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
    • Industry

    Books and publications worth US$5.4 billion are sold every year in Japan[UPDATED: 10-23-2017]

    According to the International Publishers Association (IPA), the Japanese market for books and publications, the fourth-largest in the world, has annual sales of US$5.4 billion.  

    Despite the overall size and hundreds of millions of books being bought every year in print and digital formats, the market like Japan’s population is shrinking at a rate of 2 percent.  

    Nevertheless, Japan, and Tokyo in particular, still have a very large number of bookstores. More, in fact than the United States, the world’s largest book market, on a per capita basis. However according to the IPA, Japan, despite being one of the world’s largest markets, actually publishes relatively few books per capita (623 per million people) when compared to other countries.  

    These factors amplify the problems thousands of Japan’s publishers, who have traditionally focused almost exclusively on the domestic market, are facing. Unlike other countries where publishers have faced similar issues, there has been limited industry consolidation in Japan.
    Books and publications worth US$5.4 billion are sold every year in Japan Posted by Richard Nathan
  • Share
    • Industry

    Japan not included on the list of key international publishing locations[UPDATED: 10-10-2017]

    The Tokyo International Book Fair (TIBF) is not included or even mentioned in the IPA Global Book Fair Report 2017, published by the International Publishers Association (IPA).

    Although, 75 international book fairs are listed in the IPA report whose introduction states that it “provides an extensive calendar of international book fairs”, there is not a single mentioned of Japan or a location in Japan in the 34-page IPA document.

    The report contains a section on Asia & Oceana, including a special focus on South Korea and lists book fairs in New Delhi, Kolkata, Taipei, Bangkok, Dan Nang, Seoul, Hong Kong, Beijing, Jakarta, and Shanghai, but not Tokyo’s book fair, Japan’s largest.

    TIBF
    has been running for more than 20 years and is attended by more than 400 exhibitors and around 40,000 individuals, but is considered by many publishing professionals outside Japan to be domestically focused and not on the regular international publishing circuit.

    The largest international book fairs are held in Frankfurt and Beijing. But according to the IPA, the most important fairs, in addition to Frankfurt, in terms of professional attendance are: “London (the largest spring fair), Bologna (specialized in children’s books), Guadalajara (the gateway to Latin America) and New York (BookExpo – the main market place for US publishers)”. Beijing is also growing in importance, as is the Shanghai fair, which focuses on children’s books.

    Recently the TIBF has tried to focus more on the reading public than the international community of publishers. Despite this the 2017 Fair was cancelled and the September dates for the 2018 Fair at Tokyo Big Site have yet to be confirmed.

    The IPA, based in Geneva, is the world’s largest federation of national, regional and specialist publishers’ associations. Its membership comprises 70 organisations from 60 countries, including Japan.
    Japan not included on the list of key international publishing locations Posted by Richard Nathan
  • Share
    • Industry

    One bookstore in Tokyo stocks & sells only one book at a time[UPDATED: 8-15-2017]

    Morioka Shoten located in Ginza in Tokyo, has a unique merchandising strategy. It only sells one book title at a time despite around 80,000 new books being published every year in Japan. The shop, which opened in May 2015, has a single book strategy of stocking and selling only one title. It selects one book each week to sell.

    The bookstore promotes itself with the slogan and branding statement: “Morioka Shoten is a bookstore with a single book, available at a time, for six days. Morioka Shoten is a bookstore with a single room with an event to gather every night. Morioka a single room with a single book”.  

    The authors (if still alive) and editors of the promoted titles are apparently encouraged to ‘hang out’ in the store as much as possible during a book’s six-day exclusive promotional run.  

    The bookshop, which is extremely small, has selected titles such as; The True Deceiver, by the Finnish author Tove Jansson , and Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales for its weekly exclusive and highly focused promotion.
    One bookstore in Tokyo stocks & sells only one book at a time Posted by Richard Nathan
  • Share
    • Industry

    China buying more Japanese books and publications[UPDATED: 8-14-2017]

    Japan’s book exports to China have grown significantly since 2001, when as a condition of joining the World Trade Organization (WTO), China was required to lift restrictions on the importation of books and publications.

    Despite rapidly growing interest in Japanese novels, and Japanese Crime Fiction in particular, China is still, however, only the fourth largest importer of Japanese books behind the United States, Taiwan and South Korea.

    Books by popular Japanese authors such as Higashino Keigo, who had 3 titles amongst the top 5 bestselling books in China in June 2017 (Miracles of the Namiya General Store, Journey Under the Midnight Sun, and The Devotion of Suspect X), are generally published in translation under license and not imported.

