Like anyone who travels, I have my own road rules: bring lots of name-brand bandages (the cheap ones slip right off blisters), always offer mints to the person next to you on the plane (especially now that toothpaste is forbidden … ahem), and when culture shock hits, head for the nearest bookstore. Doesn’t matter that I can’t exactly read Turkish, or that airline carry-on policies strongly discourage book purchases – at that moment I’m just glad to be at home among my people, the booklovers of the world.
Yesterday in the SF Chronicle, I found a soul mate: Hiroshi Kagawa, the new owner of Berkeley’s beloved (but lately financially beleaguered) Cody’s Books. Kagawa owns Yohan Inc., the biggest English-language book company in Japan, and first walked into Cody’s on a West Coast layover back in 1983. When he heard that Cody’s was at risk of closing its doors, he came to its financial rescue, just as he did for Japan’s scrappy independent Aoyama Book Center . (I visited it last year, and practically swooned over all the photography books.)
Industry pub Bookselling This Week reports:
… one of the reasons he [Kagawa] purchased Cody’s is because he saw it going through financial problems similar to those faced by his Aoyama Book Center a few years ago. Aoyama is an independent bookstore with five locations in Japan that Yohan purchased in 2004. “We shared the same kind of issue — an independent bookshop fighting to survive. [Aoyama] has successfully survived and grown,” said Kagawa.
As a devotee of Cody’s and indie bookstores wherever I find them (just ask my credit card company), I’m greatly cheered by this news. But what’s even more encouraging are Kagawa’s parting words to the Chronicle:
“Human beings can do only so many things in their lifetime,” he said. “I am a publishing guy, a bookstore guy. It is good if I can help prevent Cody’s from having perished.”