Sometime last year I wrote a review of the site “syosetu.com” (小説家になろう) which is a nice place to get your fill of free (and legal) Japanese novels and short stories. Since then, I have been a pretty heavy user of the site, reading portions of a great many stories, and writing emails to handful of authors to get their permission to translate their story to English and post it on this blog. Some of these you can see on my translations page in various forms of completeness.
Recently, having gone through many of the highly rated stories on there and not having too much luck finding stories that I really think are enjoyable enough for me to read and worth of a translation, I decided to try the site カクヨム (kakuyomu) that I had heard about some time ago, but never really got around to checking out. The site’s name comes from the Japanese verbs 書く (kaku), which means “to write”, and 読む（yomu), which means “to read”.
After spending a few hours on there, I’ve already found a handful of stories that I like and have begun translation on one after getting the authors permission. But, ironically, I later discovered that same story was on syosetu.com. I just hadn’t managed to come across it because of the massive number of stories on the latter site. Syosetu.com has actually been around since 2004, which explains how they have nearly a million registered users as of the time of this article (951,965 to be exact!).
To be honest, I am not sure if the stories on kakuyomu, which was founded last year in 2016, are necessarily any better than on syosetu. But the one thing that blew me away about the site was it’s visual design.
To start off with, it’s got a clean, uncluttered design which adeptly utilizes whitespace along with simple visual elements. While there are (of course) ads, they are relatively unobtrusive compared to syosetu. There is also very skillful usage of font types, sizes, and colors. Content-wise, one great features of the site is that next to a story you can see a quote by someone who has reviewed it. This reminds me much of the news aggregation site Naver Matome which I reviewed some time ago. Actually, looking at these sites again I see other visual similarities between them, which I am guessing was purposeful based on the popularity and usability of Matome.
But most impressive is the actual experience when you are reading, with beautifully formatted tables of contents and professional-looking formatting and fonts used in the actual text. I seem to enjoy the stories more because of their excellent presentation, which somehow reminds of me how I seem to be able to improvise better on a high-quality piano.
Functionally, the site is very similar to syosetu.com, with categories, the ability to follow authors, ratings, reviews, etc. One frustration is that, unlike syosetu, there doesn’t seem to be a way to directly contact an author, which is pretty important for me, though if they have listed their home page I can sometime find contact information there. Another minor annoyance is the lack of one of my favorite categories, 文学 (literature). Although to be fair, that is a vaguely-defined term, and many of the stories listed under 文学 on syosetu really don’t belong there, in my opinion.
Kakuyomu is actually made by the publisher Kadokawa, and one important part of this website is the list of titles that have gotten published and are available for sale (書籍化作品). Interestingly enough, the full text of these seems to still be available on the site, at least for the one I checked.
On a side note, I still haven’t found any English site that seems to pale in comparison to these sites. Actually, I guess Wattpad sort of does, but for some reason I feel these Japanese sites are more accessible. A third Japanese site that is somewhat similar is Alphapolis, which I may review in a future article.