Sunday, March 6, 2016

One Book at a Time

Bookshop with a difference: Only one title on offer
Visitors leaf through a photo anthology titled “Fish-Man” at Morioka Shoten bookstore in Tokyo’s Ginza district. (Shigeto Takeuchi)

The Asahi Shimbun  March 06, 2016 By SHIGETO TAKEUCHI/ Staff Writer

Yoshiyuki Morioka is a stickler for doing things by the book at his modest bookstore just off the main drag of Tokyo's posh Ginza district.

Morioka, 41, has taken a novel approach to his business: He stocks only one title, which he changes on a weekly basis.

It's hardly the route to riches, but Morioka says he doesn't mind. His shop, called Morioka Shoten, has a total floor space of 5 "tsubo," or about 16.5 square meters.

His notion is that browsers should immerse themselves in the world he builds around the book he chooses.

 Owner Yoshiyuki Morioka often has lively conversations with guests in his tiny bookshop. (Shigeto Takeuchi)
For example, when Morioka decided to promote Masaru Tatsuki’s photo book “Fish-Man” for a week beginning Jan. 12, he strung up dried squid, along with fishing nets, to give his shop a distinct fishy smell.

Published by T&M Projects, the photo anthology vividly portrays people living in a fishing port in Hachinohe, Aomori Prefecture.

“I'm pleased if visitors felt they were in a place where fish are caught,” said Tatsuki, the 41-year-old author.

Akio Iida, 48, a Hachinohe native who dropped by the bookstore with his wife, said: “I feel nostalgic. I can buy books online, too, but this shop has something you can’t find anywhere else.”

Despite the hefty retail price of more than 6,000 yen ($51.50), “Fish-Man” sold 38 copies that week, according to the owner.
“Communication is vital for paper books to survive. All I may need is one book to sell,” Morioka said of his mind-set when he opened his shop last May.

Morioka Shoten has survived, mainly by word of mouth.

Morioka Shoten owner Yoshiyuki Morioka (Shigeto Takeuchi)

It has also attracted interest from overseas, and foreign nationals occasionally stop by. A correspondent for SRG (Swiss Broadcasting Corp.) visited the store for a story in January. Chinese tourists learned about the bookshop via WeChat, a Chinese free call and messaging app similar to Japan’s Line, and visited to snap pictures with a smartphone.

“Please go ahead and pick the book up for a better look,” Morioka often tells customers in his casual manner.

Previously, Morioka spent nine years running a used bookstore in the capital’s Kayabacho district. Inspired by book launches he organized on many occasions where smiling authors and readers interacted, Morioka hit upon his idea for a new type of bookstore.

Smiles Co., which operates the Soup Stock Tokyo soup chain and other stores, provided financial funds for him to relocate his base to Ginza to unveil his "one book, one room” concept.

Morioka Shoten is closed on Mondays.

Its interior undergoes a complete transformation every Tuesday, depending on what tome is being promoted. The store is decked out in flowers during a week when the subject matter is just that.
“I want customers to enter inside the book by making the two-dimensional book into a three-dimensional one,” Morioka said.

Morioka said he has already decided which books will be featured at his shop until July, even as requests pour in from publishers to promote their titles.

“It is hard to earn a living in this way, but I want to stick to the bookstore with just one book concept,” Morioka said.

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