Factbook

A Dynamic Compendium of Interesting Japanese Literary and Publishing Facts
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    One of Japan’s major bookshop chains is named after a highly innovative trendsetting publisher of woodblock prints[UPDATED: 2-12-2018]

    Juzaburo Tsutaya (1750-1797) was an Edo Period (1603-1867) publisher of woodblock prints with the Midas touch. He nurtured many of Japan’s most famous ukiyo-e (woodblock) artists and authors and had a “discerning eye for discovering new talent” as well as an amazing talent for promotion. 

    He successfully mentored many including: the polymath Santo Kyoden (1761-1816), the highly regarded Utamaro Kitagawa (1753-1806) and the somewhat mysterious Sharaku Toshusai who was only active for a 10-month period during which he created many iconic prints that helped define the genre, and are now familiar images worldwide. 

    Tsutaya is probably most famous for turning Kusazoshi books (genres of popular woodblock-printed illustrated literature) and ukiyo-e into fashionable, must-have items. And has been described as one of the most important Edo Period trendsetters. He also published and distributed the Yoshiwara saiken, an extremely popular guidebook to the Yoshiwara licensed “pleasure district”. 

    Tsutaya, currently one of Japan’s trendiest retailers and bookshops, founded by Muneaki Musada, takes its name from a business owned by its founder’s grandfather, which was called Tsutaya in homage of the trendsetting risk-taking Juzaburo Tsutaya. 

    According to the company’s website: “Though many years fall between our times and the Edo Period” Culture Convenience Club (the name of the corporate owner of the bookstore chain) has the stated goal to “become the premiere Planning Company for Information Distribution” emulating “the achievements of Juzaburo Tsutaya”. 

    This is a hard act to emulate as the historical Tsutaya had the rare combination of having a brilliant knack for promotion as well as being able to manage highly creative talent. 

    Jippensha Ikku (1765-1831), the bestselling author and illustrator of titles such as the comic novel Shank’s Mare, which follows two amiable scoundrels on a madcap trip along the Tokaido highway leading from Tokyo to Kyoto, is another example of a highly creative individual who formed part of the Tsutaya talent pool. 

    Ikku, who was born in Shizoka, lived with Tsutaya as a young man and acknowledged that this experience and the diverse range of people he met at Tsutaya’s house helped him develop his stories and become probably the most successful author of his generation. He was reportedly the first person in Japan to be able to support himself on literary earnings alone. 

    The modern-day Tsutaya opened its first shop in 1983 in Osaka and the “Planning Company” now runs Japan’s largest bookstore and movie, music and game-rental chain. Its founder has become one of Japan’s richest men; something that would probably delight his grandfather who admired Juzaburo Tsutaya so much.
    One of Japan’s major bookshop chains is named after a highly innovative trendsetting publisher of woodblock prints Posted by Richard Nathan
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    Japan has 12 different literary prizes for mystery writers[UPDATED: 2-12-2018]

    Japan has 12 different prizes for mystery writers including The Agatha Christie Award, which was launched in 2010 on the 120th anniversary of Agatha Christie’s birth for unpublished novels. The first winner was Akimaro Mori for The Black Cat Takes a Stroll

    Some other notable prizes include: the Mystery Writers of Japan Award, the Edogawa Rampo Prize and the Honkaku Mystery Award.  
    Japan has 12 different literary prizes for mystery writers Posted by Richard Nathan
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    Oldest surviving book on Japan written in 712[UPDATED: 2-12-2018]

    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.

    Interestingly, the oldest surviving Japanese book is not a book about Japan and its history, but a religious text written in 615 owned by Japan’s Imperial Family.
    Oldest surviving book on Japan written in 712 Posted by Richard Nathan
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    The number of bookstores in Japan is 60% higher than the typical print run of a newly published title[UPDATED: 2-12-2018]

    For newly published titles to be stocked at all book retailing outlets in Japan, initial print runs of  16,000 are often said to be required. However, most new books have print runs of less than 10,000.

    The number of stores as well as the size of initial print runs have been falling, the number of bookshops, for example, has fallen by almost 40 percent since the 1990s.
    The number of bookstores in Japan is 60% higher than the typical print run of a newly published title Posted by Koji Chikatani
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    The Path, by the founder of Panasonic, has outsold Harry Potter in Japan[UPDATED: 2-12-2018]

    Japan’s second bestselling book is The Path, by Konosuke Matsushita, the founder of Panasonic.

    The Path has sold more than 5.2 million copies in Japan since it was first published in March 1981 by PHP Research.

    Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, the first title in JK Rowlings’ Harry Potter series, published in Japanese in December 1999, is the third bestselling title in Japan with sales of more than 5.1 million at pixel time. 

    Japan’s all time bestselling novel is Totto-Chan: The Little Girl at the Window by Tetsuko Kuroyanagi.
    The Path, by the founder of Panasonic, has outsold Harry Potter in Japan Posted by Koji Chikatani
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    Limited consolidation within Japan’s publishing industry[UPDATED: 2-12-2018]

    Mergers and acquisitions (M&A) amongst Japanese publishers is very rare, unlike in the United States and the United Kingdom where the big story is consolidation.

    The vast majority of Japan’s publishing houses are small or medium sized. 60% of publishers in Japan employ less than 10 people.

    Only 30 publishers employ more than 1,000 people across all forms of publishing and the five largest Japanese publishers are all relatively small when compared to the largest international publishing houses. 

    Currently, there are about 3,700 publishers in Japan. The top 500 publishers account for more than 90 percent of sales.
    Limited consolidation within Japan’s publishing industry Posted by Richard Nathan
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    The two best-known living Japanese authors[UPDATED: 2-12-2018]

    Outside Japan, in most of the world, the two best-known living Japanese authors are probably currently Haruki Murakami and Banana Yoshimoto.

    Haruki Murakami published his first novel, Hear the Wind Sing, in 1979, in the June issue of Gunzo, a Japanese literary magazine. Banana Yoshimoto’s first novel, Kitchen was published in Japan in 1988 and initially internationally in Italian. She has now been published in 36 different languages, while works Murakami have been translated into 50 languages.

    However, Keigo Higashino, the brilliant Japanese crime fiction writer, is the most famous and most read Japanese author in China, where he regularly heads the lists of bestselling authors. Currently, outside China and Japan he is much less well-known.  
    The two best-known living Japanese authors Posted by Richard Nathan
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    Japanese libraries still major book buyers[UPDATED: 2-12-2018]

    Despite falling budgets as in most countries, Japanese libraries are still major book buyers, but their purchasing now represents less than 2% of publisher sales. Nevertheless, libraries have been cleverly expanding their lending schemes using the Internet to highlight book availability and increase book borrowing rates.

    They have been criticized by authors and publishers for being too focused on bestselling and high profile titles and not collection management.

    Japanese public libraries are visited around 300 million times each year and 715 million books are lent out. The lending ratio is 5.8 books per visitor which compares to 5.7 books bought per annum by book buyers in Japan.

    The first public library in Japan was founded in 1872 and the Japan Library Association was established in 1892. Every Japanese city with a population of more than 50,000 has a public library.

    Currently, there are more than 3,000 public libraries across Japan, just over 20% the number of Japanese bookstores.
    Japanese libraries still major book buyers Posted by Koji Chikatani