As of March 31, 2021, Kainan Nobinos, a unique community complex that opened in Kainan, Wakayama Prefecture, the preceding June, had welcomed more than 500,000 visitors. One reason for this facility becoming so popular that it has people from Kainan and the surrounding areas lining up at the entrance every day before it opens is the use of various and unique “tricks” that encourage children to naturally learn to love books.
Once again, Erina Asari of the Strategic Planning & Market Development Group, part of DIC Graphics Corporation’s Business Promotion & New Development Department, spoke with Takatoshi Uo, then of the Cultural Promotion Section of the Kainan Board of Education’s Lifelong Learning Department, who oversaw creation of Kainan Nobinos, about building facilities that children find attractive, as well as about upcoming events.
Children are attracted by places where they are not repeatedly told to be quiet!
There are a lot of interesting “tricks” employed at Kainan Nobinos, aren’t there?
Uo: When we were planning Kainan Nobinos, I went to Musashino Place, which is in the city of Musashino, in Tokyo. Musashino Place has a lounge-style space, but it is only open to people under the age of 19. When I came home, I asked the young people around here what they thought about that. Most of them actually said they didn’t have any problem talking to older people, even those they don’t know, so I decided that such a space was really not needed in Kainan.
As you might expect, the children’s library on the third floor focuses mainly on children’s books. There are booth seats that are like little secret hideaways, where children can immerse themselves entirely in whatever book they’ve chosen. It can seem a bit chaotic. You may have a group of children who have just finished school come in. One minute, they are lining up to do kanji drills. The next minute, they’ve gone off to play on the game consoles they brought with them or they’re lying on the floor looking at manga. We wanted to create an inviting, relaxing space that looks like something out of a picture book with various elements that engage children’s interest and curiosity.
The shelves are made with colorful, soft materials that help prevent small children toddling about from hurting themselves in the event of a collision. There are also unique molded objects that help protect children from injury.
Even just walking around and looking at the books on the colorful shelves is fun. (Left)
In the themed picture book corner, books about the seasons and special events and occasions are lined up on shelves with colors like macarons. (Below)
I was surprised to see that there is even a space in the library where you can eat.
Uo: I asked myself what sort of place parents would want to take their children on a rainy day. To me, the obvious answer is somewhere that has a dedicated space where they can eat lunch. We put this idea into practice by creating a small lunch space in the center of the picture book library on the second floor. On weekdays, parents with small children bring in lunch, while after school high school girls buy hamburgers and drinks from the fast food restaurant in front of the train station to snack on while chatting.
Creating a space that combines play and monitoring
The Reading Forest seems like the perfect place to relax and read a book.
Uo: Everyone takes off their shoes when they step into the Reading Forest. You can sprawl out on the carpet, which looks and feels like grass, or lean against one of the tree trunks to read. This space is always full of children with books in their hands. There is also the fun of finding your very own favorite spot in the forest. The glass walls are a security feature. In addition to discouraging suspicious characters from approaching, they also enhance safety because staff can see inside at all times.
The shelves are designed with rounded edges to cushion against bumps.
Gaps between the shelves make it possible for parents to keep an eye on children who have become engrossed in a book.
I wanted to start with an event focused on color.
How has the response been from the residents of Kainan? Do you have any events planned in the near future?
Uo: Kainan’s population is only about 50,000, but the cumulative number of visitors to Kainan Nobinos surpassed the 500,000 mark less than a year after its opening. It is always exciting to see a line of visitors before the facility opens in the morning. Because of COVID-19, we are taking extensive measures to prevent the spread of infection to ensure safety and peace of mind for all visitors. Despite the pandemic, a wide range of visitors have said that they enjoy being able to come here and relax. It is possible that people find the colors—including the traditional colors of Kainan—that we have used soothing. I think it’s fair to say that color is the impetus behind this facility, don’t you? We have been unable to organize any events so far because of the pandemic, but once it subsides we certainly plan to. I would like to start with an event focused on color.
Colorful benches outside the Kainan Nobinos entrance. Despite looking hard, these benches are made of polyurethane, so they are actually rather soft and comfortable.
Kainan Nobinos is extremely effective in communicating the DIC Group’s “Color & Comfort by Chemistry” brand slogan. I think there are more DIC colors in use here than in any other facility in the world. We would love to help stage an event using the DIC Color Guide®. We could conduct seminars aimed at communicating the wonders of color.
Uo: That would be great. Color has helped me gain a new appreciation of Kainan. My greatest hope is that Kainan Nobinos might help people who have moved away rediscover the allure of their hometown and perhaps even consider moving back here. I also want the children of Kainan to value, protect and make use of the traditional colors of their town. After all, color is what brings “color and comfort” to our lives. Of course, there are many children who are just not interested in the traditional colors of this region. I hope that someday in the future, they see a color somewhere that sparks a memory of a color seen during a long-ago visit to Kainan Nobinos and that they are reminded of the atmosphere and culture of this town. Color is something that evokes strong memories and is important to people.
The slide outside, which was designed to look like an ant hill, is very popular with children. (Left, above)
On weekends and holidays, there is always a line of children waiting to get in. (Right)
Wintertime illumination displays are a tradition in Kainan. Local people can be seen strolling around and admiring the lights at Kainan Nobinos. (Left, below)