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
    • History

    Writing arrived in Japan in the 5th century AD from China[UPDATED: 7-8-2022]

    Japan and the Japanese did not develop their own fully-fledged writing system, but imported one from China during the early 5th century or perhaps even slightly earlier.

    Use of this writing subsequently expanded as Buddhism arrived in Japan alongside Chinese Buddhist monks, eventually helping elevate calligraphy to a respected art form in Japan.

    The introduction of a writing system for the first time like this from another country had a major impact on Japanese folklore, as well as Japan’s oral traditions of storytelling, and the Japanese language itself.

    Initially, it was a struggle for Japan and Japanese people to absorb a writing system designed for a completely different language, with new words and concepts, and match it to their spoken language.

    Today many Japanese words are actually derived from Chinese such as the Japanese word for novel, shosetsu, but Japanese grammar, word order and sentences were then and still are distinct and the two languages are unrelated linguistically. Because of this some type of phonetic script had to be developed to express inflected endings of Japanese words, reflect Japanese grammar, and to record Japanese proper names and more. This took time.

    In fact, two original syllabaries (sets of written characters) were subsequently developed hiragana and katakana leading to Japanese being written with a script that combines and mixes Chinese characters, kanji, and the locally developed ones hiragana and katakana. There are, however, some people who argue, somewhat unconvincingly, that katakana is actually derived from ancient Hebrew.

    One of the earliest examples of Japanese being written like this combing scripts is Japan’s oldest poetry anthology, the ManyoshuCollection of Ten Thousand Leaves, compiled during Japan’s Nara Period (710-794) from which the name of Japan’s new imperial age Reiwa is derived. Japanese writing that uses Chinese lettering exclusively, kanji, is known as kanbun.

    That said, initially, hiragana was often referred to as Onna-de, women’s hand, as it was used mostly by women and for writing poetry, while men generally used kanji and katakana.

    The Tale of Genji written by a women, Murasaki Shikibu (973-1025), in 1010, during Japan’s Heian Period (794-1185), 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, was written completely in hiragana.

    Later as literacy rates increased in Japan in the medieval era, books were written for the first time based on well-known oral tales and new works were created specifically to provide new tales that priests and entertainers could introduce in the oral tradition, creating a dynamic interaction between the oral and the newer written traditions of storytelling.

    An important work that facilitated this parallel growth in the oral and written traditions was the Heike Monogatari, a collection of tales written between 1190 and 1221, and another similarly important example is The Gikeiki, The Chronicle of Yoshitsune, which tells the tale of the warrior Minamoto Yoshitsune (1159-1189). Both tales were influenced by and helped propagate the Buddhist beliefs and values of the period. Narrative scrolls, emaki-mono, which blend painting and prose have also historically played a foundational role in the development of  Japanese literature.

    Many years later, following increasing interactions with the West, alongside another new wave of new technologies, ideas, concepts and vocabulary and people, a new fourth syllabary, script, was introduced romaji, which is based on the Latin script that most European languages use.

    Romaji was initially created to help Westerners learning Japanese, but a new version designed for use by Japanese people was developed in 1885.  This has led to a situation where four different scripts are used in written Japanese, kanji, hiragana, katakana and romaji.

    There is also the added complexity, due to this linguistic history, that kanji letters have two different pronunciations in Japanese depending on how the letters are used: a Chinese derived one, known as on-yomi, the sound reading, and a Japanese one called kun-yomi, meaning reading, for the Japanese pronunciation of the kanji letter.

    These quirks of history and the development of written Japanese with its complex writing system, with multiple syllabary, has probably made it difficult for readers outside Japan to enjoy and fully appreciate the breadth and depth of Japanese literature reducing the number of books translated or read by non-Japanese people.

    Nevertheless, it has in its own unique way helped enriched the Japanese language, and the myriad forms of Japanese storytelling, creative writing, and narrative fiction.

    Writing arrived in Japan in the 5th century AD from China Posted by Richard Nathan
  • Share
    • History

    Essays in Idleness, written in the 14th century is considered one of the definitive books on Japanese aesthetics[UPDATED: 6-7-2022]

    Essays in Idleness, written in 1330, by the Buddhist monk Kenko Yoshida (1283-1352) is a collection of 243 short essays or notes written in a style which almost takes the form of a stream of consciousness. Some of these essays and notes are a few pages long, others just a few sentences.

