Book­shop with no staff of­fers al­ter­na­tive to on­line ex­pe­ri­ence

Weekend Herald - - World -

Amid the tremen­dous pop­u­lar­ity of on­line book­stores and e-books, an un­manned book store has opened in Nara’s tra­di­tional Nara­machi dis­trict in Ja­pan, and has steadily at­tracted a grow­ing num­ber of cus­tomers.

The store is filled with books care­fully se­lected by eight own­ers cho­sen from the pub­lic, and of­fers a cosy at­mos­phere in which cus­tomers can leisurely pe­ruse through var­i­ous kinds of books, an ex­pe­ri­ence that can­not be repli­cated on­line.

The book­store, Fusenkazura, opened in Au­gust on the ren­o­vated premises of a tra­di­tional Ja­pane­ses­tyle house built more than 100 years ago. Twelve shelves about 3m tall stand amid the roughly 30m sq in­te­rior.

Cus­tomers reg­is­ter as store mem­bers through a web­site and in­put a pass­code to en­ter the store. Once in­side, they can fo­cus on se­lect­ing books with­out hav­ing to worry about the time or shop clerks.

Two-thirds of the books on the shelves are owned by eight peo­ple aged from their 20s to 50s, who were cho­sen from 37 ap­pli­cants to be­come co-own­ers of the en­ter­prise.

There are about 2000 books, in­clud­ing for­eign lit­er­a­ture, chil­dren’s books, movie re­views and even a prac­ti­cal guide to restor­ing cul­tural prop­er­ties, each of which re­flects the own­ers’ love of books. About 1000 of the pub­li­ca­tions are es­says, photo books and other works pub­lished by in­di­vid­u­als at their own ex­pense.

Koichi Hi­rata, 57, from Gojo, Nara Pre­fec­ture, founded the un­manned book­store. Af­ter work­ing as a hu­man re­sources con­sul­tant in Tokyo, he re­turned to his home­town five years ago with the aim of find­ing a job lo­cally.

A lover of books, Hi­rata had opened flea mar­kets in Nara fea­tur­ing books. One day, he came up with the idea of open­ing an un­manned book­store with no labour costs.

Cus­tomers in­put the prices of books into a de­vice at the cashier and can pay by credit card or other means. Ac­cord­ing to the store, more than 500 books have been sold since its open­ing, with about 700 peo­ple reg­is­ter­ing as mem­bers. Sixty per cent of sales go to the book own­ers, while the re­main­der goes to Hi­rata.

Rena Sasaki, a 19-year-old stu­dent who vis­ited the book­store, said: “It’s nice, as I can take my time pick­ing some­thing out. I think I’m de­vel­op­ing a love for books.”

One of the store own­ers, Nat­sumi Tak­agi, 31, from Chuo Ward, Osaka, con­trib­uted nov­els and chil­dren’s books that she used to read of­ten.

“I hope the books here make the read­ers feel like hav­ing an­other good day to­mor­row,” Tak­agi said.

“I want our cus­tomers to en­joy the tex­ture and smell of books, which can’t be ex­pe­ri­enced on­line,” Hi­rata said. “You’ll dis­cover some­thing new ev­ery time you come.”

The store is open ev­ery day from 7am un­til 11pm.

Photo / Ja­pan News-Yomiuri

Fusenkazura has no on-site staff.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.