Aichi city nixes ‘Tsutaya Library’ project amid public opposition


The city of Komaki, Aichi Prefecture, has officially scrapped a plan to build a next-generation public library in collaboration with video rental giant Tsutaya after the majority of its residents voted it down in a referendum earlier this month.

The city announced Tuesday that it would terminate its partnership with Culture Convenience Club Co. (CCC), which runs Tsutaya, to build what was dubbed the “Tsutaya Library.”

The ¥4.2 billion project was undertaken to replace Komaki’s existing library, which has fallen into disrepair, and it would have stood near Komaki Station on the Komaki Line run by Nagoya Railroad Co., also known as Meitetsu.

Mayor Shizuo Yamashita said the city has decided it is “appropriate” to scrap the plan after scrutinizing its details. The city, which had drafted a blueprint for the facility, will soon terminate its contract with the design firm in charge and discuss the breakup fees. CCC confirmed the cancellation.

Ikuyo Watanabe, 65, representative for a citizens’ group that opposed the project, lauded Tuesday’s development for reflecting the voice of the public but said she will “monitor closely whether (the city) will really stick to its decision not to make the library Tsutaya-style.”

In the referendum, 32,000 opposing residents said would “destroy the quality of the library” and was “not sufficiently explained.” Opponents outnumbered supporters in the referendum by 7,000 votes.

In the meantime, the Takeo City Library, which CCC runs in Takeo, Saga Prefecture, and which features an unconventional, cafe-like setting, is at the center of a separate scandal involving accusations the city misused tax revenue purportedly budgeted for improving the library’s book collection.

On Tuesday, a group of 20 residents filed requests for an audit to be performed. The group’s representative, Satoshi Okawauchi, 70, described the city’s change in spending as an “outrageous abuse of tax money” and called on Mayor Tadashi Komatsu to provide compensation.

In September, the city revealed it had spent only ¥7.6 million of the ¥19.58 million it originally pledged for new books when the facility reopened in April 2013 after renovations. The bulk of the budget was instead spent on improving security in the library, the city explained.

It also asked CCC to manage book procurement for the library under the lower-than-expected budget, resulting in the acquisition of old titles that included a textbook for a qualification test published more than 10 years ago, and a guidebook to ramen shops in Saitama Prefecture.

The residents argue that the city acted illegally by reneging on its original promise, and that it should have drawn up a new contract if it wanted to reallocate funds in the library’s budget.