Japan : A Book-lover’s Paradise

Japan is a book-lover’s dream. Book stores are absolutely everywhere, from major chains like Book Off and TSUTAYA to independent book stores and small neighborhood shops – most convenience stores even have extensive book sections nestled amongst the canned coffees and potato chip bags. Books are plentiful and typically fairly reasonably priced (unlike at home in Canada, where it’s not unusual for a paperback to retail for $20 or more). Moreover, books tend to come as small paperbacks, perfect for slipping into a pocket for reading on a bus or train.

Japan has regimented social etiquette norms regarding acceptable transit behavior, and passengers are expected to refrain from speaking loudly or listening to loud music so as to create a more enjoyable experience for everyone. Reading is a socially acceptable way to pass the time on a long commute, and it’s not unusual to see commuters swaying gently as they stand and read their pocket paperbacks. While smartphone users still abound, it’s much more common to see people reading print books on a train in Japan than it is in Canada.

The sheer volume and variety of books available is staggering. Bookstores and libraries often span multiple floors, with shelves packed with books. Aisles are typically filled with browsers standing and reading, and readers can choose from an incredible array of reading material on a daily basis, including an impressive amount of Japanese literature, as well as foreign books in translation. Japanese bookstores are like candy stores for book lovers, with treats around every corner (though being fluent in Japanese certainly helps).

With a literacy rate reported to be as high as 99%, a long literary tradition and easy access to affordable books, Japan is a pretty great place to be a bookworm.

So Long and Thanks for All the Fish!

There’s going to be a bit of a disruption in the regularly-scheduled programming here on Raincity Librarian because the Raincity Software Engineer and I are leaving on a jet plane for a wintery holiday!

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I will be away until mid-January, and I likely won’t be participating in my usual Monday, Tuesday and Friday book memes. But fear not, loyal reader(s)! I’ve got some great posts scheduled over the coming few weeks, so definitely do stop by and visit for some miscellaneous entertainment.

If you miss me, you can find more of my ramblings over on the children’s book blog¬†The Book Wars, where I’ve got some great posts lined up for December and January.

I’ll be posting pictures from our adventure over on Instagram (@raincitylibrarian), and you can best believe I’ll be visiting all the libraries I can find while I’m away.

Have a very happy and safe holiday, everyone. Thank you so very much for reading – it really means the world to me to know that there are book-lovers around the world who actually enjoy my musings, and I’m so thankful for each and every comment, follow and visit. I’ll see you all next year!

All the best,

Jane the Raincity Librarian

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P.S. Any Douglas Adams fans in the audience? ūüėČ

Library Love – Travel Edition

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I love libraries. I love being able to surround myself with books, DVDs, magazines and all sorts of FREE goodies. Long before I became a librarian I was a proud library user, so I thought I’d start sharing a few of the many,¬†many reasons that I love libraries. To start off with, let’s talk travel!

I’m currently planning my next epic adventure, and the library has been an integral part of my planning process. To be sure, the internet is a great resource (which can also be accessed for free from the library), but seeing as I spend the majority of my life in front of a computer, there are times when I just want to unplug and tuck my nose into a travel guide (or ten). Also, I don’t always have internet access when I travel, which can make having a physical guidebook very handy. This brings me to my first travel-related library love:

TRAVEL GUIDES

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Travel guides are not cheap, ladies and gentlemen, and I don’t know about you, but I like to sample different guides to make sure I’m getting a well-rounded view of a particular destination. For my current trip I’ve been using Lonely Planet, Rough Guide, Fodor’s Guides, Eyewitness Travel and Frommer’s Guides – each company has a slightly different perspective and focus, and is written for a different audience, so I like to combine them to make sure I’m getting as much information as possible. Plus, as someone with champagne tastes and a beer budget, I sometimes need to think outside the box to maximise my budget-to-experience ratio….

Not sure where to find travel guides, or wondering which guide might be right for you? Librarians are masters of finding information – really, it’s kind of our thing. So, don’t hesitate to ask your local librarian for help finding just the right travel guide for your adventuring style and budget.

