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Japanese craftsmen master: Make an old, beaten-up book look as good as new

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Just take your books to this Tokyo-based book repairman who can make even the most decrepit book look like you just pulled it off the shelf at the bookstore. 



Some books can be prized possessions or have memories attached to them. It’s these books that we hold ear and want to keep around forever.

In one episode of the video series entitled, Shuri, Bakaseru (The Fascinating Repairmen), which focuses on people who specialize in repairing old treasures, we’re introduced to a man who has been mending old books for over 30 years.

The episode follows one book in particular, an English-Japanese dictionary that a customer received in junior high school and used for the rest of his education and adult life. Now with a daughter of his own entering university, he wants to give her his cherished book, but it’s kind of beat-up, to say the least. In hope of bringing his book a second life, he took it to Okano’s shop in the Suidobashi area of Tokyo.

▼ So, how does Okano turn a book that looks like this…


▼ … into a book that looks like this?


▼ To start out, Okano takes the deteriorating glue and gunk off of the spine of the book.


▼ Next, he carefully glues the torn off pages onto a new sheet of paper and cuts them to the size of the rest of the book.


He can’t distress the new paper to look as old as the rest of the page, but this is a good compromise.


▼ On to the most tedious process: straightening out the corners of every single page, one-by-one.


▼ He uses tweezers, water and a small iron to flatten both corners on all 1,000 pages of the book. It only took four hours!


▼ What a cute little iron.


▼ Perfect corners!


▼ This is the most miraculous part of the whole process. How does Okano get the purple color off the edges?!


▼ He just clips the very edges without cutting off any of the important words. Bye-bye purple ink and memories of the owner’s high school girlfriend (“YN” are her initials).


▼ The final step is replacing the cover. The entire original cover couldn’t be salvaged, so instead, Okano makes a new cover of a similar color and attaches the title section from the original.


▼ It may not be perfect, but it’s definitely been given a new lease on life.

Since we don’t have time machines to go back in time to remind our past selves to take better care of our books, or to not write our high school sweetheart’s name in ink on them, it’s good to know our world has someone like Okano, who can use his specialized skills to revive books from their near-death states.

Okano not only saved this book and gave it a second chance, but he is also allowing his customer to save his memories and pass them on to his daughter. It’s kind of touching, just like the ending to a storybook.

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