One of the most important factors in learning a new language is getting good input. Interacting with other speakers of Japanese, watching Japanese-language videos, reading Japanese-language books and websites, and listening to Japanese music are all ways you can ramp up your learning.
There are lots of free resources out there for Japanese input. One simple way to find Japanese language content is simply by searching the web for keywords in Japanese.
But sometimes you want something you can hold in your hands, or something that isn’t available digitally. If you’re lucky enough to live near a Kinokuniya or a Japanese specialty store that offers more than groceries, you might be able to find what you’re looking for there. But let’s say you’re really interested in a certain band, and you want to find all their CDs. Or you used to read a translation of a certain manga, and now you’d like to give the original a shot. It’s unlikely that you’re going to be able to walk into a store and find exactly what you’re looking for.
Flutterscape is kind of like Craigslist for Japanese media. The site connects people outside Japan who want Japanese products with people living in Japan who have better access to those products. Often the sellers will already have items posted for sale, but what I’ve found most useful is Requests, where buyers can post exactly what they want and then let different sellers bid on the sale. So far I’ve used Requests to purchase two artbooks and two complete sets of out-of-print manga.
The buying process is simple and secure and guaranteed by Flutterscape. Your personal information is not sent to the seller; instead, the seller sends your item to Flutterscape’s Tokyo location, and Flutterscape ships the item to you. You can find more information on buying here.
Obviously, ordering items from another country is going to be a little pricey, especially when you add shipping. Unfortunately, Flutterscape does not currently have a way to combine multiple orders to lower shipping costs; each requested item will be shipped on its own. (I ordered my mangas in sets rather than volume by volume, which would have been cost-prohibitive.) If you like the idea of having media direct from Japan to consume but are leery of the cost, you might consider sharing the cost of materials across a group of Japanese-learning friends in your area.
Regardless, having the option to import items you wouldn’t normally have access to really opens up your language-learning possibilities.
If you are actually in Japan, you can earn a little extra money by being a seller on Flutterscape. You won’t make anything on shipping, but you can (and should) charge the buyers a little more than what it costs you to purchase the item they want. You then get the satisfaction of sharing Japanese language and culture with people around the world while accumulating a tidy little sum for yourself. There’s more about selling here.
As interest in Japanese language and culture continues to grow, Flutterscape has emerged to provide a much-needed conduit for obtaining raw materials. For the right price, you can snag the original manga for that show you were obsessed with as a kid, or out-of-print CDs from that band you heard the first time you started getting into Japanese culture. If there’s something out there you know will keep your interest, it’s excellent fodder for Japanese language study. After all, if you like it, you’re more likely to consume it, which means you’re maximizing your Japanese input. It’s win-win.