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The Ocean and Books
The Sea and Books Owner
Why did you start a bookstore?" I am always at a loss as to where to begin.
Perhaps the truth is that I don't have a clear answer myself.
I have always had a yearning to be a bookseller, and I had a vague idea that I wanted to try it someday.
However, I think it was the presence of my younger brother, who passed away, that made me determined to do it.
Since we were the oldest, we were more like rivals than brother and brother, and we were aware of each other from when we were small.
We competed with each other in everything from playing to fighting, but my brother was particularly good at playing the NES, and I can only remember feeling frustrated.
At first, I had the advantage because I was the older one, and I would cry a lot when I lost.
Then he would persistently practice more and more, and eventually I would be beaten.
Even as a child, I was surprised at how persistent he was.
I didn't think I could beat him in terms of competitive spirit and concentration.
My younger brother, who was far more capable of studying than I was, studied at Keio University's SFC, and after graduation he became a gardener, something he had always wanted to do.
After eight years of training under a gardener named Mr. Mitsumori Furukawa, he became an independent gardener under the name of "Garden Making Kamada.
He designed and maintained gardens for private residences, stores, temples, etc., mainly in the Nara and Kyoto area.
It was at the age of 36, five years after becoming independent, that he fell ill with cancer.
After a six-month battle with the disease, he passed away a step ahead of his time.
He was a person who did not care where he lived, and for a while after graduation he lived in a rundown apartment that was, to put it mildly, like a ghost house, with a bath attached to the balcony, which was unusual (because he was forced to install a bath in an apartment without a bath).
After becoming an independent gardener, he lived alone in an old wooden apartment.
However, his room was neatly organized, and he had his own particular taste in tableware and clothing.
His life was simple and frugal, but full of virtues.
After his brother's death, the last thing that remained after he finished cleaning up his room was a bookshelf.
There was a collection of books that would last almost a lifetime, including manga by Osamu Tezuka and others he had read as a child, architecture books by Antonin Raymond and Arata Isozaki, which he must have learned after becoming a gardener, Kazushi Hosaka, whom he loved, Taro Okamoto, who must have encouraged him, and Hideo Kobayashi, who must have grown up a little taller than he was.
I could feel their nurtured friendliness in each book, and I began to see the bookshelf as if it were my little brother itself.
In the end, I could not throw away any of the books, and one of my brother's closest friends, a fellow gardener who had helped him in his private and public life, decided to take them all away.
Looking at the bookshelf, I felt that I had lost a lot in terms of my way of life.
I realized how much influence books have in our lives.
And the reality that life is limited.
These were the main motivating factors for me to go to the bookstore.
For my brother, creating a garden was a way of learning, a way of playing, and a way of life itself.
To create a garden, he met people, read books, and became more educated.
I work in web design, which is something I love to do, but it was still not the same as that for my brother's garden.
I thought that a bookstore would be a little closer to my brother's way of life.
My brother, who was also a book lover, would say, "That's good.
Besides, after becoming independent, both of us (especially me) wanted to work together someday.
I also thought that if it was in the form of a bookstore, my brother might be willing to work with me.
Then I started to learn how to open a bookstore in my own way.
For starters, I read several books about unique small bookstores.
Some were gallery-type stores that sold only one book, some were attached to cafes, and some sold both used and new books.
There are many different types of bookstores, and they are all interesting.
When I thought about what kind of bookstore I could do, I realized that I could not do an ordinary bookstore.
To become a so-called "town bookstore," I would need a considerable number of books and the space to put them, and I don't have the budget to begin with.
In that case, I thought it would be better to create an interesting store that is different from others in the genre I am good at, even if I am biased.
I liked photography in my own way, and I liked art, but I didn't have the knowledge or experience to specialize in it.
I have been doing this for a long time, and the only thing I know more about than others is surfing and its surrounding culture.
The area where the axes of surfing and photography/art intersected immediately came to mind.
For some reason, I have a sense that surfing is unpopular among people I consider to be well educated and cultured.
