It was located on the 4th floor of the flagship store of the bookshop chain Maruzen, in a building called Marunouchi OaZO, near Tokyo Station. In other words, it was an experimental bookshop located within a traditional bookshop. When I was working in an office nearby, I used to spend many happy hours during lunch and after work, whiling away in this place.
A traditional bookshop would categorize books into fiction and non-fiction; they would put books into sections such as children’s books, adult books, manga, magazines; to save bookshelf space, they would put books on different shelves depending on the size of each book; they would also put the newest publications in prominent display.
Matsuoka-Maruzen was the exact opposite of that. To begin with, they grouped books by themes. For example, in a corner called ‘Youth,’ you would find publications across all genres – manga, fiction, nonfiction, photo albums – that have something unique, precious, groundbreaking or poignant to say about the subject of youth. These books may be in Japanese or in English. They may be printed in A6 size or A4 size. What’s more – Matsuoka-Maruzen cared nothing for putting the latest releases in prominent display. Instead, each book you see on the shelves had been carefully selected for its originality, depth and cultural impact – in other words, a timeless classic.
The idea for such an experimental bookstore was first floated by Seigou Matsuoka [松岡正剛] (1944 – present) – one of Japan’s foremost cultural critics and men of letters. It is said that he personally selected all the titles on the selves of Matsuoka-Maruzen.
Matsuoka-Maruzen was my favorite place in the whole of Japan. And now it is no more.