January 27, 2018
Post by Holly Thompson
SCBWI Japan’s first event of 2018 was held at the Book House Café in Tokyo’s Jinbocho bookstore district. Book House Café opened in its current form as a children’s bookshop and café in May of 2017 and is currently the only bookstore of the many bookstores in Jinbōchō that specializes in children’s books. Located just a one-minute walk from the Jinbōchō Station A1 exit, Book House Café has a bright café area for lunch, snacks and drinks that is surrounded by shelves full of children’s books (most in Japanese), plus meeting, event and play spaces in the back. In the evening the store becomes a book bar serving alcohol and bar food.
Store manager Yuki Chino met with us on arrival and explained that the store has over 12,000 titles for children, both picture books and works for middle grade readers. She said that their mission was to create a space where everyone could come to enjoy children’s books.
Our group met in the open café area. Before meeting for this urban Sketch and Word Crawl, SCBWI Japan had shared ten prompt words to generate sketches, poems or vignettes–either at home before the event, or on the morning on the way to Book House Café. Participants were invited to write or sketch from any or all of these 10 words: reflect, bend, soft, window, flight, narrow, low, sharp, eyes, speed.
We were delighted to find that everyone showed up with responses to the prompts–sketches, poems, vignettes, and pieces of longer works–which we shared and discussed over café food and drinks.
Then we toured the various sections of the store–the free space set up with science picture books, the gallery area and meeting space where an artist was preparing for an afternoon workshop, a smaller cozy meeting room, and the elegant upstairs space for rent for larger events.
And of course we browsed shelves and shelves of books. Had the weather been milder, we’d planned to move our sketch and word crawl outside. But we were all far too content indoors surrounded by children’s literature. We hope to go back soon!