Off Japan’s island of Kyushu are the Goto Islands, a group of 5 small islands – part of Nagasaki prefecture – that extend to the west. The largest and Westernmost of the five is Fukue Island.
Fukue is the last place in Japan where you can see the sunset each day, and it’s blessed with stunning beaches and a beautiful church, a remnant from Christianity’s first entrance into Japan. But that wasn’t enough to boost tourism. Tomoyuki Torisu, a copywriter at ad agency Dentsu whose ancestors hail from the Goto Islands, wanted to do something. So he recruited architect Junpei Nosaku to renovate an 80-year old minka townhouse and convert it into a community center and library.
The Sangosan Tomie Library opened this summer and it’s a beauty. The architects incorporated all sorts of local materials like a volcanic rock stepping stone that leads to the stairs and bits of coral embedded into the cement floor. The vermilion (shu-iro) colored façade is an homage to the colors used for the islands fishing fleet, and a color that was often incorporated into local architecture.
What makes the library special is that it is based on a donation program but with a specific set of guidelines. The library asks people to donate their “3 best books in the world,” as well as descriptions of why these are their top 3. Visitors to the library can access an intimate profile of notable contributors like college professors and manga artists who have contributed their top 3, but also locals like tour guides and farmers. The library also functions as a community center where you can relax, have tea and chat with others. There’s even an accommodation service that’s in the works.
Fukue Island is accessible by plane from Nagasaki (30 min flight) or Fukuoka (40 min flight). You can also take a ferry from Nagasaki, which can get you there in 1.5 hours.