Where can you get Japanese novels? With the wonders of the internet there are quite a few ways you can procure Japanese novels outside of Japan! These suggestions may also work for manga in Japanese, as well as non-fiction, and other books, but I mostly based my research on novels.
Not every international Japanese book store or website is listed below. I tried to find options that had the widest availability and most convenience for ordering internationally.
There are three options for physical and four options for digital Japanese novels.
A few tips when it comes to looking for a novel:
- Websites will often be in Japanese only. (Although if you can read a novel in Japanese, then a website shouldn’t be too much trouble.) If you do struggle with the Japanese on a site, you can copy and paste text into Google translate to get a jist of what’s being said.
- Search in Japanese, not English or romaji. (Japanese sites are designed for Japanese people who search in Japanese.)
- Japanese book types include: 文庫本（ぶんこぼん）small paperback / 新書（しんしょ）tall paperback / 単行本（たんこうぼん）larger, often hardback.
Physical Japanese Novels
I had honestly never heard of CDJapan before I began researching for this article, but dang I wish I had this fifteen years ago when I was a baby weeb!
Anyway, this honestly seems like a great option if you want physical Japanese novels. They ship around the world (although price and time varies depending on your choice of shipping.) They also make it incredibly easy to find books you want on their site!
- Ships all around the world!
- Website available in English.
- Can search in Japanese or English to find books in Japanese.
- Books are based on Japanese prices (no inflated import prices!)
- CDJapan also offers digital ebooks of Japanese novels! -> Click here for their ebook selection.
- Shipping for some regions temporarily suspended due to COVID. (Click here for more information.)
- Shipping and time varies depending on service and country. (But pricing seems to be fairly calculated.)
Sure, Amazon is an evil giant organization but they make a butt tone of money because they’re convenient. If you want a relatively easy and convenient way to get Japanese books then this is one of the best ways to do it.
Amazon Japan used to be a pain to use if you lived abroad but they’ve improved their services in recent years. International websites are available in multiple languages (such as the above link in English) and you can use most credit cards to purchase items.
- Ships to over 60 countries.
- Website has English (and other) language options.
- Shipping is not too expensive. (Click here for shipping costs by country/region.)
- Do not need Japanese address or credit card.
- Can only purchase Amazon products.
(Third party sellers often do not ship outside Japan, so no second-hand books.)
- It’s Amazon.
If you want physical books but don’t want to support Amazon, then Kinokuniya might be your best bet. Kinokuniya is only readily available in the US, Australia and South East Asia though, so not useful for those who live in Europe or Africa.
There are physical stores in these regions, but you can also order online if a store is not easily accessible. This is particularly great for people living in the middle of nowhere. However, you will be paying inflated imported prices for books. So a hardback novel might be 1400 yen in Japan, but $25 in the US.
The online store (at least the Kinokuniya USA Online store) is available in English, Chinese, Japanese. But it looks like Japanese book categories are in Japanese and you’ll need to search for any books you want in Japanese. Be careful you don’t accidentally buy the English version!
- Website available in English, Chinese, Japanese. (Although Japanese books categories in Japanese. Need to search Japanese books in Japanese.)
- Shipping free for orders over $50 (in the USA.)
- Physical and online stores in the USA, Australia, and South East Asia countries.
- Not available outside USA, Australia, South East Asia
- Paying imported prices for books.
- Shipping can be pricey if you don’t qualify for free shipping. (Depends on country though.)
Digital Japanese Novels
As I mentioned in the advantages for the physical books, it looks like CD Japan also offer digital books!
They have their own e-reader called Neowing eBook Reader. although I don’t know how easy it is to use but reviews seem lukewarm.
- Website available in English.
- Can pay with credit card or PayPal.
- Available on PC, iPhone, and Android.
- Application might not be the best.
- Need an account.
- Need to install their e-reader.
- Not available on Mac.
