Factbook

A Dynamic Compendium of Interesting Japanese Literary and Publishing Facts
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    Japan’s publishers not ranked as global players[UPDATED: 3-1-2018]

    No Japanese publisher features in the ranking of the top ten publishers by revenue produced by the International Publishers Association (IPA). Despite Japan being the world’s 4th largest publishing market, according to the IPA.

    Publishers from all of the largest five country markets, except Japan, appear in the IPA’s top ten ranking, 4 from the United States, 2 from China, 2 from the United Kingdom and one for Germany.

    Pearson, headquartered in London, is ranked as the world’s largest and is more than twice the size of the three largest Japanese publishers combined.

    Japan’s largest publishers are Shueisha, Kodansha and Kadokawa, which were founded in 1925, 1938 and 1945 respectively. They publish thousands of new books every year as well as manga and other publications.
    Japan’s publishers not ranked as global players Posted by Richard Nathan
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    The first Japanese dictionary was published in 682[UPDATED: 2-28-2018]

    According to the Nihon Shoki, Japan’s second oldest history book often translated as The Chronicles of Japan, the Japanese Emperor Tenmu (631-686) was given a dictionary in 682 titled Niina (New Characters). Early Japanese dictionaries like this one were actually dictionaries of Chinese characters (letters) written in Chinese and annotated in Japanese. 

    The first full-scale multi-volume Japanese dictionary Wakun no Shiori (Guidebook to Japanese Pronunciations), was published in 1887. However, Genkai  (Sea of Words) compiled between 1889 and 1891 by Fumihiko Otsuki, modeled on Webster’s dictionary, is considered by lexicographers as the “first modern Japanese dictionary”. 

    In comparison, the first modern and most influential early English dictionary, A Dictionary of the English Language, was published more than 130 years earlier in 1755. It was written and compiled by Samuel Johnson (1709-1784). Earlier English dictionaries existed, but were considered inferior. 

    Noah Webster published A Compendious Dictionary of the English Language, said to be the first truly American dictionary, in 1806. While The Oxford English Dictionary was first published in 1884, three years before the Guidebook to Japanese Pronunciations, Japan’s “first” dictionary.  
    The first Japanese dictionary was published in 682 Posted by Richard Nathan
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    The first Japanese translation of the bible was produced around 1549[UPDATED: 2-27-2018]

    St. Francis Xavier is said to have brought a Japanese translation of sections of The Gospel According to Matthew with him when he arrived in Japan in 1549. The translation was done by a young Japanese man called Yajiro, who is generally reported to have been the first Japanese person to convert to Christianity. He converted while living in Goa, India. 

    Subsequently, in 1837, Karl Gutzlaff (1803-1851) translated, with the help of several Japanese people, The Gospel and Epistles of John into Japanese. This translation is sometimes cited as the first Protestant translation. 

    When Japan opened up to the West in the Meiji Era (1868-1912) the American missionaries James. C. Hepburn (1815-1911) and Samuel. R. Brown (1810-1880) worked on a new complete Japanese translation of the Bible, which was published in 1880. Hepburn also compiled an English-Japanese dictionary consisting of twenty thousand words published in 1867. 

    In comparison, the famous Gutenberg Bible, the first major Western book printed using movable metal type in Europe was published in 1452, and England’s first printed bible was published in 1535.
    The first Japanese translation of the bible was produced around 1549 Posted by Richard Nathan
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    The first bilingual English-Japanese dictionary was compiled in 1830 by someone who had never visited Japan[UPDATED: 2-23-2018]

    The English missionary Walter H. Medhurst (1796-1857), who never actually visited Japan, compiled the first bilingual ‘dictionary’ An English and Japanese, and Japanese and English Vocabulary in 1830. 

    The 334-page book was printed in Batavia (Jakarta) Indonesia, where Medhurst was based with his family. It contains Japanese printed in both Roman (Latin) and Japanese letters (characters) together with their English equivalents. Medhurst wrote at the time of publication that the word vocabulary was used in the book’s title as it was “preferred to that of Dictionary, as the work does not profess to include every word in either language”. The book’s second part does, however, contain nearly seven thousand words and is thus considered by some experts to fall within the definition of a dictionary. 

    Medhurst was one of the early translators of the Bible into Chinese and complied Chinese-English and English-Chinese dictionaries. He was also proficient in Malay, but not Japanese and had to rely on exiting dictionaries and other documents to compile his Vocabulary. 

    Medhurst wrote in the book’s introduction: “The following compilation is with diffidence offered to the public, principally because the author has never been to Japan, and has never had an opportunity of conversing with the natives: but having through the kindness of several gentlemen from Japan, obtained the sight of some native books, particularly in the Japanese and Chinese character combined, the author has been enabled, from his knowledge of the latter language, to compile the following vocabulary”. 

