Kinokuniya – My Favourite Japanese Bookstore in Seattle

Living in Vancouver, BC, we are in easy driving range of Seattle. One could easily make a day trip down to the Emerald City. Or as the recent “2 Days in Seattle” ad campaign suggests, you should spend two days in Seattle.

photo from Seattle Chinatown/International District BIA

For the past few trips into the US, I’ve made it a point to visit one particular bookstore in Seattle. It’s Kinokuniya. What’s that? Kinokuniya Books is a large, Japanese chain of bookstores. You can find them all over Japan. I’ve even visited their Shinjuku store in Tokyo.

If you are looking for Kinokuniya in Seattle, you first must find Uwajimaya in the International District. Uwajimaya is a chain of supermarkets that specialize in Asian food and fluids and more. Uwajimaya boasts four locations in the Pacific Northwest.  The Seattle store must be the largest by far.  

If you arrive their by car, you can park in the parking lot, but be aware that it costs $7/hour.  That’s pretty steep.  If you plan on buying something, then you can have your ticket validated for two hours of free parking.  If you only plan on perusing, park elsewhere or take transit to the International District.

A food court full of different Asian culinary treats is also attached to the supermarket.  Beard Papa’s, which will be very familiar to Vancouverites, can also be found in the food court.  Beside the food court at Uwajimaya, you will find Kinokuniya.  Of all the Uwajimaya supermarkets, this is the largest attached Kinokuniya store.  I think this is the only Kinokuniya worth spending time in.  My wife and I spend easily an hour or two just perusing the books.

On the main floor, there is a huge selection of manga and anime products.  Manga are available in English, Japanese, and Chinese.  The English manga are by far the most expensive.  Is it because they are produced domestically?  The Chinese manga are the least expensive.  Import versions are cheaper than domestic versions?  It really makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it?  In any case, you can find almost any manga in print on their shelves and shelves of goodies.

an issue of non-no
an issue of MORE

Uwajimaya also has a good selection of the most popular Japanese magazines.  Women will naturally gravitate towards fashion magazines like non-no or MORE.  I’ve picked up some men’s Japanese fashion from there before.  Magazines like smart andCoolTrans give you a sense of how young, trendy Japanese men are dressing up.

an issue of CoolTrans

I must admit that I can’t read Japanese, but sometimes I can figure out the kanji, if the character exists in Chinese.  These magazines are overflowing pictures though.  So it’s pretty much eye-candy and you can get the gist of what a layout is about.  I just can’t read the details. And if you ever saw me dress, I’m pretty far from trendy.  I guess that’s why I needed to buy a mag for help. ^^

an issue of smart

These popular Japanese fashion magazines for men and women also come with lots of freebies.  From one issue I got some free Stussy wares.  It was a pencil case and a wallet.  They weren’t high quality, but they were functional.  Wifey has gotten some very nice book bags and lunch bags in some of her magazines.  The women always get better stuff.

free gift included with smart magazine

On the mezzanine level, you can find Japanese and Korean music CDs and their modest, but substantial collection of Chinese books.  This is where I look for my Chinese-language travel books.  If I can’t find it in Vancouver or Richmond, they may just have it here at Kinokuniya Seattle.

On this recent trip down to Portland, we stopped on the way back at Kinokuniya. I just couldn’t find a copy of a travel book for Boston back home, but I lucked out on a copy of one at Kinokuniya.  This Traveller’s Boston book is published by Morning Star Group in Taiwan.  It wasn’t quite as packed with info like some of my previous travel books, but it still has way more pictures than any Lonely Planet or Frommer’s guide.

Hm…I think I may have given away where I’m travelling next…


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