KANSAI Close-up

[Columns]Offering various services

The library is run by Asia Center 21, a volunteer organization formed by private-sector people and headed by Ichiro Yamaguchi, a professor emeritus of Kobe University. According to Mitsuko Fujita of Asia Center 21's secretariat, the organization got its start around 20 years ago as a group of people who were interested in studying about Asia.
Today, of course, the 21st century is globally expected to become the ""Age of Asia,"" but back then the group was a minority, even in traditionally Asia-oriented Kansai. Few books on the region were available, while information regarding popular culture and daily life - food, clothing, housing, song and dance, movies etc. - was practically nonexistent. The group decided to gather books and other materials with their own hands, and formed the Asian Library and Communication Center Osaka in 1981 for this purpose.
Although the library has received donations from Asian consulates and embassies, eight out of ten books in its collection were donated by individuals. The open access library operates on a membership basis, and for an annual fee of 3,000 yen, members are free to look through and borrow books.
The center began offering language classes in 1985, and today some 500 people are taking part in 75 classes giving instruction in 20 Asian languages. The language classes are part of Asia Center 21's larger aim of promoting international exchange. Some of the center's many activities in that sphere include an Asian Music Festival, cooking classes, and cultural/lifestyle experience tours of Asian countries.
In 1995, Asia Center 21 donated 5,600 Japanese books to a Japanese language school in Dalian, China to open an Asian Library branch there.