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Shops but not as we know them – Morioka Shoten

Posted 22 May 2020

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What comes to mind when you hear the word “shop”? Probably an image of an establishment that sells a variety of products that fulfils the needs of people, all in one place for convenience.

Why have supermarkets and shopping malls become part of our psyche over the past few years? As consumers, it’s a combination of the convenience of having everything in one place and time-saving. But from a product developer’s perspective, it becomes increasingly challenging to make a product stand out from other competing products, all jousting for the customer’s time and attention.

Showcasing the modern retail store

In the world of high fashion and high-end products, the “less is more” approach is a trend continuing to grow in popularity. As you can see from the photo above, a typical high-end shop is very minimalistic with only a few products displayed for sale. The aesthetics of the whole room is well thought out and put together to highlight and showcase the few products they are selling. But one store Morioka Shoten is bucking the trend with more affordable merchandise; books. The store challenges the concept of the one-stop-shop, with great success.

The room with a single book

The “room” with a single book is a shop that can be found in Ginza, the high-end district of Tokyo, the largest metropolitan city in the world. There is only ever one book for sale at any time, and the shop is made up of a library of multiple copies of the book. The book choices change weekly, and customers who don’t buy the week’s pick are happy to wait for a new literary choice the following week. Book selections include, but are not limited to, novels, manga, biographies and illustrated books. The bookseller, Yoshiyuki Morioka, carefully selects the title which will be put on display, each week.

To further enhance the literary experience, Morioka seeks to bring each book to life. He adds thoughtful touches such as slipping a flower mentioned in a chapter between the pages, or by exhibiting photographs or ceramics as a nod to the book’s content. This challenging, minimalistic philosophy and well-curated exhibits attract numerous visitors from all over the world. He also invites the author of the book of the week to come along and have authentic conversations with readers, if they can.

Inside Morioka Shoten

The bookstore opened in May 2015 and is located on a side street in Ginza, a stone’s throw away from the busy main street, and aims to attract customers via various events including book launches and exhibitions. According to its website, the shop has become known as “a place where a blessed conversation between readers and authors emerges through slow reading”.

A unique concept brought to life by Yoshiyuki Morioka

Yoshiyuki Morioka worked as a bookstore clerk for eight years in Kanda, a quarter known as Tokyo’s centre of second-hand bookstores. He then went on to open his own bookstore as well as running several exhibitions. This experience prompted a lightbulb moment. He came up with the idea of “a bookstore with a single book”. He believed that offering a single book was the catalyst to having a deeper understanding and closer relationship with the reader. Exhibiting relevant objects alongside the book would bring the book to life.

Yoshiyuki Morioka

Morioka Shoten Ginza – Location is everything

The shop’s location in the Suzuki Building is considered a piece of Japanese history. It is in fact, designated as historical architecture in Tokyo. It was once the home of Nippon Kobo, an editorial production company and pioneer of Japanese graphic design. During the Meiji era, just before the first world war, the company was at the forefront of promoting graphic design as an essential commodity of modern society through creating the photography and design magazine “NIPPON”. With the combination of photography and graphic design being at the heart of Morioka Shoten, choosing the Suzuki building was simply a no brainer.

Suzuki Building, Ginza

Traditional crafts come together with digital platforms to create a unique opportunity

This goes to show that even though we’re living in an increasingly digital world, hard copy bookstores and human-to-human interactions is something that is now considered as something of a privilege. With so much advertising “noise” in the world, people will increasingly value uniqueness and authenticity.

This concept taps into that mindset of being closer to the author and to the book itself as the reader can delve into the world of the books in a unique way. Any author who gets selected is in the unique position of not having to compete with the other titles in traditional bookstores. They get the opportunity to be closer to their audience and create a bond with them through conversations and events during their showcase week. Social media, a relatively new concept, works with this traditional craft to bring it to the attention of a large audience, with people following and talking about titles and the store’s unique concept.

What does this teach us about marketing?

In marketing, there is no wrong or right. Marketing is about grabbing the attention of a potential customer and persuading them to buy. Cultural nuances are a vital factor if you’re looking to engage with a global audience. As well as considering translation when formulating a global strategy, cultural norms (and cultural intelligence) is something that needs to be right to capture that close relationship with your customers, as previously mentioned.

Our post-pandemic world will be very different compared to the one we leave behind. When we emerge, new ways of connecting with people will start to become apparent. Still, we believe that less is more, and more of the clutter of the information highway will be removed so that we can all breathe for a while and enjoy the slow learning and beauty of traditional crafts, through a whole new perspective.

Creativity is a must, and we at ALM Translations will work with you to create bespoke content that is unique, culturally relevant and not just a translation.

So don’t hesitate to contact us as we are just an email or a phone call away!

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