No singing. No dancing. Just sitting — in silence.
The plush interior of the wonderful Daikanyama T-Site may well be a world away from Moriyama Daido’s usual haunt of the decidedly less glamorous, and far more gritty, Shinjuku. But, on Monday night, in a quiet corner of the vast bookshop, this giant of Japanese street photography was signing his new book, Okinawa.
Somewhat predictably, the staff made sure that the event itself was far more regimented than Moriyama’s photographic style, but at the same time that didn’t dampen the obvious respect on display — from both sides of the table.
There’s no doubt that the likes of iPads and Kindles are the future — the ebook and tablet now set to do to the printed page what MP3s did to the CD. Or at least that’s surely the case in regards to on the road reading anyway. The multitude of books they can store, along with the added multi-media, make them the perfect all-in-one travel companion.
But despite the convenience, and the ease of making a new purchase, there’s still nothing quite like the smell, and the sometimes surprising selection, of a second hand bookshop.
With North Korea currently in the process of lumbering itself with another dear leader, whose mother, somewhat surprisingly, was a Japanese-born ‘consort’, the chance to meet Charles Robert Jenkins was a very timely one indeed. A man who, after defecting when he was only 24-years-old in a move that he now describes as the biggest mistake of his life, suffered a mindboggling 40 years in the hermit kingdom, making him a genuinely unique individual with quite a tale to tell to put it mildly.
Details of which really don’t need to be repeated here, as they are well documented on the internet and in the man’s own memoirs, but having the chance to talk to him about his new life on Sado Island with his wife and daughters — who it turns out still talk in the language of their captors when they are together — along with everything else from motorbikes, rice selling and of course North Korea, was absolutely fascinating. A rare mix of history, politics and redemption all encapsulated in one person.
Yet perhaps even more staggering than the story itself, is the fella himself, as, after going through what is utterly unimaginable to most, he has somehow come out the other side both a devoted family man and a genuinely accommodating and friendly individual.
A feat many of us fail to manage in the most welcome of situations, let alone the worst.