Factbook

A Dynamic Compendium of Interesting Japanese Literary and Publishing Facts
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    Japan’s oldest novel and perhaps even the world’s oldest is The Tale of Genji[UPDATED: 2-12-2018]

    The Tale of Genji written by Murasaki Shikibu, in 1010, during Japan’s Heian Period (794-1185) is said to be Japan’s oldest novel and perhaps even the world’s oldest novel, if a novel is defined as prose narrative of significant length.

    However, there were also many poets and writers during this period and earlier including many notable women who wrote autobiographical narratives in diaries, memoirs and poetic writings and essays such as the Pillow Book by Sei Shonagon.

    Fragments from the original scroll The Tale of Genji was written on have survived and are preserved at two Japanese museums.
    Japan’s oldest novel and perhaps even the world’s oldest is The Tale of Genji Posted by Richard Nathan
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    Japanese folk tales contain stories of time travel & shape-shifting animals[UPDATED: 2-12-2018]

    Japanese folk tales contain stories of time travel, shape-shifting animals – sometimes a Crane considered a National Treasure in Japan but more often foxes – as well as many different types of supernatural creatures. Some claim that a least one of these stories is the first reported account of an extra terrestrial visitation.
    Japanese folk tales contain stories of time travel & shape-shifting animals Posted by Richard Nathan
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    Japan’s ‘first modern novel’ was written by Futabatei Shimei in 1887[UPDATED: 2-5-2018]

    Ukigumo, The Drifting Cloud, by Futabatei Shimei (1864-1909) is considered by academics as Japan’s ‘first modern novel’ due to its realism and focus on the psychology and personalities of the novel’s four characters, as opposed to being a chronicle of deeds and actions.  

    An English translation, by Marleigh Grayer Ryan, was published in 1967 by Columbia University Press as Japan’s first modern novel: Ukigumo of Futabatei Shimei.  

    Futabatei Shimei, born Tatsunosuke Hasegawa, a student of Russian literature, wrote in a colloquial style about the society around him. The Drifting Cloud was published in three volumes in 1887 and 1888 and was in fact never completed. Nevertheless, its realism, style and critique of growing materialism in Japan were highly influential.  
    Japan’s ‘first modern novel’ was written by Futabatei Shimei in 1887 Posted by Richard Nathan
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    The most famous Japanese folk tales are: Princess Kaguya, The Grateful Crane and Urashima Taro[UPDATED: 12-20-2017]

    Three famous Japanese folk tales are: Princess Kaguya (extra-terrestrial supernatural creature); The Grateful Crane (shape-shifting bird); and Urashima Taro (time travel). Perhaps, Princess Kaguya a story from the 10th Century, which is now very well-known outside Japan after the release of the Studio Ghibli animated film in 2013, has had the biggest impact. A Japanese spacecraft named after the Princess orbited the Moon between 2007-2009 taking photos of the Moon in Ultra-High Definition.
    The most famous Japanese folk tales are: Princess Kaguya, The Grateful Crane and Urashima Taro Posted by Koji Chikatani
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    Japanese literature and novels littered with cats[UPDATED: 8-17-2017]

    There is a long tradition of cats within Japanese literature, folk stories and art. Many ‘cat books’ feature amongst the ranks of Japan’s bestselling titles.

    Soseki Natsume (1867-1916) wrote a highly regarded satirical account of the Meiji Era in Japan titled: I am a Cat, for example, in 1905. Junichiro Tanazaki (1886-1965) who is held in similar regard wrote the novella A Cat, A Man and Two Women in 1936 when he was in the process of adapting The Tale of Genji into modern Japanese.

    Another example is the highly successful series initially published in 1978 Calico Cat Holmes Series by the mystery writer Jiro Akagawa, which now consists of more than 30 novels and 14 collections of short stories.

    The first winner of the Agatha Christie Award, The Black Cat Takes a Stroll by Akimaro Mori, yet another example, very successfully uses the feline form to describe its professor protagonist.

    The publication of books about cats or with cats as a narrative motif is a continuing trend. Analysis shows that the number of books with the word cat in their title has been steadily increasing in Japan since the1990s and the rate of publication continues to rise.
    Japanese literature and novels littered with cats Posted by Richard Nathan
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    Most Japanese folk stories don’t have ‘Happily Ever Afters’[UPDATED: 5-31-2017]

    The narrative tradition of Mukashibanashi, Japanese folk tales, include accounts of epic journeys, secret rooms and unusual treasure; as is the case in story telling and literature of many countries. But Japanese tales differ significantly from Western fairy and folk stories as most don’t end happily.
    Most Japanese folk stories don’t have ‘Happily Ever Afters’ Posted by Richard Nathan