Printed Matters Of The Heart

Interview by Charmaine Poh
Images courtesy of Utrecht

Hiroshi Eguchi founded Utrecht/NOW IDeA, a bookstore and publishing house in Nakameguro, back in 2002. Stocked with rare and used art books, the little space has become one of the leading lights of independent publishing in Japan. The name of its publishing house, Utrecht, taken from the city in Holland, is an ode to design and art culture there. Set in a quaint residence, its walls are lined with zines, an immersive experience in and of itself.

The space also serves as a gallery and performance area, having hosted performance lectures, art exhibitions, and pop-up shops. Through introducing a variety of activities, Hiroshi’s bookstore has become a gathering place for book and art lovers in Japan. In addition to managing his space, Hiroshi also founded the Tokyo Art Book Fair, which has since inspired other international editions in the form of the Singapore Art Book Fair.

In an age where there is constant lament about the slow death of print, the world of independent publishing has flourished. Taking the form of art books and zines, artists and publishers have collaborated to create a new community of book lovers, who see the book as not merely a means to a story, but an invaluable part of the story itself.

We sit with Hiroshi to hear his thoughts on the book as an art form, as well as the burgeoning publishing industry that he is deeply involved with.

Utrecht books

What were you doing before you started Utrecht, and how did your love for book art get started?

After I studied business management at university, I worked for five years at an online retail company that sold various things.

I was interested because books are compact and they are always close to us and people can express many things with books, in many ways, and they can give them to others.

What is your favorite art book/quote about book art?

I like zines by the artist HIMAA, or the publications by Between the books, a publishing label run by photographer Takashi Homma. The list goes on forever…

Utrecht is one of the most unique bookstores in the world. What led you to start it?

Utrecht is located in Tokyo, where there are already numerous independent bookshops. Therefore, since the shop’s opening, we have aimed to continuously present different viewpoints.

Utrecht books

One of the most recognizable characteristics of Utrecht is our relationship with artists and bookmakers. They bring to us their freshly produced works, and we put them on the table right away, just like a market receiving fresh vegetables. As a result of such close relationships, we have established a unique collection of books as well as a community.

Read more in The U Press N˚4 (Singapore edition).