Even though it looks tiny from the outside, the Tora No Ana bookstore in Tokyo is seven stories high and is packed full with Japanese manga and anime. photo by Chris Farrell

Japanese stuff in Japan

part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Earlier we met Jesse Petersen, a 14-year-old girl who was a big fan of manga, Japanese comic books. Now meet Maki Nakayama. She's 20 years old and lives with her parents in the suburbs outside of Kyoto, the old capital. And she likes manga too.

Maki is a part-time office worker and aspiring writer. I asked her if she would show me some of her manga collection. We're sitting on one of those straw, tatami mat floors at a low-slung table in her family's living room. She gets up, runs to her room and comes back with an armload of manga comic books.

"The main story in this one is love," says Maki in Japanese. "There's a lot you can relate to. Practically everybody's reading it these days." It's the story of two women. They're both named Nana. And they're very hip-looking women.

So Maki likes manga, just like a lot of American kids. But there's a very big difference. Being 20 years old and being a manga fan in Japan makes you absolutely average. In the U.S., it's still not mainstream. It's growing. But, it's not everywhere. But in Japan, it's on a completely different scale.

photo by Chris Farrell

We enter a shop in Akihabara, the electronics district of Tokyo. It's known as a hangout for the biggest fans of video games and manga and anime. The shop is called Tora No Ana, The Tiger's Den.

It's just rows and rows of books, and they're in these very bright colors. It's a smallish shop by American standards until you realize that it's seven floors high. It keeps going up.

Remember Jesse in North Carolina in that bookstore's little manga section? Now compare that to this. Picture a giant independent bookstore in New York City, but in this case, it's hundreds of thousands of volumes, floor after floor, with nothing but Japanese comic books, manga.

We start looking at the books. Here's a great one with a young woman in a schoolgirl uniform, very short skirt. And she's carrying a very serious kind of combination sword and chainsaw. The big eyes are really noticeable in almost every drawing. They might be colored black, might be colored purple, green, but the eyes are always big.

Whatever kind of comic book you want to read, it's here. You have superheroes, Goths, romances. And a lot of it is for adults. We've come to the actual porn. There are lots of very large breasts.

So whatever your interests, there's a manga for you. Serious history books, technical manuals, Shakespeare plays.

It was midweek during the work week, and it was raining. But the streets were jammed. And this big manga store was just one tiny piece of this enormous pop scene in Tokyo.

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