    Essays in Idleness, Tsurezuregusa, is still widely studied and cited; and is considered one of the definitive books on Japanese aesthetics and the attitude towards life that articulates and explains the principle that ‘beauty is bound to be perishable’ as well as the impermanence of everything in life. The acceptance of which brings insight and happiness through the greater appreciation of what exists and what we already possess.

    A good example from this so-called ‘canon of Japanese aesthetic taste’ is: ‘Are we to look at cheery blossoms only in full bloom, the moon only when it is cloudless? To long for the moon while looking on the rain, to lower the blinds and be unaware of the passing of the spring – these are even more deeply moving.’

    It is hard to imagine a similar quirky poetic miscellany having such iconic status in some other countries or societies or perhaps emerging, for example, in a hardworking frugal Calvinist society were idleness is sometimes viewed as a sin and industriousness, as well as the work ethic, one of society’s most important virtues and a moral duty. Societies where at times much less importance has been placed on cultural pursuits such as art and music, and even literature as we know it today, despite as Kenko, who was a historical contemporary of the Italian author Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) famous for his depiction of hell, put it: ‘The pleasantest of all diversions is to sit alone under the lamp, a book spread out before you, and to make friends with people of a distant past you have never known.’  
    Essays in Idleness, written in the 14th century is considered one of the definitive books on Japanese aesthetics Posted by Richard Nathan
  • Share
    • History

    Long before the Internet magnified content about suicide, Japanese publishers and authors, including some of the nation’s most renowned, wrote about suicide helping the narrative of death proliferate[UPDATED: 5-4-2022]

    Japan is often associated with suicide partly due to its Kamikaze pilots in World War II and stories about famous and loyal Samurai warriors and their legacy-making honorable deaths.

    The Complete Manual of Suicide, Kanzen Jisatsu Manyuaru, by Wataru Tsurumi published in 1993 is, however, probably Japan’s best known and most successful book on the topic. The 198-page book, which details 11 categories of suicide from hanging to freezing, has sold more than a million copies. A publishing success that encouraged the author to issue an immediate follow-on second volume in 1994.

    Research shows that at least 54 Japanese authors have committed suicide since 1900. This includes some of Japan’s most famous and highly-regarded authors and one of its two Nobel prize winners, Yasunari Kawabata (1899-1972), as well as Ryunosuke Akutagawa (1892-1927) after whom one of Japan’s most prestigious literary prizes is named. As well as Yukio Mishima (1925-1970) whose very public suicide helped cement his reputation as Japan’s most notorious author around the world.

    That said, Japan does, in fact, have a higher suicide rate than many nations. According to OECD data, Japan’s suicide rate is 18.7 per 100,000 one of the world’s highest rates amongst the nations surveyed by the OECD, and about 60 percent higher than the world average, but behind South Korea, which has an even higher rate at 28.7.

    An estimated 800,000 people commit suicide annually worldwide. In 2020 in Japan, according to initial figures at pixel time from the country’s health ministry, there were 21,077 cases of suicide.

    So perhaps it is unsurprising that suicide is often portrayed in Japanese books, and popular media and often features as a plot motif in narrative fiction.

    Two of the internationally best-known living Japanese authors Haruki Murakami and Banana Yoshimoto, amongst many other contemporary and historical Japanese storytellers, have featured deaths by suicide or attempted suicides in their works.

    Suicide features in Murakami’s breakthrough 1987 novel Norwegian Wood, Noruwei no Mori, a tale about loss, coming-of-age and sexuality. Toru’s the book’s somewhat aimless protagonist is haunted by the suicide of his best friend Kizuki. Yoshimoto’s 1994 novel Amrita, amurita, the title of which is sanskrit for immortality, also features a suicide connected to the protagonist. In its case the protagonist’s sister, a substance-abusing actress.

    Two other famous examples of suicide featuring works from two of the most renowned Japanese authors of the past include Natsume Soseki’s (1867-1916) Kokoro and No Longer Human, Ningen Shikkaku, by Osamu Dazai (1909-1948). The latter, published in 1948 is often cited by many of Japan’s most interesting and creative contemporary writers as their favourite book or one that had a huge influence on them. These two bestsellers top the nation’s book sales rankings.

