You can build stuff for free at this Ueno woodworking shop

Route Books has trained staff, carpentry tools and plenty of reclaimed wood for you to use for free

Emma Steen
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Emma Steen
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Ueno is best known for its park and zoo, along with the handful of national museums in the area, but just a five-minute walk from Ueno Station is an unexpected gem that might just be the best kept secret of local residents. In a small complex consisting of a book café, a plant shop and a furniture store is a woodworking shop where visitors can build whatever they want for free. 

Route Books
Photo: fb.com/Route-Common

In need of a spice rack for your kitchen? A planter for your windowsill? Instead of spending a couple of thousand yen on Amazon for something that doesn’t exactly suit your style, why not make a project out of it and make your own for nothing? Every Saturday from 12noon to 7pm, Route Books opens its Ueno woodworking shop for anyone to come and go as they please.

Start by picturing what you want to make and pick out a few pieces of upcycled timber from one of the piles. Then, give a shout to the nearby staff and they’ll show you how to use the carpentry tools on site. Once you’ve picked up how to use the machines correctly, you’re free to start building whatever you want with the materials available – provided you’re able to carry home what you make. 

Route Books
Photo: fb.com/Route-Common

It seems like an impossible luxury to have in the heart of the city, but the adjoining furniture store, which specialises in furniture made of repurposed wood, is only too happy to provide the service. Firstly, it’s a way to get rid of offcuts and unused wood without shelling out to send it to the skip, and secondly, the Saturday workshop sessions help introduce more people to the business. 

Route Books
Photo: fb.com/Route-Common

Not all of the staff are bilingual, so you might want to bring a Japanese-speaking friend along with you if you plan to use the more heavy duty equipment. Otherwise, if you’ve already got the tools, you’re welcome to just pick up a few pieces of wood to use for your DIY projects at home.

For more information on Route Books and its woodworking shop, check the website.

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