Reading Around the Globe: Kat in Japan

(Last Updated On: July 7, 2019)

People read on the train, at home, in the park, and even while standing around in convenience stores. Here’s a fun fact for you: there’s an adult literacy rate of 99% in Japan.”


Welcome to Reading Around the Globe, a series here on Reader Voracious Blog geared at fostering a culture of understanding in the bookish community about access to books in various countries around the world. Each post in the series highlights a full interview with one international reader. You can read more about this series and catch up on previous interviews on the master post.

  1. What is your name? WHAT??? YOU DIDN’T SAY I WAS GOING TO HAVE TO INTRODUCE MYSELF!!!! I didn’t have time to mentally prepare! Ahem. Okay, let’s start over. Hi, my name is Kat *waves awkwardly*
  2. Blog URL? Novels and Waffles
  3. Twitter handle? @novelswaffles
  4. Where do you live? Japan – AKA The Land of the Rising Sun (Doesn’t that sound like the title of some YA Fantasy novel?) – but I was born in the United States.
  5. Do you find that there is a culture of reading where you live? If not, tell us a bit how you came to be one! YES, there is a huge culture of reading in Japan! There are bookstores everywhere you go; you can even buy books at 7-11! There’s new books, old books, children’s books, magazines, newspapers, and comics. People read on the train, at home, in the park, and even while standing around in convenience stores. Here’s a fun fact for you: there’s an adult literacy rate of 99% in Japan, and just…wow. Isn’t that amazing?
  6. What kinds of books do you enjoy reading? I am YA Fantasy trash all the way.
  7. Have you always been a reader? Yes. Always. {Warning: I’m about to start monologuing now.} Books have been my best friends since the 4th Grade, when no one would sit with me during lunchtime. Don’t feel bad for me though (this isn’t some sob story), because it was then that I discovered something way more important than Elementary School popularity. What was that thing, you might ask? Well, I discovered that I wasn’t really alone. I was eating my ham sandwich with Harry Potter. I was drinking my Capri Sun alongside Lucy Pevensie. I had all the friends in the world, right there within the pages of my book.
  8. Do you also read books published in your native language/published locally to you? If so, tell us a bit about what kinds of books are published in your country! My native language is English, but I can read, write, and speak Japanese well enough to get around. However, the Japanese written language is quite complex, with three completely different writing systems to master. The average person needs to know about two thousand kanji in order to read a newspaper. TWO. THOUSAND. I don’t know if I could memorize two thousand anythings, let alone two thousand characters from a foreign language. To top it off, each character can have a different reading when paired with another, leaving lots of confusion as to how a word should be pronounced. On occasion, I’ll try and read some manga in Japanese, though never without the extensive help of a dictionary. (I LOVE YOU JISHO.ORG!!!) If I were to try and tackle a whole novel in Japanese, I’m quite positive the sheer mental effort of it would make my brain explode. It would need to be labeled as one of the Twelve Labors of Hercules. And since I like my brain as it is (AKA: non-exploded), I don’t tackle Japanese novels very often, if at all.
  9. Are there libraries where you live? If so, what kinds of books can you find there? Are you able to get the books that you want? There are libraries here in Japan, thank goodness! (My soul, as well as my bookstagram account, rejoices at this fact.) These libraries, depending on the city, can be quite large. The one nearest to my home is multi-leveled and sports a healthy amount of familiar translated – Go Set a Watchman, Percy Jackson, and The Night Circus to name just a few. The sad part (at least for me) is that these translated titles are way beyond my current Japanese reading level ability (see above). This fact pushes me to search for the “English Section” of each library or bookstore I visit, which is usually quite small, consisting mostly of English Language textbooks. And although some people might be riveted by the differences between interrogative pronouns and intensive pronouns, I’m not one of them. If I’m lucky, there might be a smattering of internationally famous titles, such as Harry Potter. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against rereading a title that I love (and Harry Potter definitely falls into that category – I’ve read it seventeen billion times, at least). But sometimes you just want a book that’s new and shiny. You want to experience the magic that is reading a book for the first time. Of meeting new characters and exploring new worlds. And it’s hard to do that without any new books to read.
  10. How prevalent are English published books where you live in bookstores? (For example, books printed by HarperCollins.) Actual footage of me searching Japanese bookstores for English published books. But you know, although this fact makes my foreign self quite sad, I also feel like I can’t complain too much. English may be a widely studied language in Japan, but it isn’t quite so widely spoken (if that makes sense). I feel as if it would be selfish/elitist of me to grumble about a lack of books in my native language when I live in a largely non-English speaking country. But that’s just me. (if that makes sense). I feel as if it would be selfish/elitist of me to grumble about a lack of books in my native language when I live in a largely non-English speaking country. But that’s just me.
  11. Do you use NetGalley or Edelweiss to request electronic galleys for review? If so, what kind of success rate would you estimate for you personally? I’ve thought about it, but everytime I open NetGalley/Edelweiss, I get too overwhelmed and end up closing the tab within five minutes. I’m a chicken and am comfortable with my chicken-ness.
  12. Do you experience hurdles or barriers to access for the kinds of books that you read? Please explain if so. No.
  13. If you could make one change to the publishing landscape, what would you do? That more books from other countries, such as Japan, would be translated into English and widely marketed. This way, the number of people who can enjoy foreign literature, as well as that country’s culture, would increase.
  14. Help other international bloggers out… What resources do you use to obtain the books that you want to read? Honestly, I don’t think my advice will be of much help to anybody because I still use my American library card to check out all the ebooks I want to read. Sorry that I can’t be more helpful, guys! I’ve heard good things about Book Depository though.
  15. Do you have any other experiences as a reader around the world that you would like to share? No.