    Importation is increasing, but China still only imports half the amount of physical books as Taiwan and only slightly more than Hong Kong. 

    Collectively so-called Greater China, with its massive population and attractive markets that Japanese companies are targeting for growth, now accounts for 29 percent of Japanese book exports.

    Japanese book exports, are said to, follow Japanese business expansion as demand increases in countries where Japanese companies send and post their staff. China at 8 percent is followed by Thailand in the rankings with 6 percent, and subsequently the United Kingdom and the Philippines, both with around 4 percent, and then Australia and Canada making up the top ten export markets for Japanese publications.    
    China buying more Japanese books and publications Posted by Richard Nathan
  • Share
    • Industry

    Totto-Chan Japan’s all time bestselling novel[UPDATED: 8-14-2017]

    Japan’s all time bestselling novel is Totto-Chan: The Little Girl at the Window, written by Tetsuko Kuroyanagi.

    It was originally published as a series of short stories by Kodansha in its magazine Young Women in 1979. At pixel time it has sold more than 5.8 million copies in Japan and has been translated into more than 16 languages including many local Indian languages, a country, like China and Japan, where the book has been very popular.

    According to the Asahi Newspaper, sales of the Chinese edition have overtaken sales of the original Japanese edition, with sales of more than 10 million at pixel time.

    Initially, the local Chinese publisher, Thinkingdom, found it difficult to promote the title due to geopolitical issues between China and Japan, such as the ongoing dispute over the uninhabited Senkaku (also know as Diaoyutai) Islands in the East China Sea.

    Nevertheless, the book is now selling in extremely large numbers and the publisher is aiming to sell more than 50 million copies in China. 

    The children’s book, by the actress and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, is sometimes classified as non-fiction or biography as it is considered as Kuroyanagi’s childhood memoir of her time at Tomoe Gakuen, an elementary school in Tokyo. 

    An English translation by Dorothy Britton was published in America in 1984.
    Totto-Chan Japan’s all time bestselling novel Posted by Koji Chikatani
  • Share
    • Industry

    Japan’s most expensive book was published in 1984 with a retail price of US$17,000[UPDATED: 7-22-2017]

    Japan’s most expensive book, an edited collection of manuscripts by Claudius Ptolemaeus (100-168), was published in two-volumes by the Japanese publisher Iwanami Shoten in 1984, just before Japan’s infamous economic bubble (1986-1991), with a retail price of 1,930,000 yen.

    Ptolemaeus’ astronomical treatise, an astronomy textbook and star catalogue, is generally referred to as the Almagest. Copies of the extremely expensive Japanese editon, Uchushi, Cosmography, a collection of reproductions of Ptolemaeus manuscripts including analysis and commentary by Torataro Shimomura (1902-1995), a philosopher and a science historian and others are available at the National Diet Library in Tokyo.

    Ptolemaeus, of Greek-Egyptian heritage, was one of the most influential ancient astronomers. He is famous for his mathematics and geography and his earth-centred cosmology.

    His cosmological theory (hypothesis) that the earth was the centre of the universe was held for 1,400 years; until it was refuted by Nicolas Copernicus (1473- 1543) in 1530 when he wrote De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium, On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres, in which he argued that the earth, in fact, rotated around the sun. The theory was published in 1543, the year of his death.
    Japan’s most expensive book was published in 1984 with a retail price of US$17,000 Posted by Richard Nathan
  • Share
    • Industry

    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
  • Share
    • Industry

    Japan runs major trade deficit in books and publications[UPDATED: 6-24-2017]

    Despite the growing interest in Japanese culture, Japan’s exports of publications, including books, is under half of the value of its imports, according to Ministry of Finance data. The top three nations Japan buys books and publications from, according to figures based on publications shipped as cargo, are: 1) the United States, which represents 31 percent of imports; 2) China, 22 percent ; and 3) the United Kingdom, 21 percent. These figures include books printed for Japanese publishers and others in China. Many British educational publishers, for example, now arrange for their titles to be printed in China. The top three export nations for Japanese books and publications account for almost half of all of Japan’s exports. Japan’s top three export markets are: 1) the United States with 23 percent; 2) Taiwan, 14 percent; and 3) South Korea, 11 percent. According to the Japan External Trade Organisation (JETRO) the majority of exports are to Japanese bookstores based in the United State and East Asia. Exports volumes and patterns, are said to, mirror trends in the number of Japanese being posted overseas. These data do not include the import or export of digital content and ebooks. Japanese universities and companies purchase online access to content and research databases. Japan is one of the largest markets for international academic and professional database publishers so when these sales are factored in the ‘content’ trade deficit is even higher.
    Japan runs major trade deficit in books and publications Posted by Richard Nathan