They look at me and say, "Hmmm, surfing...." I get a "Hmmm, surfing...." look on my face.
Surfing has become an Olympic sport, and I think it is gaining recognition in terms of sport, but I don't think people understand the cultural depth of surfing yet.
When I was in my 20s, I worked for a company that provided wave information for surfers.
I rode my bike from Shichirigahama to Yugawara to give them the wave information.
It was great to be able to surf every day, and I was proud of the job itself, delivering information to those who needed it.
At the time, surfers had a stereotyped image of "bad manners," "long hair, brown hair, and piercings," and "a sport played by delinquents," and some people actually were like that, and of course they were free to look however they wanted, but I had many bad experiences because of it.
A friend's mother once told me, "Don't be a sea person.
I was quite shocked by her words, as they implied that "if you surf all the time, you won't become a good person.
Even if there are a few people who see it that way, there is definitely a certain percentage of people who still do.
I would like to reach this demographic.
In order to do so, it is necessary to convey not only the sporting aspect of surfing, but also the cultural aspect.
I think it is good to have a place where people who are interested in art and culture can come into contact with surfing and its surrounding culture and think, "Hey, this is a good place. It would be nice if there is a place where people who are interested in art and culture can come in contact with surfing and the surrounding culture and think, "Oh, it's kind of nice.
I envision a place that is like a brackish zone between surfers and non-surfers.
Ideally, surfing and beach culture should be more commonplace in the community and society, and it should flow back into the community and society in a positive way.
On the other hand, I think there is a lack of places where surfers can deepen their interest and education in art and culture.
Surfing itself is a fun and educational activity, but learning about the cultural depths of the activity will greatly expand that enjoyment and learning.
It would be great if surfers could be introduced to art, culture, and education that have nothing to do with surfing, and the more surfers who become involved, the greater the role and trust that surfers play in society.
After much trial and error (and I am still in the process of doing so), I started "Books & Gallery Umi to Hon" last August.The concept is a place for people who love the ocean and books.
I want people to touch and understand the deeper aspects of surfing, but I don't want it to be an intrusive place.
We dared to leave the words "surfing" and "beach culture" out of the store name, aiming to create a place where people can come into contact with a wide range of cultures and worlds that come into contact with the ocean, including surfing.
It is a place where anyone who loves the ocean and books can casually stroll in.
We want to be the kind of place where you can find a book that will expand your world.
But there is more to the story of how I started the gallery, and I would like to add a little about that process.
As the name "Books & Gallery" implies, the initial idea was to operate Umi to Books as a bookstore and gallery.
We decided to add a gallery because we felt that it would be difficult to run a bookstore as a stand-alone business on an ongoing basis.
And in terms of enjoying and learning about art and culture, the bookstore and gallery are very close to each other.
We thought that if people could see artwork related to the sea along with books, it would create interaction with the artists and make the place more enjoyable and attractive.
However, I had no idea what a bookstore was, and I was too busy just running the bookstore to start a gallery.
Then, art director Toshio Shiratani showed up at the store on a whim.
Mr. Shiratani had produced many of my favorite photo collections and art books, and was a legend in his own right.
That alone was unbelievable, but Mr. Shiratani was so friendly that I whispered to him that I wanted to open a gallery but hadn't gotten around to it, and that I would like to hold an exhibition of Mr. Shibata's work someday.
Mr. Shiratani made the extraordinary suggestion, "Well, let's do it now," and in no time at all, it led to the "Mitsuyuki Shibata Summer Bohemians 1984" exhibition.
I cannot express my gratitude enough to Mr. Shiratani, who nimbly and forcefully guided us toward the realization of this exhibition, and to Mr. Shibata, who willingly accepted the invitation to exhibit in such a small and unreliable gallery.
Mitsuyuki Shibata Summer Bohemians 1984" will be on view through August 27 (Sun.).
We hope to see you there.
text and photo - Keisuke Kamata
The Sea and Books Owner
He spent his junior and senior high school years in Kamakura and currently lives in Kugenuma, Fujisawa City.
While working part-time as a student at a surfing magazine, he began teaching himself design with a passion for DTP.
