Photo/IllutrationBunkitsu, a new bookstore in Tokyo’s Minato Ward, charges a 1,500-yen admission fee. It has reading rooms equipped with electrical outlets and Wi-Fi. (Yusuke Kato)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

A new bookstore in Tokyo has adopted a novel business model: It charges customers 1,500 yen ($13) just to enter the space, where best-sellers and preferred titles may be hard to find.

Bunkitsu, which opened on Dec. 11 in the Roppongi district, wants customers to find hidden literary treasures that can expand their cultural horizons.

“We hope users can learn about new cultures through unexpected books,” said Kazuki Aruchi of the sales division at Nippon Shuppan Hanbai Inc., operator of the bookstore.

The company said Bunkitsu is the first bookstore in Japan that charges an entrance fee, and it set a price similar in range to those for museums or movie theaters.

It decided to take a different approach amid declining sales among bookstores around the country.

“Bunkitsu” means “eating culture,” and the store does house a large cafe.

But the key feature is the arrangement of about 30,000 books in the 460-square-meter floor space. Many are obscure books or highly specialized titles.

The shelves for “travel,” for example, contain no guidebooks. Instead, specialized picture books or “deeper” texts, such as “The Silk Road: A New History,” are available.

The shelves for “manga” are bereft of popular titles, including the “One Piece” pirate series. But customers there can find critical biographies of such figures as Sanpei Shirato, a noted anime writer.

Bookstores normally place best-sellers in piles on a table.

However, Bunkitsu keeps only one copy of each title.

The store also intentionally omitted a book search service to promote opportunities for customers to come across unexpected but enlightening books.

Although the books are arranged according to genre, they are not put in alphabetical order according to publisher or author.

Picture books priced at more than 10,000 yen and collections of illustrations by modern artists costing around 37,000 yen are available. These books may remind customers of the Aoyama Book Center, which used to be located at the site and was known for its fine collection of books on art and culture.

A cafe area in the bookstore with about 90 seats offers coffee and “sencha” (green tea) under all-you-can-drink service.

Desks with electrical outlets and spaces where users can take off their shoes and read books are also available, as is Wi-Fi.

The bookstore is open from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.