Growing up, I spent many a weekend fighting traffic to drive into downtown L.A. or Orange County to check out the manga, magazines, and other publications imported from Japan at one of the area’s handful of Kinokuniya bookstore branches. But Southern California isn’t the only place where you’ll find fans of Japanese pop culture looking for a fix. Over the last few decades, anime and manga fandom has spread around the globe, and travelers to the Middle East are sometimes surprised to find that there’s a gigantic Kinokuniya branch in Dubai helping Arabic and expat otaku keep up to date on all their favorite series.
As the world’s largest mall in terms of total area, The Dubai Mall has enough space for some very unique tenants. Within its expansive confines you’ll find an aquarium, waterfall, and even the reassembled skeleton of a diplidocus longus dinosaur measuring 24 meters (79 feet) from nose to tail. But what some visitors are happiest to see is Book World by Kinokuniya, an arm of the Japanese chain operating in Dubai.
はなもも (@hanamomoact) May 31, 2014
With 6,317 meters (68,000 square feet) of floor space, the Dubai Kinokuniya branch stocks Arabic, English, French, German, and Chinese printed works, in addition to Japanese ones, of course. There’s also enough room for a huge collection of anime merchandise, such as figures, models, and art books.
▼ Kan Colle and Gundam are both represented, of course.
クシャトリヤ@平常業務 (@otakkar20) July 30, 2015
▼ A Kuroko’s Basketball art collection for fans of bishonen b-ball in the U.A.E.
水波は天に召される (@mizu_nami) December 27, 2014
▼ The Titans have now advanced all the way to Dubai.
The most impressive pieces are displayed in a row of cases, although we have a hunch Mario and Street Fighter’s Ryu are bigger hits with the typical Kinokuniya customer than Wolverine.
ドバイモールの紀伊国屋書店はすっごいでかいです。日本の本やフィギュアも充実。なぜか刀までありました。 #ドバイ http://t.co/hHNcAPhc8M—
飯島邦夫 (@asakusakumasan) June 17, 2015
And since Kinokuniya is first and foremost a bookstore, of course there’s plenty of manga to be found, including the two brightest stars of the current Japanese comic world.
ドバイモールの紀伊国屋書店に日本の漫画が沢山売ってました。 1DHS＝32円ぐらいなので一冊1200円乁( ˙ ω˙乁) イタリアの人もアニメで日本語を覚えたって言ってたな。 日本のアニメは世界的に有名なんだなと肌で実感した瞬間。 http://t.co/VXbu4UxB7x—
バディ子♡ (@baddyko) May 10, 2015
Some visiting Japanese nationals no doubt have an acute case of sticker shock, however. The above collected volumes of One Piece are priced at 43 Emirati dirhams, while Higurashi When They Cry was selling for 56 dirhams, equivalent to roughly 1,460 and 1,900 yen, respectively. That makes manga at the Dubai Kinokuniya some three to four times more expensive that at the chain’s branches in Japan, and when you consider that Japan also has plenty of used book stores where you can pick up manga for as little as 100 yen, fans in Dubai are paying a hefty premium compared to their counterparts in manga’s country of origin.
Still, we’re sure the Dubai Mall Kinokuniya is a genuine oasis in the desert to Middle Eastern otaku.
▼ After all, it’s even got a section named for them.