A Strange Store, Gake-Shobou

February 14, 2009

by Tomomi Nakashima

One day, I was on the bus riding along Shirakawa Street in Kyoto. Suddenly, my eyes caught sight of something strange. This is what I saw:

Can you see something strange? Can you figure out what happened on this part of the street? If you take a closer look, you might be even more bewildered with it.

The front end of a car is poking out through a building? It is decorated with stuffed animals and toys! Moreover, the wall of the building from which the car sticks out is made with stones!

What is this building? It seems that we can enter it, and it looks like a shop. Here is the door…what’s this? What a narrow space! Anyway, let’s go into the building.

“Hello.” It comes from the right side, from a man who is the manager, I think. There are a lot of shelves with books in front of me. There is a wide variety of books, such as novels, photo collections, cooking books, guide books, magazines, comic books, picture books and more. At first, it looks like the normal selection of a general bookstore, but looking more closely, I have never seen most of the books or heard of the publishers. I see posters and signs which are written by hand on the bookshelves. If you look at the top of the shelves, figures-one of them a frog-are displayed, and the ceiling also has some decorations.

I walk around inside the store, and find other sections where there are no books. Here, there are CDs, DVDs, T-shirts, postcards, charms for mobile phones, calendars, schedule books, posters, and more stuffed items. I can’t understand clearly how to categorize this store, but I think it is a kind of bookstore.

―What’s that? Are there turtles?
I go up to the manager and ask,
Tomomi: “Excuse me, are there turtles here?”
Manager: “Yes, we have four.However, I’m afraid that they are hibernating now.”

T: “I see. But why are they here?”
M: “Because I like turtles.And also they can be an item to get visitors’ attention and interest. The figures on the shelves and also the car sticking out through the wall makes visitors think ‘what’s that?’ These kinds of things which are not normal stick in your mind.”

T: “Hmm…that’s true.”
M: “We once had a guitar and jeans as decorations. The store has been changing little by little. Also,the decoration in the car is changed a few times a year. Now, we’re planning to rent to people the car for gallery space. Did you see the space on the right side of the entrance? It is also a space for people who are working on creative activities.”

T: “That’s interesting! By the way, what is most popular item among foreigners?”
M: “They favor things more Japanese-like,so these posters and photos from old Japanese movies are popular.”

T: “How about books written in foreign languages?”
M: “There are picture books written in both Japanese and other languages, but the books written in only foreign languages are not in great demand.”

T: “I see. Why do you sell goods which are not books?”
M: “Most of our goods are handmade by writers, musicians,and artists who come here to sell them.The rest are published by small companies that are not famous or are books that are difficult to find in huge bookstores or are used books brought in by customers. There are special shelves with books which are recommended by customers.”



T: “So, there are a lot of creative works which open up customers’ minds, and the relaxed atmosphere of the shop is made by many people. I’m really impressed.”
M: “Thank you.”
T: “Nice talking to you. Thank you.”
There are a lot of things at Gake-shobou which I remember after just one visit and will never forget. You will feel the same if you visit, I’m sure! Why don’t you go there and have a look inside. Next spring, maybe you can meet the turtles there!

Access: Take city buses, No.5 or 204, get off at “Kitashirakawakou-mae” and walk down along the street for 2 minutes.
Store hours: Daily 12:00~22:00 but there are irregular holidays.
Address of its web site:http://www.h7.dion.ne.jp/~gakegake/

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