JAPANESE

Reporter: Haruka Inami (10)

We, reporters of Youth Express Japan, visited Nakanoshima to interview Ms. Mayumi Ito, the chief librarian of “Nakanoshima Children’s Book Forest,” a unique cultural facility. We wanted to know more about this cultural facility and what it does. It was a very fascinating interview. 

[INDEX] What does “Nakanoshima Children’s Book Forest” look like? The total number of books in the building The unique points of “Nakanoshima Children’s Book Forest” The most popular corners for children Visitor demographics and foreign travelers The best way to choose a book |.Repotrer’s note Meet the reporter

We went to a cultural facility called “Nakanoshima Children’s Book Forest” to interview Ms. Mayumi Ito. This facility is located in the community of Nakanoshima. The building was funded with donations from Mr. Tadao Ando, a renowned architect. The facility’s running expenses are covered by donations from individuals and companies. He established this facility to encourage youth to read from a young age, fostering their creativity and expression.

Nakanoshima Children’s Book Forest (こども本の森 中之島)

What does “Nakanoshima Children’s Book Forest” look like?

When we visited, the building was enormous, with windows offering views of hundreds of bookshelves. There were also several strollers beside the doors. A bit away from the building stood a giant green apple objet d’art, measuring 35 feet, which we gauged on foot. This apple, designed by Mr. Tadao Ando himself, symbolizes youth as described in Samuel Ullman’s poem “Youth”: “Youth is not a time of life:  it is a state of mind.” It embodies the spirit of challenge.

Designed by Mr. Tadao Ando

The total number of books in the building

Inside, we spoke with Ms. Mayumi Ito, the librarian. We asked her, “What is the total book count?” She replied, “As of October, the creative director and facility staff of this building housed about 20,000 books, with plans to add 500 more annually as requested by the city of Osaka as of December 2023, so far .”

子ども本の森 中之島

The unique points of “Nakanoshima Children’s Book Forest”

Next, we asked Ms. Ito, “What are the unique points of Nakanoshima Children’s Book Forest ?” She answered by highlighting the facility’s distinctive book sorting method, which utilizes twelve themes such as “Let’s Play with Nature,” “Move Our Body,” “To Animal Lovers,” etc. The first theme, for instance, features books related to nature, strategically placed near the entrance to blend the outside environment with the interior and to reduce visitors’ anxiety. She said, “There are some kids who feel a bit scared or nervous when they enter the building. So by blending the meaning of the theme with the outside environment, they will feel more comfortable. Like this, we are creating the themes and designs of the building by looking at it from the eyes of a child.” Near the shelves with the first theme, Mr. Ando installed windows overlooking plants and trees, aligning with the “Let’s Play with Nature” theme.

The most popular corners for children

When we questioned Ms. Ito, “Which corners are the most popular for children?” She revealed that certain areas, like the low-ceilinged space under the stairs, are especially popular among children. These areas contain books on lower shelves, accessible even to toddlers. When we went under those corners, it seemed like we were under a small roof. It was kind of dark and narrow below the staircases, which made me feel a bit excited, like I was in my own secret base. The staircase was at a very low level, so if we stood on our feet, we would hit our head on the ceiling. Ms. Ito said that there are already a few adults who hit their head on the ceiling in the past. Adults can barely go under the ceiling unless they duck their heads.

Visitor demographics and foreign travelers

When we asked her about the ranges of ages of the visitors and if there are any books which are for foreign visitors, she said that “Nakanoshima Children’s Book Forest” attracts a wide range of visitors, from infants to the elderly, including many foreigners. It offers merry-go-round shaped books with 360 degree view, which doesn’t require Japanese language proficiency, making them enjoyable for all.

Merry-go-round shaped books with 360 degree view

The best way to choose a book

Next, we asked Ms. Ito, ”For those who can’t come to this location, how can they choose books to buy at home or borrow from the library?” And here is her advice. “Everyone has their preferences. It’s up to them to choose what they want to read. We should allow children the freedom to select their books instead of dictating their choices.” She also said, “At Nakanoshima Children’s Book Forest, the recommended ages on books don’t matter. Children can choose any book they want. Our focus is on letting children enjoy reading, so they have the freedom to pick any book that interests them.”

In conclusion, these were the insights shared by Ms. Ito, the chief librarian at “Nakanoshima Children’s Book Forest.” If you have the opportunity, consider visiting to enjoy a day of reading.

[Information]
Nakanoshima Children’s Book Forest こども本の森 中之島 
1-1-28 Nakanoshima Kita-ku Osaka Prefecture 530-0005 Japan
https://kodomohonnomori.osaka/en/

At “Nakanoshima Children’s Book Forest,” books are not lent out, but read inside the facility. Visiters are allowed to read books in the park attached to the facility after getting permission at the reception desk. This is an idea to allow visitors to read books under the blue sky. This idea aims to allow visitors to read books under the blue sky.  Additionally, entry to this cultural facility can be done by either booking an appointment beforehand, or to go on that day and wait for their turn. The earlier the better for the day slots. Most of the events held by “Nakanoshima Children’s Book Forest” need to be booked to enter. Please refer to the official website for specific information.

[INDEX] What does “Nakanoshima Children’s Book Forest” look like? The total number of books in the building The unique points of “Nakanoshima Children’s Book Forest” The most popular corners for children Visitor demographics and foreign travelers The best way to choose a book |.Repotrer’s note Meet the reporter


Reporter’s note: My visit to “Nakanoshima Children’s Book Forest” was fantastic. Along with a friend, I interviewed Ms. Mayumi and spent 30 minutes reading there after the interview. I am grateful to Ms. Mayumi for her time and answers.

Meet the reporter: I’m a fan of Usagi from the comics and anime “Chiikawa,” and I enjoy dancing to Ado’s song “Show.” I love participating in the zombie dances at USJ horror nights and look forward to riding the Hollywood attraction next time.

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