Interview with Mr. Natori, the Store Manager of K-BOOKS Chara-kan
Last time we introduced K-BOOKS, one of the largest second hand shop for manga and anime goods in Japan. We touched briefly on its history and listed the numerous shops located in Tokyo. To give us a better understanding of the K-BOOKS stores and their staff, Manga Planet did a short interview with Mr. Natori, the Store Manager of K-BOOKS Chara-kan, where you can find the largest volume of used goods of popular shonen titles from Shonen Jump such as Boku no Hero Academia (My Hero Academia), Kimetsu no Yaiba (Demon Slayer), Naruto, Dragon Ball, Gintama and Haikyu!!
What made you decide to work here at K-BOOKS?
Mr. Natori: Well, I’ve always liked anime, games and manga, but when I first came to this store, I didn’t know what to expect. Back then, I thought you could only buy anime merchandise at Animate. So here I was, standing in front of K-BOOKS for the first time, and what really surprised me at the time was the concept of buying merchandise from customers. Most of merchandise from K-BOOKS relies on this, and I thought that was amazing. The interaction between customer and store employees, buying merchandise from them and selling them back to other customers… back then, this was really shocking for me, in a good way.
Weren’t there any shops doing the same thing at the time?
Mr. Natori: I think there weren’t any. I’m not saying there was absolutely none with the same business model, but it might’ve been only us at the time, so I was really shocked by how well it was done, and that made me I wanted to work for this company. Since I loved watching anime, I bought an anime magazine and inside it was an advertisement for K-BOOKS, and they were actually recruiting, so I decided to give the number on the ad a call, and that’s how it started for me. I’m with the company for almost twenty years now.
By the way, how many employees are there working here?
Mr. Natori: Chara-kan has around 10 people, including part-time workers.
What kind of merchandise are being sold here?
Mr. Natori: Mostly goods from Shonen Jump like tin badges, rubber straps, and so on. We also have stuffed toys, normal figures. We have paper stickers and finger puppets as well.
There’s a lot of merchandise here. How do you search for a particular product?
Mr. Natori: If you ask our staff, we can definitely guide you because we know what’s in stock. However, for example, let’s say someone was looking for “this exact merchandise of Gintoki from Gintama” it might be hard to find, but most of our staff do actually remember which merchandise just arrived. So if you just ask one of our staff members, they’ll probably can get you or guide you to what you need.
We think many fans from foreign countries come to the store, are the most popular series being requested at the moment “Demon Slayer” and “My Hero Academia”?
Mr. Natori: Well, Shonen Jump has a very long history, so customers from overseas do come and look for multiple merchandise from a lot of different series. But since those 2 series (Demon Slayer and My Hero Academia) are quite new, we do get a lot of requests for them. But, for example, in this corner we have Death Note merchandise, we get asked about Death Note a lot as well. Some ask for the well known sports series, Haikyuu!, the shonen title about volleyball.
You mentioned earlier that Jump has a lot of titles. How do you decide the placement of all these different titles that you have?
Mr. Natori: The management follows a certain principle when deciding the placement. For example, Chara-kan is a store where the entrance is in the middle, so we try to place well-known or series at each corner. Hence, Chara-kan is a store where you’ll find well-known series in each aisle of our store.
What is the most frequent age group of the customers that visits your store?
Mr. Natori: I think that the most common age group that we have at our store, are customers in their 20’s. I say the same for our overseas customers as well. But it’s honestly around their 20’s to early 30’s I might say. Shōnen Jump readers do have a very wide age range, from Elementary school students to late night enthusiasts. This store truly has a wide age range of customers.
In terms of male-female ratio, which customers do you have more?
Mr. Natori: We definitely have more female customers but when it comes to foreign customers, about 50-50.
You mentioned you’ve been with the company for almost twenty years. Did you notice any changes in the fan culture?
Mr. Natori: Well, when I first entered the company around twenty years ago, titles for female fans weren’t very popular. There were more male-oriented content and our Akihabara store had more sales. However, now it’s the opposite. More and more female-oriented titles are getting attention. Of course, it doesn’t mean that male-oriented titles aren’t popular at all, but it’s really different now compared to the time I started working for K-BOOKS.
Could you tell us Chara-kan’s strong point?
Mr. Natori: When it comes to goods of Jump titles, we have almost everything. I think Chara-kan is the only shop you can find where most of Jump goods are gathered in one place.
Thank you very much!
Natori: Thank you, too.
If you happen to be in Ikebukuro, drop by Chara-kan and be amazed at the sheer amount of second hand Shonen Jump goods they have. You might be able to buy stuff you missed from the last Jump Festa! 😉
Coming up next is our interview with Mr. Moritsuka, the Store Manager of Akihabara Hon-kan. He talks about the staff’s passion for anime, their rigorous training and manners both domestic and international customers should observe when shopping at the store.
About K-BOOKS Ikebukuro Chara-kan
Address: Akihabara Radio Kaikan 3F, 1-15-16, Sotokanda, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo (Access Map)
Twitter accounts: https://twitter.com/kbooks_mens
If you’re interested in reading more of Manga Planet’s interviews, be sure to read our exclusive interviews with 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.
About Manga Planet: Read manga, support artists
In 2012, Manga Planet started as a joint project between Dai Nippon Printing Co., Ltd. and FANTASISTA, INC. to research and explore the ways manga is read throughout the world. Aiming to bring new manga to fans from all over the world and support artists and the industry, Manga Planet pushes for affordability and access to manga through a subscription-based service.
Readers who subscribe to Manga Planet and pay a flat monthly fee of $6.99 will have access to our expanding library of English-language manga. To subscribe, please go to read.mangaplanet.com and create an account. More information is in our guide.