    The number of such publications and author deaths has made this a topic of academic enquiry with research papers being written on the topic such as ‘The Portrayal of Suicide in Postmodern Japanese Literature and Popular Media Culture’.

    People often cite Japan’s long tradition of an ‘honourable suicide’ as one of the main reasons for the high rate and also the lack of the Christian concept of sin – suicide being one such sin. However, other important factors behind these tragic deaths include concerns over identity, the need to conform, self-sacrifice for others, marginalization, abuse, bullying, loneliness and disconnection, as well as economic concerns.

    Japan has regulations and policies to prevent suicide and the rate had been falling. Something that experts have put down to the improving economy after Japan’s so-called post-economic bubble lost decades, but the rate is now sadly back on the increase, especially amongst school children.

    The launch of the World Wide Web in 1989, four years before the publication of the bestseller The Complete Manual of Suicide, and the subsequent development of social media sites with the associated memes; as well as nefarious individuals that attract the attention of impressionable school children online and disseminate content about suicide, are no doubt factors in these dreadful numbers.

    Long before the Internet magnified content about suicide, Japanese publishers and authors, including some of the nation’s most renowned, wrote about suicide helping the narrative of death proliferate Posted by Richard Nathan
  • Share
    • History

    When Japan was ruled by Shoguns ‘Great Learning for Women’ was required reading[UPDATED: 3-4-2022]

    Onna Daigaku, Great Learning for Women, was one of the most widely read texts for women circulated and published in Tokugawa Japan (1603-1868), when Japan was ruled by its Shoguns. 

    It was also one of the first of these types of Japanese educational books to be translated into English in the 19th century, and had an impact on the way Japan and Japanese women were viewed by the outside world. 

    By the time translations, and extracts, started appearing in the English language, Great Learning for Women was coming under sustained criticism in Japan by supporters of women’s education such as Yoshiharu Iwamoto (1863-1942). 

    And during this time, Japan’s Meiji period (1868-1912), when Japan was opening up to the West, the number of foreign visitors to Japan was increasing; as was the number of foreign books. Conversely, however, the number of new editions of Great Learning for Women being published was falling. 

    These types of instructional publications weren’t just limited to Japan. The Instruction of a Christian Woman by Juan Luis Vives (1493-1540), for instance, was first published in Latin in 1524, and was popular in 16th and 17th century Britain, and was apparently written for a future Queen of England.

    An English Quaker, Sarah Stickney Ellis (1799-1872), is another example. She wrote a series of ‘Conduct Books’ including The Wives of England in 1843  as well as The Mothers of England and The Daughters of England, that were very popular and provided moral guidance covering responsibilities and self-control and were famous for her phrase “suffer and be still.”

    That said, the date of the first edition of Great Learning for Women is unclear, the oldest extant copy is from 1733, but academics cite and reference earlier editions, dated 1729, and 1672.

    And some credit Great Learning for Women’s authorship to Ekken Kaibara (1630-1714), a Japanese philosopher and botanist, who was married to a well educated Japanese poet, Token (1652-1713), and is said to have based it on classical Chinese Confucian texts. Kaibara has been called the ‘Aristotle of Japan’, but despite this some suggest that it was actually his wife, Token, who wrote his books.

    Many instructional books were published during this peaceful and prosperous period in Japan, and the longevity of the Tokugawa period has been put down, by some, to the high priority given by the Tokugawa administration to publishing and education.

    These types of books were collectively known as oraimono, ‘letter-writing books’ as they were written using language and a format similar to that used in correspondence. They targeted both girls and boys, and men and women. Their distribution expanded alongside commercial publishing in Japan in the 17th century

    Great Learning for Women was a type of instructional manual, which has been described by feminists as a primer for women’s repression in Japan. It was not the only one, others included Onna Imagawa, the Imagawa House Rules for Women

    Later editions of Great Learning for Women were illustrated and contained practical information, as well as the so-called Moral Code for Women that the British travel writer Isabella L. Bird (1831-1904) cites, reproduces and quotes from in her 1881 book, also written in the form of letters to her sister, Unbeaten Tracks in Japan. Her book had a signifiant enduring impact on how Japan was viewed from afar.

    The introduction to the English translation written by Shingoro Takaishi (1878-1967), a former president of the Mainichi Shimbun, an important Japanese newspaper, and a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), published in 1905 by John Murray the London-based publisher that also published Unbeaten Tracks in Japan, is below. 

