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E2102e – A Special Library in Kingdom of Grapes and Wine: Koshu City Katsunuma Library

The original article published in Japanese ( )

Current Awareness-E No.363

14 February, 2019

A Special Library in Kingdom of Grapes and Wine: Koshu City Katsunuma Library


●A Library in Historic Land

Koshu City Katsunuma Library in Yamanashi Prefecture is located in a gentle alluvial fan covered with vineyards. It was the residence of “Iwasaki clan” and “Katsunuma clan,” both descendants of “Kaigenji clan” just as Takeda Shingen, a distinguished warlord. The area also flourished as “Katsunuma-juku,” a post town along Koshu Highway. It was also in Katsunuma that growth of “Koshu grape,” an indigenous species of Yamanashi Prefecture that originally came from the continent, was discovered. During the Meiji era, two local youths, Masanari Takano and Ryuken Tsuchiya, traveled to France to learn wine making under the order of the prefecture. It is a land where history of “grapes and wine” continues to the present. There are two possible origins of Koshu grape: “grape legend of Daizenji-Temple” and “legend of Amemiya Kageyu.”

Koshu City Katsunuma Library was established 23 years ago, on November 1996, as “Budo-no Kuni Shiryokan (Country of Grape Resource Center)” in Katsunuma Town before municipal annexation in the region. With the concept of “community-based library,” it has engaged in collection, provision, and preservation of resources on the region’s key industry “grapes and wine” since its founding. Given the active grape cultivation with dense wineries in the area, the library collected resources on this topic prior to its opening, calling upon local residents to provide dormant old materials and visiting multiple used bookshops. In 1998, the library launched “Exhibition on Grapes and Wine” which continues to date with different themes every year. It began on a commemorative year for Katsunuma as 1998 was 1280 years since arrival of grapes (in 718 according to Daigenji-Temple legend) and 120 years since arrival of wine (trip to France by Takano and Tsuchiya). This exhibition has a hidden theme of “rediscovering the region.” We have continued the exhibitions until today around the local resource “grapes and wine” in hope of facilitating reexamination of the community and encouraging local pride by presenting connection and expansion of networks, needs of industries and times, as well as culture that the ancestors have left in history and its succession to the next generation. Our longtime effort was recognized, and the library won Library of the Year 2018 Grand Prize as well as Audience Award. We are grateful to everyone involved in Katsunuma Library. Thanks to their contribution, our practice that we’ve continued as “ordinary” was highly appraised.

●“Exhibition on Grapes and Wine” Covers Diverse Themes

When the exhibition was first launched, we did not have a clear idea about themes to feature. Topics were first chosen from literature and local materials, as well as newspaper articles. In more recent years, staff members began conducting interviews to understand the latest level of attention to Japanese wine and to catch new information of each year. One of the symbolic theme was “terroir (growing environment),” where field soil was extracted from nine grape farms. Through interviews and research, we found the differences in cultivation methods even for the same species, and in soil. Findings were summarized into panels and exhibited along with related books and materials. The exhibition also aims to inform widely the library’s collection of materials, in addition to books related to grapes and wine. We still have plenty of themes to work on, including “Koshu Wines and its Roots,” “Expansion of Grapes and New Species Today,” and “Local Bearers of Wine Culture.” Keeping up with current affairs, our source of information has expanded widely from wineries, grape farms, wine tourism, to Embassy of Georgia in Japan considered to be the origin of wine around the world. It is important, however, not to forget the perspective of the public. Specialized exhibitions are well received by those who favor the topic, but are rarely accepted by uninterested people. As experts of books and not of wine, we try to be the first venue to stimulate interest in the topic. At the same time, we host lectures and workshops as coupled events and provide opportunities to learn the topic deeply and widely. We are currently developing new plans in partnership with divisions of the city hall, Katsunuma Wine Association, and Wine Center of Yamanashi Prefecture.

●Ordinary Things are Taken for Granted and Too Close to be Noticed

In the course of gathering information seven years ago, we often heard from wineries and farmers that “local people don’t drink wine.” To be honest, we were surprised. It is rare to find a land with sceneries, tourist resources, industries, and cultural properties that compare favorably with Bourgogne. However, “the closer the important things are to oneself, the more difficult to notice them.” As a library, we understand the importance of having the locals taste wine, not just looking at huge amount of materials. As such, we have hosted an event where brewers give a talk about things that their neighbors won’t hear otherwise, and offer tasting. The talk is given at a library counter that we use everyday, which in this event turns into a bar. This event has continued for five years, and is now the highlight of our library. We are also engaged in delivering stories on professions of farmers and brewers to children. Given the scarcity of specialized materials for children, we created picture-story shows on “How to Make Koshu Wine” and “A Year of Grape” to show at school visits. This is also an effort to nurture future bearers. After becoming adults, these children can think about new species or find ways for easier cultivation with library materials.

●Library with High Expertise

Our collection of “grapes and wine” is indeed the largest among public libraries in Japan. Of approximately 130,000 materials in the library, around 30,000 are materials on this topic. In pursuit of user friendliness, the section on this particular topic has adopted its original classification. The collection also includes materials whose value will further increase in the future. Included are clipped newspapers classified into four categories (grapes inside/outside Yamanashi Prefecture, wine inside/outside Yamanashi Prefecture) continued since the library opening, and files of 30 wineries in the city. We intend to digitally release valuable materials and become the one and only library.

Although still young at age 23, Katsunuma Library will continue evolving to become a library that supports “roots of the community” as the region’s knowledge hub.

Written by Furuya Michiru
Koshu City Katsunuma Library
Translated by Okada Aya