Factbook

A Dynamic Compendium of Interesting Japanese Literary and Publishing Facts
If you would like to contribute to this compendium please submit your ideas here.
All will be considered for publication by our expert panel.
  • Share

    The two best-known living Japanese authors[UPDATED: 2-12-2018]

    Outside Japan, in most of the world, the two best-known living Japanese authors are probably currently Haruki Murakami and Banana Yoshimoto.

    Haruki Murakami published his first novel, Hear the Wind Sing, in 1979, in the June issue of Gunzo, a Japanese literary magazine. Banana Yoshimoto’s first novel, Kitchen was published in Japan in 1988 and initially internationally in Italian. She has now been published in 36 different languages, while works Murakami have been translated into 50 languages.

    However, Keigo Higashino, the brilliant Japanese crime fiction writer, is the most famous and most read Japanese author in China, where he regularly heads the lists of bestselling authors. Currently, outside China and Japan he is much less well-known.  
    The two best-known living Japanese authors Posted by Richard Nathan
  • Share

    David Bowie was a Yukio Mishima fan, and painted his portrait in 1970[UPDATED: 2-8-2018]

    David Bowie (1947-2016), the British singer songwriter and actor, was a fan of the Japanese author Yukio Mishima (1925-1970), especially his novel The Sailor Who Fell from Grace from the Sea, published in 1963.  

    The novel was made into a film, directed by Lewis John Carlino in 1979 after Mishima famously committed ritual suicide in a highly stage-managed public manner. The novel was listed amongst David Bowie’s favourite 100 books.  

    David Bowie, who also painted, painted a portrait of Yukio Mishima in 1977, which was exhibited at the “David Bowie” exhibition in 2014 at the Martin-Gropius-Bau museum in Berlin. The portrait was apparently hung on the wall of Bowie’s flat in Berlin. 

    Bowie also owned a sculpture of Mishima by the Scottish pop artist Sir Eduardo Paolozzi (1924-2005). The sculpture was sold at auction for 47,500 pounds after Bowie’s death.

    In 2013, Bowie included Mishima’s name in the lyric of his song Heat from the album The Next Day, his first album in a decade and his penultimate one. “Then we saw Mishima’s dog, Trapped between the rocks, Blocking the waterfall, The songs of dust, The World would end, And night was always falling. The peacock in the snow”.

    Another interesting musical connection is the vocal version of the theme song composed by Ryuichi Sakamoto and David Sylivian for the 1983 film, Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence, directed by Nagisa Oshima (1932-2013) starring Bowie. It is titled “Forbidden Colours” in reference to Mishima.


    David Bowie was a Yukio Mishima fan, and painted his portrait in 1970 Posted by Richard Nathan
  • Share

    The translation of Harry Potter triggered a major tax investigation and fine in Japan[UPDATED: 2-5-2018]

    Yuko Matsuoka, the multi-millionaire Japanese translator and publisher of the Harry Potter novels in Japan, lost a case with the Japanese authorities, who sent her an extraordinary additional tax demand for 700 million yen, US$7 million, for undeclared income of than $29 million.  

    The Japanese tax authorities alleged that Matsuoka, 62, received more than US$29 million between 2001 and 2004 in undisclosed income. She argued that, as she had been resident in Switzerland since 2001 no tax was in fact due in Japan. After consultation with the Swiss authorities she lost the case, as she had spent too much time in Japan during the period to qualify as non-resident in Japan for tax purposes.
    The translation of Harry Potter triggered a major tax investigation and fine in Japan Posted by Richard Nathan
  • Share

    Japan’s creative industries inspired by its rich legacy of folk stories & tales of old[UPDATED: 6-24-2017]

    Japanese tales of old in their different versions have not only inspired and fueled science fiction, fantasy and other genre within Japanese literature, but other creative industries in Japan as well, including video game design. For instance, Pokemon (Pocket Monsters) draws on the rich world of mythical creatures found within Mukashibanashi (folk tales), as obviously does Yokai Watch, which is named after a class of monsters, supernatural beings and phantoms from these ancient stories.
    Japan’s creative industries inspired by its rich legacy of folk stories & tales of old Posted by Richard Nathan