Please note that all experiences reflected in the interviews are personal and are not meant to generalize what reading access is like in each country. If you are interested in participating please DM me on Twitter.

💖 If you like the work that I do here at Reader Voracious, consider fueling my pumpkin spice latte and black tie addiction by buying me a ko-fi! ☕

spacer_wLet’s go on another adventure together!



  1. Diana

    July 13, 2019 at 8:28 AM

    It is so interesting to read about reading experiences of someone who is living in Japan. I have always been curious about its “literary scene”.

  2. Isabelle @ BookwyrmBites

    July 13, 2019 at 3:05 PM

    wow, a 99% literacy rate sounds like something out a utopian fantasy! and I can totally relate – there’s a line in Inkheart (which I read and was lowkey traumatized by in second grade) where Meggie says books are her friends when she moves and doesn’t know anyone, which is exactly how I felt when I was in-between friend groups at school.

    I grew up reading Chinese and I probably do know two thousand characters, but I don’t think I’d even make it through a middle grade novel with my reading level; languages can be hard, and then there’s regional usage and cultural nuances on top of that. it’s definitely a struggle, and I can’t imagine how frustrating it must be not to be able to easily find English books to read.

  3. Eustacia | Eustea Reads

    July 13, 2019 at 4:27 PM

    Hi Kat (if you’re reading this)! I used to live in Japan too and I just want to reassure you that if you have enough Japanese to get around, you have enough to read it. Try starting with a Middle-Grade book (I know there are quite a few manga/game-based ones, like Detective Conan or Layton) – those tend to have the yomikata for the different kanji on top, which really helps. Or, if casual Japanese is where you’re stronger at (and you know more slang), try a light novel. Those are very heavy in Japanese slang but the grammar is also more casual. Most of my friends and I could read shorter works/newspaper articles after slightly less than a year after we moved to Japan and started Japanese classes (we have to read articles from the papers for classes in the second semester) so it’s definitely something you can do.

    And like you, my Singapore library card let me check out English ebooks and that saved me until I moved back haha


  4. devouringbooks2017

    July 13, 2019 at 5:43 PM

    Kaleena, what happened to the share buttons on your blog? I wanted to share this!!

    I LOVE this series! It’s so interesting to find out how it is for readers across the globe. It’s especially fascinating to read about someone who primarily speaks English in a country that doesn’t.There seem to be a lot of barriers for some, and not others. I am also TRASH for YA fantasy. Ebook libraries are AMAZING and I am so grateful to have access to libraries and free books from book blogging.

    1. Kal

      July 13, 2019 at 5:45 PM

      The share buttons are there, just above my author bio instead of by the like button

      Thanks so much for reading and I am glad you enjoyed this post & series!

      1. devouringbooks2017

        July 13, 2019 at 6:20 PM

        For some reason the Twitter button just takes me to the twitter home page. The FB button and Pinterest buttons work, the Google Plus button doesn’t work either because Google Plus is no longer a thing anymore.

        I have always been a huge fan of this series because it helps me understand what it is like reading wise for people around the globe. I would like to hear more about their cultures though!!

        1. Kal

          July 28, 2019 at 4:15 PM

          ACK that is so weird! I will play around in my files to try and fix the theme, and if it doesn’t work I’ll add a plugin. Thanks for pointing it out!!!

          1. devouringbooks2017

            July 28, 2019 at 7:05 PM

            You’re welcome! It’s where I typically share posts, and sometimes Pinterest. I hope that you can get it fixed!

  5. Macey Gloria

    July 13, 2019 at 10:04 PM

    This is so cool; I’m a new reader of your blog & Kat’s as well! I actually discovered you through one of her posts :’) This was such a fun read & I learned a lot more about her! I love the idea of this series, and I can’t wait to read more installments of it <3

    1. Kal

      July 28, 2019 at 4:17 PM

      Awww, how cool that you found me through her blog and then she was interviewed here! CIRCLE OF FRIENDSHIPS. Welcome to the blog, and I am so glad you enjoy the series!

  6. Kelly | Another Book in the Wall

    July 13, 2019 at 10:25 PM

    Ahhh I love this interview with Kat so much! I can’t believe there is a 99% literacy rate for adults in Japan! That is so wonderful!

    My brother took a Japanese language course last semester, and desperately tried to explain the different Kanji to me … my poor brain couldn’t even handle that. Haha!

    If you read this Kat, I’m curious … how do you use an American library card to check out e-books? Are you able to renew your card online? My local library only allows me to renew my card each year, if I go to the library in person.

    Lovely post!! 💕

    1. Kal

      July 28, 2019 at 4:18 PM

      Japan honestly sounds like a dream for people who love to read, I want to live in a place where people read all the time and everywhere!

  7. TheCaffeinatedReader

    July 14, 2019 at 12:12 PM

    99%?! Holy crap that’s amazing! I definitely wish more books were translated into English and marketed to English Speaking countries, I want to learn about amazing authors from other countries! And I’m glad you’re still able to use your American library card to check out ebooks [I do the same thing over here in the UK, our library has a very small ebook selection lol]. Great post, looooooove this series as always <3

    1. Kal

      July 28, 2019 at 4:35 PM

      I also wish more books were translated into English!

  8. Cam @ Camillea Reads

    July 14, 2019 at 5:33 PM

    This is so interesting! I’ve always been curious about the literacy scene in Japan and the 99% literacy rate is amazing! I would love it if there were more translated work from different countries as I’d like to try reading a book from each country.


    July 15, 2019 at 2:04 AM

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