Buying Japanese Books in America: Chicago Kinokuniya

Just wanted to share with you guys where I buy my novels and what kind of selection that I have.

I currently live in the Midwest and to be honest there are not very many choices for buying books in person. Kinokuniya in Arlington Heights, IL seems to be the only option available to me at this time. Its somewhat far away and the round trip ends up being a few hours. But I feel fairly strongly about being able to read the first few pages of a book before committing to it. Writing style is really important to my enjoyment of reading a book. Reading a description of the plot or reading a book review isn’t enough for me to make a decision.

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Store Information

Located in: Mitsuwa Marketplace
100 E. Algonquin Road
Arlington Heights, IL 60005

10:00am – 8:00pm (daily)

To be honest, the selection at Chicago’s Kinokuniya for Japanese novels isn’t the best. I heard that in the past it had many more books, but has sense turned into a store that is more based on anime and stationary. I guess that is what sells the best for them.

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In the front of the store there is a Ghibli section filled with toys and related material. They do have a few copies of novels and manga based on Ghibli stories as well. In the next area, a small portion of the bookshelf is dedicated to nonfiction books written in Japanese going over topics such as cooking and crafts.

Next you will find the novels and the start of the manga section. The selection of Japanese novels is an and aisle and a half. There are a few books in the Ghibli section as well. It seems like around 70% of the area is dedicated to fiction, leaving 30% for non-fiction. The book shelf arrangements do a fairly good job of highlighting what books are currently popular in Japan. I use the social media website bookmeter to see what people in reading in Japan.

They only order a few of each book. I am fairly particular about the condition of the books I buy, especially since I am paying $10 for each book. There have been a few times I have asked if they had more of a particular book in the back, but each time they said no. Since there is only a few of each book, I would recommend buying a book when you notice one that you like as opposed to waiting. There have been times where I went back for a specific book only to find that it wasn’t there anymore and hasn’t been restocked since. While it is possible to order a book in the store, it seems like there is a shipping fee so it doesn’t really seem worth it on top of the already expensive price.

Their manga selection is a lot larger then their novel selection, but since I don’t currently have much interest in reading manga I don’t have much to comment on the types of books that they sell. Just based off of a glance, the manga is priced similar to the Japanese novels. Near the manga is also a small section for ‘light novels’ in Japanese. These are books seem to be the equivalent to YA books, they are usually light books that are easy to read and have artwork included.

Their selection of Study material is fairly complete. They have the popular textbooks series like Genki for beginners and Tobira for intermediate. They have the Sotome, Kanzen, and Speed Master series for all levels of the JLPT. They don’t tend to have more specific study materials. I wanted to find a book that focuses on Keigo but didn’t have any luck. They also have academic workbooks aimed at school aged children, so that might be interesting to check out depending on your interests. I did find one from Japanese junior high students to be able to understand a science textbook in English and it was very humbling. I still have a long way to go before I reach a junior high school student level of understanding in Japanese.

Next to the study material area is a Children’s area which has books written in both English and Japanese. I haven’t bought any of these books before, but some language learners find them useful.

This store does not tend to have sale on books unless you are a member. Membership costs $25 dollars plus tax. If you have this membership, it seems like most of the items sold in the store will have a 10% discount. I have also seen signs around Christmas time advertising 20% discounts for members. This seems like it could be a good deal for a Japanese family who is very book focused. But for me, I don’t plan on getting a membership. My goal is to aim towards reading one book per week. If I was to do this I think it would cost me around $500 a year if I shopped soley at Kinokuniya. After doing some math, it wouldn’t really be worth it for me. I don’t think I would say that much money and it would make me feel like my choices where limited to Kinokuniya. If Kinokuniya had a larger selection of Japanese novels I think I might have gotten the membership. If possible, I hope that I will be able to take a trip to Japan within the next year and pick up a bunch of books while I am there.

Other Asian stores near by

If you are going to make the trip, there are also other Asian stores near by that are worth visiting. There is current a store in Niles, IL called Hello Tokyo that sells items from Daiso. Daiso is an extremely popular brand of Japanese dollar store that sells many high quality items for the price. In Hello Tokyo, you can buy most items for $2. Also in Niles, IL is Super H-mart. Its a large Korean supermarket and has lots of Asian produce for a good price.

Apparently I am willing to take hours long trips in order to buy Japanese books. While the selection is small, I suppose it is better then nothing. The fact that there is a Japanese supermarket, food court, bakery, and hair salon helps to make the trip worth it.

It anyone knows any other interesting stores near by this area, please leave a comment and let me know. I would love to check them out next time I am in the area.

Author: Kuri

I love reading Japanese novels and have seen that many people want to read them but don't know where to start. I have decided to share my experiences to help people reach their literacy goals.

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