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Meet a New World in the Alternative Book Shop


Looking for a pleasant bookshop while traveling is a great pleasure for book lovers. Kyoto has nurtured a sophisticated traditional culture over time and also is a city with so many kinds of attractive bookshops, both large and small. Entering a small bookshop and perusing through their original selection of books is a way of discovering yet another attraction of this diverse city.

Keibunsha is at the forefront of ''alternative'' bookshops and is one of the most popular, or even legendary, bookshops in Kyoto. They not only sell books and magazines but also offer a deeply insightful opportunity for visitors from around the world.

Unknown & Unexpected Beginning
In 2008, the UK-based Guardian magazine selected ''The 10 most beautiful bookshops in the world'', and the only one selected from Japan was a small book shop in Kyoto -Keibunsha Ichijoji.

Established in 1975, the shop marked its 40th anniversary in 2016. Its founding history contains a little-known but interesting story. The owner in those days felt that book shops in 70's Japan seemed to all be selling similar kinds of books with little or no originality which he found tedious and not fun at all. With this in mind, he decided to open a bookshop with an interesting and original selection of books aimed especially at university students, since Kyoto had so many colleges.

Have a pleasant ''literary'' moment surrounded by books in a beautiful atsmosphere Keibunsha Ichijoji

On another front, the surrounding Ichijoji area is now indeed popular with many good ramen restaurants and unique shops dotted about, but at that time it wasn't an ideal area to open a new shop. However, the owner persisted with the thought of ''not competing in the same game with big bookstores,'' and what is more, he even didn't expect to sell many books. However, after a few decades, Keibunsha has become one of the bestknown bookshops in Japan today.

Why Keibunsha is Loved So Much
People who visit Keibunsha are not only book-lovers but those with a variety of interests. For example, their choice of stationery attracts a number of fans due to its distinct selectiveness. In its warm, light-filled interior, the shop's bookshelves are ideally spaced to allow customers to peruse without being disturbed. To the left of the store is the children's book corner which is a gem like place for the parent who is eager to find something truly original for their kids. Even adults - upon seeing their carefully selected and beautifully displayed array of books - will sigh with joy. Everything in Keibunsha is presented giving precedence to the aesthetics of the display.

The book section's manager, Hiroki Kamata, says, ''What is special about Keibunsha's selection is that 98% of the books are selected by our staff members. This is truly a unique facet of our style considering that approx. 80% of the book selection in usual bookshops are distributed by book wholesalers automatically. And one thing we can be proud of is that we actually sell literary works that generally do not sell well at ordinary bookshops since we constantly try to satisfy the tastes of even our most discerning guests.''

Additionally, Keibunsha is always full of small surprises; for example, the staff often put two books next to each other of different genres that are linked by their topic or key words, etc., thus leading the reader to an unanticipated new world. The shop is constantly filled with a combined sense of pleasant quietness and enthusiasm - with many customers staying long hours poring over the books while other engage in animated dialogue with staff members.

Kamata continues, ''We have quite a few guests from overseas come by, too. Although our English book selection is not large, I believe non-Japanese people can always find something ''beautiful'' and ''interesting'' regardless of their country, culture and language.''

A Big Transformational Time
Two years ago, Keibunsha experienced a major turning point. The well-known popular manager, Horibe, left to start his own bookshop. He was succeeded by Kamata, the youngest staff member who was a big fan of Horibe's book selection, especially the English literature, and had visited the store quite often when he was younger.

''I feel very fortunate to have had a position at Keibunsha. We need to inherit what our former leaders left us and use their approach to develop a new style. One of my important roles today is to respond satisfactorily to all kinds of inquiries I receive from our customers. Every day is a new learning experience. Not only is this our pleasure but it is how we move onward to satisfy our old and future customers.''

Open daily: 10:00-21:00; Tel: 075-711-5919; About a 5-min. walk to the west from Eizan Railways Ichijoji Stn.; http://www.keibunsha-store.com/

Stay for a Dream-like Night with Books
In December 2016, a new spot opened for book-lovers in the Gion area. ''BOOK AND BED TOKYO KYOTO'' is located on the 9th floor of the building in front of Minamiza Theatre. The concept is ''a bookshop where people are able to staying a night.'' Guests can have a dreamlike experience of falling asleep while reading their favorite book.

A grand bookshelf is set in the middle of the floor stocked with a selection of some 2,500 books of every genre you can imagine. Foreign tourists are welcome here as there is an English book corner along with all sorts of Japanese books. A bar space, ''BOOK AND BED AND BEER,'' is located on the same floor offering a range of Kyoto's local craft beers. Free Wi-Fi and a locker with key is available. Toilet, shower and wash room are for shared-use. All payments on the floor should be made by credit cards (except for vending machine).

Enjoy Kyoto's craft beer while reading!

Staying overnight: Book Shelf Standard: from 5,300 yen; River View Compact: from 5,300 yen; Book Shelf Compact: from 4,800 yen; All prices tax incl.; Price varies on Sat., Sun. & before the Nat'l holiday and high seasons; Credit card payment only (Visa, Master Card, Saison); Day time use: From 540 yen/hour; About 1-min. walk from Gion Shijo Stn., Keihan Line; Reservation can be made through their web site: bookandbedtokyo.com/kyoto/