I don’t know what I was expecting

But it wasn’t this….

Wilf has several day trips planned for us, and yesterday we were to go see a famous library. Okay – that sounds good. I like libraries. We’ve gone to look at libraries before. First up – an hour of riding trains to get to a town near the city of Saitama. The town is called Tokorozawa. As we were pounding our way north and west from Tokyo the train lines went through some agricultural areas, quite a lot of small industrial areas, small towns, small cities – quite a variety. Sometimes the train stations were big multilevel affairs with shopping centres and lots of activities, sometimes they were not. Tokorozawa was from the ‘sometimes not’ side of the ledger. But, our friend Mr Google knows how to get us places, so when we wound up in front of a small station on a small street he began to direct us.

I will say that for some reason Mr Google has taken to showing us the scenic route when we are walking. We have seen many a neighbourhood in quite a bit of detail, only to discover that there was another route on more traveled streets that might have been simpler…..

So we are walking through neighbourhoods, admiring the mostly two story houses. Nice houses with nice gardens – quite a few persimmon trees. We go a little further and the neighbourhood shifts a bit to small businesses.

And then this heaves into view:

This is where we’re going? According to the map it is…..

Before we get there we see a first for us – a contemporary Shinto shrine

Complete with tori gates and a purification fountain out front.

But lets get back to the main attraction across the plaza

This is the Kadokawa Culture Museum, designed by architect Kengo Kuma.The giant polyhedral is clad with 20,000 blocks of granite and ‘floats’ in a wading pool.

I’m a little confused at this point as I was expecting a public library and this seems a bit …. much.

In we go. Into a cavernous space. We look around a bit and Wilf engages an employee to ask where the granite came from. With some toing and froing and a translation app the answer is ‘China’. Wilf has read that the books are on the 5th floor, so we take the elevator up. And when the doors open we are greeted with this:

And a ticket gate. I look at Wilf and say ‘I don’t know what this is but we have to go back and get a ticket.’

A quick session with my phone tells me that this is not, in fact, a public library. It is a museum/gallery/event space sponsored by a publishing company called Kodokawa. Their area of publishing is the world of manga, anime, and light novels(which are basically young adult novels), with tv and movie divisions.

Back to the fifth floor we go, tickets in hand. First we are directed to the exhibition space. No pictures allowed, and lots of young ladies with signs telling us so and watching over us. I did not, of course, take pictures in the exhibit. But I did take a picture of the poster for the show to share with you:

The artist Mitsuaki Iwago is a wildlife photographer and this exhibit is pictures of cats taken all over the world. The poster cat, chilling on Copacabana Beach in Rio di Janeiro, is the coolest cat of the bunch, but there were many more from all over the world.

Having seen the cat pictures, back to the books. There is a desk at the front with a librarian at it, so the sign said. And then the books. Piled up every which way. Well, not entirely every which way. There is a type of classification. For example:

Each section is crammed with books, shelves full to bursting. Japanese books, English books, old books, new books. There are chairs and tables to sit at, and trolleys to put the books for re-filing.

And there are things to look at all around

Two giant paper mache shirts because why not.

And then, we pass through a huge gauze curtain to this space:

Here is a video to give you a sense of the space:

Behind the mask my mouth is hanging open.

I had to sit down for a bit after that.

In the big room the lower stacks are of modern books – a lot of them collections of books published by Kadokawa. In the upper reaches the books looked older and the info brochure said that they were private libraries from the founder of the publishing company and other famous Japanese writers and scholars.

A giant steampunk fish is coming out of the wall and people are walking around, reading books, looking at things. There was another exhibit tucked behind the stacks that was a sort of cabinet of curiosities that a Victorian collector might have assembled. No pictures there, either. But collections of butterflies and bird skeletons and everything you can imagine.

On the second floor there was another smaller library of manga and light novels. I forgot to take a picture there – it was a bright open space with comfy low furniture and and probably everything Kadokawa had ever published. It was full of young people reading the books. If you are a fan and a local – what a treasure trove.

So – I was pretty dazzled by what I’d seen. It is not a lending library, though you are free to sit and read. There is no catalogue, so it is really a matter of serendipity what kind of books you come across. But walking down what felt like streets of books, interspersed with art and video and places to sit was an interesting thing to do.

And top it all off there was an brewpub on the other side of the plaza that made excellent beer and handmade udon noodles, so we were able to fortify ourselves for the journey back to Tokyo.

Author: Sharon

I like to make things. I like to travel. I like to talk about what I'm up to.

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