    The Japanese translator Hori Tatsunosuke (1823-1892), who initially acted as a Dutch-Japanese translator before learning English is said to have compiled the first “proper” and widely used English–Japanese dictionary, Ei-Wa taiyaku  Shuchin jisho (A Pocket Dictionary of the English and Japanese Language), which was published 30 years later in 1862. It was mostly based upon English-Dutch and Dutch-Japanese bilingual dictionaries including sections of A New Pocket Dictionary of the English-Dutch and Dutch-English Languages, and contained about 35,000 headwords and consisted of about a thousand pages. 

    Another early dictionary was the six-thousand word English-Japanese dictionary, Angeria gorin taisei, compiled on behalf of the Japanese authorities by the Nagasaki-based Dutch interpreter Motoki Shozaemon in 1814, which also drew on Japan ‘s early exposure to the Dutch language. Unlike Medhurst’s 1830 Vocabulary, it was not a two-way bilingual dictionary. 

    The first Dutch-Japanese dictionary, the Edo Halma, was complied in 1796 by Sanpaku Inamura (1758-1811) using a Dutch–French dictionary published in 1708 by the Dutch printer and publisher Francois Halma (1653-1722) as its base. Dutch helped accelerate Japan’s knowledge of the English language and its study significantly. 

    However, the earliest Japanese bilingual dictionaries offering translations of Japanese into a Western language were in fact Portuguese-Japanese dictionaries, including the often celebrated Vocabylario da lingoa Iapam compiled in 1603 by Jesuit missionaries.
    The first bilingual English-Japanese dictionary was compiled in 1830 by someone who had never visited Japan Posted by Richard Nathan
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    Japan’s first monthly book series for Kindergartens, launched in 1907, is still being published 90 years later[UPDATED: 2-22-2018]

    Kinderbook was launched in 1927 as the Observational Picture Books Kinder Book, by Froebel-Kan, a Tokyo based company named after the German educator Friedrich Wilhelm A. Froebel (1782-1852), who established the world’s first kindergarten, and coined the name for these learning centres.  

    The decision to launch Japan’s first monthly picture book series for pre-school age children followed the first Japanese regulations in 1926, known as the Kindergarten Ordinance, introducing new standards and teacher qualifications for kindergartens. 

    The first issue, published the year after the regulations were enacted, was titled: All About Rice. Illustrated books were published monthly, in a magazine style approach, and were and still are distributed directly to kindergartens across Japan. The number of which increased after the Ordinance, when about 6% of the population attended kindergarten. 

    Froebel-Kan, founded in 1906, now owned by one of Japan’s largest printing companies, Toppan Printing Co.Ltd, still publishes the series, which has evolved and developed over the last 90 years alongside new printing, design and educational techniques. 

    Many talented authors and illustrators have worked on the series including the famous Japanese poet Shuntaro Tanikawa. The books document in a very unique way Japan’s modernisation and some difficult periods that its authors, illustrators and publisher had to navigate including: the aftermath of natural disasters and war. 

    According to its publisher’s website, the series “gives children the power to live and to develop their future, and an abundance of spirit”. The company now also publishes a monthly childcare magazine, sells playground equipment, and helps design kindergartens and early learning centres. It also publishes the popular Japanese language editions of Where’s Wally, by the English illustrator Martin Handford.
    Japan’s first monthly book series for Kindergartens, launched in 1907, is still being published 90 years later Posted by Richard Nathan
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    Japan’s first magazine, Seiyo-Zasshi, was launched in October 1867[UPDATED: 2-21-2018]

    Seiyo-Zasshi, Japan’s first magazine was launched by Shunzo Yanagawa in October 1867. The magazine’s name means Western Magazine.

    The 10-page magazine, which consisted of a collection of translations of western scholarly articles, was published in booklet format, printed on Japanese paper, using woodblocks, with a folio binding. 

    The definition of the word magazine is “a periodical publication containing articles and illustrations, often on a particular subject or aimed at a particular readership”. Before the digital age it generally referred to publications with paper covers.

    The word magazine comes from the French word magasin which itself comes from the Italian word magazzino, meaning store or storehouse. Seiyo-Zasshi clearly fell within this definition of a magazine and certainly aspired to become one. 

    According to historians, the earliest international example of a magazine is said to be Erbauliche Monaths Unterredungen, Edifying Monthly Discussions, a literary and philosophy magazine, launched in 1663 in Hamburg almost 200 years before Japan’s first such publication. 

