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Shared by friends and collaborators of Japan House London, 'Words & Thoughts' is a collection of words, characters or phrases in Japanese which are particularly poignant to them or for our time.

Haba Yoshitaka is a leading expert in the emerging field of ‘book direction’ and the official book curator of The Library at Japan House London. He also is the founder and director of BACH, a company specialising in the curation of libraries and book installations.

He chose: 読書 ('doku sho': reading (books))

"Sensing the breath of spring air outside our windows, one feels stress and frustration from having to stay inside. While people around the world are feeling anxious and disconcerted, I want to remind them of the existence of reading. It is evident that we can become depressed as we are constantly immersed in the continual flow of untrustworthy information and abusive words on social media. Take time to open a book you are drawn to; it can be a novel, a poem, an art book, a picture book or a book on natural science – it can be anything. Rather than instant gratification (such as a book that might be useful for a meeting or presentation), please think of whichever book you read as an indulgence and try to savour the experience. In essence, reading is like sowing seeds without knowing when they will sprout. Reading is the personal experience of the soul of the writing that has been desperately squeezed out onto the page by the writer. In contrast to recent forms of communication which are constantly shared, the act of reading books requires solitude. Treasuring one’s time alone reading is to make time to face oneself in the company of a writer’s words. Thus, when the future is uncertain, we can surround ourselves with imaginative thoughts. I think this is the meaning of reading books in the era of coronavirus."

春の息吹を窓の外に感じながら、自宅でずっと過ごさなければいけないストレスと焦り。世界中でいま人々が感じている窮屈さと不安を和らげる存在として、私は読書を思い出して欲しいと思っています。ソーシャルメディアで流れ続ける真偽定かでない情報や罵詈雑言に浸り続けていると、気が滅入ってしまうのは人間の心が柔らかい証拠です。そんな時、小説でも詩でもアートブックでも自然科学書でも絵本でも、なんでもいいので自身の直感が選んだ1冊をひらいてみてください。そして、(来週の会議で使おうとか、次回のプレゼンに役立てよう等 といった)即効性でなく、遅効性の道具として、それらの本をゆっくり噛みしめるように読んでみてください。本来読書はいつ芽が出るのか分からない種蒔きのようなものなのですから。読書というのは、書き手が必死で絞り出した言霊を、読み手が一対一で汲み取る精神の受け渡しのようなものです。昨今のコミュニケーションがシェアをベースにできあがっているのとは逆に、読むことは孤独に陥らざるを得ない行為なのです。そんな独りの時間を慈しみ、書き手と、そして自身と向かいあうきっかけをつくること。そして、未知なる将来について個々が想像を巡らせ考えること。それが、このコロナの時代に本を読む意味だと私は思います。