BookOff: Why “mottainai” is a geek’s best friend.

In Japan there is a very prevalent phrase which you’ll often hear while living here. That is “もったいない” – an expression which embodies a distaste for wastefulness, and appreciating the value of that we have around us.

The concept of mottainai has drastically shaped Japanese culture and is evident in everyday life. From perfectly sized meals, using old technology until it is truly broken and stringent recycling and waste rules across each city (trust me, you want to learn them or you’ll face the pure wrath of the obaachans) – I have noticed that Japanese people really do appreciate the value of the world around them through their daily habits. Of course, people are people and there are those who litter, waste food and so on. But in general, I have noticed this respect ingrained in to so many things around me. I feel like back in the West, we’re really catching on to this idea but we are a little behind..

Now, why is mottainai something that gamers, anime otakus and language learners should be interested in? BookOff! I mentioned briefly in a previous post about the glories of BookOff and an extremely cheap preowned Pokemon DSi that I bought. It was thanks to the idea of mottainai that I was even able to do this.


Each OffHouse store is completely different, and usually combines different stores like BookOff and HobbyOff together.

BookOff is part of the OffHouse chain in Japan – a chain of stores which specialise in various preowned goods across the country. BookOff and HobbyOff are my favourites and the ones I want to write about today. Here you are able to buy video games, DVDs and music, collectible merchandise and more.


On my first visit to BookOff I was completely overwhelmed. There are TONNES of things to get excited over. Granted – the majority of it is indeed in Japanese, so to appreciate some of it you’ll need to be able to understand the language or at least be learning (or just not mind!). But even for collectors, it is an absolute treasure trove.


The items here are ridiculously cheap. I mean, insanely so. In the sale section, there are volumes of manga and old video games for as little as 108. Initially I was dubious about the quality of the items being sold, as back home if it really was that cheap it was either in a poor condition or heavily used. Some of the handheld consoles were a little grubby and I suspect used to belong to children, but the staff are lovely and allow you to check the condition of each one to choose what you want.wp-1459910106399.jpeg

Everything I have bought here so far has been used with respect and care. Some of it looks barely even touched! I was able to pick up a boxed copy of Populous on the SuperFamicom for my boyfriend for only 250. That’s like 1.50 back home!


The collectible figure section is absolutely insane. My inner childhood geek continue to freak out every time I go by. As all of the stores completely vary in stock from what is traded in, I never know what I am going to find. The beauty of it is a lot of it is also older too – so I am able to find things from games and series that I used to love years ago, but were unable to buy merchandise for back in the UK as a kid.


The music section is awesome – when I think back to how much I used to pay on imported CDs as a kid, I cringe. I should have just moved here years ago..


I love BookOff. If you’re visiting Japan in the future, I recommend packing light if you intend to visit one. I’m pretty sure that I’ll have a hefty box to ship back home myself when I choose to return. At this rate if I keep shopping, I might just have to live here for a long time… heehee.


6 thoughts on “BookOff: Why “mottainai” is a geek’s best friend.

  1. Tri Huynh says:

    Here in NA we wasted 40% of our food :D. I wish we teach the concept of “mottainai” everywhere in the world. Do you know if BookOff also has English version of the books? And the other stuffs?


    • rebelriotori says:

      I would like to teach this concept in the UK too! I think slowly the world will learn.. I hope!

      They do have a small selection of English books in some stores, a huge selection of worldwide music and DVDs. But as for games, I have only found Japanese content.


  2. Jacqueline May says:

    Just to let you know, there is a Book-Off in New York City (49 W 45th St), and it’s so worth the trip, lots of imported games and various second hand items generally in great condition selling for low prices – a lot of it hard to find anywhere!


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