The art of diving for treasure at Book Off Japan

Book Off in Japan are second hand stores which can be found across the country usually next to train stations. Book off specifically deals with books, magazines, games, BlueRays, DVD and music CDs. If your bargain hunting in Japan or just want your money to go that little bit further these stores are amazing.

Generally Book Off’s prices are about a third to half the price of buying the same item new from say Tower Records. Japanese people generally take great care with their items so the quality of these items are like new anyway. Prices do vary a bit from shop to shop depending on the quality of discs and their packaging.

Store sections are organised by the type of item and you’ll find a floor guide usually on the escalator of each building you go into. DVDs and CDs are sometimes on different floors depending on the size of the store. For English language artists and films they’re organised by the Roman alphabet but for Japanese it’s arranged by the AIUEO (あいうえお) system. If your not good at this having it written down on a card will help.

DVDs and BlueRays are split into different sections so; English language films and TV, Japanese films and TV, anime and music discs. Music discs are often split further into English language artists and Japanese language. If your looking for discs from anime live fan events they also have their own section which is usually quite small, seiyuu idol discs are often mixed in with these. This section is sometimes placed with the anime CDs just something to look out for.

For CDs they’re pretty similarly arranged split into English and Japanese artists. Some larger stores will have a Kpop specific section, again it depends on the location of the store to what people are bringing in if it has this. Kpop sections are either labelled with ‘kpop’ or ‘korean’ in katakana. Some stores will put Kpop DVDs next to the CDs or mix them in just to tempt buyers a bit more. Both in Kpop and Jpop disks are often split between male and female artists so it makes them easier to browse.

If your looking for older Kpop or Jpop CDs maybe you’ll luck out and find them in the 500 yen sections. These sections are sometimes categorised in the larger stores with Kpop and Jpop being separate smaller stores have them mixed together. Just to confuse things though if a Kpop act has had a Japan specific release you’ll find it mixed in with the Jpop releases since its treated as a Japanese language disk.

Old CD singles can be found in the 250 yen discount sections for completist collectors!

Now on to the best part of Book Off stores; the diving sections. These are for disk sets which have an unusually shaped packaging that’s difficult to put out on the regular shelves. Sometimes it’s shelved or baskets but you’ll spot them at isle ends, they’re always unorganised – stuff is just in there. If you like me have the bargain hunting instinct you can find some real gems for Kpop here since a lot of their albums have unusual packaging. For example I got Lotto and Exodus by EXO from one of these sections for less than 1000 yen for both. In the UK Lotto sells for around £30 for comparison. I bought some stuff from Book Off just because it’s so cheap, I’m easily tempted clearly.

If you have the time I’d recommend heading out to some of the more obscure stations in Tokyo that have Book Off stores next to them since they’re frequented more by locals. Often stores outside the typical tourist spots are also bigger because the rent in those areas is cheaper. The best one like this I came across was at kitchijojii where I was killing time waiting for a friend and ended up getting a bag full of bargains. As a side note a lot of Book Off stores have adult DVD sections which have different levels of censorship and signage. Just a warning if your easily offended you might find yourself wandering the isles and suddenly in the adult section.


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