• Kyodo


A secondhand bookstore in a residential area on a green hill in Kawanishi, Hyogo Prefecture, opens only for two days a month.

The store, called “Books + Kotobanoie,” is in a tasteful one-story wooden house surrounded by wood fences — home of Hirohisa Kato, 61, and his family.

The interior has neither pillars nor doors as bookshelves are used to partition it into living room, kitchen and bedrooms, and visitors to the house, warmly welcomed by Kato, can easily browse the aisles between the bookshelves.

Kato, an importer of used cars, has been an ardent book lover since he was a high school student, and has purchased more than 5,000 books over 45 years in creating his huge collection.

He once sold books from his collection via the Internet, but began to miss those he sold to people he did not know.

So a few years ago, he opened his house to the public as a secondhand bookstore, deciding that his books could “continue to live on the bookshelves of my acquaintances.”

Visitors can relax in the living room and read, though some ignore the books and enjoy talking with Kato instead.

Kotobanoie (house of words) is a pioneer of recent movements to open up family homes to the public for certain purposes, including such things as for piano lessons or as a cafe or child-rearing spaces.

However, Kato does not feel that he is opening up his house.

“Just as you naturally turn a door knob when you hold it, so I’m prompted by the books that are here,” Kato said. “I want to enhance the attractiveness of this place where people can gather and become connected, and where something exciting may start.”

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