Gina Mei
April 27, 2015 11:14 am

Last week, The Paris Review unearthed an old episode of Japanese series Shuri, Misemasu (or The Fascinating Repairman, as translated by TPR), in which a book repairman mends a worse for wear English–Japanese dictionary to a state of renewed beauty — and it is absolutely mesmerizing to watch.

Nobuo Okano, the book repairman, handles the old dictionary with care and that certain ease that is only earned from experience. He is very obviously a master of his craft; and dressed in flannel and a worker’s apron, his glasses attached to eyewear straps, he certainly looks the part. The video is magic for book-lovers everywhere, and Okano is our guide.

After what seems like a brief “diagnosis” of the book, he sets to work. He scrapes away the book’s binding glue, and affixes loose and ripped pages onto fresh sheets of paper, perfectly cut to the book’s size. The bulk of his work is intimate and repetitive. Using tweezers and a little bit of water, he tenderly unfolds dog-eared pages and bent edges, then smooths each down with a tiny pink iron. (There are about a thousand pages in the book.) Okano then slices off the worn edges of the book, and binds it again with its old cover, now affixed to a new leather binding. As if that weren’t already incredible enough, the whole thing only takes about four hours. (Which really made me question my own productivity.)

And for those of you who love the charm of an old book, fear not: the dictionary certainly hasn’t been restored to its original condition, nor is it beyond recognition with all history erased. When Okano flips through it, you can still tell that it has been well-loved; but now, it is much more usable and much less delicate. Rather than falling apart in the reader’s hands, it is ready to be used anew.

The client was thrilled with the results. At the end of the video, the dictionary’s original owner gifts it to his daughter, who is about to start college — and while The Paris Review points out that most kids (and all other people) just use Google Translate nowadays, we have hopes she appreciated it all the same.

Watch the video for yourself below.

(Images via video.)

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