Morioka Shoten: The Japanese Bookstore That Only Sells One Book
Here’s a fun question to ask amongst your book friends next time you get together for a chat. If you had a bookstore that only sold one book, which book would you sell?
Turns out this concept isn’t hypothetical. There is in fact a bookstore that only sells one book. It’s called Morioka Shoten, and it’s located in Ginza, Tokyo. Okay, to be fair, it’s not that Morioka Shoten only sells one single book. Rather, the bookstore sells multiple copies of one book. The book being sold changes weekly, and the store also puts together displays and exhibits that connect to the book of the week. For instance, if a book mentions a specific flower, that flower might be displayed in the store. Or art that connects to the themes of the book might be exhibited.
Yoshiyuki Morioka opened the Ginza bookstore on May 5, 2015. Before launching his own single-book bookstore, Morioka worked as a bookstore clerk in Kanda for eight years. He then went on to open his own independent bookstore, and this was where he first got the idea for the innovative Morioka Shoten.
Morioka explained in an interview, “I used to run a bookstore for about ten years, and many people came to the shop for launching events of new books. I thought only one book seemed to be enough. That was how I got the idea to open the shop.”
To open the store, Morioka partnered with Masamichi Toyama, the CEO of Japan-based Smiles Co. Ltd, and local branding agency Takram Design Engineering. Morioka Shoten’s logo, created by Takram based on Morioka’s own design, is a rhomboid shape that the embodies the bookshop’s philosophy of “Issatsu, Isshitsu,” or “A Single Room, A Single Book.”
Morioka Shoten is located on the ground floor of Suzuki Building in Ginza, a place with significant meaning in the literary world. Built in 1929, the building was once home to Japan’s propaganda publisher Nippon Kobo, producers of the leading magazine of the time, Nippon. “It’s seen by many as a place that laid the foundation for the modern publishing industry in Japan,” Morioka said. “That’s why I chose this building to open my store.”
While many shoppers visit independent bookstores to browse the stacks and comb through the shop’s many selections, Morioka Shoten offers book lovers a different kind of experience. “I want to make the store a place where authors, people in publishing companies, and others can meet and communicate. I have a feeling that I’m inviting people into the books I sell,” Morioka said.
Mai Miyake, an author and artist whose book and art have been previously featured in Morioka’s bookshop, sees the store like this: “This is the home of Morioka-san, and maybe I’m like the main guest, and the people who walk in here are like the people who come to have tea or to greet us. And so it has a very cozy atmosphere. And you can personally talk to them directly, and Morioka-san would host them in that sense, which is quite lovely.”
A wide variety of titles have been featured in the shop, including Tove Jansson’s The True Deceiver, Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales, Tsukiyo To Megane (Moon Night and Glasses) by Mimei Ogawa, Karachi No Moto (Source of Form) by Akito Akagi, Koichi Uchida and Takejiro Hasegawa, and Karl Blossfeldt: Working Collages, a collection of photographs of plants from Karl Blossfeldt.
The store has been open for about six years, and it seems like Morioka’s business model is working. People come from all around the world to visit this unique bookstore and participate in the personalized and immersive experience the store offers.
So what do you think? Is this the future of bookstores? Would a store like this work where you live? And if you did own a bookstore that only sold one book, what book would you sell?
Check out other cool bookish places here.