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Shinjuku City Library — Okubo Library

Date: 05.27.2019

Broaden Your Mind and Your Social Life at Okubo Library in Shinjuku

In a metropolis like Tokyo, there are countless places to find great books and broaden your mind. Bookstores are great, but there’s nothing quite like a library — a sanctuary for studying, reading, and spending quality time with the kids. Okubo Library in Shinjuku City offers not only a comfortable space to enjoy books, but also an opportunity to connect with others through books, regardless of nationality or mother tongue.


Okubo Library at a Glance

Shinjuku City boasts 10 libraries, one of them being Okubo Library, which lies in Okubo. It is just a stone’s throw away from a vibrant shopping district with hundreds of great eateries and stores but offers an oasis of calm from the bustle outside.

According to Shinjuku City statistics, Okubo’s international population stands at 40% of the area’s total, which is significantly higher than most other areas in Japan. Okubo Library strives to not only cater to its multicultural population, but to create community ties and make everyone feel welcome. There are staff members who speak English, Korean, and Chinese, and all of them are well practiced in speaking simple Japanese for those learning the language.

The library also offers many services for its users. It provides thousands of foreign languages books, but also arranges workshops where people can practice reading in simple Japanese. There is a reading area near the entrance to the library with desks and chairs, and there is also a spacious children’s corner where parents can read together with their kids.


Thousands of Foreign Language Books

As of October 2018, Okubo Library has over 2,300 books in 23 languages, with an especially extensive selection of children’s books and picture books. There are more than 200 picture books in Chinese and Korean respectively, and about 180 picture books in English.


Bookish Events Across Borders

Okubo Library’s story time events for children are popular and are scheduled for every Saturday at 15:00. Picture book readings in Japanese and English are held every 2nd Saturday of the month, while readings in Korean and Japanese are held every 4th Saturday. There are sporadic readings in other languages also, but availability depends on volunteers of that language. Most recently, a story time reading was held in Nepalese, and one in Arabic has already been held four times. The story time events are opportunities for some children and adults alike to connect with their native languages, while others can learn about new cultures — all while experiencing the joy of reading.
Story time events aren’t limited to reading. Some presenters will talk about culture and at one event, participants had the opportunity to learn how to write their names in Arabic.

The library also collaborates with a Japanese language school in the area. Twice a year, students from the school will read books in both their native language and Japanese to create connections and share their culture with local children. They also provide games and quizzes and other activities for the kids to make the experience more interactive.


Helping International Residents Navigate Life in Japan

Okubo Library also helps international residents with daily life issues and questions by collaborating with local NPO to offer counseling sessions related to living in Japan. This is especially helpful for parents, as they can learn to understand the intricacies of child rearing in Japan and ask questions that they may not be able to otherwise. Life planners can give estimates on how much education in Japan will cost, as well as advise how much money people should save to live comfortably. There is also a disaster preparedness workshop in the works for the future.

Events like this for international residents are provided on fliers in simple Japanese (accompanied by furigana) and some will also be made available in Korean, Chinese, and English, depending on the event in question. There is also a wealth of information available online.


Practice Reading and Speaking in Japanese

Okubo Library holds a twice-a-year workshop together with the NPO Tagengotadoku for Japanese learners to practice their reading. Participants can choose whether they’d like to practice reading at beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels, and can practice reading with books to match their skillset. This workshop is currently available twice a year, but it may increase in frequency, and it is, of course, completely free of charge. There is also talk of adding a “music through easy Japanese” event with a mini concert as well in the future, so stand by for ongoing developments!

Particularly popular is the Bibliobattle event, an international exchange book event, which has been run successfully five times. The aim is for participants to speak passionately about a book they love for five minutes, and hopefully convince the audience that their book is the worthiest read. The audience rates the presentation not on skill, but rather which book they’d most like to read. Books can be in any language and almost any format — novels, comics, photo books, and picture books are all accepted. The speech, however, does have to be in Japanese, which means it’s a great opportunity to practice speaking in front of a crowd. There are five Japanese and five international presenters who try to wow the crowd with their books and the one who receives the most votes receives a Champion Book of the Day certificate with their name on it. The event is open to middle school-aged children and above.

For more information about upcoming events at Okubo Library, contact the library directly, or visit the library website.


Shinjuku Okubo Library

2-12-7 Okubo, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
Tel: 03-3209-3812
(Japanese only)

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