I'm in heaven. Today I stopped by at Don Quixote on Kaheka Street and discovered that Book Off used bookstore has opened inside the supermarket. I bought a set of Karuta from them.
Karuta is a child's game for learning the Japanese alphabet. Players race to find the right card as the leader (who has a separate set of reading cards corresponding to the alphabet) reads a passage containing the letter the kids are looking for. It's a great game concept I've adopted for other learning tasks too, like for teaching the kids multiplication.
Book Off sells used books and other media such as videos, CDs, and video games. A little more than half of their stock is Japanese. Book Off has been in business for some time at Shirokiya. However, with the new renovation they opted to move to both the Don Quixote store and Ward Warehouse (next to Hakubundo),
My great news is that I scored a practically new karuta set for me and the kids for just $5. I'll have to read and understand the cards before using them, and that will help my Japanese studies. The kids will learn from the game itself, where they will race for the right card.
Book Off is not the only source of great printed material for learning Japanese. Hawaii Kai Library has a used bookstore in their basement It is run by the Friends of Hawaii Kai Library and it has a plethora of material, mostly in English but with a handful of Japanese books as well. Of the Japanese books, a good number of them are children's books written primarily in hiragana and katakana. Kanji is usually accompanied by alphabet script known as furigana, essentially clues for the reader. Amazingly, these books usually cost no more than a dollar, with some as inexpensive as 25 cents.
Another great source of printed material is NHK's "easy news" website. This site contains a lot of Kanji, but it's all accompanied by furigana. Additionally, it's also a transcript of audio which you can play while reading along. For adults like me, it's a good way to learn relevant material you might actually get a chance to use. As much as I like reading children's books from the Hawaii Kai Library bookstore, I doubt I'll ever have to discuss talking dogs, cats, and mice with other adults. This site takes me a bit longer to translate because the vocabulary is mostly unfamiliar to me. In any case, it's completely free and there are usually 3-4 current event pieces for every weekday.
(For translation, I like Jisho.org. I just cut and paste the Kanji from NHK to find what I need to know. A word of caution on Japanese translation, Google Translate isn't a very good source and I would never use it to directly translate from English to Japanese and send it out. For individual words, Google will work in a pinch, but I still prefer Jisho.org.)