§ The New York Times investigates the Manhattan branch of Book Off, the used book store chain from Japan that aims to eradicate “the shame of buying used books.”

Behind the counter of the 41st Street branch, which opened in 2000, an oven-size machine buzzes loudly as employees shave tiny imperfections from the pages of texts like the early novels of Haruki Murakami and comics bearing titles like “Yu-Gi-Oh!”

Since the machine can’t handle hardcover books, those must be tidied up manually. Bookstore workers have a supply of little squares of sandpaper for that, and a special vent in the counter is used to suck up the resulting dust.

§ Socialist website chides Japanese political hopeful for pandering with manga-love:

Aso appears to be positioning himself as Abe’s successor in more ways than one, by trying to take a leaf out of Koizumi’s book. In a rather absurd attempt to attract a following among young people, he has publicised his love of manga or Japanese comic books and his nickname—“Rozen Aso” after his favourite manga “Rozen Maiden”. He proudly claims to read 10-20 comics a week. During last year’s contest for the LDP president, the 66-year-old Aso spoke at Akihabara, Tokyo’s “hang out” district for young people to shop for electronics, computer games, comics and fashion goods.

§ This author sent us a link to a downloadable version of his book Japan in a Nutshell. We can’t vouch for it, but may be worth investigating.

§ Meanwhile, Japanese men turn to the girdle in their times of waistband distress:

A fashion trend toward slimmer cuts in suits and form-fitting trousers is also making men — even the relatively slender — more worried whether their hips, bellies and thighs pass muster.

“We made our men’s brand aimed at those in their 30s and 40s, but it has been selling well among younger guys too,” said Asako Iwahashi, a spokeswoman for underwear maker Triumph International Japan, which introduced its line of girdles for men last year.

“Young men are wearing tighter trousers now and like women, they want a cleaner line.”