- Clothing is something more intimate to me than my family. It is always there close to me in my daily life, and acts as a mediary between my “self” and “society.” The clothing I wear at times speaks more about myself than I do with my own words. What goes through the mind of great professionals when they choose clothes? We asked Mr. Amano of Konkodo Used Bookstore wearing GORE-TEX Soutien Collar Coat about his work and clothes.
- Tokyo Antiquarian Books Hall, commonly known as the Old Book Market, is a book market with its own unique system in Jimbocho. Many many books and people gather here from all around Japan to buy and sell books. It’s been 15 years since Mr. Amano first started coming here. The unique system cannot be understood by first-timers. Or rather, it’s not a place that anyone can just walk into.
“The Old Books Market is an auction site that only allows members of the Association of Dealers in Old Books to participate. One whole building in Jimbocho belongs to the association, and there are several floors with auctions running practically every day. There’s tons of big bundles of books, each with an envelope attached, into which you’re supposed to put a piece of paper with your bid written on it. This system has continued unchanged since the olden days. Sometimes a bundle containing a rare book would fetch dozens of bids, making the envelope quite thick.
- The expression of the people studying the stacks of old books is serious. Cameras hardly ever enter the auction site, and in the tense environment, and Mr. Amano goes on choosing books at his own pace. Faced with so many stacks of books, how does Mr. Amano make decisions to bid?
“Based on the market price and the selling price at my shop, I calculate how many thousands of yen one book could fetch, and then how much the whole bundle could sell for… I calculate these things in my head and determine my bid. Konkodo carries all genres of books, so I check the auctions thoroughly. On the rare occasion, if there is a book that I absolutely need to have, I would put in a bid higher than the market price.
- Mr.Amano writes on the piece of paper with a familiar hand. The bid for one bundle allows for three prices; high, low, and middle. Ultimately, all of the pieces of paper with the bids are collected and laid out, and the highest bidder gets to buy the lots. All old book dealers have the habit of putting the same last digits on all three bid prices, so that the auction result is sometimes settled on a matter of a few hundred or even ten, twenty yen.
- Was the Shuntaro Tanikawa poetry book I bought the other day also from this kind of auction? Just as I wonder, Mr. Amano tells me where all of these books come from.
“All of the old books here are put into the auction by old book dealers. My store sells at auction too. The books go from an old book store to another old book store, then to a customer, and then back to an old book store. In this way, books go round and round and travel around the world.”
- The town of Jimbocho where the Old Book Market is located has deep historical ties with books, and there are still many old book stores lining the streets. Mr. Amano’s Konkodo Bookstore is about 40 minutes by train from Jimbocho, on the Asagaya shopping street.
“There are many bibliophiles in the town of Asagaya. Most of our customers are regulars. For example, if a store specializes in a certain genre or the shop owner is a unique character, customers will come even if the shop is located in a somewhat inconvenient location, but Konkodo is not of that policy, and puts importance on blending in with the town. Prices are reasonable. You’ll find a book you want whenever you go, and you can continue going there for many years. My ideal, put simply, is to be a “normal old bookstore.” Since over ten years ago, I’ve continued saying that I just want it to be normal.”
- “Normal” is actually a deep word. To continue to be normal in this ever changing world means also to continue being new, and that ties into the core concept of Nanamica clothing.
“I think the nanamica coat is the epitome of normal clothes. When I first picked it up, I was surprised by how light it was. I never really emphasized lightness when choosing coats, but wearing this, I was like “Wow! It makes a difference.” I never wear heavy coats anymore. I wore this on a cold rainy day in early spring with a sweater inside, and it was perfectly warm, and I went around town without an umbrella, and it was just fine. Even when I walked around and became a bit warm, it didn’t become humid inside. It looks cool and has a mature feel that suits people of my age, and it is functional and comfortable. The blue lining inside is a charming design accent, so I fold up the sleeves a little when I wear it. It’s just perfect for my daily wear now.”
- The 3-layer GORE-TEX fabrics Soutien Collar Coat is a standard item of Nanamica. Based on an authentic shape, it is highly waterproof and breathable with high functionality that blocks water from entering but allows moisture to escape. Nanamica is the only one in the whole world to affix cotton material as the outer material. Mr. Amano talks about the positives of this coat from a different angle.
“In all things, it is most attractive when something is being done by a person that truly loves what he is doing. For example, instead of clothing designed to generate sales, clothing designed by someone who just truly loves clothing and pays so much loving attention to the smallest details is more attractive, isn’t it? From small details such as the pockets, functionality, the balance of the overall look, the color of the lining; each detail is actually quite normal, but you can see that it embodies the philosophy and skill of the maker. It is probably similar to the attitude of Konkodo, in that it is quite difficult to continue upholding this level of “normal.” I’d be happy if more people can understand that it takes skill, wit, and passion (laugh).”
- What Mr.Amano says about clothes naturally ties into his philosophy for his work.
“One criteria for how I choose my clothes is whether I can wear it for ten years. I think I can wear this Nanamica coat for ten or even more years. It is basic but functional, and looks cool just thrown on. I’ve always bought a lot of vintage clothes and what I’m wearing today is mostly vintage, except for my shoes that are order-made, but this coat naturally goes with everything. The name Konkodo comes from the idiom “gyokuseki konko” (mixture of good and bad), as I don’t really like it when something is a careful selection of just the very best things. It’s more interesting when there’s some things that aren’t so highly rated by the market mixed into the selection. I think this goes for clothes as well. The clothing of Nanamica naturally fits my way of thinking and choosing items. “
- Normal clothing might mean clothing that is universal and fits right into the center of people’s daily lives, with the versatility to suit a wide range. Lastly, here is something beautiful that Mr. Amano said about books.
“Books deal with everything there is in the whole world. If you research something you are interested in, there is always a book that concerns that topic, and you might also find another new interest from there. When this keeps happening, the way you look at books changes. If you continue deepening your interest and expanding your range, and when the shelves at the store reflect your interest and curiosities, the books sell. There is a feeling of the interest of customers coming to the store expanding along with the store. This is really fun, and more than anything, I never get tired of it.”
- Books are an archive of the knowledge of the world. There is a world unfolding in books that is wider and deeper than the ocean. Clothing is also another culture that has grown with the accumulation of a long history. To study history and let your mind wander to all different places and explore what the optimal way of being is now. Let’s continue thinking about what it is to be “normal,” where the past and present intersect.