Japan, Lifestyle, Lifestyle

How do I apply for a Japanese library card as a SOFA member?


Japanese Library Card
Yokosuka City Library

How do I apply for a Japanese library card as a SOFA member?

Wondering how you can get apply for a Japanese library card as a SOFA member? Not to worry, I’ve been through it already and will provide the details on what worked for me and what didn’t so you can have the smoothest experience possible.

Applying for a Japanese Library Card

As you may know, Japanese citizens apply through an easy and free process. You would need to request a library card in your local region/prefecture. You may even be able to apply to use your card in regions outside of your own for library cards if you are working in that area.

Living in Japan as a SOFA-sponsored family is a slightly different circumstance as you are not considered a citizen. It can be a somewhat tricky and, at times, frustrating process – I know. So what are the exact steps you would need to take?

How do I get a Japanese library card?

The first step is visiting the library in person – this is essential to obtain a library card as you will need to supply multiple documents to verify your identity. Without stopping by in person, you will be unable to obtain your library card.

The documents you will need are a military ID or a passport to verify your ID, a SOFA Driver’s license, and The Housing Memorandum with a Japanese address listed. This will show your proof of residency. Once you have these documents prepared, you are ready to apply for your new library card.

Failed Attempts at Obtaining a Japanese Library Card

I made the mistake of only taking my military ID and Japanese driver’s license on the first visit. Unfortunately, it was not sufficient documentation, and I was sent home sans library card.

I was determined to try again as I was really in need of a local library card. I brought my SOFA passport, which is non-touristic, that listed my Japanese address inside. Again, they turned me away as it was not enough documentation. I left feeling frustrated and wanted to give up at this point.

Soon, I realized it was time to ask for advice from the locals as perhaps they could point me in the correct direction. I posted a comment in a local Facebook group asking for help and turned to a Japanese friend as well. This aided me in my journey to getting a library card.

On my final and third trip, I brought a letter received from the housing office that listed my Japanese address. This was received the day I was given the key to my apartment. Finally, I got the nod of approval on the paperwork.

How do I apply for a library card?

Once I was able to provide the correct documents, I was informed I needed to fill out a form. The form process was pretty quick and straightforward. All in all, it took less than 20 minutes to complete.

How long is the card valid for?

Once you submit the paperwork and get approved, you can keep using your local library card for three years from the date it has been issued. You will need to renew the card in person if you let it expire. Head to the Yokosuka/Zushi library (or any branches) to get this done.

Which library can you borrow books from, and how many books can you borrow at a time?

If you live in Yokosuka or Zushi, you can use the library cards to rent from the respective library that you have a card for. There is no minimum age for receiving a library card – you can even be accepted for one at infancy.

Usually, the maximum number of books that can be borrowed every two weeks is six books. During the pandemic, the library increased the number of books that can be rented and extended the delivery time. Now, you can check out up to 12 books for three weeks per cardholder.

Are Foreign language books available in Japanese libraries?

Yes, the libraries in Japan offer many different options for texts in alternate languages. You can find books in French, Russian, English, and German.

There is also a great selection of children’s books in English and Japanese if you have younger family members.

The staff in both the Zushi and the Yokosuka libraries spoke English very clearly, which made the process incredibly easy once I had the proper documentation, of course.

Grab your documents and head to the local library so you can get approved for a library card and start renting your books!


Ahoefa Adjowa

Travel & Lifestyle Blogger

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