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Tokyo International Antiquarian Book Fair 2015 – A Review

By Michael Steinbach


After weeks of intensive preparations and an informal preview in December 2014 which marked the 50th anniversary of the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of Japan (ABAJ), it was finally time to open the International Antiquarian Book Fair in Tokyo on 5 March 2015. Already before the official ribbon cutting ceremony many foreign dealers who had come to exhibit were wandering around and admired the beautiful Japanese treasures hardly seen outside of Japan. And vice versa: the Japanese dealers were looking for some highlights the foreign dealers had brought with them.

At 12.45 the offical opening ceremony started. ILAB President Norbert Donhofer gave a speech in English to the audience, then the speech was read in Japanese by the Vice-President of ABAJ, then ABAJ President Mr. Yagi said a few words and finally - as it is Japanese tradition - the ribbon cutting took place. Norbert Donhofer, Mr. Yagi and ILAB Member of Honour and ABAJ President of Honour Mitsua Nitta – all armed with golden scissors, white gloves and medals - cut the red-white ribbon ornamented with flowers.

There was no real rush during the first hours as we usually experience at European fairs. In Japan, people enter the fair quiet, slowly and well mannered. Among the customers were mainly collectors, dealers and librarians from Japan, and only a few foreigners. Some of the Japanese dealers realized important sales. As most Japanese booksellers speak at least a little English (although there is a certain timidity to approach foreign dealers directly) many sales were made with foreign dealers and collectors who had come to Tokyo.  And the book fair visitors were amazed! For the first time they had the opportunity to see and to buy such wonderful collections of bibliophile treasures. They were visibly impressed by what they saw.

On the second and third day of the fair there were lectures on bookselling and bibliophily as well as guided tours for visitors. On the first day a reception for exhibitors was held, and after the fair had closed, the foreign colleagues were invited to an excursion to see and to experience some of the cultural highlights of Japan. This is real Japanese hospitality, and one of the many reasons why collectors and colleagues should come to Japan as often as possible, to enjoy the country, to meet the colleagues and to get to know the wonderful culture and people in Japan!

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