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River-inspired Japanese library becomes a favorite meeting point for kids

River-inspired public library in Kikuchi, Japan
River-inspired public library in Kikuchi, Japan / Photos: Atsushi Ishida

Kazunobu Nakamura’s brilliant library design changed the lives of the Kikuchi residents – it sparked a love for reading, a love for libraries, but most importantly – a love for the city.

When asked what the symbol of Kikuchi is, the locals unanimously answered: the Kikuchi river. Indeed, this small Japanese city located on the Kyushu island prides itself on an abundance of water and picturesque canyons.

With this in mind, Nomura Co. designer Kazunobu Nakamura came up with the idea to create a unique, river-inspired library for the residents – one that would not only connect the people to reading but also serve as a meeting space.

The chief intention behind the project, however, was to evoke a feeling of attachment to the Kikuchi city – especially amongst the younger generation, who have been leaving to bigger cities in droves.

Kikuchi faced an increase in depopulation by the youth

In the past decades, Japan’s youth has been massively migrating to larger cities – between 1950 and 2014, the urban population has jumped from 53 to 93%, while in the last decade around 200 Japanese communities vanished. Nakamura saw the importance of evoking a positive image of the Kikuchi city among the youth, contemplating:

The reason why the children do not think that they want to come back to Kikuchi city someday may be because there is no place [in the city] for children to gather.

He adds:

So I thought that like a plaza in Europe, I would like to create a vibrant place where citizens can gather.

The library’s design is, without doubt, unconventional and unique. The over 100m long bookshelves have a curved shape, resembling the flowing motion of a river. They divide the library into various spaces, leading book lovers through areas with different atmospheres – the children’s room, with low shelves; the reading area, in which the shelves rise and encircle the visitors with books; and collaboration spaces, that enable students to work together. Also, there are occasional nooks and hollows in the shelves that serve as places to sit or pass through.

Nakamura’s brilliant design proved to be a huge success – with the library being visited in numbers equal to 80% of the city’s population within only the first two months.

What is more, according to the latest July 2018 census, the Kumamoto prefecture faced the greatest residential increase in Japan – a whopping 16.7%. The library even hosts wedding ceremonies at the desires of citizens!

Kikuchi City Central Library in pictures

River-inspired meeting place in Kikuchi City Central Library

A river-inspired meeting place.

Reading room in Kikuchi City Central Library

Reading room.

Bookshelf capsule in Kikuchi City Central Library

One of bookshelf capsules.

The design of Kikuchi City Central Library

A design of Kikuchi City Central Library.

A children's books section of the Kikuchi City Central Library

A children’s books section.

Via Frame. Photos by Atsushi Ishida.

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Keep exploring. Here are more posts about libraries:

Book censorship in the 2021 by the numbers
– April 26, 2022

How to set up and organize a perfect home library (infographic)
– February 21, 2022

Library Lover’s Month – there are so many ways to celebrate!
– February 1, 2022

Quotes for library walls, inspired by retro book design
– January 21, 2022

The evolution of public libraries since 7th century BCE (infographic)
– November 19, 2021

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