Previously, we introduced second-hand item seller K-BOOKS, its outline, history, and various shops in Tokyo. This time, we are going to introduce one of K-BOOKS’s most visited stores by foreign anime fans: the Akihabara Hon-Kan. We were also able to have a one-on-one interview with Mr. Moritsuka, the Store Manager of K-BOOKS Akihabara Hon-kan.
If you’ve been to Akihabara, one of the first thing you’ll see when you take the Electric Town Exit is the Akihabara Radio Kaikan, a building filled with shops selling anime goods. When you go up to the third floor, you will find K-BOOKS Akihabara Hon-kan, which sells second-hand goods of various types of goods, figures, CDs, DVDs, concert goods and other goods of contents oriented for the male audience.
We had a short chat with Mr. Moritsuka, the store manager, about the shop and his experience working at K-BOOKS Akihabara.
Please explain your motivation to start working at K-BOOKS.
Mr. Moritsuka: I’m from the countryside so the first time coming to K-BOOKS blew my mind. I was shocked to find so many products lined up. I felt at that time that I wanted to work in this environment so I decided to apply for a job.
Were you working here part-time?
Mr. Moritsuka: Yes, at first. I came to Tokyo from Yamaguchi Prefecture straight after technical school and started part-time at K-BOOKS for around 4 years. Then I became full-time because I wanted to keep working here and now I am the store manager and have been for about 5 years.
Did you know any stores like K-BOOKS before coming to Tokyo?
Mr. Moritsuka: When I was living in Yamaguchi, there were virtually no stores like this. That’s probably why I was shocked when I first came here because I found all the goods that I liked, all in one place, and so much of it, too.
I always wanted to live in Tokyo and when I arrived, I visited Akihabara because… well, it’s the famous Akihabara (haha). I came to K-BOOKS because it was right in front of the station but I didn’t know about it until then.
Can you please explain what kind of products you handle at this branch of K-BOOKS?
Mr. Moritsuka: We handle products that are mainly targeted towards a male audience so that includes things like games and anime goods with cute moe characters. We also carry merchandise for voice actresses and V-tubers like Hatsune Miku. And recently we’ve been introducing goods from YouTubers that upload music covers and dance covers as well.
How do you know what is popular and what is generating buzz?
Mr. Moritsuka: We have to keep an eye out for trends but all 38 of us that work here are also otaku so I think we all naturally collect information both for the store and for ourselves (chuckles). Then we communicate our findings with Mr. Otsuka, the owner of K-BOOKS, and sometimes he makes suggestions to us and asks us what we think.
I’m sure that you have customers come from far and wide in search for their favorite characters and titles, but how can customers look for specific products?
Mr. Moritsuka: Right when a customer comes into K-BOOKS, they can see that we use overhead signage that can be easily distinguished so even if they can’t read it, they can tell which title it is. On top of that, we put on display products that we have received many requests for here.
We receive questions on goods for certain titles like Sword Art Online, Re:Zero, The Rising of the Shield Hero, and recently Demon Slayer is very popular and we guide them to those areas. Nowadays though, many customers come and show us a specific product on their phones so in those instances we bring what they’re looking for directly to them.
Are the staff separated by areas?
Mr. Moritsuka: Yes, some staff may be in charge of anime goods, others may be assigned to game goods, and so on.
So if I were a customer, I can turn to anybody in a K-BOOKS apron for help?
Mr. Moritsuka: Yes, and if there is a staff in charge of the area you are asking about, we will find them and they will help you.
We implement a system with monthly tests for the full-time employees regarding their assigned areas to gain more information and to make sure they are up to date with their knowledge.
Wow, so their knowledge of anime is very meaningful here and is regularly put to the test.
Mr. Moritsuka: Exactly. All of the staff are here in part because of their love of the titles and names so everyone is enthusiastic to learn. At the same time, everyone at K-BOOKS is a professional in their field, which I think is reassuring to customers. And in the case of language barriers, we use a translator device so we can meet all customers’ needs.
Have you seen more overseas customers in recent years?
