Buying Japanese books in America: US Kinokuniya Online Store

US Kinokuniya Online Store has recently reopened! This is the first time that I am even able to see this site. The first few times that I attempted to use this site, it was under construction for what seemed like an extremely long time. Anyways, this is my first time buying Japanese novels online and I wanted to share my experience with you guys.  

My shopping goals

My goal was to spend $100 on books, but I really fell short of that goal. $50 was the minimum for free shipping so as I soon as I was able to hit that goal, I just decided to purchase what I was able to find. While the selection on the site was great, many of the books were out of stock. For the sake of writing a review on my experience, I decided to stick with books that were in stock so I could include shipping time as well.

One of the other goals I had for this shopping spree was to purchase books for authors I have not read or bought before. I was able to do so! I tried to also include some award winning novels as well. I could have bought a few more books, but I tried to stick to one book per author as I was limited in my ability to flip through the books to get an idea of each authors writing style.

I wanted to only buy books that were around $10. There are many books that I want to read that sell in America for over $20, but those will have to wait until I move back to Japan. I cannot wait to go to Japanese libraries. I will be there weekly.

The shopping basics

If you have $50 USD in your cart or above, you qualify for free shipping or free in store pick up. If you are buying novels, this is around the average price for 5 books.

For books that are in stock, the website states that books will be shipped from their American depot within 7-10 working days. It seems that for all of the novels that I looked at, they were being held at a fulfillment center in Japan which I assume will add to the shipping time as well.

There is a membership option for shoppers that applies to both the in person stores and online store a like. The membership costs $25 dollars a year. If you have a membership, it seems like you will get most items at the discount of 10% each. You will also get a $10 gift card for every $300 dollars that you spend. Every year, there is an in person sale at Chicago’s Kinokuniya in December where members get 20% off of qualified purchases. Even though I have decided on a yearly book budget of $500, I decided against getting the membership card. I do not think it is worth it for that price unless you are buying for a whole household.

Prices in store and online may be different and Kinokuniya does not provide price matching.

Shopping interface

There are three different language choices for the shopping interface: Chinese, Japanese, and English.  I choose to use the English interface while placing this order.  The English on this website is fairly complete as far as placing orders goes.

The drop down menu for Japanese books is still written in Japanese even with English settings.  This menu will give you the overall media categories available. If you are looking for novels, it is the first choice 「文庫」.  And similarly, the drop down menu for Chinese books is written in Chinese. I believe that this is something that Kinokuniya should think about updating as it would be such a small and easy change, but make the shopping experience feel more complete in each language choice.

Once you click that category of your choice, in this case novels, you will see more specific sub-menus under each type of media. Again, the sub-categories are all in Japanese when you are looking at Japanese media. The prices and filter options for search are in English.  The titles of each item and the author names are written fully in Japanese.

Once you find a book you are interested and click on the page, the book summary and information about the author will be in Japanese.  The shopping information such as whether the item is in stock or not, shipping information, and instructions on how to enter the item into your cart are all in English.

Once you have all of your items in the chart, the rest of the process will be completely in English.  This involves the check out process, adding shipping information,  and adding payment information.  All communications I have had with Kinokuniya USA online shop have been completely in English.

Holiday Shipping

One thing about shipping that I would like to mention is that I ordered these books during the holiday day season. The website did have a warning for shoppers.

August 13-16 is Obon holiday season in Japan. Delivery times for Japanese books may take longer during this period.

US Kinokuniya Online Store

Despite of this warning, I decided to order when I did as I was afraid of the books that I picked becoming out of stock. I also stayed extra at work that day with the intention of using some of my bonus money on Japanese books! So I was unable to wait any longer then I did.

My shopping experience

I did not find the website easy to use. There were too many books that were out of stock. I would have found it very helpful if the book’s stock status was available on the search page. It was very disappointing to see a book that I wanted, get excited, only to click the link and find that it was out of stock.

To be honest, most of the books that I originally wanted to purchase were out of stock. It was kind of crazy and made shopping difficult. I really had to find new books to try and it took days to be able to find 5 books that I was interested in.

While summaries of plots were available, there was no viewing option for the first few pages of the book. This made it very difficult for me to pick out books. I used the sites book walker and amazon to find what I could, but it would have been better if Kinokuniya had a viewing option. There were also no customers reviews for any of the novels that I looked at.  So I had to use bookmeter to find reviews.

My shopping time line

8/14/20 – Placed order
8/15/20 – Asked question about order to customer service
8/17/20 – Received reply from customer service
8/19/20 – Received shipping notification
8/20/20 – Package was delivered


I love that Kinokuniya has physical stores in America and wanted to try out their online shopping, but I think they still have formatting and stocking issues and need to make some adjustments to upgrade the shopping experience. 

When I asked about if they had certain dates for when a large amount of books will come back in stock, I was advised to just order the out of stock books.  This makes me think that the stocking issue is not going to be solved soon.  I am not interesting in ordering books that are labeled as out of stock as I would like some assurance that the stuff I ordered is actually going to make it to my house.

I was surprised by the speed and quality of the packaging.  I would consider ordering from them again once more books are in stock.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.



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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