To encourage victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake, Hideharu Nakagawa, along with 22 secondhand bookstores, has compiled a catalog of 5,000 used books that will be available to replace publications lost in the disaster.
Nakagawa's father ran a secondhand bookstore in Tokyo's Otsuka district, but the store and its 10,000 books were destroyed in the Great Tokyo Air Raid on March 10, 1945.
After World War II, his father opened another bookstore in Mito, and as a child, Nakagawa began helping around the store.
Believing in the value of secondhand books, Nakagawa, 64, said, "Local history books, novels, comics and magazines--everyone feels something special in regard to publications they read in their youth."
After the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami, Nakagawa contacted his fellow secondhand bookstore owners in disaster-hit areas to offer encouragement.
When he heard from an acquaintance in Sendai that some disaster victims had come to his bookstore looking to replace books swept away by the tsunami, Nakagawa realized that many people were still searching for books despite losing many other household items.
Another owner in Fukushima Prefecture said many evacuees had to leave their precious books at home in the wake of the crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. The comment reassured Nakagawa that there must be something only secondhand bookstores could do for the victims.
Because evacuees were scattered across the country or living in temporary housing, Nakagawa came up with the idea to put together a catalog of secondhand books to help disaster victims find books they like, and began making calls to his colleagues.
A total of 22 secondhand bookstores in Iwate, Miyagi, Fukushima, Gunma and Tochigi prefectures collaborated with Nakagawa to compile a catalog of about 5,000 books, which was posted online in June.
Participating bookstores are now receiving inquiries from disaster victims.
"What we did was just a small thing, but I hope it will be of some help to disaster victims," Nakagawa said.
The catalog is titled "Saiki," using kanji meaning "colorful" and "shining." As saiki is also a homophone for "comeback" in Japanese, Nakagawa hopes the books in the catalog will help people make a comeback in their normal lives.