Yen for Books
A used-book store in Tokyo provides an unusual lens on japanese culture.
Shelves at used-book stores in Japan more resemble the cat-food aisle at Wal-Mart than they do the cramped and haphazard arrangements in their American counterparts: row after row of gleaming books, identically thick and tall, differentiated only by the color on the label. Tokyo’s most notable secondhand-book store, Book Off, even employs in its logo an insipid smiley face similar to the Evil Empire’s.
After we spent a day strolling beneath cherry blossoms in Tokyo last spring, an American friend of mine who lives there brought four of us to Book Off to search for the first title in his favorite manga series. He made it sound as rare as Action Comics no. 1, but we looked anyway. Or my friends did. Able to read no Japanese, I’d be little help navigating shelves. No matter. Even when I don’t read the local
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