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Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2006

WORDS TO LIVE BY

Kumiko Taguchi


Kumiko Taguchi, 59, is deputy manager of Junkudo book shop in Ikebukuro in Tokyo, which boasts the largest floor space (nine-stories) of any bookstore in Japan. Before moving to Junkudo in 1997, she worked at another bookselling giant, Libro, located opposite Junkudo. After a long career in the industry that has earned her a reputation as a "charisma bookseller," Taguchi organizes lectures and spends a lot of time thinking about the importance of books. Recently, she published one of her own, titled "Shoten Hanjyo-ki (A Story of a Prosperous Book Shop)," a humorous depiction of booksellers' hectic lives.

Kumiko Taguchi
Kumiko Taguchi YOSHIAKI MIURA PHOTO

Sometimes, you don't know what you really want until you bump into it. I never planned this career. When I got bored with clerical work in the company I first joined, I was moved to that company's bookselling section. I've been a bookseller for 35 years now, and I truly think I couldn't have done any other job.

Stories have life. Writers are products of their era. Their works are living parts of society.

Books you read when you are young become part of your character. When I was in my 20s and 30s, I read 20 books a month. They have stayed inside of me and supported me, though now I am too old and tired to read that many.

What you know is more important than who you know. You can meet famous writers if you work in this industry. But what you know and how much you know about a subject is much more important.

The world is full of stories you will never learn. Even if you read 20 books a month, you can read only 2,400 books in a decade --- which is equal to just one shelf in this book shop.

Flexibility is the key. Helping customers to find books is like a word-association game. Often customers ask us about a book title or an author's name that we have never heard of, but we can find the clue to discover what they mean if we think flexibly enough.

Bookstores are cultural spaces. Hanging around a book shop or getting a book directly via the Internet, that is the question. Stores are places not only for getting books you want but also for finding something more, unexpectedly. The future of bookstores depends on how customers think about them.

Expect the unexpected. You would be surprised to know what people do in a book shop. We had a customer who behaved arrogantly and violently, claiming he was a "god." Another time, there was a man who was eating spaghetti in an aisle of the humanities section.

Society will catch up with working women one day. The number of career women have increased sharply since the time when I started working. But the social system and people's mind-set have yet to change drastically. It takes time.

Japan needs a female prime minister. Male chauvinistic attitudes in our society may change a little if that were to happen. But I'm not holding my breath.

Happiness is the moment when I forget about time, while laughing with somebody or being absorbed in reading.

You cannot compare friends and books. They are equally important. But if I have to choose one, I go for friends. They always listen to me, my complaints and so on, and I am grateful for that.

Books do not give you the answer. You cannot solve your problems by reading books. Books help you to think for yourself.



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