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Kinokuniya, San Francisco. Culture without boundaries

Books have the power of connecting different countries and cultures. As it’s the case for the specific tie between United States and Japan created by Kinokuniya

Kinokuniya, retailer in San Francisco

Books have the power of connecting different countries and cultures. As it’s the case for the specific tie between the United States and Japan created by Kinokuniya. Today, this bookstore brings to several US cities an extensive collection of manga, graphic novels, art and design books, cookbooks, travel books, children’s books both in English and Japanese.

However, its story started with five employees in 1927 in the Shinjuku district of Tokyo. There, in fact, a two-story wooden building represented the roots of this journey. A floor space of 125 square meters and an art gallery on the second floor characterized the location. In 1949, Kinokuniya started importing English books and, six years later, opened its first sales office in Osaka, Japan. This marked the beginning of the company’s nationwide expansion into the academic institutional market.

The Kinokuniya Building has recently been designated as a Tokyo Historic Building. It was established in the district of Shinjuku in 1964. The building consists of nine stories and two underground floors. Five years later, in 1969, Kinokuniya also opened its first overseas bookstore in San Francisco, California. 

The store finished in 1947, Showa 22. Kinokuniya Bookstore

Kinokuniya Building

This one remains located inside Japan Center mall at Japantown, the same location of 1969. They started off as one of the tenants on the second floor, providing mostly Japanese and Japan related books and merchandise. But, ten years ago, they expanded the space to include a portion of the first floor, which eventually became an Anime/Manga section with a wide range of Japanese and English Manga, art books, as well as Anime merchandise.

An illustration drawn by Japanese artist, Katsuya Terada marks the entrance. He live-painted it, in fact, when he visited the store in 2013. The second floor is where one can find general English and Japanese books, magazines as well as gift items. San Francisco’s Japantown is nestled in the heart of the city and it’s the largest of the three remaining Japantown’s in the US. There it is possible to find shops, festivals and experiences.

In a way, visiting this venue is like taking a quick trip to Osaka and immersing yourself in Japanese culture, old as well as new. Past and present, in fact, unveil their meeting point, as San Francisco’s Japantown has been the center of the Bay Area’s Japanese and Japanese American community since 1906.

kinokuniya

Japan Center- Kinokuniya Building 1581 Webster St, San Francisco

Japanese-based retailer known for its collection of Asian books & magazines, plus DVDs & stationery.

Alessio Foderi

The writer does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article.

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check and buy on Prototipo Store
item collections in limited edition
crafted according to our editorial search

Hemp / made in Italy
Lampoon is working to restore
Hemp production in Italy
as hemp is the one and only
natural vegetal fiber sourceable in the country
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