    The John Murray edition contains sections on: Girl’s Instruction, Demarcation between the Sexes, Seven Reasons for Divorce, including 1) disobedience to in-laws 2) infertility 3) lewdness 4) jealousy 5) leprosy 6) talking too much and 7) compulsive thievery; as well as sections on: The Wife’s Miscellaneous Duties; The Treatment of Servants; and The Infirmities of Women.

     

    Shingoro Takaishi’s Introduction

    The sole basis of the entire moral teaching of Japan may be said, in the briefest phrase, to consist of the spirit of unselfishness.

    Thus, humility in place of ostentation, reserve in place of reclame, self-sacrifice in place of selfishness, forbearance in place of impetuosity, and complete submission to authority are the principal features of the Japanese moral code; on these cornerstones stands the whole edifice under which the Eastern people have been brought up.  

    The Onna Daigaku, or the ” Greater Learning for Women,” which is the text of this little book, is, as its title indicates, a half-dogmatised precept exclusively intended for women. 

    The author is Kaibara Ekken, the famous moralist of Japan who flourished about two hundred years ago.  Kaibara Ekken was a great scholar of Japanese literature, with an immense knowledge of Chinese ethics. 

    It is beyond question that his idea of morality was, to a great extent, formed on Chinese lines, as most of the other thinkers’ and moralists’.

    The full text of the English translation can be read here.

    Despite or because of this, Great Learning for Women was well respected and was distributed in Japan under the premise that women could read, which was not the case in some countries at that time. 

    Compulsory education was introduced in Japan for boys and girls in 1872, and literacy rates, already high in Japan compared to most nations, subsequently increased rapidly reaching one of the highest levels internationally. 

    The year before compulsory education was introduced, in 1871, Japanese women were allowed to attend university in the United States, a right that was limited to the privileged few. One such student Umeko Tsuda (1864-1929) went on to found Japan’s first private college for women in 1900 on her return. 

    In comparison, in 1869 six British women become the first to pass an examination to enter the University of London, allowing them to become the first women in the United Kingdom to attend university.

    When Japan was ruled by Shoguns ‘Great Learning for Women’ was required reading Posted by Richard Nathan
  • Share
    • History

    Mount Fuji, which is featured in Japan’s oldest fictional prose and first collection of poetry, is still a powerful literary motif[UPDATED: 12-1-2021]

    In June 2013 the World Heritage Committee of UNESCO announced that Mount Fuji would be recognised as a World Heritage Site. The official proposal that led to the mountain winning this status was known as ‘Fujisan: Sacred Place and Source of Artistic Inspiration’. 

    Mount Fuji, also known as Fujiyama, and Fujisan is Japan’s highest mountain. It is volcanic and last erupted in 1707-1708. Mount Fuji has had a huge impact on Japanese culture including its literature in all its forms and formats. According to UNESCO, it has “inspired artists and poets and been the object of pilgrimage for centuries”. 

    Japan’s oldest extant fictional prose The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, from the Heian Period (794-1185), which tells the tale of Princess Kaguya, features the mountain at the end of the story. Mount Fuji also features in the ManyoshuCollection of Ten Thousand Leaves, Japan’s oldest surviving book of poetry, which was compiled even earlier during Japan’s Nara Period (710-794), when the nation’s capital was located in Nara. 

    Japan’s first winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature Yasunari Kawabata (1899- 1972) used it in his works, including First Snow on Fuji; as did the Zen master and poet Matsuo Basho (1644-1694) who wrote poems about it. Contemporary authors including Randy Taguchi, whose collection of short stories Fujisan about the lives of dysfunctional Japanese individuals living under the shadow of the mountain, continue to draw on it for inspiration. 

    The mountain has been an enduring icon and influence on Japanese literature and the nation’s creative communities. Academics have written books on its influence; books like The Literature of Mt. Fuji: Japanese Classic Literature and Mount Fuji: Icon of Japan. It has also famously featured in woodblock prints by some of Japan’s best-known artists as well as many other Japanese art forms. 

    Its power and influence endures to this day – and it is probably too early to predict if or when Mount Fuji, which stands at 3,776 metres, will reach its cultural and literary peak.

