Tokyo: Bent Pages, Torn Covers: Novelist Takeshi Kaiko Was Also a Very Physical Reader

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Novelist Takeshi Kaiko’s personal library displayed on bookshelves

Takeshi Kaiko (1930-89), a novelist known for such works as “Natsu no Yami” (“Darkness in Summer”) and “Opa!” lived in Igusa, Suginami Ward, Tokyo, for 16 years from 1958. The Kaiko Takeshi Memorial Library, which opened in 2017 on the site of his home, has about 600 books in its collection on view. Visitors can read the books that Kaiko himself looked through, and it is tempting to imagine how he must have felt when he read them.

In 1958, Kaiko won the Akutagawa Prize for “Hadaka no Osama” (“The Naked King”) and quit his job at Western-style liquor company Kotobukiya, now Suntory Holdings Ltd. He had to move out of company housing and hurriedly found a house in Igusa nearby.

In 1974, Kaiko moved his workplace to Chigasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture, now the Kaiko Takeshi Memorial House, and his Igusa house eventually became vacant. The current building was rebuilt in 2002 by his wife’s sister, who became his heir.

The first floor of the building in Igusa is the office of the Kaiko Takeshi Memorial Society, which operates the library. The second floor, which is open to the public, is accessed via an outside staircase. A bookshelf on the right-hand side of a room holds the complete works of Jean-Paul Sartre, who greatly influenced Kaiko; books related to the Vietnam War, which he covered; and “Mongoru Teikokushi” (“History of the Mongol Empire”), a series published by Toyo Bunko that he seems to have used as reference when searching for the tomb of Genghis Khan, an obsession in the last days of his life.

Yomiuri Shimbun photos
A chest in Kaiko’s study, left, A decanter beloved by Kaiko

Haruo Kikuchi, 73, a former editor at Shueisha Inc. and a director of the memorial society, said: “Kaiko was not a bibliophile who cherished books as objects. Before reading a book, he would tear off the cover and throw away the entire wraparound band and sometimes folded several pages together instead of writing notes on them.”

The Kaiko family had a collection of nearly 10,000 books, but his unique “reading habits” left clues to distinguish Kaiko’s own collection from those of his family members or those that had been given to him.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Issues of the magazine “Yoshu Tengoku” (Western liquor heaven) edited by Kaiko when he worked for Kotobukiya

A smaller room to the left, where the books Kaiko wrote are stored, was once his study. He had a desk in the corner facing the window. Standing there, I felt as if I could hear the novelist’ breathing.

Kaiko Takeshi Memorial Library

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Family photographs and letters to acquaintances are also on display.

Address: 4-8-14 Igusa, Suginami Ward, Tokyo

Open: From 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and the first and third Sundays of each month.

Admission: Free. Advance reservations are required through the Kaiko Takeshi Memorial Society’s website.