Factbook

A Dynamic Compendium of Interesting Japanese Literary and Publishing Facts
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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
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    The first Western commercial fiction was translated into Japanese in 1879[UPDATED: 2-19-2018]

    It took 32 years, from the first publication of a work of Japanese fiction in a European language until an important Western work of fiction was published in Japanese translation, in 1879. 

    The first “important” title, according to the scholar Donald Keane was the novel Ernest Maltravers (1837) by Edward Bulwer-Lytton (1803-1873), the bestselling British author who is famous for having coined phrases such as; “the great unwashed,” “it was a dark and stormy night” and “the pen is mightier than the sword”. 

    The novel, translated by Junichiro Niwa, a former Edinburgh University law student, was published in Japanese under the title Karyū shunwa (A Spring Tale of Blossoms and Willows), and sold extremely well. A Japanese translation of a Jules Verne novel, by Chunosuke Kawashima was also published that year in Japan.
    The first Western commercial fiction was translated into Japanese in 1879 Posted by Richard Nathan
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    Book prices in Japan are fixed[UPDATED: 2-14-2018]

    Despite Japan’s 1953 Anti-Monopoly Law, books published in Japan are still sold at fixed prices, as was the case before the Second World War.

    Japan’s Anti-Monopoly Law has an exception for publications. Under the Resale Price Maintenance System publications, including books, must be sold across Japan at a fixed price.

    According to the industry “this enables the distribution of a wide variety of titles in small volumes and allows for royalties to be paid on books with small initial print runs”.

    It has, however, created opportunities for secondhand booksellers like Book-Off, that sell titles that are technically secondhand, but are in almost new condition.

    At pixel time Book-Off, founded in 1991, has more than 1,000 stores and annual sales of 52 billion yen. Other opportunists, wanting to sell books at low prices, exploit Amazon Marketplace.

    In Japan books are not exempt from Consumption (sales) Tax, as is the case in some countries. However, e-books sold into Japan by international (non-Japan-based) retailers are exempt from this tax.
    Book prices in Japan are fixed Posted by Richard Nathan
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    Japan is not included on the list of key international publishing locations[UPDATED: 2-14-2018]

    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 is not included on the list of key international publishing locations Posted by Richard Nathan
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    The first commercial translation of a work of Japanese fiction in any European language was published in Austria in 1847[UPDATED: 2-14-2018]

    According to Sepp Linhart, Professor of Japanology and Director of the Institute of East Asian Studies at the University of Vienna, the first commercial translation in any European language of a Japanese work of fiction was published in 1847, in German in Vienna, by its translator, 

    The book by Ryutei Tanehiko (1783-1842) was a late Edo Period gōkan, which were intricately plotted stories consisting of several volumes bound together and written in simple light language for the mass-market. 

    The translated title Ukiyo-gata rokumai-byobu (Floating world style Six-panel screens), originally published in Japanese 1821, was mainly about romantic misadventures and the final coming together of two lovers. It was translated and published by the Austrian polyglot, August Pfizmaier (1808-1887), as Sechs Wandschirme in Gestalten der verganglichen Welt in Vienna, in German in 1847. 

    Tanehiko’s real name was Takaya Hikoshiro. He was born into a lower level samurai family with sufficient income to allow him to get a good education. His books were written to reflect how people actually spoke, behaved and dressed. He is said to have been a genre pioneer and a master printer. He was a household name, and bestselling author in Japan in the late Edo and early Meiji periods. 

    A Country Genji by a Commoner Murasaki, an adaptation and modernization of The Tale of Genji, written by Tanehiko with illustrations by Utagawa Kunisada, the internationally famous ukio-e artist, was one of the most popular books of the Edo Period, selling more than 10,000 copies. After its first issue, published in 1829, a further 152 volumes followed over a 14 year period. The Japanese authorities, however, eventually put an end to this successful publishing venture by demanding in 1842 that Tanehiko ceased publication of what was considered a political parody, and confiscated the print blocks. He died shortly after his works were banned. 

    Despite the success of the literary work and author in Japan, the publication in German of Ukiyo-gata rokumai-byobu was a commercial failure and Pfizmaier subsequently published all his translations from Japanese in academic journals such as The Proceedings of The Austrian-Hungarian Academy of Sciences. The German translation was, however, used for translations into English, Italian and French. And apparently a new German edition was published 90 years later. 