I’m trying to learn as many phrases as possible before I leave on my trip, which leads me the next travel-related library love:

LANGUAGE LEARNING RESOURCES

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However you learn best, there’s likely a language learning resource that’s perfect for you just waiting at your local library. I prefer a mix of visual and audio learning aides, so I’ve picked up a few CD/book sets to help get me started. You can also pick up handy phrasebooks and of course language dictionaries. Don’t discount picture dictionaries, either – I used one to communicate with a non-English speaking doctor on an overseas trip once, and it came in very handy when trying to explain my symptoms… Plus, if any of the language guides you’ve picked out don’t quite suit your learning style, you’re not out a penny (assuming you return them on time and don’t drop them in the bathtub of course…), and you can simply exchange them for something different! Perfect for language learners who are watching their spending.

Finally, exploring the culture of your destination can be a great way to prepare yourself for a ¬†trip, or to help tide you over while you wait impatiently for your departure date. Whether you’re looking to explore a country through fiction, memoirs, movies, TV shows, magazines or music, your library can help you plunge headfirst into another culture. Time for my final travel-related library love:

DIVERSE COLLECTIONS

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Wherever you’re going, you’ll likely find it represented in some form at your library, so definitely take a look, and check with a librarian if you need help finding just what you’re looking for.

There are so many reasons that I love my library – hopefully this little post has inspired you to take another look at your local library, especially if you’re a traveller on a budget!

Happy travels!

The Travel Tag

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I love to travel. I haven’t written much about my travels here on Raincity Librarian since my focus is primarily books, but when I discovered this tag on the blog Travel in Retrospect, I knew I just to take a spin at it.

Where are you from? Vancouver, Canada

Where have you been around the world?¬†So far I’ve travelled through Canada, the USA, Mexico, the Caribbean, England, New Zealand and Japan.

What is your favourite City?¬†Vancouver – I’m a homebody. But Tokyo and Auckland also have places in my heart.

What are your dream destinations? Back to Japan, and then on to Croatia!

Best item you have purchased overseas? …..¬†OK, since this blog is a judgement-free zone, I’m just going to come out and say it: a selfie stick. Yes, yes, I know, I know. But when you’re travelling alone or with a partner, getting pictures can be tough! We bought a selfie stick in Tokyo and it quickly became our new best friend.

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Thank you, selfie stick!

 

What time of the year do you like to travel? I love travelling in the fall Рit tends to be cheaper, cooler, less busy, and often exceptionally beautiful (see above!).

How many times a year do you travel?¬†Not nearly as often as I’d like to, but typically at least once a year. We used to travel more, but school + work + mortgage = sad bank account.

What are some new and exciting¬†cuisines¬†have you tried on your travels?¬†Unfortunately, due to my severe food allergies I can’t be too adventurous when it comes to sampling local cuisine. I did have fish for breakfast in Japan, which was pretty adventurous for me, since I’m typically a cereal kind of girl.

Have you ever lost something while¬†travelling?¬†I did get a camera stolen in Seattle years and years ago. I’d only just bought it, too, which made it all the more annoying.

What are your favourite travel activities?¬†Walking around local neighbourhoods and exploring grocery stores. My partner and I usually end up staying in residential neighbourhoods, and I love just wandering around and experiencing life the way the locals do. It sounds crazy, but exploring grocery stores can be a fantastic way to experience a culture, and it’s free!

I am also a sucker for a museum, which is why London was such an incredible experience for me – free museums!!

What are your must have travel accessories?¬†Earplugs. I’m not typically a light sleeper, but after having camped immediately beside a busy set of railway tracks I never leave home without a set of earplugs.

What is your favourite accent in the world? I love all accents!

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If you could live anywhere where would you live?¬†I’m not sure. I really enjoyed Tokyo, and New Zealand has a similar laid-back feeling to Western Canada, so maybe Auckland?

Why do you enjoy travelling? I appreciate being taken out of my world and my comfort zone, and I love meeting new people and experiencing new cultures.

Do you have a travel buddy?¬†I’m very fortunate to have a very laid-back, easy going partner of 14 years who is a very good travel buddy, especially when things get stressful – he’s the epitome of calm under fire!

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What are some of the interesting places you‚Äôve¬†visited¬†and the different cultures?¬†The most interesting place I’ve visited so far has been Japan, with a language and culture that was entirely foreign to me, yet also remarkably welcoming.

