A big question when you’re itching to read a light novel or manga in Japanese is where you can order it from. If you live in Japan, you can just walk to the closest bookshop and get whatever you want. But not all of us are so lucky. Personally I live in Europe, and while there are local stores that sell literature in Japanese, they don’t have much to offer, and what there is can be quite expensive.

Luckily, this is the age of the internet, and there are plenty of online bookstores hoping to do business with us. Since I began reading manga in Japanese back in 2004, I have ordered literally thousands of books and manga from Amazon Japan. They have an enormous inventory, extremely fast delivery, and are reliable. Shipping costs are expensive, however. That’s why I’ve lately started using BK1 instead, as they provide a lot more options for shipping methods.

To give you an idea of the difference, here are the details:

Amazon Japan takes a minimum of 3400 yen ($38) per shipment, and an additional 300 yen ($3.32) per item, which means ordering 1 book = 3700 yen ($41) just for shipping! Delivery time is 3-5 days. (link)

BK1 charges depending on weight with no minimum charge, estimating 200 grams per book, which using the SAL method means 1 book = 280 yen ($3.10) for shipping. Delivery time is 1-11 weeks!

It’s plain to see that you save enormous amounts of money by going with BK1, but it isn’t always this clear-cut. Shipping via SAL means you have no way to track your shipment, and delivery time can be very unreliable, so you may be checking your mailbox furiously before eventually being lucky enough to find something in it. There’s also no insurance, so if the package is lost, you’re most likely screwed. Having said that, the five times I’ve ordered, I’ve received my packages in around two weeks.

It gets even more complicated from here on. Since BK1 charges depending on the weight of your package, the contents of your order have a big effect on the shipping cost, and can be hard to guess before they’ve actually packaged everything and sent it out.

Sample weights:
• Toradora 1 – 155g [light novel]
• Brave Story 1 – 227g [light novel]
• Gosicks 1 – 180g [light novel]
• The Twelve Kingdoms 1 – 188g [light novel]
• Major 72 – 161g [manga]
• Bakemonogatari 1 – 402g [light novel]
• Dragonball (Perfect Edition) 01 – 435g [manga]
• Please Save My Earth (Perfect Edition) 01 – 697g [manga]

So as an extreme example, if you were to buy the entire PSME series from BK1 in one go, your package would weigh 10*697g = 6970g which is about 7000 yen ($77)!

Compare this with Amazon Japan, where you would be charged 3400+10*300 = 6400 yen ($71) and be reimbursed if it was lost.

In general, I’d recommend using BK1 for orders up to 15 items, and Amazon Japan on orders of more than 15 items. Note that the prices will differ somewhat if you live outside Europe, with Amazon being slightly cheaper for Americans, while BK1 is about 15% more expensive than the example prices I’ve used. As a bonus point to Amazon, they also provide buttons and information in English.

Commenters inform me that a good alternative for residents of the USA is Kinokuniya, so you may want to check that out as well. As another global option, there is Yesasia, who offer free shipping, but have higher book prices.


  1. And i thought the light novels are standard size >_>

    Thanks for the information, although i wont be ordering anytime soon… Gotta work on my japanese before i tackle them. *Reads chinese translated LN*

  2. In the US, there are some great places to get manga (book-off for second hand books) and Sansheido for new books (light novels, manga, and special orders)

    oh and at most places, they organize by publisher, so remember to check who publishes the work first or it will take forever to find the book.

  3. If you live in the US you can order from Kinokuniya (bookweb.kinokuniya.co.jp/). You can order off their website from the store that is closest to you. They have stores in on the East and West coast and they ship really fast. The books are more expensive than if you order from Amazon.jp *BUT* when you count in the shipping cost from amazon japan you will be saving money. I ordered $70 worth of books the other day, got my books the next day I would have payed around $80/90 if I went through amazon due to the shipping, and I just payed for regular shipping they came UPS the next day.

    If you have trouble finding a book on Kinokuniya website get the ISBN number from Amazon then search on that at the Kinokuniya site and you’ll find the book (I had to do this as I wasn’t sure how the title was written in Japanese). Amazon is great, but shipping from Japan is expensive. Also try Jlist.com although their selection is really really small.

  4. The shipping price horrors of Amazon Japan!

    Try “Yesasia” aka GLOBAL FREE SHIPPING. Processing and shipping can take a few weeks but everything always arrive safely (unless it’s out of print in Japan). Hands down the best deal for buying large amounts of manga and small books. BTW, search for book names in Japanese.

    Yeah, Kinokuniya is a good alternative for US residents.

  5. While I am yet to try it out, global Yesasia does indeed seem to offer better shipping options than the ones you’ve listed in Amazon and BK1. The fact that it’s all in english is a bonus too.

