A number of folks are asking about buying from Japan, or buying Yuri in Japan. I’ve written about this a number of times but sites close down and stores go out of business, so I’m going to do an updated guide. This is not meant to be comprehensive – any attempt at comprehensive in a rapidly changing world is doomed to fail. ^_^
I want to clearly note that this is not a definitive Guide to Shopping for Yuri. It is a guide to shopping for Japanese items; manga, anime, etc. I want to make that clear, because there is no one-stop-you go here, all-Yuri-ever neatly arranged in English for you, place, either online or off. (Amazon has not updated their storefront ever, so even the Yuricon shop has fallen behind. I’ll put updating that on this year’s To-do List.) Shopping for Yuri is still a scavenger hunt. (This is true for any genre. There is no store in Japan that sells every BL comic, or Seinen comic ever published, either. Manga stores in Japan give store space to the new and the best sellers, just like American bookstores.)
I’ll be using Manga as the default example, so unless otherwise noted, the item in question is a book. And in Japanese. ^_^ It might be a Drama CD or an artbook or a Japanese DVD set, but it’s all the same for our purposes.
Also, this is not a guide to buying Yuri anime or manga you can get from western companies. RightStuf, Funimation, Sentai Filmworks and Seven Seas, are all available on Amazon.com or other retail sites. I trust you to be able to look those up for yourselves, or use links provided here on Okazu. You should be able to place manga orders with your local comic book stores or chain stores, and there are any number of respectable online websites like Anime Castle and Robert’s Anime Corner that stock all sorts of toys, anime and manga.
Before I get to the meat of this post, let me remind you of two things:
1) This is an Okazu Guide. It comes imbued with common sense and a dose of harsh reality. ^_^ Manga, Anime, Figurines and Games are Luxury Items. You do not need them. You want them. The presumption of all market forces is if you want a thing, you have to be able to afford it.
2) You can get things you want but one way or another you will pay for them. When I buy Japanese manga, one of us, the manga or I, has to travel 6500 miles to get it. Either way, it costs money. ^_^
That having been said, here we go!
Part 0. Know What You Are Buying
Before you start shopping, I strongly recommend you learn at least a few things:
1. The actual Title of the Manga in Japanese.
It’s all well and fine to say you like “Chatting at the Amber Teahouse” but there is no manga with that name. There is only an illicit scan. No bookstore, no website can help you find that. The title of Fujieda-sensei’s manga about two women and a tea shop is 飴色紅茶館歓談. That is what you will need to have with you when you search.
2. The Author’s name in Japanese. Wikipedia, AnimeNewsNetwork and other encyclopedias are a huge help to identify this sort of thing. Put an author’s name in a search engine and you will find that Fujieda Miyabi is written 藤枝雅. For Part 2, Shopping in Japan below, you might want to print out the title, publisher and author’s names for yourself. For Part 1, Shopping Online, cut and paste will do.
3. When you plan on shopping in person, it also very much helps to know what demographic audience the book is for. This is indicated by the Publisher and Imprint. We’ll get more deeply into that in Part 2.
Part 1. Shopping Online
Let me state again that this is not meant to be a comprehensive guide. I’m sticking with three popular sites and will leave you to investigate further on your own.
Amazon Japan is my default. I choose them because 1) their selection is very good (often better than shopping in stores in Japan); 2) I am an affiliate, so every time you buy through a Yuricon Shop or Okazu link, I get a few yen to support my own habit and; 3) It is very easy to use.
Let’s say you click through an Okazu link for Aoi Hana, Volume 8. Here’s what you see:
Everything is in Japanese, except one thing. Notice the red arrow on the right? It points to a sentence that reads “Would you like to see this page in English? Click here.” If you click the link, the page looks like this:
Things like this book is “In Stock” and the “Add to Shopping Cart” button turn into English. The title, the author, the publishing company do not. They don’t, because the title of the book is still 「青い花」 and the author’s name is still 志村貴子.
What that English link does do is make checking out much faster. ^_^ If you’ve ever used Amazon, you probably don’t even need to bother turning the page to English, the checkout is the same, all the buttons shapes and sizes are the same. But if you want to lessen the friction, just click that English button and it’s all words you know.
Shipping: Amazon only ships by air. You can choose that you want the items grouped or separate, but no other shipping options exist. My advice is to order about 20 items at a time, grouped into one order. That brings the shipping cost-per-item down to $4, which is totally palatable. Exchange rates will make a difference too. Shipping that might cost $100 when the exchange rate is good could be a lot more when it’s poor. If you choose “group them together” and something hasn’t been released yet, sometimes Amazon JP send it separately when it gets in stock and sometimes they hold the whole order and I have not been able to figure out what the triggers are. It’s often haphazard.
There is no Yuri category on Amazon JP. Yuri books are listed under the BL category. Book>. Comic/Light Novels/BL> Comic: 本 > コミック・ラノベ・BL > コミック You need to know your title, or your author’s name in Japanese.
Amazon JP often will not ship figurines, but to be honest, I do better in cost these days buying figurines on Amazon.com. Last year, I would have paid $45 or so for a Saber figurine in Japan, then would have had to get it home on my own. I found the same figurine for $36 with free Prime shipping on Amazon.com.
