“Purchases are wrapped in brown paper and tied with string”

The next time you’re in Oamaru, New Zealand you should drop in here:

“Established in 1995, Slightly Foxed Secondhand Books sells good quality books on all subjects including New Zealand local history, modern first editions, fishing, hunting, mountaineering, literature and fiction, history, military, craft and biography.

The shop is located in an Oamaru stone building providing a Victorian style atmosphere with stone walls, wooden floor, sash windows, sofas, tables and chairs and a pot belly stove.

Prices range from $3 to $1500, and the books from recently published to antiquarian, from common-place to rare and collectible.

The proprietors, Jenny Lynch-Blosse and Kahren Thompson, wear Victorian clothing and sales are entered into a spring-back ledger with a fountain pen. Purchases are wrapped in brown paper and tied with string.”

Once you’ve roped up your books, you might want to stroll several doors down for a chat with

Michael O’Brien, If you hit if off you can stay at his place, or take a bookbinding workshop. As he puts it, “I offer a small self-contained studio, adjacent to main house. Separate kitchen and bathroom. Beautifully restored, cosy and warm. French doors open out to a small garden with a fire pit. Main garden is based on permaculture design, with two chickens providing fresh eggs. Private and quiet. I am not always at home, and there is one pussycat onsite. This is ideal for a couple who wish to come to one of my weekend workshops.”

For details on how to flesh out your visit, click here.

Book, cat and dog lovers’ paradise in Tokyo

Literary Tourist in Tokyo:

Did you know that Tokyo has it’s own Times Square? It’s called Shibuya Crossing, near the Metro station of the same name, and it’s chock full of huge video screens, bright lights, brand-name stores,

and hordes of orderly people crossing a broad, orderly intersection (hard to tell that this is one of the busiest in the world). There are also lottery tickets if that’s your thing,

and a resident faithful dog beside which thousands get their photos taken every day.

At the end of each day, so the story goes, Hachiko would wait for his master at the train station to greet him after work. One day, in 1925, the master failed to show up. He’d died of a heart attack. Nobody told Hachiko, who continued to go to the station every evening for nine straight years until he himself finally died.

Away from Hachiko, the noisy tourists, and the blaring billboards, along a small car-lined side-street, the book-lover will find tranquility. Book Off is a popular Continue reading “Book, cat and dog lovers’ paradise in Tokyo”

Carve and Print your own Japanese woodblock in Tokyo

Literary Tourist in Tokyo:

Once you’ve nerded out at the bookstores in the Jimbocho neighbourhood of Tokyo, you’ll want to go to Asakusa (浅草). It’s the centre of Tokyo’s shitamachi (literally “low city”), where a bustling atmosphere of old Tokyo survives. Asakusa’s main attraction is Sensoji, a very popular Buddhist temple,

built in the 7th century. The temple is approached via the Nakamise, a shopping street that’s been providing temple visitors with traditional, local snacks and tourist souvenirs for centuries, if you’re hungry, there are tonnes of cool little open air restaurants lining the surrounding streets.

You’ll also find another major attraction here, one especially designed for literary tourists: Dave Bull’s Mokuhankan studio.

Stroll over, join a ‘print party, and make yourself some woodblock prints! While producing a print to take home – with the assistance of the young Mokuhankan printing staff – is the main activity at a Print Party, it’s not the only thing to do: at the other end of the building there’s a printer’s workroom that you can visit and watch the work in progress. Not all the people working here speak great English, but those who can are happy to talk about their work (don’t bother them too much though – this is how they make their living!). And you’re not limited to just one shot at the Print Party bench – nearly all Continue reading “Carve and Print your own Japanese woodblock in Tokyo”

What to buy when you’re in a Japanese Bookstore

Literary Tourist in Tokyo:

As noted in my previous post, while there are quite a few interesting English books to be had in the Jimbocho bookstore neighbourhood of Tokyo, there are obviously a lot more in Japanese. And I was able to get lots of shots of them, and the stores that sell them, but, do you think I could convince any of the owners to pose for the camera? Fat chance. Given their reserve, the trick, I’m convinced, for next time, is to plan things far in advance, get the approval of someone in authority, and be accompanied by a wise old dealer known to all, or perhaps an official from the local booksellers association!

Still, I was received very politely; just not, as is often the case in North America, with open arms.

But, on to the stores. First off, I was amazed by the number of post-it notes,

or whatever

they are, that these merchants use to display their wares. Also surprised that there wasn’t more Manga for sale. The only really good selection I saw was at this store:

Isseido Booksellers has a decent foreign language section on the second floor with a good number of books in English, mostly archeology and history, but the Japanese books, though incomprehensible, were much

more attractive

One thing that isn’t incomprehensible is the beauty of Ukiyo-e Japanese woodblock prints. They flourished between the 17th and 19th centuries. Subjects included female Continue reading “What to buy when you’re in a Japanese Bookstore”

Hay-on-wye in Tokyo

Literary Tourist in Tokyo:

Despite talk that it ain’t what it used to be (the same is said of Hay-on-wye the Welsh book town) the Jinbōchō (also spelled Jimbocho) neighbourhood of Tokyo is still a wonderous place for the book-loving tourist. Tucked in between two university campuses, Jinbōchō is Tokyo’s mecca for used-book stores and publishing houses. Murakami mentions it in a lot of his books and the Manga publisher, Shueisha, is here. Its centre is at the crossing of Yasukuni-dōri and Hakusan-dōri streets, right above Jimbōchō Station on the Tokyo Metro Hanzōmon Line. Most stores are on the South side of Yasukuni facing North (to avoid direct sunlight).

First on my to-do list was to scout out all of the used English books on offer. Turns out I hit the jackpot at the very first shop I entered, Kitazawa’s.

The main level was taken up mostly by Japanese kid’s books. Upstairs however was another story.

I found something extraordinary. The whole Continue reading “Hay-on-wye in Tokyo”