HOW TO: Make a library card in Japan

I don’t know about you, but when I lived in the U.S. I regularly borrowed stacks of books from the library. I think only the internet fares better in the battle of free information and entertainment. So I wondered what kind of books I would be able to find at libraries in Japan - any English books? Could I understand Japanese children's books? As it turned out, many libraries in Japan carry English books - though selections outside of major cities are rather slim. So whether you wish to practice your Japanese learnin’ by reading kids’ books or want to take a break from ebook spending, the local library can be a great place.

My current local library is rather small compared to libraries I’m accustomed to in the U.S., but they do offer a myriad of choices: DVDs, CDs, cassettes (yes, Japan still uses them), children’s books, adult fiction, non-fiction/resource and a small selection of English books. I was happy to find a shelf of classics, which I look forward to re-reading in my hard-to-find spare time. Not surprisingly, many of the English books were Japan guides and cookbooks, and what else, the Harry Potter series.

First, for those who don’t know, library in Japanese is 図書館 (としょかん, toshokan). You can easily enter the kanji into Google maps with the name of your city/town to determine how to get there.

If you find some books of interest after browsing around, and wish to check them out, you’ll want to make a library card (or will be asked to make a card).

1. If you ask, simply say something like,
Toshokan no kaado wo tsukuritai desu
I want/would like to make a library card.


Toshokan no kaado wo tsukuremasu ka?
Can I make a library card?

Most people will cut you off before you finish saying "card" or "tsukuri". You can even just say カード and 作り(tsukuri) if you forget the phrase - the librarians will understand what you mean.

2. Then, usually they will ask to make a copy of your alien registration card, and have you fill out a small form with your name, birthdate, gender, address and phone number in Japan. If you can’t write in kanji, ask, “romaji (wa) ii desu ka?” or “romaji (wa) daijoubu desu ka?” or “romaji (wa) OK desu ka?” In most cases, romaji/English is fine, though you should know how to write your name in katakana - both on the form (above your name in English) and possibly the library card if they ask you to write it that way.
Note: I added parantheses around the "wa" particle because you don't really need the particles in this context and speaking. Grammatically, you need them, but speaking, it's even normal to say something like "romaji OK?" or "romaji daijoubu?" 

3. Finally, they will finish the card and give it to you, along with some library information. Most likely they will also briefly explain the information. Don’t worry too much if you don’t understand any or all of it, they are just explaining the hours, holidays, how many items you can check out at a time, how long you can check them out for, and similar things like that.

The photo below is an example of what may be included in the information. This particular library is open from 9 to 5, while open until 7 pm on Thursdays and Fridays. The library is also open until 5 p.m. on holidays. However, the library is closed on Mondays and every fourth Friday. Well, you can see for yourself:

The information below indicates the borrowing specifics. The three lines with bullets tell us:

- Each person can borrow up to ten items at a time including books, magazines and children's story cards.
- Each person can borrow 2 CDs and cassette tapes at a time.
- Each person can borrow 1 DVD and videotape at a time.

Borrowing period is two weeks.

Congrats! You now are the proud owner of a Japanese library card!

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