Despite the emergence of e-readers, many people still prefer to read from physical books.
As many bibliophiles say, there is nothing like the smell and feel of a newly bought book. Its smooth, crisp pages and fresh-from-the-bookstore scent make the reading experience so much better. Bookworms relish all these features before they dive right into each book’s content.
This artisan named Nobuo Okano is the hero of book lovers in Japan. He takes old books that look almost impossible to salvage and masterfully restores them to near mint condition using various tools and precise techniques.
Okano has been repairing books in his workshop for over three decades, so he clearly knows what he’s doing.
In 2013, his process was documented in a Japanese program called Shuri, Bakaseru (which translates to “The Fascinating Craftsman”).
In the 10-minute episode, a man who owned a tattered English-Japanese dictionary came to Okano’s shop to have his book restored.
While physical dictionaries are becoming nearly obsolete as people rely more on the web and e-books, this one had quite the history, which is why the client is serious about getting it repaired.
Turns out, the dictionary served him from his junior years through his adult life. And now that his daughter is about to enter college, he wants to pass on the book to her.
Of course, Okano was more than ready to take on the task. Donning a flannel button-up—a true handyman’s signature garb—the craftsman begins the restoration by scraping off all the old glue from the book’s spine using a chisel.
The pages of the book showing a map of English-speaking countries were already torn. Okano couldn’t bring them back to pristine condition, so he restores the maps by gluing them to paper instead to give them a solid base.
Next comes the most tedious step of the process. Okano needed to fix the book’s dog-eared pages—all 1,000 of them—and make them appear untouched. Using a tweezer and a tiny pink iron, the man unfolded each page, wet them, and ironed them flat. The dictionary was looking much better once that was done, but there was still a lot to do.
The edges of the pages were stained with purple ink and the initials of an old girlfriend. For that, Okano used a guillotine book cutter to trim the unsightly parts. In one quick cut, the machine’s sharp blade cuts off the colored tips of the book and restores its clean white edges.
The last step was creating a new cover. A large portion of the original cover is torn, so Okano opted to protect the pages with a thicker cover and embellished the front with the title piece of the original.
The result was just phenomenal. The dictionary ended up looking as good as new!
The entire process only took Okano a mere four hours. The end of the episode showed a happy customer handing the book to his daughter.
“It’s not their shape or form but what’s inside them that attracts us to books,” Okano says.
This man knows the real value of books, and that might be the reason why he puts so much love into his work.
Watch how Okano completed this incredible restoration in the video below.