The Donation Library With The World’s Favourite Books


WordsSolenn Cordroc'h

To the west of Japan in Fukue, one of the largest islands in Goto, you’ll find an 80-year-old minka townhouse, transformed into a unique library by the copywriter Tomoyuki Torisu. Since opening in 2016 Sango-san invites tourists and locals to come in for a chat, to drink a coffee, and browse the books. What is unique however, is that local residents in Fukue and contributors from around the world have been invited to donate their three favourite books, which then find themselves on the shelves of Sango-san.

While Torisu might have grown up in Nagasaki, Torisu is above all a Goto Islander. This unassailable link with his origins has only strengthened over the years, spending every summer on the island as a child, continuing to visit with his friends in adulthood. In 2012 his friend Arikawa, who runs the local café in Sotonoma, told him about a space that needed refurbishment. It was enough to pique his curiosity. According to Torisu, he instantly was able to visualise it as a space to meet with friends, but it he was a long way off imagining it being such a regional reference point. It was only once he began meeting and discussing with locals, that he became aware of their literary desires. From here emerged the idea to transform the vacant house into a library and meeting space.

Weathered by both time and climate, the old house took on a new life, with Torisu calling on natural resources and local techniques to refurbish the space. The outside walls were painted a shade of vermillion, resistant to the battering salty wind, and often used on the facades of finishing boats. The colour is also evocative of coral and thus Tomie, the Fukue fishing port reputed for its coral fishing. This therefore explains the name of the space, Sango, meaning coral. Collected fragments of coral from a local atelier have been used to make the kitchen and bathroom floors, while volcanic rock from the area constitute the stairs. Materials already present in the house including wooden beams and floorboards were used to make tables and bookshelves. The final result is a library which blends beautifully into its surroundings.

With Sango-san officially opened, it didn’t take long for the shelves to fill up with books from every horizon. Torisu came up with the unique idea of gathering the three favourite books of visitors from across the globe, no matter their age, nationality or profession. At present 450 books suggested by about 150 people have found their way into the library. As well as books and coffee, Sango-san is also home to events, exhibitions as well and summer schools, hosting communities as diverse as blockchain experts or architects. Much more than just a library, Sango-san has even become a guesthouse, where book-lovers can spend the night, gazing at the stacked shelves, or reading all night long.