Family Bathroom Library: the origin story

In the family bathroom of my parents’ house, there is a library. There is a handmade bookshelf installed in the small indentation of the wall right above the shelf where toilet rolls and cleaning tools are kept. Usually, this space is used for a decorative purpose – such as a display of flowers – but in my family’s bathroom, books are kept instead.

This bookshelf is called “the bathroom library” at home and run by my father. The purpose of this library is to provide each visitor with comfort and a chance for enlightenment during their longer stay. One can find novels and essays along with some harder books about social science, history, science and mathematics. There are even a few pencils available on the shelf so that a patron can take notes should they desire to do so. It’s really an inspiring place to sit and indulge in some reading, and the library is received well by our guests, too.

The bathroom library came into existence when I was about nine years old, but its origin actually goes back to when I was four years old and spent the summer at my maternal grandmother’s house in the countryside.

Every morning, after breakfast, my grandmother went outside to take care of her vegetable garden. Since her vegetable garden was large, it took a whole day for my grandmother to finish all her work. So I used to play on my own, sometimes visiting my grandmother in the vegetable garden. That was our routine.

One day, while playing I felt the need to pee and went to the bathroom. I stopped in front of the door, however, noticing that the door was left ajar.

“Is someone in there?”

I wondered, and carefully peeked inside.

What I found there was a most unexpected sight. My grandmother was sitting in her work outfit with a newspaper in her hands! She was so absorbed in reading that she didn’t notice me. I stared at her for a full second, then quietly removed myself from the door.

I felt as if the biggest secret of the world had been revealed to me. I had never seen anybody reading a newspaper in a bathroom before. What a clever thing to do! That scene of my grandmother sitting in the bathroom with a newspaper stuck in my mind.

When I was about nine, I was interested in memorizing old sayings in Japanese, and I had a cartoon book listing many famous expressions along with the examples of how to use them in real life. One day, it occurred to me that I could read it while I went to bathroom. At first, I brought the book with me every time I needed to go to bathroom, but later, I became lazy and left the book on the shelf of toilet rolls so that it would always stay there.

It was my father who discovered my book first. The moment he found it, he came to me looking totally excited.

“What a BRILLIANT idea is it!” he exclaimed. “You can read a book while in the bathroom! I’m going to do the same!”

The next day, I found three new books added next to mine. That was the beginning of our family bathroom library.