    The Gentleman’s Magazine, is generally cited as the world’s first general-interest magazine. Its first issue was published in London in 1731; its publication continued for almost 200 years.

    In contrast, the life span of Japan’s first magazine, Seiyo-Zasshi, was much more short lived. The original plan was for it to become a monthly publication as it became established, but the magazine folded after just 6 issues in September 1869, two months before the international journal of science, Nature, was launched in London that year. 

    Despite its short life and lack of commercial success, Seiyo-Zasshi’s publication was an important historic milestone that coined the Japanese term used for magazine Zasshi, which is made up for two letters (characters) – ‘mixture’ and ‘to note or register’. The publication may no longer exit, but its name lives on.
    Japan’s first magazine, Seiyo-Zasshi, was launched in October 1867 Posted by Richard Nathan
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    Japan’s oldest continuously published magazines are Chuo-Koron and Toyo-Keizai launched in 1887 and 1895[UPDATED: 2-21-2018]

    Toyo-Keizai is technically the oldest continuously published magazine in Japan. It was launched in 1895 as Toyo-Keizai-Shimpo, Oriental Economic News, modeling itself on The Economist, which was launched more than 50 years earlier, in September 1843.  

    Ironically, unlike Toyo-Keizai, The Economist positioned itself as a newspaper in its launch prospectus and not as a magazine. The company that publishes The Economist today is called The Economist Newspaper Limited and The Economist is still considered by some as a magazine-format newspaper and not a magazine.  

    Toyo-Keizai,
    still published today, is published weekly by Toyo Keizai Shinposha and is considered one of Japan’s leading and most important business publications.  

    However, another magazine, Hanseikai-Zasshi, which later became Chuo-Koron, Central Review, was in fact launched one year before the Toyo-Keizai, in Kyoto in 1887. Twenty year after the launch of Japan’s first magazine Seiyo-Zasshi, Western Magazine, whose launch, despite its short publishing life of 6 issues, coined the Japanese world for magazine, Zasshi.  

    Hanseikai-Zasshi,
    which subsequently changed its name, is now published monthly by Chuokoron-Shinsha, Inc. part of the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper group and is based in Tokyo. It is technically not Japan’s oldest continuously published magazine due to its name change, but is one of Japan’s most prestigious and high profile literary magazines.  

    Hanseikai-Zasshi
    was launched by the Review Society, a group of academics and students, based at Ryukoku University, a private university in Kyoto that was originally founded as a school to educate Buddhist monks, by the Nishi Hongan-ji denomination, in 1639.  

    These two magazines, Japan’s ‘so-called two oldest continuously published magazines’ actually have very little in common apart from longevity. They focus on very distinct topics and interest groups: business and literature.  

    The subject matter of a magazine does not appear to be the magic key to longevity in magazine publishing.

    The oldest continuously published magazine in the United State, Scientific American, also a monthly publication, like Chuo-Koron, launched in 1845 (two years after The Economist) covers another altogether different interest group; science and technology.  
    Japan’s oldest continuously published magazines are Chuo-Koron and Toyo-Keizai launched in 1887 and 1895 Posted by Richard Nathan
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    It took Japan 20 years to sign up to the world’s first international copyright convention[UPDATED: 2-21-2018]

    It took Japan 20 years, from its launch, to join the first multi-national agreement on copyright.

    Japanese officials attended the 1886 Berne Convention on Copyright in Switzerland, considered to be one of the most important milestone in intellectual property right protection, as an observer, as did the United States. However, despite sending delegations to Switzerland neither nation signed the Berne convention, which led to the modernisation and internationalisation of author intellectual property rights.  

    The French author Victor Hugo (1802-1885), according to historians, was one of the key figures behind the initiative that led to the convention, which 10 countries signed. Other authors still famous today, including Mark Twain (1835-1910) and Charles Dickens (1812-1870), are also known to have lobbied and argued for author rights and better international protection of authors’ commercial interests.  

    Victor Hugo’s novels were first published in Japanese translation around this time, in the 1880s, as was Coningsby (also known as The New Generation), a novel by Benjami Disraeli (1804-1881), the two-time British Prime Minister. Coningsby was originally published in English in 1844.  

    It took Japan almost 20 years, one year longer than the United States, to adopt and become party to the Convention, which has since been updated and amended multiple times. Japan acceded to it in 1899.  

    The Berne Convention helped establish the concept of Country of Origin, stipulated a minimum mandatory term of 50 years of copyright after an author’s death; and provided protection for works published in translation or copies produced outside the country of initial publication.
    It took Japan 20 years to sign up to the world’s first international copyright convention Posted by Richard Nathan