OKAYAMA – A mobile bookstore, dubbed the “Book Bus” and operated by Value Books, spent three days from Tuesday visiting areas of western Japan that were ravaged by torrential rains last month, and provided free books to those affected by the rain disasters who are now living in cramped conditions in shelters there.
Value Books, based in Ueda, Nagano Prefecture, buys and sells used books online, but has also redecorated a vehicle used as a mobile library and turned it into a bookstore. When painting the bus, the Value Books employees also left space where children could add to its livery by drawing on it themselves with chalk.
The Book Bus visits locations nationwide to sell books, usually at the weekend. More than half of the used books bought by the firm cannot be sold, either because the company has too many copies of the same book in stock or because they are not in pristine condition. Since the company usually donates those books to either nursery schools or seniors’ centers, it decided to distribute books to west Japan flood victims for free when it heard about their circumstances.
On Thursday a huge crowd of people gathered around the bus at a shelter in the Mabicho district of Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture. “I am going to hand those books over to my mother,” said a girl cheerfully, holding in her arms a stack of magazines and books on gardening that she picked out from the van.
Approximately half of the over 1,000 books on the bus were children’s picture books. Books on cooking and literature were also available.
They left Nagano Prefecture for the children’s center in Kure, Hiroshima Prefecture, on Monday morning, where nearly 100 children had gathered to meet them.
After that, the Book Bus traveled to Mihara in Hiroshima Prefecture and Kurashiki in Okayama Prefecture. Around two-thirds of the books onboard were distributed within three days.
“I was astonished at the unexpected welcome” we received when we arrived outside the shelters and met people affected by the disasters, said Satoru Hirose, an employee of Value Books. “I was shocked when I saw the extent of damage at the disaster areas, but children are cheerful wherever they go,” he added.