The International Library of Children’s Literature (ILCL) is the only national library which is dedicated to children’s literature. It is housed inside the former Imperial Library building in Ueno. This library was opened in 2002 as a branch of Japan’s National Diet Library and contains over 400,000 items of children’s literature from all over the world.
The library has three main functions: as an academic research center of children’s literature and reading, as an active children’s library where children can enjoy discovering interesting books, and as a museum for the general public hosting a range of exhibitions and events. All of these facilities are free.
The ILCL consists of two buildings, the original “Brick Building” of the Imperial Library which dates from 1906, and the modern Arch Building which was added in 2015. Between these two buildings is a courtyard. The Arch Building is a two-story structure which includes a reading room for researchers on the 2nd floor, and two seminar rooms on the 1st floor which can be used for lectures or events for children. However, the main facilities are located inside the original Brick Building. The Brick Building has also been expanded on the side that faces the courtyard with a modern glass and concrete extension designed by the architect, Tadao Ando.
The Brick Building has three floors. On the first floor is a Children’s Library which contains picture books, story books, and general knowledge books suitable for children up to elementary school age. Also on this floor is a Meet the World room with books on the geography, history and folklore of many countries and also foreign language story books and picture books. A Story Hour for children is also held in a special room here every Saturday (except during summer vacations). Story Hour for children aged 4 to 5 is from 14.00, and for children aged 7 or older it is from 15.00.
On the second floor is a Gallery of Children’s Literature which presents the history of Japanese children’s books from the Meiji era (1868 – 1912) to the present day. There is also a research room for teenagers on this floor.
On the third floor is the Museum which hosts a variety of special exhibitions. There is also a Hall which is used for occasional events and concerts.
The ILCL also has a café with an open terrace on the first floor of the Brick Building.
The International Library of Children’s Literature is located on the north-west side of Ueno Park. It is a 10 minute walk from the Park Exit of JR Ueno Station. Here is a map showing its location.
Opening Hours: Tuesday – Sunday 9.30 – 17.00
Closed on Mondays and on national holidays (except for Children’s Day on May 5th when it is open).
Also closed on the year-end and New Year’s holidays and on the 3rd Wednesday of each month.
Article and original photos by Michael Lambe. All rights reserved.