Mr. Moritsuka: I have seen more and more customers from abroad and I feel like now, half the people in Akihabara come from outside Japan.
Do you see any trends among non-Japanese customers?
Mr. Moritsuka: I think English-speaking customers are mainly into Demon Slayer, Sword Art Online, and Re:Zero and Asian customers tend to lean more towards titles like BanG Dream! and Love Live! I see many East and Southeast Asian customers after a nearby concert of a voice actress from such kinds of anime. Naturally, the goods these customers buy are goods such as voice actresses’ bromides and penlights for concerts.
How can a customer then sell their old goods?
Mr. Moritsuka: As legality, anybody wishing to sell must be a resident of Japan and have an official document of identification. If they are minors, they must have a consent form signed by a guardian. As long as those conditions are met, anybody can come to K-BOOKS and approach the designated counter. Their used goods will be sorted and given a monetary value by a staff member. Then all it takes is some signing of documents with your name, age, and street address, and you’re done; we’ll exchange the agreed-upon amount in cash with your used goods.
How much can a customer receive on a valuable rare good?
Mr. Moritsuka: The possibilities are endless but depending on the popularity of the good and the character and our existing supply, I would say that a valuable rare good with a popular title could go for hundreds of thousands of yen.
Around how long does the entire process take?
Mr. Moritsuka: It takes less than 5 minutes if there is no waiting time. That speed is one of the strong points of our store and I think it’s possible because our staff is so well educated and knowledgeable.
And I see you have this poster here.
Mr. Moritsuka: Right, we have a list of goods on this poster that are guaranteed the indicated price. The list is posted to our Twitter which is our main mode of communication.
What are the manners that we should observe as customers in K-BOOKS?
Mr. Moritsuka: Please do not eat or drink. And if you’re going to take pictures or videos, make sure the other customers are not in them. So we would prefer it if customers don’t live stream because they may accidentally include another customer in the background…
Can you elaborate on why?
Mr. Moritsuka: We are only concerned with the privacy and safety of our other customers. Some people may not like to be recorded.
But a customer is welcome to contact our administrative office in advance via phone or email to ask for permission to record.
Is there anything else?
Mr. Moritsuka: Many people eat and drink. It’s probably natural to buy something at the cafe and then browse but please finish eating and drinking before coming into the store. Also, this isn’t a problem at our store but if a customer wants to see the inside of a package, they can ask a staff member and they will open it for you at the counter. But we have the sample out already for many of the goods so we don’t experience this issue.
What do customers ask or say that challenge you?
Mr. Moritsuka: As I mentioned earlier, we are concerned with all of our customers’ experience. We appreciate it when customers observe proper manners so as not to disturb anybody.
If there is a client or distributor from overseas that is interested in K-BOOKS products, what should they do?
Mr. Moritsuka: In such a case, we would ask them to contact the administrative office of K-BOOKS by email or phone and detail their interest. If we receive such a request in the store, we will guide the client in the same manner.
Lastly, what is one of your biggest appeal points of K-BOOKS Akihabara Main Branch?
Mr. Moritsuka: We have everything. Whether it be anime goods, games, DVDs, and so on, we have such a large variety and range of products for everybody!
Thank you very much for your time!
Mr. Moritsuka: Thank you.
About K-BOOKS Akihabara Hon-kan
Address: Kindai Group BLD. 21 3F, 1-15-13, Higashi Ikebukuro, Toshima-ku, Tokyo (Access Map)
Twitter account:@kb_akb_ag (Anime and Games), @kb_akb_live (Idols), @kb_akb_vs (Voice actress/artists, Vtubers)
If you’re interested in reading more of Manga Planet’s interviews, be sure to read our exclusive interviews with K-BOOKS Ikebukuro Chara-kan Store Manager Mr. Natori, Chairman of DoKomi Andreas Degen, former Production I.G. scriptwriter Yasunori Kasuga, The Golden Age of Decadence artist Yutsuki Inumura, After School! artist Umiharu, Kou Oushirou of MANGA.CLUB, and the RAYZ OF LIGHT Rōdoku Geki Cast.
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