Factbook

A Dynamic Compendium of Interesting Japanese Literary and Publishing Facts
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    • Book production

    Japan is ranked 20th worldwide in terms of output per person of new books and new editions[UPDATED: 12-4-2017]

    In terms of new title publication per capita, the United Kingdom, which is a major international exporter of books and publications, leads the world with the highest ratio of 2,875 new titles published per million inhabitants.

    Japan, which has a larger domestic market than the United Kingdom (40 percent larger) and is the world’s fourth largest domestic market for books and publications, is ranked 20th with a ratio of 613 new titles or new editions per million people, according to the International Publishers Association (IPA)

    Japan is significantly behind the United States (56 percent), when measured using this IPA international benchmark. The United States, which publishes 959 titles per million people, is ranked 12th -despite being the world’s largest market for books and publications, five times larger than the Japanese market, according to the IPA’s Global Publishing Monitor 2014.

    Nevertheless, despite Japan having a much smaller overall market than China, the world’s second largest market, publishes more new books per head than China, which has a ratio of 325 and is ranked 25th in the world on this measure. However, Japan is ranked behind Taiwan 1,831, Korea 795 and Russia 699 when measured using this ratio. 

    The United Kingdom’s figures are exaggerated by its large number of academic presses that target libraries around the world and educational publishers that often publish language learning series with multiple components each of which are often counted as individual titles despite being associated with a textbook. Its domestic market is 60% the size of Japan’s.
    Japan is ranked 20th worldwide in terms of output per person of new books and new editions Posted by Richard Nathan
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    • Book production

    The world’s smallest printed book is a Japanese flower book[UPDATED: 9-23-2017]

    The Japanese printer Toppan produced the world’s smallest printed book in 2013, a 26-page book on Japanese flowers with pages just 0.75 mm in size. The micro-book titled: Shiki no Kusabana, flowers of season, lists the names and illustrations (monochrome) of Japanese flowers including for instance the cherry and the plum and their names using all four Japanese alphabets.

    Toppan, one of Japan’s largest printers, has been printing micro-books since the 1960s. This book, which is similar in size to the eye of a needle, is on display at its Printing Museum in Tokyo. It was printed using the same technology used to print banknotes and has a retail price of 29,400 yen.

    The Guinness Book of Records, which has a database of more than 40,000 records of which only about 4,000 are published in its annual, lists many ‘smallest books’, including the world’s smallest edition of the Quran printed in 1875. It lists the smallest reproduction of a printed book as Teeny Ted from Turnip Town, a Canadian book 0.07 mm x 0.10 mm in size whose letters are carved into 30 micro-tablets on a polished piece of crystalline silicon. Toppan’s book is a ‘printed book’ and was not produced using nanotechnology or other techniques used in the manufacture of semi-conductors.
    The world’s smallest printed book is a Japanese flower book Posted by Richard Nathan
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    Oldest surviving book on Japan written in 712[UPDATED: 7-6-2017]

    The Kojiki, the Record of Ancient Things, compiled by Ono Yasumaru, was completed in 712 after the death of Emperor Temmu, Japan 40th emperor, who commissioned the book. The emperor is mentioned in the book’s preface.

    The Kojiki contains accounts of Japanese history including its origin and mythology that were probably considered ancient even at the time of the book’s compilation, as well as more than one hundred songs, Japan’s earliest recorded.

    The Kojiki is often studied and referenced in parallel with the Nihon Shoki, The Chronicles of Japan, completed 8 years later.

    According to Donald L. Philippi’s introduction to his 1968 translation of the Kojiki, only 32 copies of all or parts of the book still exist. The earliest of which, the Shimpuku-Ji manuscript, was produced between 1371-72. However, older copies of Nihon Shoki from the Heian Period (794-1185) exit.
    Oldest surviving book on Japan written in 712 Posted by Richard Nathan
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    • Book production

    Books in Japan generally published as tanko-bon, bunko-bon or both[UPDATED: 6-24-2017]

    There are two standard book formats in Japan tanko-bon and bunko-bon. Most works of fiction are initially published as tanko-bon and then after a given period, that can sometimes range from 1 to 4 years, as bunko-bon. The content of a book and the publisher may also differ across the two editions. Some books, however, are only published as tanko-bon.

    Bunko or bunko-bon is the widely used Japanese term for a book that is a small-format paperback book designed to be affordable, portable and not take up too much shelf space. They have a long and interesting history going back to books designed to fit into the sleeves of a kimonos in Japan’s Edo Period. The direct translation of tanko is ‘standalone’ or ‘bound’ and bunko ‘storeroom for written works’ or ‘library’ and ‘bon’ is book. 

    The modern form bunko-bon emerged at the turn of the 20th century. Two publishing houses (Shincho Bunko in 1914 and Iwanami Shoten in 1927) are often cited as having pioneered the modern versions. According to International Book Publishing: An Encyclopedia, Iwanami Shoten developed the market for the current popular bunko format in Japan with its imprint the Bunko Classics Series. The imprint was modeled on the German publisher Reclam Verlag’s series Universal Library.

    The Bunko-bon format, in addition to ebooks, is now exploited by Japanese publishers, in a similar manner to mass-market paperbacks in the United States, as cheap editions of books that have already been published as tanko-bon. They are typically printed on hardwearing paper, bound in a similar manner to English-language books, and usually, as is the case with most books in Japan, have a detachable outer cover (dust jacket) over a plain cover. The vast majority of bunko-bon are A6 (105×148mm or 4.1″×5.8″) in size and are sometimes illustrated. On the other hand, the size of tanko-bon (which can be either hardcover or softcover) are much more varied. The typical tanko-bon size, however, generally mirrors standard A5 or B5 paper sizes. Despite the similarities in terms of print production unlike English-language books, most Japanese books are printed to be read top-to-bottom (with vertical lines of text as opposed to horizontal text) and from right to left.  
    Books in Japan generally published as tanko-bon, bunko-bon or both Posted by Richard Nathan