After working as a weather forecaster for a surfing wave information company, he worked as a designer for a web production company before setting up his own business.
Started "Books & Gallery Umi to Hon" in August 2022.
Announcement from "Books & Gallery Umi to Hon" (Sea and Books)
Mitsuyuki Shibata Summer Bohemians 1984 exhibition
7/16/2023 sun. - 8/27/2023 sun.
This exhibition commemorates the release of Mitsuyuki Shibata's photo ZINE "Summer Bohemians 1984," newly published by art director Toshio Shiratani. Shibata, who at the time was developing his own unique sense and style as a surf photographer, provided the blue-tinted beach snapshots for the cover of "Snaps" (published in 2005 by Marin Kikaku), a collection of beachside columns by Kaoru Ohno, who was a great influence on Shibata's work. The striking blue photographs, which fully express the world of surfer Ohno in a single photograph, were also included in the photo book "Summer Bohemians" (Bueno! Books), and the numerous dreamy blue photographs have attracted many people, not only surfers but also overseas. The book is an important collection of Shibata's photographs.
This exhibition is a collection of Shibata's work and the exhibition of his blue photographs taken in the 80's.
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Finding universal values that are common to all world
Freelance writer/ International tour guide
From 1999 to the present, I have spent most of the year in different parts of the world.
My first trip abroad was in my twenties. That is a bit late for Japanese. The first time I went abroad was when I was working in a design office. It was my first job in my life. About three months after I started to
work, I decided to quit the company. Because the people there worked until late at night and always said they were 'busy' and 'tired'. And yet, they never tried to go home early, but drank alcohol late into the night with their colleagues at work every night. I could not understand their behavior. I was frustrated by such a life. I then told the boss that there was too much wasted time in this company, so I want to quit. The boss told me, "You must be tired from your first job. I will give you two weeks off. Go on a trip and relax". Then I flew to Spain, where my Japanese friends were studying. That was my very first abroad.
Accept myself as I am by experiencing different cultures
I arrived in Barcelona with a small bag in one hand and the Japanese sake my friends requested in the other hand. My friends laughed at my surprisingly small bag and said, "This is not a trip to a hot spring". (To go to hot spring is Japanese typical
weekend trip. )
My first time in a foreign country, there were many things that nourished my soul, such as Gaudi's unique architecture, street art, and Spanish food and so on. But the most impressive thing was the sight of people crossing the pedestrian crossing in Barcelona, even though it was a red light.
I was shocked to see people crossing the street without waiting for the traffic lights to change, whether red or green. Because what I had tried to do in Japan and had been told off for was the norm here. No, rather the opposite. If you wait for the green to turn green when there are no cars on the road, you are considered to be a bit stupid in this country.
I thought at the time.
If I had been born in Spain, I wouldn't have been offended every time I tried to ignore a traffic light. And I wouldn't have had that blurry guilt feeling of 'oh I'm so bad' person.
If sense of values are fluid, what is universal?
Since then I truly want to find something universal that would be valid in any country. I thought my life's purpose is to find something that transcends country and gender, something that flows universally. I think my mindset of 'getting to the core of things' and 'scooping out what is really important' in everything was strengthened at this time.
After the Spain trip, I went to work, and begged them to take back my resignation letter, and everyone laughed when they saw my face, which had gained five kilos in two weeks, and said, "You must have had a lot of fun".
In Spain, I wrote postcards to my professor from college.
'Coming to Barcelona for the first time reminded me of my birthplace and made me nostalgic.'
Some time after returning to Japan, I received a reply from professor.
'I thought you were impressed by the European scenery, but it's an interesting feeling to be reminded of your hometown.'
At the time, I was living in Tokyo. In fact, I wrote that on a postcard to say that the new city of Barcelona, which streets are designed in a grid like a a checkerboard pattern, was similar to Sapporo, where I was born and brought up. But when I saw the reply from professor, I thought, "Maybe I went back to my hometown in my heart on this trip".
A little while later, my second trip was with my younger sister. We travelled around France, Belgium and the Netherlands by train. I was surprised in the Netherlands. In a country where the average height of women is over 170 cm, everything was normal size for me, who is 175 cm tall. It was the first time in my life. Until then, it had been difficult to find lovely clothes and shoes in my size in Japan, and I had felt alienated. I was always shrinking. But if I had been born in the Netherlands instead of Japan. It was strange to think that I would never have felt that way. I bought three pairs of nice shoes, feeling like I had been pinched by a fox. Incidentally, the trip also served as a preview of my own trip to Holland or Belgium, where I had decided to live.
When you make a decision, your life starts moving
In Belgium, where there is no official language, I realized that "if I don't speak English, I can't start anything". This coincided with the fact that I was also being asked to design more and more things in English at work, so I decided to study English. I left the company and went on a working holiday to Australia. It was the spring of my 25th year.
Life is a strange thing: once you make a decision, whether or not it is in the right direction, your life starts to move. Although I didn't end up moving to the Netherlands, I spent most of the year abroad, from 1999 when I left for Australia, all the way to the present.
My time in Australia led me to change my profession from design to travel. I then worked as an international tour guide for 18 years until Covid. I worked for various travel agencies and took more than 10,000 customers around the world. And I also went on my own trips, even on my own short breaks. That's how I lived for years, only going home for about a week out of a month. I experienced many different forms of travel, from backpacking, camping, luxury travel, bus travel, train travel and cruise liners. Even on the same journey, the scenery seen changes with the members of the group at the time, creating different experiences even on the same itinerary. Although I had found my true calling and was living a fulfilling life, I gradually began to feel that I wanted to settle down and spend more time on my own.
Slowly transitioned from living in France and Japan to living in France.
One day, I fell in love with a Frenchman. This led to me living in France from 2018. At first, I lived a two-location lifestyle - Japan and France - and spent half the year in France and half the year on a Japan-based basis, continuing to travel with customers as an international tour guide.
Many people's lifestyles and values have changed since the pandemic from 2020, and I am one of them. With Covid, I made the decision to be based in France instead of two bases. Suddenly, I had to make up my mind, as I was cut off from traveling to overseas.
In January 2020, I landed in Paris with only a little luggage and without a winter coat, as it was a mild winter that year; I was supposed to stay for about three months in France, but as it was, I couldn't return to Japan for two and a half years. Inevitably, I also lost my job as an international tour guide.
As I watched the news of the stormy response in various countries, something I had never experienced before, I predicted that it would be difficult for me to travel abroad for at least two years.
In any case, I knew it was time to make a change in my life. From before Covid, I had been saved my living expenses and prepared to face myself for two or three years when I would one day start my life over again. Now was exactly the time.
Stay-at-home in the apartment in Paris, I was cut off from everyday life. I would never forget the time and solitude I spent looking at myself in France.
You never know what life has in store for you. At the moment, I live in France. But maybe tomorrow I will decide to go to a different country.
...... Now, here's a kind of fantasy. I want to back to working as a guide from space travel. I am secretly building up my physical fitness so that I can ride on a rocket, and perhaps times will change and I will be taken by UFOs to places where I can take a quick and easy trip. I dream of such things.
As I started my writing career in 2022, I imagine what it would be like if I had to interview an alien, and I compile a list of questions to ask. But for example, the question "What do you usually eat?" might not have the concept of eating on some planets. 'What is eating?' What is nutrition?" This may have to be explained to the aliens. When I think like that, I feel that the 'universal values' I want to know about extend to the cosmos at large. Expanding diversity. I feel more and more that I mustn't stay small world and build any limits and frame.
text and photo - Yuki Miyakawa
Freelance writer/ International tour guide
Born in Sapporo. Live in France.
International tour guide for 18 years, has taken more than 10,000 people around the world. My motto is to travel to connect with the land through nature, culture, customs and history. Loves cooking (organic/seasonal/local products), the sea, plants and art. Hobbies include photography and walking. Studied oil painting in college in Tokyo. Freelance writes (Pen Online).