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5 Must-See Libraries in Japan That Are Extremely Beautiful

If you are someone who is interested in architecture or you simply love checking out libraries when you travel, then here are some must-see libraries in Japan which are known for their gorgeous architectural designs!

1. Nakajima Library, Akita International University (Akita)

Akita International University (AIU) has been getting a lot of attention for having a unique curriculum characterized by small classes that are all taught in English and students being required to complete a year of study abroad. Inside its campus, you will find Nakajima Library, which was purposefully designed to create a space that capitalizes on the nature and traditions of Akita. You will surely be impressed by the circular umbrella-shaped roof that was made using traditional techniques, as well as the beautiful Akita cedar wood that was generously used throughout the building! Given the fact that this university boasts of providing a global education, it is only natural that about 60% of the 75,000 books in the library are books from Western authors. This library is open to AIU students 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The general public can freely enter the library during designated hours.

1. Nakajima Library, Akita International University (Akita)

Aza Oku-Tsubakidai, Yuwa Tsubakigawa, Akita-shi, Akita

2. Kanazawa Umi-Mirai Library (Ishikawa)

Located on the western side of Kanazawa City, Kanazawa Umi-Mirai Library is a public library that has been getting a lot of attention from people inside and outside of Japan for its original design, which looks like a large white box with 6,000 small, round windows. The building has won numerous awards related to architecture and design, including being listed on the “World’s 20 Most Stunning Libraries” by the U.S. Fodor’s Travel Guide. From the 2nd floor to the 3rd floor, there is a massive atrium where you can spend some quiet time in an open space that is filled with soft light coming from the outside. You can also enjoy the view from the circular windows, such as the blue sky on a clear day and the color gradation of the pale sunset. There is Wi-Fi inside the library.

2. Kanazawa Umi-Mirai Library (Ishikawa)

i-1-1 Jichu-machi, Kanazawa-shi, Ishikawa

3. International Library of Children’s Literature, National Diet Library (Tokyo)

The International Library of Children’s Literature (ILCL) is the first library dedicated to children's books in Japan. It is comprised of two buildings, with the Renga (Brick) Building designated as a historic building by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government. Constructed in 1906 as an Imperial Library, this Renaissance-style building is characterized by its huge windows that have a gentle arch at the top. The library was renovated and extended by the world-famous architect, Tadao Ando, who designed it in a way where it looks like a glass box is passing through the existing concrete and brick buildings. The Grand Staircase in the atrium, the “Meet the World” room that houses materials on geography, history, and ethnic groups in the world, and the other areas in the library were only repaired, so you can still feel the original vibe from the time the library was built.

3. International Library of Children’s Literature, National Diet Library (Tokyo)

12-49 Ueno Koen, Taito-ku, Tokyo

4. Takeo City Library (Saga)

Takeo City Library, run by the government of Takeo City in Saga Prefecture, is currently creating a great deal of buzz for its ground-making design. Its operation was entrusted to Culture Convenience Club, the company that runs TSUTAYA (※), so aside from borrowing books, you can also buy books, magazines, and other materials inside. It also houses a Starbucks branch, where you can drink coffee while browsing books and other materials that are for sale. This is the first public library in Japan to offer such kinds of services. The interior of the library is a bright space that is designed with large windows to let the natural light in. Make sure to check out the sophisticated design of this library, such as the beautiful arched bookcases and the interior made of wood and black steel. You can find Wi-Fi and power outlets inside.

※Tsutaya is Japan's largest video and music rental chain. It also has a bookstore.

4. Takeo City Library (Saga)

5304-1 Oaza Takeo, Takeo-cho, Takeo-shi, Saga

5. Yusuhara Kumo no Ue Community Library (Kochi)

Yusuhara in Kochi Prefecture is a small town with a population of just about 3,000 people. It is home to the magnificent Shikoku Karst (※), and about 90% of its land is covered by forest. It is here where you can find the Kumo no Ue Community Library, designed by Kengo Kuma, an architect who also served as the designer for the new National Stadium that will serve as the main venue for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. It is a relaxing space made of local wood. You need to take off your shoes at the entrance. There are places within the library where you can eat, drink, and talk, as well as a spacious corner for children, so you can definitely bring your kids! Note that apart from this library, there are five other structures in town that were designed by Kengo Kuma, so why not check those out, too?

※ The karst plateau that is found at the prefectural border between Ehime and Kochi.

5. Yusuhara Kumo no Ue Community Library (Kochi)

1212-2 Yusuhara, Yusuhara-cho, Takaoka-gun, Kochi

Some of the libraries in the list may be a bit far from the city, but all of them are really worth visiting! So, make sure to check them all out to see for yourself just how beautiful they are.

*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.

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