portrait 008 : Toru : listen to the quiet noise, on the transparent land
< being creative, not being a creator >
I don’t consider myself a creator. Whether it is design, architecture, or music, I consider a creator to be someone who can produce something from his or her own hands. My job is to deliver their creation behind my own work. In the case of a book, there is an author, a bookbinder, and a printer, and then the book is distributed. For coffee, the beans are roasted, the cultivation before that, and the coffee is made last. We serve coffee and sell books here, so we deliver the creations behind those to the local people in an appropriate form. If someone would say that my part is also creative, I would say thank you.
I think everyone is an expressionist. We express ourselves in our own way. If you have something standing out among us, you can be a creator. Farmers are also extremely creative. I have a sort of inferiority, that I don’t have those abilities, so I have respect and admiration for those who can. I simply think they are amazing, and enjoy spending time with them.
< Life of a book >
SIORIBI carries independent publications. ‘Independent’ means being independent from major distributors. The books are distributed to chain stores to be displayed, and if they don’t sell, they come back and will be cut in pieces. That is the life of a book.
Books that do not follow this path are lined up here. The authors and producers of this kind of books try to find their own sales channels, and they reach out to me. I enjoy communicating directly with the authors, and buying those books is my point of contact with creation. My lifetime’s work is to meet creators through books as a medium, rather than simply selling books as a business.
< books on the front line >
I like Japanese language. I am glad to be born in a country with a profound language. Early modern Japanese is more beautiful than the Japanese we speak now, like the words of Mori Ogai. I am even impressed by the lines of Ghibli animations.
I like old books, but I keep new books here. New books are on the front line, and we can encounter new creativity of the people who are living in the present moment, telling us the new values and expressions.
< I don’t select books >
The bookstores like mine are called as “select bookstores” as opposed to chain stores, but I don’t ‘select’ books.
For the first two years after opening, none of the book producers knew me, so I made selections and reached out to them, and bought books and laid them out here.
After a couple of years, those creators found me, and began to contact me asking if we could carry their books. They said, “Since you carry this magazine, we thought you would also carry ours, as we have something in common”. This way, the number of the book producers who choose SIORIBI gradually increased and began to gather here.
Even if I find the books that are a little difficult to handle, I have them here on consignment to show them my respect for finding our place. I always wait-and-see actively.
< noise on the bookshelves >
If you only choose books based on your own values, that would be boring. If you only want the books which would suit your preference, real bookstores can’t compete with Amazon’s recommendations. I have a sort of books that our customers would think, “I don’t want this kind of book here” on purpose.
Bookshop owners should have the books they like in their own home. I think bookstores for a town do not have to be comfortable for the owner, so I don’t make selections here. It is better to have various noises, some discomfort and unexpectedness, in the lineup of the bookshelves.
When I first opened the shop, it was “my” bookstore, with the theme of “Hints for a Comfortable Life”. I was hoping that people who liked my expressions would come. However, I gradually began to feel uncomfortable with that theme. Who would find it comfortable? It was me.
I changed the theme to “Look carefully at the small voice” in the spring of 2017. There is sometimes truth in what is considered as social noise.
Major distributors cannot produce new books unless it sells well, so they have no choice but to focus on sales. They put the priority on sales too high.
The producers of independent publications have done what they want to do when their books are launched. I find it healthy and there are no lies there.
< approve the existence >
Many different kinds of customers come here. I met people having their own values I had never encountered before. The noise brought in by various people shook my sense of values, which I had assumed to be correct until then.
In university, I majored in international relations, and I was taught that when you meet different cultures, you have to acknowledge that it does exist there even if it is disparate, and that even if you don’t understand, you have to approve its existence.
If you deny it, it will only cause conflicts and eliminations. I would like to know what those people think.
< our place >
It’s not ‘my’ place anymore, but it’s our place now. It is presumptuous and flat if it would only exist to satisfy my own need for approval.
I am thinking about what kind of noise would be needed to bring more variety of visitors here.
To engage with society, is to engage with people. I want this place would have something meaningful to the town, and to the people living here.
The world and the society are always with a variety of noise. That is what our place, SIORIBI is all about.
< Question from another contributor : 002 Marta >
Could you describe your work in 3 words?
Open. Deliver. Cultivate.
Open a place. A place where an unspecified number of people can freely come and go.
In my own sense of value, I think it is right that both bookstores and coffee shops are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. A place that is open whenever you want to go. The presence of other customers and shop staff there could be some noise and an opportunity to think and learn something. I want to make it open to everyone, and don’t want to limit. If you make some limitation, it would be difficult to create noise.
Receive and deliver creations. As a bookstore, we deliver the creation as a messenger of the authors and the book producers to the appropriate people. We think about who we deliver to, avoiding being complacent, with a sense of self-discipline.
Cultivate the city by keeping the place open. I want to cultivate the relationships within the town, the art and culture, and the diversity. Cultivating is tricky and troublesome, and there would be seeds coming out of the land, or the seeds that cannot be planted. I would like to dig it up even though it is troublesome, and cultivate the potential of the town, and plant the seeds of possibility. I believe that more beautiful flowers could bloom, and variety of fruits would grow.
< The color of myself >
I want to be transparent.
I prefer to be dyed in any color at any time.
I don’t want to reject different beings. If you have your own color, you would think that something disparate is in the different color from you.
I could be assimilated with the other person’s color f I don’t have my own. If the other person is white, then I would like to be white too.
It is only to understand and share the same values, and I don’t want to be the same.
I don’t think I should have a color, so I prefer being colorless and transparent.
< Question to the next contributors >
Is there a place you visit when you need to reset yourself ? If you have any, could you tell us where it is.
About Toru :
He is the owner of a cafe and bookstore “SIORIBI”, and also runs a public bathhouse “KIKUNO-YU”, and “SIORIBI-INN” where you could rent for more than a whole week or even for a longer period like your home away from home. What he does is far more than being the owner and he stimulates our visions and the sense of values, but when you open the door of SIORIBI, you will be in the place where you could just reset everything and be yourself. The words below from their website tells everything :
“sioribi” is a day when you gently place a bookmark in you drifting days. It’s like a little punctuation mark that brings calmness to your mind, and a smile to your face. May your today be “sioribi”.
Interview with Toru Kikuchi, the owner of SIORIBI
Instagram : https://www.instagram.com/sioribi/
Photographer : Masa Hamanoi
October 2021 at SIORIBI, Matsumoto, Nagano, Japan