Nyanko-doh and the store manager Rikuo the cat
We went to have an interview with Yuko, the owner’s only daughter of the book store specializing in cat books in the world biggest book town, Jinbo-cho, Tokyo. There are more than 200 stores lined that sell new books to second hand books. In this old yet famous book town, you can find “Nyanko-doh (Nyanko is a casual way to say Cat in Japanese. Doh can be translated into a hall) ” Nyanko-doh is located inside of the Anekawa book store and was opened in 2013. Since then, this book store has been attracting millions of cat lovers. Yuko kindly shared about the store and her Scottishfold, Rikuo that has a title of “the store manager”.
Started with only 3 shelves
―Why did you make a cat book section, Nyanko-doh, inside of the Anekawa book store?
It has been difficult for small book stores like us to be supplied new publications since business conditions in publishing industry have been depressed. I was like “Okay, we don’t need to stick to new publications but try and focus on a specialty. We have an extra space that can be used. If we are doing something, I wanna enjoy it!!”. It used to be only an amount of 3 shelves but now cat books turned to dominate almost half of the store space.
―There are many different genres of books. Why did you choose cat books?
Initially I was looking at genres like Yoga, Travel, and Arts etc. I didn’t have strong feeling of I-WANT-TO-DO-THIS so cat books were just one of the choices. However, covers of cat books had the biggest impact. I had spaces but only 3 shelves so it had to be eye-catch items. So….
―I see. I thought your cat love developed into business.
(Laughs) That could be a reason, too. I already had Rikuo at the time and he was my first pet. However, I had never read cat books before. I love books as if they were my friends though. It wasn’t like I love cats but was like I love Rikuo.
―I’ve heard you work at a different company during working days. Who selects the books?
I do. I don’t like to select books just by looking at the covers or the reviews from the internet so I go to the libraries to have a look before ordering. If the library doesn’t have what I want to look, I go to the national library. I also went to the school “Neko-no-mori (Cat forest) ” to learn about cats. When I was about to graduate from the school, I told the principal, Ms. Hideko Nanri who initially started the cat-sitter business in Japan, that I was going to open a book store specialized in cats. Fortunately, she said that she is going to support me all the way. You know, she is a cat book maniac.
Attractive books and goods for cat lovers
―I’ve heard Illustrator Ms. Tamami Kumakura designed the store signboard and the original book cover.
Yes. I met her through Ms. Nanri. We give 2 book covers to the customers who buy books from our store. Why 2? My dad said one for a book cover and the other one to decorate on the wall. (laughs)
―You have a nice variety of books from collections of photographs, novels, essays, illustration books, kid books, Comics to non-fiction books.
We have both new and old publications. when books are out of print, I call directly to a publisher and order from their stock. Sometimes, authors don’t publish but have prints at home. We have those books as well.
―I see many cat goods but also general goods, too. How come you decided to carry these items?
I always wanted to make a nostalgic atmosphere like a small town candy store back in old times. Instead of candies, I carried a variety of goods. If you want to buy some rare goods, items designed by Illustrator Akio Kamimura and team SOTONEKO JAPAN are recommended. You know, these general goods like lunch bags are unexpectedly popular with male customers, too.
―You published a book “100 Nyanderfu l(wonderful) cat books”. Could you tell me more about it?
A famous publishing company “Takarajima-sha” came to talk to me. I really wanted to make a book that both cat lovers and book lovers can enjoy, something fun just to look at so I made it all color print.
―I initially thought this book just introduce another books but some scenes actually touched my heart.
(Laughs) That’s what I wanted!! You know, there are so many good books that don’t appear to the society. I introduced the contents and its episodes so that readers will have interests in these books. For example, I introduced “Neko-no-Kenchikuka (Cat architect) ” written by Hiroshi Mori. You may first feel awkward reading this book. However, this book has amazing illustrations of Masato Sakuma and once you start reading, you can’t stop. It’s such a masterpiece. At Nyanko-doh, you can access to all the books I introduced in my book. You can also have a look inside. I’ll be very happy if people have a chance to come and have a look at these books.
Owl face store manager, Rikuo
―Could you tell me about the store manager Rikuo the cat?
Rikuo is just our pet cat and is not an official manager. He has a title of store manager but is often absent. (laughs) I also have his name in Kanji (Chinese-character) 陸男 (land-man).
―What made you have Rikuo as a pet?
Well, one of the things on my “To-do list in my twenties” was to find a partner that lives with me. I love owls and I was going to have an owl. However, I found out that you need to feed them worms. I was imagining worms in my fridge… Hell no!!! (laughs)So, I gave up on an owl but decided to look for a cat that looks like an owl.
―Wha what? Gave up on an owl for a cat looks like an owl?
Yes. I didn’t know about the foster system at the time so I went to look for it on the internet to find a cat breeder. I saw a Scottishfold that looked like an owl. I couldn’t help sending an inquiry to say “Please let me know when you have newborn kittens”. After a while, they contacted with me about a kitten but it was very expensive. Unfortunately I had to give up again.
2 months later, however, they contacted with me again and said they had a cat that has been taken out of competition. They remembered how much I wanted one and wanted to give someone who would cherish him. That was Rikuo, 11 years ago.
―How do you describe Rikuo’s characteristic?
Basically he is calm and peaceful. He keeps some distance from people and has never been playful since he was a kitten. It’s not like he fawns on me but he follows me around.
He seems satisfied if his tail touches on somewhere around me. You know, we don’t meddle in too much to each other and that make us the best partners.
―Does he like anything special to play?
Nothing really. I should say that he likes welcoming other people. From what I have seen, he is timid but always welcomes our guests at the entrance with me.
Rikuo brought a good life
―He will be 12 years old this year. Is there anything you care about his health?
I take good care of his food. He basically has a weak stomach. Around he turned 7 years old, his liver got weaken and used to be hospitalized every year. Every time he is in the hospital, he had a drip for 24 hours. The vet said his veins can be damaged as he continued to have a drip. That means he won’t live long. Since then, I changed his medicines to oriental medicines for pets. Not only that, I mix raw meat with his cat food. Fortunately, he hasn’t been hospitalized last 2 years.
―How do you like your life with Rikuo?
I used to postpone my own affairs and almost neglected my own private time. I think it’s changed since I have Rikuo. It became more like I cherish my own time and can have a relaxed moment when I have off time. Unfortunately I have allergy to cats so vacuuming the floors at my place became an every morning routine. Also, I threw away so much junk at my place. It’s like he straightened my life.
Nyanko-doh has a good reputation and I could publish my book. I think Rikuo is one of the reasons for this good luck. You know, we are surrounded by many fortune beckoning cats. They might be bringing us good luck, too.
Store manager, Rikuo, the cat.
Born in October, 2003 / Scottishfold / Male
Location : Inside of Anekawa-book store
Address : 2-2 Jinbo-cho, Kanda, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
Phone : 03-3263-5755
Open : 10am – 9pm (Mon-Fri) 12pm-6pm (Sat)
Close : Sunday
photo Jun Takahashi
translation Chiyoko Kimura