6 Japanese Words Every Bibliophile Should Know ðŸ“š

Collecting books and reading them are two very separate hobbies. One is for a love of the bookshelf aesthetic (and to be the proud owner of a beautiful novel) and the other is to lose yourself in a different reality or learn something new. But have you ever wondered if there was a word for these habits? Or, for any other bookish behaviours you might possess? In Japanese, there are several, all of them with unique and intriguing origins.

Check out the list below, which outlines some of these resonating traits. Which ones do you have?

  • Let’s start with the one discussed in the opening paragraph – buying more books than can ever be realistically read in a lifetime. This is called Tsundoku (積読, sometimes 積ん読). Is anyone else guilty of this? At times, the book cover alone is enough to spark the emotion that ownership must be had. And then, once this has been fulfilled, the next behaviour sets in…needing to buy matching book merchandise! These items include bookmarks, pin enamels, mugs or booksleeves, ready to post on social media alongside your new favourite read. As of yet, however, there isn’t a word in Japanese to describe this. Do you know if there is? Write it underneath in the comments section✍️
  • Talking of all things scriven, Hon no Mushi (本の虫) translates closely in English as the “bookworm” – a person who loves reading literature. Its literal meaning of “book bug”, however, describes an insect that librarians have despised for eons, for they physically enjoy consuming the pages of books until they turn into dust. The thought alone sends shivers down my spine! Now, every time I want to devour a new novel, avoiding thoughts of these pesky book-borers will be rather challenging 🪲
  • Are you a fan of collecting rare or vintage books? Then you are a Kikobonkyo (稀覯本狂). Apparently, fanatics of kikobon (稀覯本/rare books) will explore bookstores for special editions, antique tomes and hidden literary treasures. Sounds like a perfect afternoon out to me. 📖
  • Do you read one book at a time or can you have multiple volumes on the go? Heiko Dokusho (並行読書) describes a person who is capable of the latter. Research shows that this reading style helps bookworms engage in wider contexts and unilaterally improves their focus. Some books are heavier than others, so whilst a midway switch may add to the semi-read tsundoku pile, it can also cleanse the mind. 🤹‍♀️
  • If you’re an avid reader, Dokushoka (読書家) would best describe you. Also known notoriously as a bibliophile, a dokushoka is a level up from a standard dokusha 読者 (reader). As this is based on the fervour for reading and the frequency of it. 📚
  • Did you know that most English people read 250 words per minute? It sounds impressive, until you discover that most Japanese people read at an average of 400-600 characters per minute and experienced speed readers can achieve about 700 to 1000 wpm! Sokudoku (速読) is defined as speed reading. If you fancy finding out how you measure up, time yourself for 60 seconds and then count the amount of words you managed to read. These tests can also be done online. I’ve shared my score below 👀


What’s your favourite genre of book? In Japanese, my favoured stories are known as 恋愛小説/ Renai shosetsu (Love or romance 💕). Other popular genres include, 青春小説/ Seishun shosetsu (YA coming of age novels, intertwined with romantic encounters 🧍‍♂️🧍‍♀️), 異世界/ Isekai (Fantasy-based stories, literally translated as “another world” 🧚‍♀️✨️), 時代小説/ Jidai shosetsu (Historical fiction or period drama ⚜️) and 官能小説/ Kannou shosetsu (AKA: Erotica! ❤️‍🔥)

Did you enjoy this article? Was there a bookish phrase or word you didn’t see or wanted to add? Share your thoughts and let’s have a conversation about our favourite topic – books! 🥰

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