    Mount Fuji, which is featured in Japan’s oldest fictional prose and first collection of poetry, is still a powerful literary motif Posted by Richard Nathan
  • Share
    • History

    Two famous Japanese authors and the grandson of another, after whom Japan’s most prestigious literary prize is named, attended the famous Beatles concert at the Budokan in 1966[UPDATED: 9-9-2021]

    In 1966 The Beatles gave a milestone concert at Japan’s martial arts arena the Budokan in Tokyo, cementing Japan’s fascination with and long lasting love of the British pop group.

    The Beatles were in fact the first such group to perform at the venue and a British diplomat described their arrival in the land of the rising sun as “the Beatles typhoon” that “swept the youth of Japan off their feet”.

    The concert and the live album (The Beatles at the Budokan, Tokyo) it spawned are famous. But what is less well known is that Japan’s most notorious author Yukio Mishima (1925-1970) attended the celebrated concert with Shusaku Endo (1913-1996), a highly regarded Christian writer, and Hiroshi Akutagawa (1920-1981), the grandson of Ryunosuke Akutagawa (1892-1927), after whom the Akutagawa Prize, one of Japan’s most important literary awards, is named.

    This unusual literary troupe, two of whom where in their 40s, were reportedly more interested in the cult-like hysteria of the fans and the “religious” euphoria of the event than the lyrics of the songs such as Day Tripper, Yesterday and Paperback Writer that were performed.

    Reportedly, Mishima was unimpressed and the experience of  the Fab Four and their noisy fans was not to elicit any kind of memorable or lasting literary response from this esteemed group of writers.

    The Beatles, in fact, played three concerts at the Budokan and still possessed the look of their early years with their ‘mop-top’ hairstyles. It was actually one of the last times the group were filmed with this early look and image, that like The Beatles themselves, Japan took to heart.

    It has been said that, despite what the three observers with their fine literary pedigree may have thought at the time, the concerts were an important cultural moment in Japan’s post-war renewal. Some go as far as arguing that it helped inspire and contribute to Japan’s extraordinary economic optimism and subsequent boom in the 1980s.

    What is indisputable is the cultural response. It was significant and can be observed by the number of tribute bands that have followed in the concerts’ wake.

    And many of Japan’s next generation of authors, often dubbed as the first generation of postmodern authors, count themselves as major Beatles fans. This includes the likes of Soji Shimada, one of Japan’s most famous mystery writers, who says he still dreams of singing a duet with Paul McCartney – but in a Tokyo karaoke parlour rather than on stage at the Budokan.

    Another author, Haruki Murakami titled his 1987 breakthrough novel, Norwegian Wood after the title of the Beatles track of the same name released in 1965 by the band as Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown).

    And one of his recent works, a short story, which was adapted for film in 2021 is titled after another Beatles songs Drive My Car.

    Two famous Japanese authors and the grandson of another, after whom Japan’s most prestigious literary prize is named, attended the famous Beatles concert at the Budokan in 1966 Posted by Richard Nathan
  • Share
    • History

    Cross-dressing and transgenderism were popular themes in late Edo Japanese literature[UPDATED: 8-9-2021]

    Japan’s Edo period began in 1603 and ended in 1868. It was a peaceful and prosperous period during which Japan was ruled by the Tokugawa Shoguns; was isolated from the world; and adhered to strict rigid social hierarchies, which were very much the order of the day.

    Edo, now known as Tokyo, became the nation’s capital and grew rapidly into the world’s largest city and a very dynamic one at that.  This growth was not incremental over centuries like Paris and London, but almost overnight, after the nation’s capital was moved from Kyoto.

    The inhabitants of Edo were a mix of samurai and commoners, estimated by historians to be a split of close to 50:50 with Samurai occupying about two thirds of the city and commoners crammed into the remaining third.

    Homosexuality was a feature amongst samurai for centuries and as the Edo period gained momentum and Edo grew, Japanese literature and publications began to reflect Edo’s new dynamics including androgyny, cross-dressing, bisexualism and transgendersim.

    Unlike the rigid social order itself, sexuality, mostly men’s, was more fluid and a popular theme in terms of both entertainment and reading.

    Hiraga Gennai (1728-1779), an inventor and author from a samurai background, wrote about homosexuality and gay life in Japan. His impact is still felt today in anime and light novels where characters, such as a cross-dressing lesbian in Ooku: The Inner Chambers for instance, are named after him.

    Gennai argued in his works that heterosexuality was actually more degenerate and dangerous than homosexual love, which was far superior.

