Kinokuniya Spreads Japanese Culture

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By Yumna Ahmed ’17

Kinokuniya, a Japanese bookstore, allows people to delve into a culture they might not be familiar with. Overlooking Bryant Park, Kinokuniya has a variety of items that can intrigue visitors.

Along with books that are offered in English and Japanese, Kinokuniya has an array of manga, plush animals, stationery, and magazines. According to Kinokuniya’s website, the bookstore was originally created in Tokyo in 1927. Today, it is the biggest chain store in Japan, with over 80 stores and 35 sales offices worldwide. Stopping at the store gives a person access to a better insight on Japanese culture.

“There are a lot of books by Japanese authors and there are even Japanese magazines, so the store isn’t just centered on anime and manga,” said Diana Evgrafova, a senior in high school. “The sole focus is on Japanese pop culture. I also think it’s a great place to pick up some stationary.”

The store has two floors and a basement. The basement is quiet, similar to a library and has magazines and stationary that lean toward those who read and write Japanese. The space in the basement is more open compared to the first floor, which consists of the books that are all in English. The second floor is a jackpot for manga and anime lovers, with hundreds of manga sitting on shelves and collectible action figures posing in their boxes, making the room colorful and vibrant.

The second floor also contains Cafe Zaiya, a small bakery that offers food made from scratch which plays Japanese pop music in the background. People can relax and choose from a diverse range of buns and bento boxes that can be heated in a microwave. Brandon Yan, a college student, spent his lunch hour in Cafe Zaiya while thumbing through manga and eating a Hello Kitty shaped bun for dessert.

“The food is pretty cheap, and it’s nice to eat while looking at the scenery across the street,” he said. “I come here with my friends most of the time and tried a lot of the food, so I recommend people try the curry bun.”

According to an article by The New York Times, Shigeharu Ono, the senior vice president of Kinokuniya’s United States operations, stated, “We wanted to distance ourselves from the Barnes & Noble. So we don’t sell, let’s say, the ‘Tax Return 101’ or ‘How to Play Golf Better.”

Evgrafova believes that Kinokuniya is a good way to bond with other people since everyone has similar interests.

“The items are imported from Japan, so it might be expensive to some people, but the huge variety of things makes up for it,” she said. “The atmosphere and service is great. It’s like a little piece of Japan in New York.”

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