This Stranger May Give You Your Next Favorite Book: The Iwata Bookstore


By: Kristen Olson

How much would you pay for a truly good read? A soul-stirring piece to add to the library of knowledge that is uniquely you, that inspires you to walk the 88-temple Shikoku Pilgrimage this year, or maybe make this month the most serene of the year, cozied up with a period piece you would have never picked up otherwise. Alright, my inner-romantic is getting away from me, but not so far out of reach is a small bookshop in northeastern Hokkaido that’s whipping up unique book recommendations for locals and (thanks to a little exposure from the tele) foreign literature-lovers alike.

The man who is teaching us all that it really can pay to read is a humble bibliophile by the name of Iwata. As legend would have it, by junior high, Iwata had read nearly every novel in the school’s library. It’s been decades since Iwata was a schoolboy and he hasn’t stopped reading for a moment—literally, a single moment. Now, for 10,000 yen ($84 USD) and a short questionnaire about your life and tastes, you can receive a personalized package of books, hand-picked by Iwata.

The bookstore owner originally hatched the idea when some high school alumni commiserated over the current state of bookstores in Japan. With 500 shops closing every year and a yearning for more than bestsellers, friends would pass Iwata 10,000-yen bills for interesting new reads. The bills began to stack up, and eventually Iwata Bookstore was born!

As a sample recommendation, Iwata explains that if you’re a fan of the Edo period crime drama Onihei Hankacho and the essays of Usagi Nakamura, you would probably receive Isabella Bird’s 1880 travelogue, Unbeaten Tracks in Japan. But never a boar (to tickle a different beast), Iwata delights in expanding his customers’ horizons, and has been known to send literary curveballs on occasion.

But wait, we’re a manga publisher aren’t we? Shouldn’t this have something to do with anime? Well, the Iwata bookstore has been getting tons of manga orders recently. To handle this, Iwata hired an assistant, Takahira Kuromitsu, whose sole job is to read and recommend manga (WHAT? Where do I APPLY??). Rumor has it Kuromitsu’s current top recommendations are Terra Formars and The Irregular at Magic High School.

Information Iwata Shote 2-1-23, Nishi 1-jo Kita, Sunagawa, Hokkaido Open: 9:00am to 7:00pm Monday to Saturday


Your tax refund finding you nowhere near Hokkaido? Look no farther than your own fingertips (and stable internet connection), for Iwata’s also on Twitter & Facebook!

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