Sasuga Japanese Bookstore Review

Sasuga Japanese Bookstore Review

(Note: The store is now closed, which is unfortunate.)

Sausuga Japanese Bookstore

It has long been on my list to buy the original tankoubon volumes for Negima!, partially to make sure I have to real story (and not that Peter David stuff) and partially to practice reading Japanese. Since I had a little Christmas money, I decided to purchase the first two volumes, but instead of going through Amazon Japan, I decided to try another bookstore — Sasuga Japanese Bookstore. As such, I’m going to review my experience to hopefully help those of you looking to purchase Japanese books.

The website is nicely laid out and selecting a category on the left side opens up a selection of sub-categories to choose from if you are looking to browse. The choice of sub-categories can be many (as it is for books) or few (as it is for movies) but it allows you to browse nicely. The search function works well, but I got to warn you — don’t go looking for English titles. For example, in the U.S., my favorite anime title is known as Tenchi Muyo! Ryo-ohki. However, on the website, the actual Romaji spelling of Tenchi Muyou! Ryououki is used. If you search for Oh My Goddess!, forget it. However, since the official English subtitle in Japan is Ah! My Goddess, you can find it that way, or you could search for the Romaji of Aa Megamisama and come up with the selection of titles. For a title like Fruits Basket, where the Romaji is for English words, you can search for the actual English spelling or the Romaji spelling. That said, there still could be cases where if you come up empty in a search, try the Romaji or use the advanced search option to check by author.

I did several searches of different manga titles and found that there are some gaps. I was greatly surprised to see that while the store appeared to have almost every other CLAMP manga tankoubon published, they had no Cardcaptor Sakura. I did manage to find one of the anime movies (normally, anime isn’t sold on the site) but that was it. The store is also not a great place to find light novels either. For example, they carried none of the Scrapped Princess novels, but did appear to carry most (if not all) of the Slayers novels. A search of Full Metal Panic only showed volume 4 of the light novels (and did not even list Gatou-sensei’s name as author) but I did some other searches and finally came up with a few other volumes of his work, labeled as Fullmetal Panic. Further searching revealed they only sell the first five volumes, and that in a bundled set (I couldn’t find volume 5 as a stand alone title).

So as you can see, searching and finding things can be a bit trying due to inconsistency in how book titles are spelled, or if they even bother to include an author’s name. Searching is also frustrated in that a search for “Nanoha” turns up nothing but a search for “NANOHA” turned up several items. That’s some bad searching IMO.

If you are interested in subscribing to Japanese magazines, including titles like Weekly Shounen Magazine (which published Negima!) or Afternoon Magazine (which publishes Ah! My Goddess), the site gives you that opportunity. To have it shipped directly from Japan is going to cost you nearly double what shipping it to Sasuga and then to you would cost. But if money is no object and you don’t want to wait any additional days, you have the option. Or, if you are looking for an individual Japanese magazine, you can grab those too.

There are lots of other products there, so I’ll let you check into those and focus on my actual purchase now.

For my two volumes of Negima!, the list price was $6.20 each. The cover price of the manga is ¥400, or $3.58 with the current exchange rate a/o this posting. So the price per book is much higher than you’d pay at a place like Amazon Japan. However, where shopping at Sasuga puts you ahead is in shipping. For my order, shipping and handling was $5.75 (the cost is calculated by the weight of your purchased items) and shipped Priority Mail, thus making my total cost $18.15. I went to Amazon Japan and checked the prices. The cost for both volumes was ¥800 ($7.15) with shipping coming in at a whopping ¥3300 ($29.53) making my total cost there (had I purchased it from Amazon) at ¥4100 ($36.68). Thus I saved $18.53 getting it from Sasuga and I didn’t have to worry about some idiot shipper like DHL handling it (that’s another story).

Update (June 29, 2008): Sasuga now has a free shipping option with about $40 worth of product. There is still a handling fee.

Sasuga has a number of pay options, including PayPal which surprised me. Since Sasuga doesn’t take Discover directly, going through PayPal meant I could use my discover card if I wanted, and that’s a nice thing.

Forget about returns. Unless your book is missing pages or improperly bound, you are stuck with what you buy. Make sure you get your address right too, because if it is returned and they have to mail it to you a 2nd time to get to your correct address, you are going to be charged for that extra shipping as well.

Sasuga also has a frequent buyer program. They send you a card with 10 slots for a sticker with a samurai on it (one of the slots has a color version of the image that’s on the sticker). When your order is shipped to you, they send you a sticker amount of your purchase (minus shipping and handling and tax) and the date of purchase, which you then put into one of the slots. Once the card is filled up, you send the card with an order and get a credit for the average amount you spent. If that average is greater than the amount you spent for that 11th order, you won’t be getting any change back so make that 11th order count if you know you have a decent credit coming your way. While the program is neat, it is also a pain in the butt since you have to keep track of that card AND your 11th order will have to be done in such a way so as to get your credit (I guess sending a payment in by mail should do it, returning that card that that time). I tell you what, since I do plan to buy more Negima! in the future from Sasuga, I’ll try to blog about the reward experience at that time (if you have one, please share it in the comment section).

Bottom line: Sasuga won’t have every book currently for sale in Japan, but they do have a pretty good selection. Searching can be trying due to inconsistencies in spelling used, or whether or not an author’s name is listed. However, if you can overcome this and find your book or books, it is worthwhile using Sasuga simply from a speed and cost perspective as you’ll save quite a bit of money in shipping costs over Amazon Japan.

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3 Responses to “Sasuga Japanese Bookstore Review”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for this review. I had been hesitant to buy from them but maybe I’ll take a chance now.

  2. Andrew says:

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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