BookOff New York

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Did you know there’s a BookOff in New York?! YES, everyone’s favourite Japanese discount bookstore has a shop in New York and it is awesome!

On my first day in New York I made sure it was the first thing I did. After walking around for ages trying to find it (it’s really tucked away!), I finally made it there. First stop – Japanese video games. Look at those DS games!!

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I really wanted to buy something but sadly none of them caught my eye and the ones I really wanted wasn’t there.

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On to DVDs! Hana Yori Dango is my favourite Japanese drama. It’s a story of a poor girl who goes to a private school and angers the school’s douchiest guy.

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Who knew 90′s teeny bopper girl group Mini Moni had a manga?!

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Finally, my purchases. This is my FAVOURITE manga of all time – Tenshi nanka jyanai (I’m not an Angel). It was in the bargain bin!!!! I got this bumper edition for just one dollar. I also got a couple of other manga that really shouldn’t have been in there with Tenshi.

Find BookOff New York at 49 W 45th St, New York.

A Handfull of Bookshops

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While in Paris I came across two amazing bookshops and just had to share them with you. The first was a Japanese bookshop called Junku, a Japanese bookshop. Walking into that shop was like walking through a dokodemo door to Japan. There were all the fashion magazines I loved. There were the stacks of books by that author I like. There were the Japanese study books I’d been browsing online. Heaven.

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I found one book I wanted to buy, a translation book that looked really useful. It was ¥900 normally but over 20 euros in that shop. I decided against buying it – not because I couldn’t afford it, but because I flat out disagree with them pricing it over double what it would normally cost. If they had more reasonable prices I would have spent a whole lot of money in there.

If you are in Paris and are ok with overpriced Japanese books (or want to have a look around like I did!!) then you can find Junku bookshop at 18 rue de Pyramides 75001 Paris France.

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Walking a bit further from Junku, I came across an “American” bookshop called Brentano’s. This place was HEAVEN. There were SO many books I wanted to buy there that I had to limit myself and take photos of the others I wanted to buy, so I could pick them up at another time. I got an amazing travel guide for Goa, a really funny travel diary and many other little trinkets I found in the shop.

It starts off as a normal bookshop, then as you wander through it takes you through art, diaries, postcards, ornaments and lots of other little things at the back. As I paid for my stash, I told the woman I could become very poor in her shop, to which she replied “Good! It’s good business for us!”

I really highly recommend this bookshop – Find it at 37 Avenue de l’Opéra  75002 Paris

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The last bookshop was a place that I almost didn’t go to. Shakespeare and Company was recommended to me by my friend, but I wasn’t really in that part of town (just opposite Notre Dame) to be able to visit. On the first floor, the bookshop has books crammed into every little space. It was a shame it was also crammed with people in every little space, because I could have spent a LONG time in there.

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Upstairs there is a piano (when I was there it was being played by a handsome young man) and two typewriters for people to use. Little scraps of paper with messages on are pinned all over the walls and ceiling; I’d liked to have stopped to read them a little more but I was being dragged around by my tour guide (who was a minor French celeb – a guy from a reality tv show! Get me!)

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Shakespeare and Company is well worth a visit (though probably in the morning when I guess it would be much quieter) and can be found at 37 Rue de la Bûcherie  75005 Paris.

Book Review – Nothing To Envy

Photo credit – NY Times

I have a small obsession with North Korea. It started when I was about 12 and I was in the living room when my dad was watching a documentary about the country, and I listened to an account of a woman who was tortured in a labor camp there. She said they filled her body with boiling hot water until her stomach swelled. Then they put a board over her stomach and played see-saw. I was horrified – it is a disgusting image – but couldn’t believe that there was a place in this world that would do this to its own people.

I forgot about this until I was studying in Japan. I happened to come across another documentary in Japanese about a man who had been sent to a labor camp for watching South Korean dramas. I lived next door to the Korean students so I spent weeks afterwards quizzing them on what they knew. I was amazed that such a country could exist without having any other country try to fix the situation.

Someone recommended the book Nothing To Envy to me – it’s a collection of stories about people who managed to escape North Korea. As soon as I started it, I couldn’t put it down.

Extremely well written (though she repeats information a little, which was annoying), it was an amazing insight into life in North Korea. It shows the people to be brave, creative and not naive or stupid as some may think them to be. **SPOILERS** The thing I found the most amazing was that most of the people who escaped to South Korea couldn’t fit in and actually wanted to return back to the north.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in North Korea and wanted to have a glimpse into the hermit kingdom. If anyone else has any books that are similar that they recommend, please let me know!

Japan Took The JAP Out Of Me – Worst Book Ever?

Image lifted from this review.

After finishing quite a heavy book, I was looking for something pretty light to read just on the way to work or when I have 5 minutes to kill in the evenings. Amazon had been pushing Japan Took The JAP Out Of Me at me for ages, because I like reading books about Japan, be it fiction or non-fiction.

In this sense, JAP means Jewish American Princess. I hate that she used it as a pun, as I really hate the word “Jap”. The memoir is of Lisa, who after marrying the lovely Peter, moved to Nagoya, Japan while he worked as an English teacher. As I lived in Nagoya I thought this would be pretty cool, and I’d like to see the place through someone else’s eyes.

Slight spoiler – this book is 97% Lisa’s racist bitching about Japan and 3% her realising that she just might be a terrible person. While I have done my fair share of complaining about Japan, Lisa takes it to the extreme. Things like “the taxi smelt like foreign”, “when they stare at me, there is not love in their eyes” and complaining that the school’s assembly wasn’t in English for her sake… really made me mad.

Not only that, but she was a high school teacher in America before she left, and yet she has very explicit details about her love life with her husband – not to mention frequent accounts of her adventures with mild drugs. If I was her student I’d be pretty embarrassed. If you’re writing a book about your life in Japan, I don’t want to know about your sex life, nor is it important to know that you smoke pot with your best friend. These things are not important.

I really worry that people wanting to go live in Japan will pick up this book and then make decisions based on her terrible bitching. I really hope this is not the case.

Though I enjoyed the rare “oooh I know that train station!” or “I know exactly the shop you’re talking about!” moments, this book is drekitude to the extreme and I urge you all to avoid it unless you like pain.

There really isn’t much more to say about this without giving bigger spoilers. If you happen to have read this train wreck, please let me know what you thought of it!

Frankfurt Pro Tip – Library Cases

The other day while walking in Bornheim, I noticed this funny little book case. I thought that it was just a display cabinate until a little boy walked up to it, looked inside and then pulled a book out to take away with him!

As Mister is quite the German boffin these days, I asked him to explain what the sign said and apparently these are library cases. You can take books from them as long as you bring them back, or replace them with other books. The one above is near to Bornheim Mitte station and had a couple of English books.

A week or so later, I noticed that there is one of these cases right opposite my apartment!! This one had a couple of English books in there too!

It’d be nice to share books with people, so I’d like to put books into the case next time I’m there. Maybe one day something I want to read will turn up (or even, maybe one day I’ll be able to read German!!!!)

If you’re in Frankfurt, keep an eye out for these cases!