    Another earlier example is The Great Mirror of Male Love, Nanshoku Okagami, by the poet Ihara Saikaku (1642-1693), published in 1687 a collection of homosexual stories part of the genre he invented know as the floating world genre of Japanese prose, yukiyo-zoshi.

    In the late Edo period some authors embraced these new trends about sexuality being fluid, ambiguous and not the least bit rigid like society itself.

    Two such authors included  Jippensha Ikku (1765-1831), Japan’s first professional author who generated enough royalties to live from and who was famous for his Kibyoshi, Yellow Books considered by some as the world’s first adult comic books – along with Kyokutei Bakin (1767-1848) famous for his Yomihon.

    They and others depicted cross-dressing, bisexualism, homoeroticism and transgendersim in their works. Unashamed sexuality and scatology, published as Shunga for example, were also popular and prominent.

    These and other examples such as the following facts: that Asia’s first gay magazine was launched in Japan in 1971; that Japanese officials handed out a novel with an important transgender character at the 1993 Tokyo G-7 summit by Banana Yoshimoto; and that the genre of manga known as Boys Love (BL) about romantic or sexual relationships between male characters generally written by women for women; as well as the pioneering romance author Nobuko Yoshiya (1896-1973) who lived openly as a lesbian, are often cited as so-called important or pioneering examples of Japan’s Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) related publishing.

    And Japanese authors are still not ignoring these themes today with novels such as Cross by the award-winning author Hiroka Yamashita, for example, being published. This work, which has echoes of Lou Reed’s famous song Walk on the Wilde Side about it is a tale of identity, cross-dressing and sexual fluidity.

    Cross-dressing and transgenderism were popular themes in late Edo Japanese literature Posted by Richard Nathan
  • Share
    • History

    Japan’s ‘first’ Olympic Book, ‘The Fruits of Olympus’, was published in 1940[UPDATED: 7-6-2021]

    In 1932 Japan sent a large team of 115 men and 16 women to the Los Angeles Summer Olympics. They performed extremely well, winning 7 gold, 7 silver, and 4 bronze medals. Japan’s success at this Olympics did not just generate nationalistic pride at home; it also produced one of Japan’s first Olympic literary works, a bestselling novella by Hidemitsu Tanaka (1913-1949), Orinposu no Kajitsu, The Fruits of Olympus (1940).

    Tanaka was an Olympic rower who at the age of 19 competed in the Men’s Coxed Eights. He and his Olympic crew didn’t bring back any medals from the games. But the Olympic experience led to Tanaka’s novella, which unlike his Olympic feats was a major success, creating its own narrative milestone.

    The Fruits of Olympus, a rites of passage novel about unrequited love, is the tale of a young moody athlete, also a rower, leaving his country and representing it on the Los Angeles Olympic stage.

    It is not your typical Japanese sports book with an individual becoming a national hero by overcoming every challenge faced through extreme hard work and diligence. Much of the short novel takes place on the boat journey from Japan to the games in the United States.

    The novella, a semi-autobiographical I-novel style work of autofiction, follows Sakamoto, a university rower who doesn’t enjoy all aspects of being part of his Olympic team. The rowers life takes on new meaning, however, during the boat journey to America on which a female athlete (an 18 year-old high jumper) catches his eye and he falls for her. 

    The Fruits of Olympus articulates the anxiety of youth struggling with young love, authority, peer-pressure and expectations. Rowing success is elusive, Sakamoto’s efforts are fruitless and he returns to Japan without fulfilling his dreams; and is unable to rise to the challenge of even telling the high jumper how he feels.

    The Fruits of Olympus was initially published in a literary magazine, Bungakukai, but became more popular in book format, according to academics, after Japan’s defeat in the Second World War – especially among schoolboys.

    Perhaps, as some academics have argued, Sakamoto’s international failure, his skepticism about the strategy and approach adopted, and his inability to articulate his feelings, including those of defeat, reflected how many felt in post-war Japan.

    Since its publication in 1940: popular Japanese sports have diversified to include diving and football as well as rowing; and Japan’s Olympic literature has also evolved in a way that would undoubtedly have surprised but perhaps also delighted Tanaka.

    Japan’s ‘first’ Olympic Book, ‘The Fruits of Olympus’, was published in 1940 Posted by Richard Nathan