YesAsia is a popular choice for buying Asian goods. I have not used them in probably a decade, so I have no idea how good their service is. They do offer shipping discounts for orders over a certain amount. If you want Japanese manga, but do not know any Japanese at all, they seem like a decent choice.
The site is in English, the dollar amounts are in USD and it looks like they still offer various shipping options, like standard mail and express. Their stock is not bad, you can search for authors and titles in romaji (English characters used for Japanese words, like “ameiro kouchkan kandan”). The cost of the books is higher than on Amazon JP because YesAsia includes the cost of shipping to them in the cost of the item. Some books, especially newer books, might more expensive as a result. Thanks to Greg for the testimonial on them and Laura for letting us know that YesAsia ships worldwide.
There is no Yuri category on YesAsia. You need to know your title and/or author’s name transliterated name in English.
Rinkya is a buying and bidding service. They’ve been around more than a decade. I have never used them (for entirely personal reasons that are irrelevant here.) If you are bidding on an item on Yahoo JP auctions and want a buyer to bid for you, arrange the shipping and payment (since most Japanese auctions won’t ship internationally) they can do that. Sometimes they sell stock that people never claimed from their warehouse. They do offer slow boat options for shipping. Yahoo JP auctions are like the Mandarake of online shopping. People get rid of collections, old toys, rare items. It might not be cheap, but back in the day when I shopped the auctions, I got some amazing stuff.
BK1 used to be a popular book selling alternative, but they have become honto. AudioErotica has graciously jumped in to tell us that they still do ship internationally and yes, they have slower/cheaper shipping methods available.
Part 2. Shopping in Japan
In November 2012, I wrote a guide to Shopping for Yuri in Japan. By October 2013, some of the store-specific information was already obsolete.
But this is where the info I mentioned in Part 0 really comes in handy. I have said this with every single buying guide I’ve written:
To effectively shop for manga in Japan, you need to know three things. Books are not generally shelved by genre, but by imprint. So first you need to know what age/gender demographic you’re looking at, then publisher/imprint, then author. And once you have found one publisher’s Yuri manga, don’t think you’ve found it all. The sign above might say “Yuri”, but there could be more under a different publisher’s imprint elsewhere.
Know if the book you’re looking for is for girls (少女), boys (少年),for women (女性), for men (男子) – these are not necessarily listed as sections in the bookstore, you just need to know who the title you’re looking for is targeted to. Then look for the publisher, (Hobunsha 芳文社, Ichijinsha 一迅社, Futabasha 双葉社) then look for the imprint (YH Comics, Tsubomi Comics, Mangatime KR Comics) then look for the author. If you are new to this, and don’t read Japanese, take a printout of the cover you’re looking for. And take a look at the spine of the books you do have and memorize the characters. The publisher is listed at the bottom of the spine, the imprint along the top. Get to know your books!
The main areas of Tokyo for manga shopping are:
Akihabara for guy-focused stuff (which includes Yuri)
Ikebukuro for girl-focused stuff (which includes BL, but you can find some Yuri)
Nakano Sun Mall for older stuff, like classic Yuri.
Shibuya for another Animate and Mandarake.
Stores change their location, stock, layout and focus all the time, so check out other resources for what is open and what isn’t. Every large city in Japan has its own geeky area. Check current travel guides or looks for Animate store locations as a orienteering hint.
There are, as of October 2013 no Yuri-only stores anywhere in the world. You’re going to have to shop the old fashioned way.
Part 3. Shopping at Conventions and Bookstores
If you live near or within travel distance of a large city, you probably have two possible old-fashioned fan choices to shop in, that you’re not using.
Anime Conventions used to be the ONLY place a fan could go to get toys, anime and manga. Because it is so much easier to shop online, a lot of fans forget that cons are still a good place to go to find stuff. But they are. ^_^ What cons aren’t any more is…rare. So the old wheeze that if you shop on Sunday as people are packing up, they’ll give you a good deal doesn’t apply much. What the dealer doesn’t sell this weekend goes with them to the next con and the next, and the next. If you have a local con and you haven’t been in a while, drop by…you never know what you’ll find. But…fashion and media still go hand in hand. If you’re looking for old school items, don’t be surprised when all the vendors are carrying the new, the hot, the hip. They want to sell stuff. Carrying that girl-type Ranma 1/2 figure around for a decade until you decide you’re ready to buy it isn’t really cost efficient, when they can sell 1500 Attack on Titan things instead. ^_^
Japanese bookstores. Kinokuniya and Sanseido are two large Japanese bookstore chains that have US locations. They will order books and magazines for you, but you still need to know the publisher and title. (Bring along a print copy of, say, コミック百合姫、一迅社, to let them know you want Comic Yuri Hime put out by Ichijinsha.) If you’re in a location near or within travel distance of either store, it’s worth a visit, so you can see how the manga are arranged by demographic/publisher/imprint/title. (English manga is arranged alphabetically by title, and who can blame them?)
Shopping for Yuri is still challenging, but do not despair! The hunt is part of the fun. Take this opportunity to learn a bit of Japanese, and you’ll find that you’ll be able to understand more of what you’re buying, as well. ^_^