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Tokyo's Morioka Shoten Ginza bookshop
Tokyo's Morioka Shoten Ginza bookshop
Jonas Pulver

TOKYO — It's a bit further away from the bigger stores in Tokyo's Ginza district. Between the sake bars, along the tall towers that watch day and night over the Sumida River, a quiet art gallery hosts large, abstract paintings. And across the street from a shop for urban bikes with monochromatic frames is a bare storefront, where the door is ajar. It's 20 square meters at the most, with a bench, a chest of drawers for a counter and a wooden easel. On it is one open book. Just one. Welcome to Morioka Shoten Ginza, a minimalist bookshop.

Actually, on this day two other paperback formats supplement the stock, a trio of titles by Japanese novelist and poet Sakae Tsuboi (1899 — 1967). The graphic designer and the publisher are here, wrapped in their black cloaks with their ink-colored hair. The narrowness of the space is cozy, and they talk about the choice of paper, font and the plastic quality of the texts. I stay an hour. Another author will take the place of this one next week. That's the cycle founder Yoshiyuki Morioka has maintained since she opened the space a few months ago.

In front of the Morioka Shoten Ginza bookshop — Source: Google Street View screenshot

When a friend told me about it, I immediately wanted to go there. Normally I spend my time in shopping malls and 10-story bookstores. I'm a child of the multiplex era, a touchscreen enthusiast, I'm addicted to e-books bought with a single click, I'm a Spotify listener and Netflix watcher. But I felt somewhat moved by this single book offer.

The Morioka bookshop is a poignant commentary, a counterpoint to the idea that larger offerings are synonymous with greater freedom. I'm not saying I'm going to give up the kilometers of store departments or the information highway. But too many choices can themselves be a form of imprisonment. If I buy a bad book, I can only blame myself. After all, I should have chosen better.

At Morioka, the extreme of limited choice underlines another freedom: coming back the following week, discussing, debating, criticizing, appreciating, congratulating, questioning, exchanging, meeting.

On my way home, I had a book in my bag by an author I knew nothing about writing on a topic that I wasn't particularly drawn to — and in a language that is still complicated for me. I took a deep breath and smiled, alone, under the Tokyo lights.

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