105 yen: Recycling pop culture

Wednesday, October 7, 2009 at 7:53 PM
It is a known fact that Japan produces and consumes tons of popular culture of all kinds: Manga, music, fashion... anything that one could imagine. A lot of the merchandise produced by the entertainment industry that is mass consumed by all kinds of people, however, is finally rejected for those who bought it. Their reasons may vary: maybe the purchase of a certain good was tied a certain fad, or simply people don't have enough space in their shelves to collect all they buy. Whatever is the reason, the truth is that loads of this material ends either in the trash can or otherwise in the second hand shops.

In the latter case, it is somehow hard to imagine why people would bother to sell for a few money some CD or book for which they paid a few thousand yen, which are sold for a price that goes from one third of the original until barely a 3% in the most extreme cases.

Each one of these used to cost about 3,000 Y not so long ago

Second hand shops of this kind of material (mostly CDs, DVDs, books, manga and videogames) are widely extended in Japan, and their shelves are always full of old and new stuff. There, all these things get a second chance in hands of enthusiastic collectors, casual buyers or just bored commuters. In any case, this is an important way of popular culture consumption, maybe the most affordable one.

Book shop or library?

However, even though for a mere 105 yen anyone can get a manga volume in a nice edition and take it home, there are still lots of people who prefer read them from the beginning to the end standing in the crowded corridors into a practice that seems to be one of the Japanese "national sports", the so called tachiyomi (立ち読み).

Ok, tachiyomi is something like that except for the bizarre alien suits

The fast changes in the Japanese entertainment industry feed this kind of places in what becomes the natural destination for these things that are not brand new anymore. A question that could be asked later would be: What will happen with all these CDs an books a few months after being purchased? Will they return to its origin in an undefined loop or will remain forgotten in some basement? For now these questions are not easy to answer, but what is sure is that all this represents one more layer of the vast Japanese pop culture, maybe not the most superficial, but certainly an important one.


  1. This is an interesting and creative approach to this week's theme of pop culture. I think I would like more specific information about these recycle shops as you call them. I am familiar with Tsutaya selling old CDs and videotapes that aren't popular anymore and take up too much space. Is this what you are talking about?

    You are most correct when you say Japan has a lot of pop culture - trends come and go and where do all the books, CDs, films, etc. go? For only 105 yen I might be tempted to buy some of them... In particular I have been looking for old Noriko Sakai stuff.

  2. Victor Says:

    Tsutaya is one of the examples, but the main example I took (where the pictures belong to) are the Book-Off shops. There's ont near to almost every train station and I always find interesting things.

    Even though prices may vary depending on the stuff, I'm sure that you could find there some Noriko Sakai material for less than 1000 yen.

    As for me, being a fan of Japanese music and popular culture since my teenage years, I just can't resist taking a look inside these shops whenever I find one and get these CDs and DVD's that I never imagined I could purchase.

  3. katsup Says:

    Book Off is possibly one of my favorite stores. I am fortunate enough to live near New York City which has a Book Off store and I frequently go there to buy / give manga, CDs, and even English books. It's true, you don't really get anything back when you give them your old, almost perfect condition books... but for me at least it feels better than just throwing them away. At least by giving it to the store someone else can enjoy the book I am already done with. It really is a much easier alternative, and the condition of the books is always great! I have yet to go to a book off in Japan though.. but if there really are CDs for 105yen, I might have to!

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