    Despite Pfizmaier’s false start, the translation baton outside Japan was picked up 50 years later by Arthur Waley (1889-1966) who, according to academics, pioneered the modern tradition and trend of Japanese literature in the West increasing availability, interest and awareness. 

    Waley, a British translator of Chinese and Japanese literature, who interestingly never visited Asia, translated The Tale of Genji (1921-23), The Pillow Book (1928), Kutune Shirka also know as Itadorimaru no Kyoku (1951), as well as No plays and Japanese poetry. He focused his work on what he thought would interest the general public rather than academics. 

    Subsequently, Donald Keene, professor of Japanese at Columbia University and Edward Seidensticker (1921-2007), professor of Japanese at the University of Michigan have carried on this trend through translations and scholarship, further increasing awareness of and access to Japanese literature outside Japan.
    The first commercial translation of a work of Japanese fiction in any European language was published in Austria in 1847 Posted by Richard Nathan
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    Japan introduced its first copyright legislation in 1869[UPDATED: 2-14-2018]

    The Publishing Ordinance of 1869 was Japan’s first legislation on copyright. The regulations in the ordinance covered both the protection of copyright and the regulation of publishers. Prior to this, despite property rights generally being linked to the ownership (legal title) to the print blocks used to print books, the concept of and protection of author rights in Japan was very limited. 

    The ordinance of 1869 was updated becoming the Copyright Law (now known as the old Copyright Law) to comply with the Berne Convention in 1899, and is considered to be Japan’s first modern copyright law, as it complied with the international standard and norms on copyright protection. 

    The United States Copyright Office, in comparison, was created by Congress in 1897. Both nations were relatively slow to develop and adopt the legal frameworks to protect author rights. 

    In contrast, the United Kingdom, which publishes more books per capita than any other nation worldwide and is a major exporter of books and publications, can trace its copyright legislation back to the Statute of Anne 1709. Under that Statute, probably the world’s oldest, copyright lasted for 14 years with a second optional 14 period of renewal, a much shorter term than the current author’s life plus 70 years in the United Kingdom, and 50 years in Japan.
    Japan introduced its first copyright legislation in 1869 Posted by Richard Nathan
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    Japan’s first magazine targeting women, Katei-no-Tomo, was launched in 1903[UPDATED: 2-14-2018]

    It took 36 years from the launch of Japan’s first western-style magazine in 1867, Seiyo-Zasshi (Western Magazine), for a magazine exclusively targeting Japanese women to be published. Katei-no-Tomo, The Family Friend, was launched in 1903 by Yoshikazu Hani (1880-1955) and his wife Motoko Hani (1873-1957). Motoko is widely recognized as Japan’s first female journalist. She met her husband (her second), while working as a reporter for the Hochi Shimbun

    The magazine was rebranded eventually becoming Fujin-no-Tomo, Women’s Friend, in 1908 and is still published today under that name. The couple, both Christians, tried to encourage women through the publication, which was non-political, to develop their own identities and act as equals within their households. The couple also founded a private girls school in Tokyo, which the American architect Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959) designed for them in 1921. 

    Fujin-Gaho, The Woman’s Illustrated Gazette, was launched two years after Katei-no-Tomo in 1905, by the novelist Doppo Kunikida (1871-1908). As it is still published under the same name today it is probably technically Japan oldest continuously published women’s magazine. 

    Kunikida, who was a fan of William Wordsworth (1770-1850), studied English at Tokyo Senmon Gakko, which became Waseda University and is now famous for its many author alumni such as Haruki Murakami, Mitsuyo Kakuta and Kazufumi Shiraishi among others. All these high profile contemporary authors successfully completed their studies, unlike Kunikida who was expelled. Kunikida, also a Christian, is known for his romantic poetry and his novel Aru Onna, A Certain Woman. He also founded a literary magazine and a publishing company despite an early death at 36 from tuberculosis. 

    Another interesting magazine launched around this time by five pioneering feminists, was Seito, Blue Stocking, in September 1911. It was named after the 18th Century British Blue Stocking Society. In its first issue Raicho Hiratsuka (1886-1971) wrote: “In the beginning Woman was the Sun. She was the genuine being. Now woman is the Moon. She lives through others and glitters through the mastery of others. She has a pallor like that of the ill. Now we must restore our hidden Sun”. The publication was extremely controversial with several issues being banned by the authorities. It folded in February 1916.
    Japan’s first magazine targeting women, Katei-no-Tomo, was launched in 1903 Posted by Richard Nathan