FEATURE: Elderly proprietor still sees need for his books - Taipei Times
Tue, Feb 06, 2018 - Page 3 News List

FEATURE: Elderly proprietor still sees need for his books

By Sherry Hsiao  /  Staff writer, with CNA

Huang Cheng-yeh, owner of Taipei’s oldest Japanese-language bookstore, Hong Ju Tang Book Co, holds up a copy of Su Beng’s Taiwan’s 400-Year History at the bookstore on Saturday.

Photo: CNA

Through the rise and fall of Taipei’s “Bookstore Street” on Chongqing S Road, the city’s oldest Japanese-language bookstore has insisted on maintaining a brick-and-mortar presence for its loyal customers.

Now housed on the fifth floor of a building on Boai Road, Hong Ju Tang Book Co (鴻儒堂書局) was founded in 1936 as a secondhand bookstore by Huang Tzu-chun (黃次俊), the grandfather of current proprietor Huang Cheng-yeh (黃成業), on what is now Nanchang Road.

“During the Japanese era, all the stores in the city were operated by Japanese and Taiwanese could not enter,” Huang Cheng-yeh said.

When Japan’s rule over Taiwan ended after World War II, Hong Ju Tang moved to what is now Zhongxiao W Road.

The store, which once occupied 70 ping (231.4m2) of space, moved two more times — to Kaifeng Street and Hankou Street — before arriving at its current 20-ping location.

Huang Cheng-yeh inherited the bookshop from his father in 1981, but not before founding his own publishing company, which specializes in Japanese-language learning materials, in 1975.

He published the first edition of Staircase Japanese Language, a monthly magazine for Japanese-language students, in June 1987, and in 2011 the magazine won a Golden Tripod Award for best education and learning magazine.

Many brick-and-mortar bookstores have been going online in recent years and Hong Ju Tang has been no exception.

However, longing for human interaction with his customers, Huang Cheng-yeh said he has always left an advertisement board with the bookstore’s new address at each of its previous locations.

“The old customers who read Japanese books are gradually growing old,” Huang Cheng-yeh said. “Many of them now walk in using canes.”

“Yesterday, an old customer who is more than 90 years old came to the bookstore using a cane,” the 70-year-old Huang Cheng-yeh said. “He bought more than NT$10,000 worth of Japanese magazines, saying that he was giving them to his grandson to help him learn Japanese.”

However, Huang Cheng-yeh said that Hong Ju Tang will end with him, as his children all live in Japan and there is no one to inherit the business.

“Now I treat it as a community service, to create some records for this nation,” he said, “People in the bookstore business need to have persistence.”

Even though everyone today appears attached to the small screens on their smartphones, Huang Cheng-yeh said he will “sell his books slowly, one at a time.”

“Someone is bound to buy them,” he said.

Hong Ju Tang’s latest publication is a biography of White Terror victim Kuo Chen-chun (郭振純).

Even the Chinese-language version of the book is not an easy sell, much less a 500-page volume in Japanese, but Huang Cheng-yeh said he insisted on publishing it.

Kuo is very old now and if his story is not preserved, there will be no story to tell in the future, he said.

Some of the other notable books Hong Ju Tang has published are Japanese editions of Taiwan Governor-General’s Office by Ng Chiau-tong (黃昭堂), a former chairman of the World United Formosans for Independence, and Su Beng’s (史明) Taiwan’s 400-Year History.

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