a live-action period drama. Well, sci-fi period drama. This special edition of the first volume had been released featuring the lead actor and his manga counterpart!

The shop even set up this elaborate display, playing episodes from the tv series! Very cool cross promotion and something I kind of wish I had the budget to enact at our store, in some way. Well, actually, it’s not so much the budget as it is the fact that our store is full floor-to-ceiling with product already, and squeezing in a TV would be next-to-impossible. 😉

And that brings us to the end of the store, the check-out counter. I’m not entirely sure if buying a complete set of One Piece for 32,430 yen (about $400) counts as an “impulse purchase” but beggars and chosers. I ended up buying a surprising amount of stuff at this location despite the fact that it was early in my trip, and I was going to spend the rest of the trip in used/discount stores, which is a testament to just how well-stocked and put together this location is! While it is a little tougher to get to than the store at the Shinjuku JR new south exit, it’s worth it anyway.

– Christopher

All photos by Christopher Butcher, except top photo of Kinokuniya Shoten exterior from http://www.essential-japan-guide.com/.

5 thoughts on “Japan 2010: Kinokuniya Bookstore – Shinjuku JR East Exit”

  1. “And here we have the shelf that’s present in basically every book store or manga store I’ve visited in Japan–the Tezuka shelf.”
    Though what I’ve noticed, and what might not be expected, is that the bookstores are usually stronger on classic series than dedicated manga stores (excluding the secondhand manga stores).

  2. This makes me think of something Warren Ellis wrote, except in a positive rather than despairing way: “i wants paper paper is my precious.”

    And there it is, bwa ha ha, it’s beautiful! Awesome.

  3. Wow, thanks for the tour. Shunjuku is a giant station that I never mastered in the year and a half I lived there, so I totally missed these book stores. I usually did my manga shopping at Akihabara. Domo!

  4. The middle of the Mizuki books is called “Aa Taiehiyo” (literally ‘That Pacific Ocean’). It’s about Japanese fighter pilots in both real and fictionalised situations. Including the sinking of the HMS Prince of Wales. I got it mainly because it’s got furigana “that’ll help me to learn!” and because I also get Commando in Britain XD.

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