  6. Patrik,
    I bought my first japanese light novel from

    I live in the US, they are in California so they roll the international shipping into the prices. I was happy with the speed of the shipping and with the selection size of the store. It was also much cheeper than buying from amazon.jp as you noted.

    The single volume I bought was the first Shakugan no Shana and it came to $9.45 US

    I don’t know if it would be worth it for people outside the US, but it may be a good store to add to your list for US customers.

  7. voxune, but they do. I bought all seven volumes from them. See this link.

    Void and others, Yesasia has a smaller selection and is more expensive for most of the titles they do have, so BK1 beats them out (with SAL shipping). Amazon is much, much faster, and again, bigger selection. It does seem like a good alternative if you’re only after a few of the popular things and haven’t gotten along in your studies to the point where you can figure out how to order in Japanese, though.

    Kushieda and others, yes, Kinokuniya seems pretty good if you live in the US. They don’t have as wide a selection as BK1 or Amazon, but they should be a lot faster, at least. And often cheaper, as well.

    Thanks for the suggestions.

  8. Patrik, Yesasia may seem to have a smaller selection, but they are usually very good at adding stuff to their catalogue if you ask them.

    I’m also curious if you took custom cost into account when you mentioned prices. Having a big Amazon logo on a packet is a sure-kill way to get customs on you. 🙂

    I didn’t know about BK1, have to check that one out. Thanks for the tip.

  9. Patrik: True about taxes. Good to know though that BK1 passes through customs since I have a feeling we hail from the same country.

    Thanks again for the above guide and your reviews.

  10. There have been times where I bought my light novels off of Amazon (yeah, the horror of the shipping costs). Unfortunately I don’t live in the US to be able to go to Kinokuniya. Up here in Canada there is a Japanese Bookstore I often go to called Iwase Books that sells light novels among other reading material and is very updated.

  11. Great info. I fortunitlly live in the seattle area and there’s a uwajimiya iin downtown seattle that sells asian foods, and a pretty big japanese book store attached to it. I’d say the book store, but their music selection isn’t the best.

  12. Does anyone know if the Book-Off stores in the US ship inside the US? (Probably not, but it can’t hurt to ask.) That’s one of those things that would be really brilliant if they did, because there’s no chance of one coming here.

    Also, Kinokunia’s Bookweb will ship from any store in the US to you, as long as you’re patient. I usually order from the NYC store because it’s fastest, but this time the books I wanted were all in SF, so there you go. They ship UPS ground, but that’s still faster than air mail from Japan. The only downside to Kinokunia US is that you have to wait for the latest and greatest stuff. The markups are all over the place. You should check with BK1 and Amazon.JP to make sure you’re not getting ripped off. (Because sometimes you are.)

    BK1 has some interesting services, like a magazine subscription service. They’ll send them over by SAL or EMS. If you’re feeling slightly unconfident in using their website, use FireFox and RikaiChan. (And if that doesn’t help you, you don’t have any business ordering…)

    BK1 also likes to have promotions and send you coupons. They also have a point club. Point clubs rock if you use them.

    If you use SAL or even Air Mail with BK1, don’t bother to order near the Holidays unless you’re willing to wait an extra couple of weeks. Usually air mail takes 7-10 days for me– it took 4 weeks this past Christmas.

  13. i want these light novels in english , i live in north america and apparently manga is more common here , in many libraries you can see a section of manga , and i also know pages for read manga onliane , but light novels are less common , in my library are a huge collection of mangas but the only light novel i saw was haruhi suzumiya but many others i know like toradora , durarara or index no, so sad, more companies must traslate light novels more often like manga , i can’t read in japanese.

    kim tae hee
  14. >So, I’d like to know. Which one do you recommend for those who aren’t from USA and >doesn’t speak/read japanese? Thanks ^^

    Don’t speak japanese? That means you are looking for the english language versions? You should be able to get most from your local amazon. They usually sell a lot of english books.

  15. That’s right. Kinokuniya is also useful here in Singapore. They have lots of Japanese and Chinese translated manga/novels. There’s also an English manga/novel section, thpugh the Chinese section is much more vast. Good for chinese speakers.

  16. hmm…that’s interesting. Usually, I just buy Japanese mangas there and they usually sell for about 6 or 7 dollars/volume depending the size. That seems fairly cheap to me, but that’s cool if they actually are sold cheaper at other places.

    The problem with Yesasia is that they frequently run out of stuff and sometimes take a month before they ship.

  17. Best thing to do is find out where the nearest Asian shopping center is. These usually have a grocery, some eateries, a book shop, and various other service-oriented shops/kiosks all enclosed in one building. They’re often oriented toward Japan, but you can find Korean and Chinese stuff there too. There’s a nice one in Chicago, and I’ve been told by some Japanese friends that there’s one in Atlanta, too, so chances are good there’s one in your nearest big city.


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