Have you ever had any bad travel experiences? I¬†spent my last night in Japan in the emergency room in a local hospital, having contracted an extremely bad case of food poisoning from a sushi restaurant. It’s actually a pretty amazing story – we were staying in an Air B&B apartment without a phone, so my partner came down to the apartment building lobby in the middle of the night to call a taxi to take me to the hospital. A woman who lived in the building became our superhero – she called a taxi for us, went with me to the hospital so my partner could pack for our flight the next morning, checked me into the hospital, and stayed with me until my partner arrived (saying “you are a good girl” over and over again in her limited English). It was a terrible experience at the time, but pretty incredible to think about afterwards.

Advice for those who want to travel but think they can‚Äôt?¬†What do you mean you can’t? Of course you can! Even if¬†it’s just a quick visit to a neighbouring town, you can always travel somewhere. Research, save up, and do it.

Show us your favourite travel picture? Just one? Here are a couple from over the years.

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Rapid Fire

Road Trip around your country or Plane ride to exotic location?¬†Plane ride! Canada is BIG, so you’d better side aside plenty of time for a road trip.

Hotel or Hostel: Air B&B all the way!

Summer or Winter:¬†It really depends¬†where I am – I’m not a fan of muggy, humid summer days, but the grey sogginess of a Pacific Northwest winter can be downright depressing.

Window or Aisle seat: Aisle. I like being able to easily get out and walk about whenever I need to.

Book or Movie on the Plane:¬†Movie. Endless, endless movies. I don’t typically see many films in theatres, so flights are a chance for me to get caught up.

I hope this little deviation from the typical bookish post was interesting in some way, and if you decide to write about your own travels, do let me know, I’d love to read about it and travel vicariously through your expeditions!

An Ode to Book Off

When my partner visits New York City on business, he is tasked with bringing me back goodies from three of my favourite Japanese stores, which have locations in NYC but not, alas, in Vancouver – fashion retailer Uniqlo, homeware hero Mujii, and the heavenly bookstore that is Book Off. Since I’m a book blogger, and not much of a fashionista or homeware guru, I’ll be focusing this post on Book Off.

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Book Off is the kind of store that dreams are made of, at least if you’re obsessed with used and/or Japanese books. It’s Japan’s largest chain of second-hand bookstores, and since its founding in 1991 the company has expanded to 866 stores across Japan and 8 stores overseas, including the NYC location.

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If you’re looking for the archetypal cramped and crowded second hand bookstore, complete with overflowing shelves and precariously teetering towers of paperbacks, you won’t find it here. No sir, this is second hand books at its most organized – beautifully organized, perfectly neat rows of bookshelves, divided by genre or subject, then shelved by author or title as the case may be, resulting in welcoming environment that’s a joy to browse and easy to navigate.

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As Book Off proudly declares on its website,

At BookOff, not only do we carry literary and practical books but also comic books and magazines. Although they are used books, they look as if they are brand new books. Customers can relax inside our neat, good-looking and luminous store and purchase their favorite books. Please come to the BookOff store in your neighborhood.

How often do you get to relax inside a good-looking and luminous bookstore? Not often enough, I say.

The prices tend to be very reasonable, given the high quality and condition of the books, with book prices starting at $1.00.

Now, seeing as this is a Japanese bookstore, you shouldn’t be surprised to find out that a lot of the books on offer are in fact in Japanese. If you’re learning Japanese like my partner, or just enjoy browsing Japanese fashion magazines like I do, this access to Japanese materials is fantastic. Many locations do carry a good selection “foreign” books, typically in English, though, so it’s definitely worth calling your local location if you’re looking for something specific.

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As a devoted buyer of second-hand books, I wish, wish, wish we had a chain similar to Book Off in Canada, a company dedicated to selling second hand books in an organised, welcoming environment. Second hand books can make reading more affordable, and they extend the lives of books, saving them from the landfill or recycle bin. Musty, dusty second hand bookstores definitely have their charm, but they aren’t necessarily for everyone.Clean, organised, friendly used book stores like Book Off are a cheap – I mean – economical¬†book lover’s dream come true!