Amazon Japan Kindle
Did you know Amazon in different countries sell different things? Including books! Including, specifically, books available for Kindle. Digital books differ between, say, the UK, US, and Japan. Which means you need to have an Amazon Japan account to get hold of Japanese digital books on Kindle.
The only problem is, you need to have your Kindle or Kindle app linked to your Amazon Japan account. You cannot link your Kindle (or Kindle app on a phone or computer) to multiple Amazon accounts. This is annoying because if you have linked your Kindle to, say, your US account, you cannot download Japanese books from Amazon Japan.
However, this also means you’re able to easily and quickly get hold of novels in Japanese without having to wait for weeks for you shipment to arrive!
Update: Looks like you need to set your location to Japan to purchase Amazon Japan Kindle books. Then you can use your international card and address for ordering and downloading them.
- Wide variety Japanese novels are easily accessible.
- Can easily test read (試し読み) books.
- Kindle makes it easy to look up meanings of words, highlight new words/phrases, and create flashcards.
- Don’t need Japanese address or credit card.
- You need a Kindle or Kindle app on PC.
- Can only use on a Kindle linked to a Japanese Amazon account.
(You cannot download books from Amazon Japan and Amazon US on the same Kindle!)
They only offers digital books which you can read with their e-reader application on computer or phone!
I do, however, have a love-hate relationship with the Bookwalker reader. I used it a lot for work and although it’s incredibly convenient with a wide selection of books, you cannot highlight words or sentences like the Kindle. And although it says you can use the app offline, you really can’t because you need to be logged in to access it (which you can only do online.)
If you’re an avoid reader of manga and novel in Japanese, however, then you might be interested in their subscription service. All-you-can-read manga and novels for 760 yen (plus tax) a month. Click here for more information on their 読み放題 service.
- Easily test read books (試し読み) on their website.
- Provide subscription service on select books.
- App available on PC, Mac, iPhone, Android.
- Can pay with credit card, Apple ID, and Google Play points.
(Haven’t tested these but you probably need Japanese Apple/Google accounts.)
- Website is Japanese only. (You will need to search for books in Japanese.)
- Need Bookwalker account.
- Bookwalker reader cannot be used offline.
- Cannot highlight words on Bookwalker reader.
Japanese websites are not the best designed. They often have a lot of information and options with tiny text. But I’m including Honto as an option for people are more comfortable using Japanese websites.
You need to open an account with Honto to buy any books from them. And as long as you can read Japanese it’s incredibly easy!
Honto also offers physical books! However, although their website says they can ship internationally I wasn’t able to find any options when checking out to enter an address that wasn’t Japanese.
- Can get points to spend on more books. (Can also use points card in stores in Japan!)
- Their reader app is available on Windows, Mac, iPhone, and Android. (Click here for more information.)
- Can easily get digital copies of manga and novels.
- Website is in Japanese only. (You will need to search for books in Japanese.)
- Need to make Honto account.
- Credit card needed.
- Japanese address also needed. (Update: You need to register with a Japanese address, then change it to a foreign one. Info in Japanese here.)
- Can test read (立ち読み) but only through their reader.
Need some Japanese novel recommendations?
Check out these reviews of Japanese books for people studying Japanese.
- Lose Yourself in Japanese: “Let Me Eat Your Pancreas” 「君の膵臓を食べたい」
- School Romance Novel 放課後美術室 (After School Art Room)
- Feminist Fantasy「女だから」(Sexiled)
- Fantasy, Mystery「かがみの孤城」(Kagami no Kojou)
- Study Beginners Japanese With Science!
- Light Novel Comedy「はめふら」(Bakarina)
- Japanese Short Stories「5分シリーズ」(5 Minute Series)
- War, Humanity, and Letters「ヴァイオレット・エヴァーガーデン」(Violet Evergarden)
- Ink Wash Painting and Grief 「線は、僕を描く」(Sen wa Boku wo Egaku)
- Life, Death, and Cats 世界から猫が消えたなら (If Cats Disappeared from the World) for Japanese Learners