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This Japanese Bookstore Only Stocks One Book at a Time

Japanese bookseller Yoshiyuki Morioka has come up with a highly unusual concept for a bookstore – he sells one book at a time in a tiny shop located in Ginza, Tokyo’s luxury shopping district. Ever since he launched the store in May, he has stocked multiple copies of only one title per week. 

You might argue that it’s hardly a bookstore if you can’t go in and spend at least a few hours browsing through hundreds of volumes, but Morioka never intended to create a classic bookstore. It’s like a weekly ‘suggested reading’ service – you just go in and pick up the book chosen for the week, relieving yourself of the burden of choice. Morioka said he came up with the idea a store that solely focused on one book at a time after organising several book-launch events at his old bookstore.

“Before opening this bookstore in Ginza, I had been running another one in Kayabacho for 10 years,” Morioka told The Guardian. “There, I had around 200 books as stock, and used to organise several book launches per year. During such events, a lot of people visited the store for the sake of a single book. As I experienced this for some time, I started to believe that perhaps with only one book, a bookstore could be managed.” To finance the store, Morioka sold his huge collection of Japanese wartime propaganda, famous for the quirky, strong graphics.

Photo: Nacasa & Partners, Miyuki Kaneko

The store itself is minimal, with concrete walls and ceiling barely covered in a thin coat of white paint, and the raw concrete floor left as is. A vintage chest of drawers doubles as a counter, while a flimsy table in the center displays the title of the week.

According to Morioka, his concept has a distinct advantage – the bookstore can serve as an exhibition for the book and its world, making the story come alive for customers. “For instance, when selling a book on flowers, in the store could be exhibited a flower that actually appears in the book,” he said. “Also, I ask the authors and editors to be at the bookstore for as much time as possible. This is an attempt to make the two-dimensional book into three-dimensional ambience and experience. I believe that the customers, or readers, should feel as though they are entering ‘inside a book.’”

Photo: Nacasa & Partners, Miyuki Kaneko

Some of the books that have been featured in the store include The True Deceiver by Finnish author Tove Jansson, and Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen. A few Japanese titles have made the list as well, like Tsukiyo To (Moon Night and Glasses) by Mimei Ogawa, and Karachi No Moto (Source of Form) by Akito Akagi. The first title on next year’s list is Fish-Man, a photo anthology by Maseru Tatsuki.

It isn’t clear how Morioka goes about choosing which books to display and sell, but his concept has been quite well received – he claims to have sold over 2,000 books since May. “The concept of this bookstore seems to have gained the sympathy of a lot of people, and I receive a number of guests from all over the globe,” he said.

Photo via The Guardian

Morioka is one of the old-school folks who strongly believe that books will never go out of style, despite the infiltration of ebooks in the market. “A book is a physical object with special attraction that has been, is, and will always be the same,” he insists. “Many will continue to utilise physical books, especially as a communication tool.”

Sources: The Guardian, Wallpaper