The Japan Foundation started a free digital library, which can be accessed in America and Canada!

The digital library has 1,800+ books in English and in Japanese, including many Japanese language learning resources, and all sorts of fiction and nonfiction genres: manga, literature, art, history, culture, society, cooking and food, etc.

The library is available on overdrive :blush:

I just checked out a book called Japanese–English Translation by Judy Wakabayashi, and I’ve really been enjoying it! I’ve already added a bunch of books to my wishlist to read when I have more time.

As far as I can tell, it is currently only available to residents of America and Canada, unfortunately.


To apply, please complete the form at the link below. Applicants need to be 14 years or older and confirmation emails will be sent out at the end of the day on Tuesdays and Thursdays


Excited to try this, though!

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This is absolutely fantastic! I didn’t try to make an account, but I was able to read samples from a Japanese IP address, so it might not be as geographically limited as they intend. The variety looks great and I’m loving their selection choices.

Looks awesome. Let’s see if they consider American Samoa part of the USA.


Hot dog, I’ve been hoping for something like this to come along

Cries in Swedish. :crying_cat_face:


I believe you need to provide a (US) state and zip code and a phone number in the library card application (at least on the US side; I haven’t looked at Canada’s), but I’m… not sure if they exactly verify that you’re in the US beyond that? I guess someone who lives outside of the US could always try to sign up and see what happens? :sweat_smile:


Have your U.S-Located doppelganger sign up on your behalf.

Oh ho, my google number gonna finally come in handy. I recommend getting a google number while you have an American sim card for anyone who does. It can become another number that can be used overseas. I’m limited to text only with it, but it’s still hella useful in situations like this and you can keep the number even if you change service providers.

edit: hacker voice I’m in


Just wanted to follow up on this as my membership number arrived and I was very eager to see their fiction Japanese-language selection. It’s mostly works that are already on 青空文庫 (which is like Project Gutenberg for Japanese texts). So for those who were unhappy about not being able to access the library due to geographic limitations, no fear!

That said I am a bit bummed that as far as modern-ish lit goes it’s pretty slim pickings and I don’t see myself utilizing it. I did see しあわせのパン and かがみの孤城 however, so some books popular on these forums did make the cut!


Yeah, I’m hoping that they will continue to improve the collection and add more books. It’s a pretty new library, I think, so it’s currently a bit of a starter collection :sweat_smile:

They do have some popular textbook series, including Genki, Japanese for Busy People and Marugoto, as well as A Dictionary of Japanese Grammar (Basic, Intermediate, Advanced). So I think there’s plenty there outside of their basic fiction collection, though, which might not be available for free (legally :sweat_smile:) elsewhere.


Really cool that you happened to mention that book – I’m going to have to check this out. There’s actually this blog run by a visual novel translator I read on occasion because they have some really fascinating insights on that process, and they frequently reference Wakabayashi, here, for example.


Ooh, that’s super neat, thanks! I’m glad that Wakabayashi’s work has practical use for another translator; that’s a pretty strong recommendation for me to finish this book :blush:.

If you keep reading that blog, you might end up feeling that itch to try translation yourself… :wink:

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I just tested applying from Japan using a VPN to pretend I’m in the US - went off without a hitch!

It’s possible you don’t even need a vpn to sign up or during access :see_no_evil:

This thing is rather absurd. It is a digital library with opening hours and limited numbers of copies of each book?! Why limit it to two countries wheres Japan Foundation proudly announces in one of the pages that they are present in 23 countries?? Or do they lend physical books - that wouldn’t make any sense for grammar books?

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I think those are just part of the limitations of using Overdrive as a platform. Book publishers in America are very greedy, and they’ve forced libraries to heavily limit the lending of ebooks. Several publishers won’t allow their ebooks to be leant out by libraries at all. I work at a library, and ebooks are incredibly expensive for us to buy, and we have to spend a lot of extra money if we want to be able to lend out more copies of a book at once.

Unfortunately this is just how it is. It’s a very frustrating system, but the problems stem from how the publishing world operates, which heavily limits what libraries can do.

EDIT: For an example of the kind of drama that ebook lending causes, look at what’s going on with the Internet Archive right now… :sweat:


Thanks for the explanation. But then the Japan Foundation should go to another platform (based in another country) for this service.

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Well, if they do that, I’m not sure they’d be able to lend their ebooks in America at all… :sweat_smile:. We’re lucky enough to have Overdrive here; we almost can’t even have that. If publishing companies had their way, Overdrive wouldn’t exist, either.

I hope that the Japan Foundation will be able to expand their services, but there are plenty of obstacles in the way of offering this kind of thing, so I expect it to be an uphill battle for them, trying to navigate what different platforms will or won’t let them do.


Where are you seeing that? I can’t find it, but I would suspect that “opening hours” would mean when the help desk is operated.

How much do you already understand about licensing, particularly internationally?

For a different explanation, various countries offices are probably separate and have limited contact with each other.