A neighbourhood with literary ambitions
Japan does not yet have a Book Town, but Jimbocho neighbourhood in Tokyo is dedicated to the arts. Its home to around 175 bookshops, of which 50 are second-hand book stores, and many specialise in one thing such as manga. The books really do pile up to the ceiling.
These literary locations date back to the 60s, born out of an initiative aimed at breathing new life into communities in decline. Invariably they were rural towns or villages, usually of historic interest, and they all looked to literature for their futures. Bookshops – often specialising in older editions, rare or second books – were set up and literary simposiums, and book fairs hosted. A romantic hipster dream or the millenial’s nightmare? Whatever your opinion, there’s no doubting that today these book towns are a magnet for tourists and book lovers.
It was Hay-on-Wye in Wales that led the way. In 1962, Richard Booth looked to combine sustainable rural development with tourism, and saw books as the solution. Then, to export the model to other countries, he founded the International Organisation of Book Towns (IOB) and also set up the Hay Festival, a literary gathering that has been now been held for 27 years in a number of towns.