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Though summer vacation is a lot shorter in Japan than it is in the U.S., most tudents here aren’t exactly itching to go back to school once it’s done. Even worse, since it falls in the middle of the Japanese school year, the end of summer break is also the start of the second, and more demanding, semester.

Needless to say, a lot of kids would rather blow off school and kick back with a good manga, which is exactly what one library in Japan is encouraging them to do. The reason, however, is far more important than just finding out what happens to their favorite fictional characters .

Kanagawa Prefecture’s Kamakura has a reputation as one of the most cultured cities in Japan. As the residence and military base of the shogun starting in the late 12th century, Kamakura was the de facto capital of the country for roughly 150 years. Even today, the city retains a traditional air thanks to its world-famous Great Buddha statue and dozens of temples tucked away in forested backstreets and along hillsides.

▼ Kamakura’s beautiful Meigetsuin, also known as Hydrangea Temple

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As befits such a refined community, Kamakura also has a public library. But despite the city’s historical credentials, the Kamakura City Library is modern enough to have a Twitter account. It’s also progressive enough to embrace contemporary literary trends and storytelling media, as shown by a tweet the library sent out earlier this week.

“The second semester is about to start. For you kids who’re dreading it so much you could just die, take the day off from school and visit the library. We’ve got manga and light novels. Even if you spend the whole day here, no one will try to chase you off. If the prospect of heading back to school in September has you ready to die, remember you’ve got a place of refuge at the library.”

Taken at face value, it’s pretty odd to hear a library, ostensibly an institution of learning, encouraging kids to ditch school. On the other hand, the promise of being able to read comics and light novels (teen and young adult-oriented books that have become one of the prime categories of source material for anime adaptations) for free is certainly an enticing proposition for many youths, and may spark a broader interest in literature in general.

For that matter, diligent students are unlikely to be tempted enough to actually cut class, and for the ones who’ve already decided to skip school, the library is a much more mentally stimulating and wholesome place to spend the day than many of the alternatives.

But looking at some of the library’s later tweets suggests the possibility that its use of the phrase “heading back to school in September has you ready to die” might not just be facetious exaggeration.

“To those of you who are carrying painful emotions,

We would like the library to be a place where you feel like you belong. Please keep the library in a corner of your heart. There are many different kinds of books in the library. You just might find a book that comforts your exhausted heart.”

“We are all connected. We believe that there are people who you are connected with too. The Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare has a support site here [link included]. Let them help you with your emotional pain.”

“For Suicide Prevention Week, September 10-16, we have prepared a special selection of life-affirming books. One of them could be extremely significant for you…”

In light of this, it seems clear that the Kamakura City Library isn’t telling kids to blow off school just because they think it’s boring. Instead, it’s welcoming kids who feel like they have nowhere else where they feel accepted, and in that context, a day of reading manga and light novels sounds like a much better choice for troubled youths than locking themselves in their rooms and brooding alone over dangerously dark thoughts.

Other Twitter users who got the message quickly expressed their gratitude:

“I’m deeply moved by these words…Please keep up the good work.”

“I’ve heard that child suicides peak around the end of summer vacation.”

“This kind of simple kindness could really help some kids.”

“I really appreciate Kamakura City Library saying this…When the counselor at my son’s school found him in the school library [taking refuge from bullying], he wouldn’t listen and told him there was no point in him coming to school [if he wasn’t going to go to class], so my son ended up dropping out entirely.”

“I wish there were more places like this, close by, that people could turn to in times of distress.”

“What a warm-hearted library.”

“Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”

Obviously, anyone contemplating harming him or herself, especially a minor, is in critical need of trained psychological counseling. But for those who don’t feel quite ready to ask for help, the sense of acceptance and security as they step across the library’s threshold will hopefully be the first on the path to better emotional health.

Related: Kamakura City Library website, Twitter
Source: Huffington Post Japan
Top image: Kamakura City Library
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