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Kinokuniya revamps foreign books section

by Magdalena Osumi

Staff Writer

One of Tokyo’s largest bookstores relaunched its foreign books section Thursday after doubling its capacity and offering what it says is the largest selection of non-Japanese titles available nationwide.

The Takashimaya Times Square branch of Kinokuniya Co. near Shinjuku Station in Tokyo offers about 120,000 volumes in English, French, German, Italian and Spanish.

Now called Books Kinokuniya Tokyo, the remodeled section occupies the entire sixth floor of the seven-story bookstore, or almost 1,000 sq. meters.

“Since many foreigners visit Shinjuku, we’ve decided to expand and refurbish this section to attract those who might enjoy browsing in a bookstore for something new to read,” said section manager Mona Sumi.

Sumi said the store has been seeing fewer foreign customers in recent years because many left Japan after the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake.

She said, however, that in the past six months numbers have recovered, “probably owing to the weaker yen,” and that visitors now exceed the levels seen before March 2011.

“The sixth floor has been remodeled to resemble one of the company’s stores overseas, like those in the U.S. or Singapore, which are proving successful,” Sumi said.

Kinokuniya says the titles on sale are mostly fiction, children’s illustrated books, art, magazines and foreign comic books.

“In addition to the specialized books we have had in our offer, we have increased the stock of foreign comic and illustrated books for children,” Sumi said.

Kinokuniya, established in 1927, opened its first overseas bookstore in San Francisco in 1969. It has since grown into a global brand with 26 book stores in eight countries, including Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Taiwan, Australia and UAE.

The chain hopes its new foreign books floor will not only draw foreigners hungry for literature in their own language, but also encourage the study of foreign languages by Japanese citizens.