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Sprawling bookstore to open in Naha City

Date Posted: 2009-04-16

One of Japan’s largest bookstore chains is set to open next week in Naha City, raising concerns from small bookstores on the island about increased competition.

Junku-do Book Store will open in the former Daiei Naha department store, which has been closed for many years. The president of the mainland Japanese firm from Hyogo Prefecture, Kouhei Morimoto, says there will be 1,400,000 books in the new store, which will occupy the first, second and third stories of the building. Officials say floors 4-9 will remain closed.

Meanwhile, a second major bookstore chain, Miyawaki Book Store, opened its 15th branch book store in Okinawa yesterday, at the Tomarin Buiilding located in Naha City Tomari Port. The Kagawa Prefecture-based bookstores, which are very popular with residents, have been operating here for 22 years.

Atsuo Kobashigawa, head of Okinawa Prefecture’s Book Store Commercial Association, is caught in the middle. “I know that readers have been waiting for the new bookstores to open, but what about the rest of us?”, he asks. “For us it is a very big matter of life or death.” Kobashigawa noted the book store association had 98 vendors as members when it formed in 1988, but is down to only 42 member bookstores.

“Readers say “we need to have our small bookstore in downtown, or near my house so I don’t need to go driving,” but Kobashigawa notes that many people, particularly young people, aren’t reading much anymore, choosing instead to draw information and entertainment from the internet. He points out the entire book publishing business is becoming depressed, but concedes that the big book stores opening could spur renewed interest in reading.

Virtually every local supermarket has a book section, including San-A, Jusco, Ryubo and Mitsukoshi Department Store. A spokesman for Kyuuyo-do Book Store operating in a San-A supermarket says “we know we don’t have that many books, but we also know how to get customers. We offer different types of books than the big stores, like trade books, then divide the books into what the readers need.” The bookstore manager noted “we have data about our readers.”

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