I finally visited Photobook Diner Megutama in Ebisu, Tokyo. Opened two years ago, it’s a diner with 5,000 photobooks that you can freely thumb through before or after you have lunch or coffee. The photobooks come from the collection of Iizawa Kotaro (飯沢耕太郎), Japan’s most prominent and prolific photo critic and author.
This entire wall and a smaller wall in the back of the diner is covered from floor to ceiling with photobooks (shashinshu). Quite overwhelming to see inside an eatery. The books are organized according to period. Books from earlier years (including prewar) are on the left. The books get progressively more recent toward the right. The wall in the back has mainly oversize books and foreign photobooks. Notice the ladder for access to the higher shelves.
When I visited on a Sunday, I was lucky to find Iizawa Kotaro having lunch there too. After lunch, I talked to him for a few minutes about the collection. He says it’s about two-thirds of his entire collection. Which means he must have a big house to store all those books. He buys about 200 photobooks a year. That’s 3-4 books a week! And yet, he says that he’s not a photobook collector because he buys the books as part of his job.
Although Iizawa is not really a photographer, he is a celebrity in Japan’s photography world (but not quite a rock star). He writes regularly for major camera magazines, teaches, judges, lectures, etc., etc. Very active in many ways related to Japanese photography. Iizawa was easy to talk to, and I shot this picture of him. He encouraged me to spread the word about the diner.
Food is healthy. The diner also holds meeting and lectures. Iizawa is a frequent speaker. They also raise money for charities like a primary school in Nepal.
Photobook Diner Megutama is a short walk from Ebisu Station (JR Yamanote Line and Hibiya Line), but somewhat out of the way. It’s not in a place with heavy foot traffic. But if you like photobooks, this place is a must-see. Closed Mondays. See the website for hours.