Japan, known for its numerous famous tourist destinations, can boast of its authentic libraries that embrace both traditional and modern concepts as well. And if you are a book lover who wants to explore some libraries while travelling, you can learn about five must-see libraries in Japan with fascinating architectural designs that will offer you more than just books in this article.
Libraries And Reading In Japan
Reading is very popular among Japanese people, and since people commute long distances to work or school, you can often meet them (especially students and schoolchildren) with books in their hands. Libraries or 図書館 (toshokan) as it is called in Japanese can be found in every city ranging from national, public, academic, special and university libraries. Although most of the books are in Japanese, you will find a variety of foreign books as well.
1. Nakajima Library, Akita
Credits: Google Maps
Address: Yuwa, Akita City, Akita Prefecture 010-1292
Tel:+81 18 886 5907
The Nakajima Library, which is a part of Akita International University, is regarded as one of the most beautiful libraries in Japan. It is not a surprise that the library is number one on our list. First of all, Nakajima Library is one of 14 libraries in Japan designated as a United Nations Depository Library thanks to its international collection of non-Japanese literature (60% of its books are in foreign languages).
Besides that, Nakajima Library embraces lots of readers who spend their time enjoying the circular umbrella-shaped roof which is also called as “Book Coliseum” built with local Akita cedar wood and representing the prefecture’s nature and tradition.
2. Kikuchi City Central Library, Kumamoto
Address: 872 Waifu, Kikuchi, Kumamoto 861-1331
The library, located in the Kikuchi City, Kumamoto Prefecture, was designed with curved shelves to symbolize the Kikuchi River– an important part of the city’s identity. The bookshelves named a “book river” by the designer Kazunobu Nakamura, are laid low in the children’s area so little ones can reach books without difficulty. The “book river” grows wider as you proceed to the main room in the library, where shelves with 13 holes provide places to sit or pass through.
The goal behind the design of the Kikuchi Central Library was to bring young people leaving the city back and gather in the library. I think it worked, as today other than reading and gathering, the library is being used as a venue for weddings :))
3. Kanazawa Umi-Mirai Library, Ishikawa
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Address:I-1-1 Jichumachi, Kanazawa, Ishikawa 920-0341
Kanazawa Umimirai Library is a public library located in Ishikawa prefecture that was designed by architects Kazumi Kudo and Hiroshi Horiba. The design concept of the library is a ‘cake box full of surprises’ and called a ‘simple space’ for its cubic shape patterned with multiple apertures. The architectural design of the library was selected as one of the “World’s 20 most Stunning Libraries” by Fodor’s Travel in the US. The library gained worldwide attention and has won various architectural awards at home and abroad.
Visit the library, enjoy a book, and feel the sense of comfort in the room lit by direct sunlight entering through the apertures.
4. Yusuhara Kumo no Ue Community Library, Kochi
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Address:12212-2 Yusuhara, Yusuhara-cho, Takaoka-gun, Kochi
Kumo no Ue Community Toshokan, which translates into English as the “library above the clouds”, is one of the two latest works of Yusuhara project completed by the famous Japanese architect Kengo Kuma (second building is called Yururi, an “integrated welfare facility”, that stands side by side and appears almost as a single structure with Kumo no Ue Library. To learn more about Yururi, click here). Similar to previous libraries, Kumo no Ue has a meaning behind its name and architectural design. The library along with the hotel, which was completed in 1994, were named ‘Kumo No Ue’(Above the sky)” as an apt description of Yusuhara town as a mountain enclave.
The library is on three levels and was built in a tree-like shape with the supporting beams branching out toward the ceiling. By simply looking at the library’s design you may realize a hidden metaphor for the tree-of-knowledge.
Except looking for your favourite book from the library or reading one, you can chat with your friend while having a cup of nice coffee and cheesecake at the cafe located on the ground floor of the building. Even if you are accompanying children or want to take some time to exercise, a bouldering wall in the opposite corner of the ground floor may be a perfect thing.
5. Musashino Art University Museum and Library, Tokyo
1-736 Ogawacho, Kodaira City, Tokyo
Musashino Art University Museum and Library first built in 1967, were renovated into the current design in 2011 and 2010 respectively. It has four areas: the museum, the library, the folk art gallery, and the image gallery. The library is a two-story building on the ground floor where you can find earlier editions of books and books related to graphic designing. There is a study area on the second floor that is called a “forest of books”. The area is divided into ten parts with ten different fields of study. Once you have picked the books from there you can read them on the first floor- ‘research area’ bookshelves that surround you from every side, even under your feet.
You can access the museum from the second floor of the library and will see the image gallery on the way to the museum. Don’t miss the chance of challenging yourself by finding unique chairs placed at different corners of the museum!
If you are planning to visit the library, please remember that individuals not associated with the university can visit the library from 10:00 to 16:00 only on Wednesdays and Fridays.
These Beautiful Libraries Are Waiting For You in Japan
Whether you are a book lover or not, when visiting libraries like the ones mentioned above, additionally to the books on the shelves you can learn about the history and values of the place.
What’s your favourite place to read a book? Leave a comment on the comment section below and we will be happy to read about it!
If you are willing to purchase a book in English, click here to learn about bookstores selling English books: