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Delivering Books and Feeding the Future

writer / editor / book selector

12.1 2020

Azusa Umeda


The Amazon Chef" is for a sixth-grade boy.

Dad and Me" from Iwanami Shonen Bunko is for a gift.

The new Atsuko Suga" is for that customer who often buys my books.

The time I look at the sales slips always makes me stand tall.

I feel that the books I purchase are now in someone's hands.

What is this certainty of response?


Three years ago, I moved from Tokyo to Nagano, where I have been running a bookstore called "Omusubi Books" in Kita-Karuizawa. Kita-Karuizawa is a plateau area over 1,000 meters above sea level with a view of Mount Asama.

Here is the Ruoms Forest, which has an athletic facility and a 100-year-old Western-style building.

In May 2018, Omusubi Books opened in a room of that Western-style house.

I go to Kita-Karuizawa once a month to replace the shelves in the sales area.


Omusubi Books is a small business with about 500 books in stock.

After two and a half years of doing this, I feel that there is a lot of potential in this modest operation.

With so many books being published every month, what books I stock reflects what is happening in today's society and how I feel at the time.

The location of Kita-Karuizawa, at the foot of Mt. Asama, and the conversations with customers and the staff of Ruoms Forest also influence my decision.

My goal is to create a bookstore where you can feel the expansion of the world just by looking at the books on the shelves, as if you will notice something.

Even just looking at the titles and bindings of the books, there is a change in the mind.

I want to create shelves that allow visitors' minds to flow more freely.

For example, someone who encounters a book in a bookstore will take it home and start reading it at some point.

And when he or she finishes it, he or she has a kind feeling.

The next day, you might say something to someone who seems to be in trouble.

You might feel the news as if it were your own, the kind of news you usually ignore.

The world could change from there.


Omusubi Books has another member working under the name "Salmon" in addition to myself.

We used to work in a small editorial production company in Ginza.

I have many memories of working together on competitions and interviews, but the last part of our days were tumultuous.

The company was dissolving, and my work suddenly became hectic.

Every day I would sit in front of my computer and eat something random, and then roll into the last train as the date changed.

How many times did I run down Ginza Chuo-dori in the middle of the night with salmon?

I want to think slowly about the future, but I'm always so tired and impatient that I don't know where to start.  Ah, so everyone is scattered.


Well, I didn't know that beyond those days of madness and confusion, the future of our bookstore together in Kita-Karuizawa would be waiting for us!

In the mansion, the books that salmon and I ordered arrive from the brokerage.

Now, let's arrange the newly arrived books. Books with endless possibilities.

When I look at the books that Salmon ordered, I am amazed at how differently I see the world.

Salmon's order, "Beat the Boredom! (I didn't know there was such a thing as a book) and put my order of "50 Adventures to Do Before 13" next to it.

The title, the binding, the presence of the book in my hands, and the full range of senses to decide where the book shines.

I hope that the shelf will be a place where two different perspectives resonate and feel the diverse world.

We finish laying out our stock of books and drive home.

The Tsumagoi Panorama Line, which I passed along the way, was again a vast cabbage field as far as the eye could see, with mountains beyond it.

The heart-stopping scenery stretched on forever.


In May of this year, work was halted under a declared state of emergency, and my children's nursery school was on hold.

In the midst of all this, I was reading Karel Čapek's A Year in the Life of a Gardener, which Salmon had recommended to me.

I can't tell you how much this book saved me during that period.

A Year in the Life of a Gardener has scenes describing garden plants on a grand scale.

For example, in the short essay "Buds" in the book, the budding of spring was compared to a march, which was described like this


<Prelude to the Unwritten March, let the march begin! O golden brass, let the sun shine. Resound, timpani. Beat, flute. Sprinkle drops of sound, myriads of violins! For the silent garden, sprouting brown and green, has begun its triumphal procession. >

From "A Year in the Life of a Gardener" by Karel Čapek, translated by Shu Iijima / Heibonsha.


After reading "The Sprout," I looked up from the book and looked out the window at the mountains.

The green of the mountains was growing thicker and darker as summer approached.

I had completely forgotten about it, but the season was steadily changing.

Tensions were relaxed, and my sensitivity came to life.

I felt spontaneous and free for the first time in a long time.

As I write this, in November, the outbreak has spread again and

The situation is slowly becoming urgent again.

The reports continue to be grim and painful.

Still, we should be able to reach out in this world through words.

Words will always reach someone.

We will continue our small efforts to connect books and people, without giving up and without giving in.

Now, I need to make a list of the books I'll stock next time.

The last shelf of 2020.

I want to choose books that make me look at the present and feel hope.

text and photoprahs - Azusa Umeda


writer / editor / book selector

Azusa Umeda

Born in Yamaguchi Prefecture. Graduated from Osaka University of Arts. After working in editing production, she became independent in 2015.

He is working as a writer, editor, and Omusubi Books.

Moved to Nagano Prefecture in 2017. She lives with her husband and two-year-old child.

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Luoms means "a way of life according to nature" in Finnish. The Western Pavilion sells raw honey from Kita-Karuizawa and processed foods made with local ingredients. It also offers coffee and other drinks. In the gallery, various special exhibitions are held, and the "Asama's Bun Bun Bun" exhibition, which tells the life of Kita-Karuizawa, is currently being held (until the end of March 2021). Omusubi Books are located in the back room on the first floor.

1984-239 Kitakaruizawa, Naganohara-machi, Agatsuma-gun, Gunma 377-1412, Japan
10:00-17:00 (open 10:00-16:00 in winter) / closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays

Weekend Omusubi Channel

This is a weekly reading talk by the two guys from Omusubi Books with reading material. Each time a book is featured. Updated once a week.

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