Translated byLester Somera
Just a Kansai guy trying to get by
The city of Kamakura is home to unique bookstores and book cafes. We'll introduce the Kamakura Book Carnival, an annual event for fans of the written word.
In the past, it is said that literary giants like Ryunosuke Akutagawa would move to Kamakura to pen books. Towards the end of World War II, a proposal by Kamakura resident authors Yasunari Kawabata, Masao Kume and others led to the founding of a rental library containing a thousand books, gathered at Tsuruoka Hachimangu Shrine, on May 1st, 1945.
At the time, people who were unsatisfied with material goods and craved the printed word all came to the library, which was busy every day. This rental library was called Kamakura Bungo. In actuality, a book festival that serves as a vivid reminder of Kamakura Bungo is still held in modern days.
*The photos in this article are from the 2015 event.
Once a year, the Book Carnival is held in Kamakura. The main attraction of the event is the One Box Secondhand Book Fair, where regular people bring in their treasured old books and become booksellers. There are all sorts of secondhand books available for sale, and it’s fun to peer into people’s collections and see what kind of books they like.
After you pick a book, it’s common to have a lively conversation with the seller, too. Many books are on sale for reasonable prices, so we recommend the Book Carnival for international visitors who are looking for Japanese books and magazines.
The interesting thing about the One Box Secondhand Book Fair is how close the book buyers and sellers are to one another. If you find a book that looks interesting, by all means, talk to the seller.
There are other events too, such as book reading groups, lectures by speakers with Kamakura connections, stamp rallies and other events for visitors of all ages. Getting book recommendations, discussing the books you’ve read, reading aloud to one another... no matter how old you get, it's still interesting to talk about books.
There are rows of bookstores and picture book stores lined up in the vicinity of the Hase area of Yuigahama-dori, the main street of the Carnival. Take a tour of the book stores as you enjoy the festivities.
The organizer of the Book Carnival is Kensuke (Ken) Shoda, the owner of the secondhand bookstore Books Moblo. We interviewed Ken and his wife Shoko to ask them about the bookstore, and why they started the Book Carnival.
Can you tell us why you started the Book Carnival?
Shoko: Soon after starting Moblo, we set up a stall at a secondhand book fair that was being held in Hayama in Kanagawa. On that day, though, the weather was terrible, and the rain was so bad that people couldn’t make it out to the fair. Because we store proprietors had nothing to do, we talked among ourselves and had a closing party. Because everyone there loved books, it was a very lively gathering. We thought, “If secondhand book fairs are this fun, we should do one in Kamakura too,” and that was how it got started.
What sorts of people attend the Kamakura Book Carnival?
Ken: Men and women of all ages, and we also had kids and international visitors. We do lots of events in Kamakura, but books are something that we all have in common, and can be enjoyed by every generation.
Shoko: It’s not just an event for buying books, but for hearing books read aloud, selling books that are important to you, and talking to other attendees about your favorite books. We want people to enjoy books from a variety of perspectives.
As you think of the scenery where many literary figures endeavored to produce their works, drop by the secondhand book fair, and perhaps a seller you meet by chance will teach you about a valuable book.
Address: Kanagawa, Kamakura, Omachi 1-1-12 Walk Omachi II 2F-D
Hours: 10:00 - 18:00
Closed: Mondays (open on holidays)
Nearest Station: JR Kamakura Station
Access: Five minute walk from the east exit of JR Kamakura Station
Homepage: Books Moblo
Facebook: Books Moblo
Twitter: Books Moblo
Kamakura Book Carnival
Planned for every year on a Sunday during May and June
Kamakura Book Carnival page
** It is only held on one day, so check the page for the carnival date before you come to the venue.