As a foreigner in Japan (especially when you first arrive), life can be a little difficult adjusting to a new place and a completely different culture. You may need to find furniture, or at least things to personalise your apartment and make it your own and you may not want to spend big money on something that is only going to be temporary. If you’re a bookworm, an avid watcher of TV and/or movies and you love listening to music, you will most definitely be on the hunt for something to soothe your soul (and something you actually understand, aka English).
Clothing can be difficult to find in Japan for some normal-sized foreigners and finally, anything in between like electronics, musical equipment and toys are sometimes very expensive if you want brand-new goods. Finding all of these things can be overwhelming and you may feel some days that you just want to give up. What should you do and where should you go?
Introducing… Book-Off, Hiroshima’s answer to everything you need!
Book-Off is your one-stop, all-inclusive, sells-all-of-the-above, second-hand shop that has branches all over Hiroshima. If you have a car it’s easy to get to these and you can sometimes find some incredible bargains and one-off pieces, but for the Mother Ship, head to the conveniently located one downtown, right in between the Hondori and Fukuro-machi streetcar stops.
Most people associate Book-Off with, well, books, but what many people don’t know (I’ve found out that this includes locals!), is that the shop sells everything from yes, books, to musical instruments.
The first floor is dedicated to otaku-kind of goods like figurines, DVDS (both Japanese, Korean, English and a few other main languages), CDs, cameras, musical instruments, books and plenty of manga if you like reading them. There are also children’s games, puzzles and a small English book section. This includes not only fiction, but a good range of non-fiction books on some bizarre topics that you will be hard pressed to find elsewhere.
Personally though, my favourite part of the Book-Off is downstairs in the basement. Here you will find a treasure-trove of clothes, shoes, watches, jewellery and other delicious odds-and-ends. It includes both men’s, women’s and children’s clothes and is separated into brand name and ordinary, no-name clothing. For those on a very strict budget there’s also a 200 yen section and sometimes you can find some absolute gems.
A wander through the cups and cutlery section is also highly recommended for both collectors and those needing some cheap wares to furnish their new apartment or house. I go at least once a week to check out the new stock and if you’re a regular, I suggest asking the staff for a Book-Off points card.
For those people who are adverse to second-hand goods, give it a go. This is Japan where things are always in good condition and presentation is everything. You won’t find anything faulty or in less than very good condition here.
Sometimes you can find a heap of great stuff, while other days you might not find anything at all. The main thing is to persevere and keep checking back, because I promise you, you will find something you are looking for and often times, things you aren’t looking for either! The clothing in particular is constantly being added to and if you see a bargain in any section, my advice is to grab it then and there because it won’t be there next time you go. Carpe diem!
Photo by screenshot from www.bookoff.co.jp/shop/shop20416.html , used without permission
Photo by www.bookoff.co.jp, used without permission