By Michael Steinbach
It’s time to celebrate! On the occasion of its 50th anniversary, the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of Japan (ABAJ) will be hosting an International Antiquarian Book Fair in Tokyo from 5 to 7 March 2015 at the Grand Palace Hotel in Tokyo. Some 20 dealers from Europe and the United States and around 25 dealers from Japan will show rare and beautiful books, maps and manuscripts highlighting the amazing history of printing in Asia and the Western world. A 350 page, richly illustrated book fair catalogue gives an overview over the most exciting items for sale.
For many years I have been visiting Japan, and I have got an impression of the manifold preparations for this year's Tokyo International Book Fair. About two years ago the first thoughts on how to celebrate the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of Japans 50th anniversary emerged. ABAJ was founded in 1964, the same year as the Tokyo Olympics, and with another Olympics in Tokyo ahead in 2020, the country is excited and the economy is in an upswing. In its 50 years of its existence, the ABAJ had contributed enormously to the development of a market for Western books not only in Japan, but also in the neighboring countries. Having already twice hosted an ILAB Congress and International Antiquarian Book Fair in 1973 and 1990, the Japanese colleagues are well experienced in organizing a big international event. So it was only natural to celebrate the 50th anniversary of ABAJ by inviting once again the international rare book world to Tokyo.
The venue was quickly found, because it had already been used for the last two ILAB fairs. An organizing committee began working out the details. At the president’s meeting in Siena in 2013, the ABAJ President Mr. Jagi invited all ILAB affiliates to take part. Many committee meetings were held to determine all aspects of such an international fair, from the size of the booths to their furnishing, from fixing the opening hours to security measures, down to the details of the official reception after the first day of the fair. Since Japan is a country of consent, it sometimes took a long time for all the details to be approved by all the committee members.
Last December a “preview fair” was organized. Several Japanese dealers exhibited their rare books and prints, followed by a reception, during which an address by Norbert Donhofer, President of ILAB, was read out. Norbert Donhofer will also be present at the official opening of the fair next Thursday, 5 March, and will personally address the Japanese public and colleagues.
The fair catalogue has now been published. A few days before the official opening, the tension is rising, as everyone concerned with the organizing of the fair hopes that it will go off without a hitch. After all the effort put into it, I am sure it will!
I am also sure that the ILAB antiquarian booksellers who decided to come to exhibit at the fair, or to visit it, will have a wonderful time and will not regret having come to Japan.