Yoshiyuki Morioka – proprietor of the recently opened Morioka Shoten (Morioka Bookstore) in Ginza, Tokyo – just made bookstore browsing a whole lot easier. In fact, by only carrying one book at any given time, his tiny boutique has eliminated the whole idea altogether.
Morioka's featured book changes weekly and is occasionally accompanied by art works, photographs or other related items; an exhibition of ceramic jewellery and objects by Mayumi Kogoma inspired by one of Kenji Miyazawa’s novels (1934's Porano no hiroba) is currently on show. Sometimes the shop appears more like a gallery than an actual bookstore – but it’s always the book that takes centre stage.
To call the space minimal would be an overstatement; the raw concrete walls and ceiling have been given a coat of white paint and the concrete floor left as is. The only furniture is a vintage chest of drawers that now doubles as a counter, Morioka’s personal work desk and a flimsy table displaying the single book.
Morioka came up with the idea for Morioka Shoten when he was running another, more conventional bookstore at a different location, where he organised regular readings and signings with authors and publishers. These were always well recieved – why not, he thought, launch a dedicated shop where the focus was always on just one special book?
The boutique is on the ground floor of the Suzuki Building, bult in 1929 and one of Tokyo’s few listed structures. From the early 1930s to the end of the Second World War, it was home to Japan’s propaganda publisher Nippon Kobo, who produced the Nippon periodical. Coincidentally, Morioka used to have a rather large collection of Japanese wartime propaganda (he likes the quirky, strong graphics) that he sold in order to finance the opening of the store.
It might not be a place to lose a couple of hours browsing for that perfect read or birthday present – but, then, perhaps it's actually rather nice to have someone choose for you sometimes. If you read Japanese, that is.