Bookstores are becoming an endangered species. And yet we love them so much. So what do we do? What is the right business model for a bookstore? Bunkitsu, which opened this month in Tokyo, has an answer: a cover charge.
Conceived by a group of book enthusiasts that includes Smiles (the company behind Pass The Baton and Soup Stock Tokyo) and Morioka Shoten, Bunkitsu opened on December 11, 2018 in a sprawling space that was previously occupied by Aoyama Book Center in central Tokyo. To enter, you’ll have to pay the 1,500 yen (roughly $13) cover charge. But once inside, you’ll find yourself immersed in a minimal space of concrete and wood, and a beautifully curated collection of 30,000 books and magazines.
Once you’ve checked in, take your free cup of coffee or tea and wander endlessly through books on humanities, nature, art and design, all of which have been thoughtfully curated by the book lovers of Yours Book Store. Every book is for sale, but you can also spend an hour, 5 hours or the whole day and not buy a thing. And if you get hungry, they even have a small café that will sell you lunch or a light snack.
Bunkitsu (written 文喫) is a combination of the word 文 meaning text but also culture, and 喫 which means to consume but in the sense of a beverage. It’s used in the word 喫茶店 (kissaten), which means café.