A search for a notebook turns up something even better


I’m a little bit obsessed with notebooks. I can never have too many, but I am quite picky about the type. Since my Japanese notebook is a few pages away from being full, I thought about looking for a new one on Saturday at the five-story bookstore I’d visited once before with Yuri. So I walked down to Heinrich-Heine-Allee using the route I learned last time I got lost, then quickly found the bookstore. There were notebook sections on three different floors and I took my time browsing through all of them.  They had a gorgeous display of Leuchtturms with dotted pages, my absolute favorite type of notebook, but I could always buy those on Amazon. They also had some hardcover notebooks with elegant patterns on them, but they none of them were quite the right size and they were lined or blank instead of dotted. I decided to try the Japanese bookstore on Immermannstraße instead.

On the way, I strolled through the park. Right off the path were some baby birds with their parents.


On the other side of the park was the big shopping alley. Since I’d walked through the area several times without ever looking in any of the shops, I turned in to one of the clothing stores. After the five-story bookstore, it was pretty boring. But upon walking through the store I discovered that it was part of an indoor mall! Somehow I had never noticed its existence. It had a very pretty central cylinder architecture thingy with elevators and a food court at the bottom. But apart from that, none of the stores had anything to interest me, so I walked back outside.


The smells from the food court had reminded me that I hadn’t had lunch yet, so when I saw a currywurst stand on the corner I decided it was time to finally try my first currywurst. The man took a sausage off the grill, put it into an interesting appliance that cut it into pieces, then laid it in a bed of sauce and sprinkled curry powder on top. It was delicious.

Finally I made it to Immermannstraße. Unlike the times of my previous visits, this time the small bookstore was quite crowded. I heard German, Mandarin, Korean, and Japanese all being spoken within the small space.

There was a selection of cute notebooks, but I didn’t see any that fit my criteria. I edged my way through other customers to walk around the other aisle. Glancing at the selection of Japanese nonfiction books, I realized they had a whole shelf full of books about ビジネス敬語, the infamously complex version of the Japanese language required for business situations. Since I volunteer at a Japanese supplementary school where a subset of this language is often used, I’d been eager to learn more about it, but I hadn’t been able to find a comprehensive source in either the Japanese internet or the Japanese bookstore. I browsed through the shelf and picked the one that seemed most suited to my interest.

Turning to reach the cash register, I noticed a whole a section of Japanese novels I hadn’t seen before. No matter, I thought. I can get inexpensive Japanese novels in San Diego. But wait! A familiar name caught my eye. 東野圭吾 (Higashino Keigo), the bestselling mystery writer and author of 容疑者Xの献身 (The Devotion of Suspect X), my favorite mystery novel. (I owned a copy of the English translation, but knowing how different English and Japanese styles of prose are, I’d been wanting to read the original text. For some reason, Amazon had the English, Mandarin, Korean, and French translations available, but not the original Japanese. )

I dropped to my knees for a better look. Yes, there were two whole shelves of 東野圭吾. But did they have the book I wanted? After scanning all the titles twice, I was about to give up when I spotted an italic X in the title of a small volume in the corner. 容疑者Xの献身. There was exactly one copy.

Japanese novels are read right to left, so the front cover is on what Westerners would consider the “back” side!

I couldn’t help smiling to myself on the tram ride home. I hadn’t found a notebook, but the two books I had found were even better.


P. S. The more adventures I have to write about, the less time I have to write about them. Hence, the posts from the past two weeks have failed to include accounts of several interesting happenings. In the coming days I’d like to come back and highlight certain events from the past two weeks, so for now I’m posting a list so I can get back to them later (maybe):

  • the case of the Kochstudio and the overly complicated burritos
  • my excursion to Amsterdam
  • first trip to the five story bookstore
  • practicing German conversation
  • reflections on language guilt



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