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Hakubundo has imported an array of merchandise for more than 30 years

Aug 27, 2015

Finding Your Niche: Japanese Bookstore Hakubundo

Nestled in the heart of the shops at Ward Village stands Hakubundo, a colorful gift boutique and bookstore that prides itself on curating the hardest-to-find Japanese stationery, magazines and anime.

As you step foot inside the storefront, if feels as if you've been transported out of sunny Honolulu and into the beating heart of a small book and gift shop in Tokyo. All around, customers and employees converse in Japanese. The level of service at Hakubundo is unrivaled and it's not uncommon for visiting Japanese and staff members to bid their adieus with a bow. The space itself, which is filled to the brim with the inventory, is awash in a spectrum of color as each piece of merchandise jockeys for your eyes' attention. There truly is no other store quite like Hakubundo.


While the Hakubundo as we know it today has been selling an eclectic mix of Japanese stationary and comic books since the 1980s, the original Hakubundo was an import company founded in 1910.

We take a lot of pride in finding the most unique items from Japan and bringing them to our customers in Hawai'i. In Hawai'i, many people want authentic Japanese things. And it can be very hard to find that here. So every Wednesday, we get a new shipment in from our parent company in Japan to ensure that our store is always full of something new.


Aki Ohashi, General Manager

"We take a lot of pride in finding the most unique items from Japan and bringing them to our customers in Hawai'i." says Aki Ohashi, the store's general manager, with a proud smile. "In Hawai'i, many people want authentic Japanese things. And it can be very hard to find that here. So every Wednesday, we get a new shipment in from our parent company in Japan to ensure that our store is always full of something new."

In addition to manga and an expansive offering of pencils, pens, and stationery, Hakubundo also carries washi tape, which is used for wrapping gifts in Japan.

The history of Hakubundo dates back more than 100 years, when the business was originally an import company located in downtown Honolulu. In the 1980s, a Japanese company purchased the business and switched the focus to the specialty bookstore that it is today. Now, 30 years later, Hakubundo has developed a loyal following of customers looking for the latest manga (a style of Japanese comic books) washi tape (decorative tape typically used when wrapping Japanese gifts) or omiyage (a custom of purchasing small gifts for friends when you're traveling abroad).


"I absolutely love shopping at Hakubundo," says Aly Ishikuni, founder of the ever-popular Art and Flea events in Honolulu and owner of Mori boutique. "It's where I go when I'm looking for really authentic Japanese gifts. There aren't really any other stores quite like it and I'm always surprised by what I find there."


Later this year, as Ward Village continues its planned redevelopment, Hakubundo will open up a second storefront at Ward Center, adjacent to Agu Ramen. According to Ohashi, there will be some overlap when the business operates two locations simultaneously, giving their customers double the dose of Hakubundo for a brief period until they transition into their new full time location at Ward Centre.

A quick glance through the Hakubundo storefront reveals a seemingly endless amount of Japanese media and specialty gifts.


From Ohashi's point of view, it's true that the price of importing all of these specialty items from Japan on a weekly basis does add up, but the company is committed to consistently providing its customers with something new. "Yes, it can get a little expensive constantly bringing in new merchandise from Japan, but that's what makes our store so special. We take a lot of pride in our inventory and pleasing our customers…that's what makes us Hakubundo. Our customers really appreciate that we go that extra mile for them."

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