Factbook

A Dynamic Compendium of Interesting Japanese Literary and Publishing Facts
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    The two most prestigious Japanese literary prizes are the Akutagawa and the Naoki prizes[UPDATED: 2-11-2018]

    Japan’s two most prestigious literary prizes amongst the more than 500 prizes that are awarded each year in Japan for literature are probably the Akutagawa and the Naoki prizes.

    Both were set up in 1935, by Kan Kikuchi (1888-1948), when he was editor of Bungeishinju, one of Japan’s leading literary magazines, which he founded in 1923.  

    The Akutagawa prize is for literary fiction published by new up-and-coming writers in a magazine or newspaper. It is awarded twice a year with prize money of 1 million yen and a pocket watch. 

    The Naoki Prize, also awarded twice a year is for “”the best work of popular literature in any format by a new, rising, or (reasonably young) established author”.  

    Both prizes have 9 judges who select the winning titles from a shortlist put together by editors at the monthly magazine, Bungeishuju.

    The prizes are named after Ryunosuke Akutagawa (1892-1927) and Sanjugo Naoki (1891-1934) two highly regarded Japanese authors.
    The two most prestigious Japanese literary prizes are the Akutagawa and the Naoki prizes Posted by Richard Nathan
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    In the 17th century Japan experienced the world’s first camellia publishing boom[UPDATED: 2-9-2018]

    A confluence of events created Japan’s, and probably the world’s first, camellia publishing boom in the second quarter of the 17th century. 

    The arrival from Korea of movable type technology and the printing of the first Japanese book using the technology in 1593 was the catalyst for the commercial publishing that kicked off about a decade later in 1609, in Kyoto, at the start of the Edo Period (1603-1868). Interestingly, most commercial publishers reverted to traditional methods and did not use the new movable type technologies as the local publishing market developed and expanded. 

    The Shogun, Ieyasu Tokugawa (1543-1616), who initiated the Edo Period when he took control of the country, loved flowers and his successor Hidetada Tokugawa (1579-1632), the next Tokugawa Shogun, was particularly fond of camellias. Interest spread to feudal lords and then onwards creating the Kan’ei Era (1624-1644) boom in camellias. Dozens of books, and illustrated guides were produced, at a time before these plants had even arrived in Europe. A similar boom happened in Europe after the arrival of Camellia japonica in the 1830s. 

    Some of the illustrated guides that still exist today are impressive and beautiful as they must have been when produced more than 300 years ago and would not look out of place in a European art museum displayed alongside modern pictures. 

    One of the best examples of these amazingly beautiful Japanese publications is: One Hundred Camellias, attributed to Kano Sanraku (1559-1635), which was created in the midst of this unprecedented camellia gardening boom at the start of the Edo Period. 

    It is 24-meters long and consists of two scrolls and commences with an introduction consisting of prose and poems from 40 different individuals including members of the Japanese imperial family. Camellias are painted and drawn in vivid colours in different containers; baskets, vases, trays, and tea-bowls to name just a few. Following its donation it is displayed annually to welcome in the New Year at The Nezu Museum in Tokyo. 

    One of the best places to witness the long-term effects of this publishing boom is the garden of the central Tokyo hotel Chinzan-so. The hotel’s name means “mountain of camellias” and houses about a hundred different varieties from across Japan with exotic names such as Camellia Akashigata, Kingyohatsubaki, Yokogumo and Hikaru Genji. The famous Haiku poet Mastuo Basho (1644-1694) is said to have lived in a hut facing the garden for four years, long before the hotel was built.  
    In the 17th century Japan experienced the world’s first camellia publishing boom Posted by Richard Nathan
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    Japan’s ‘first modern novel’ was written by Futabatei Shimei in 1887[UPDATED: 2-5-2018]

    Ukigumo, The Drifting Cloud, by Futabatei Shimei (1864-1909) is considered by academics as Japan’s ‘first modern novel’ due to its realism and focus on the psychology and personalities of the novel’s four characters, as opposed to being a chronicle of deeds and actions.  

    An English translation, by Marleigh Grayer Ryan, was published in 1967 by Columbia University Press as Japan’s first modern novel: Ukigumo of Futabatei Shimei.  

    Futabatei Shimei, born Tatsunosuke Hasegawa, a student of Russian literature, wrote in a colloquial style about the society around him. The Drifting Cloud was published in three volumes in 1887 and 1888 and was in fact never completed. Nevertheless, its realism, style and critique of growing materialism in Japan were highly influential.  
    Japan’s ‘first modern novel’ was written by Futabatei Shimei in 1887 Posted by Richard Nathan
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    One bookstore in Tokyo stocks & sells only one book at a time[UPDATED: 1-25-2018]

    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 encouraged to ‘hang out’ in the store as much as possible during a book’s six-day exclusive promotional run. Book launches for new publications and special author events are part of the associated services the shop provides.  

    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 and Japanese authors such as Hatsume Sato (1921-2016) and Shuntaro Tanikawa.
    One bookstore in Tokyo stocks & sells only one book at a time Posted by Richard Nathan
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    Japan’s public libraries have the highest lending rates of public libraries within the G7[UPDATED: 1-24-2018]

    The number of public libraries in Japan is on the low side when compared to other G7 nations, the informal group of industrialized democracies (the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United Kingdom) that meets annually to discuss issues such as economics, good governance, international security, and energy policy. However, Japan’s public libraries have the highest lending rates per service point of public libraries within the G7.

    Since the 1960s, Japan’s public libraries have focused on and generally had their performance measured on the number of books borrowed; something that has been prioritized above other Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). The libraries have focused on ‘demand’ something that had not been a priority up to that point.

    Critics including writers, authors and publishers argue that this has led to poor and unbalanced collection management and had a detrimental impact on book sales. The latest figures available at pixel time indicate that the lending ratio is 5.8 books lent per person compared to 5.7 books bought per book buyer per annum. This, they argue, is now being amplified by Japan’s aging population, who have more time to visit libraries, and the online rental schemes libraries have introduced to highlight book availability.
    Japan’s public libraries have the highest lending rates of public libraries within the G7 Posted by Koji Chikatani
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    Book rental and lending schemes have a very long history in Japan[UPDATED: 1-24-2018]

    Historically, book production and consumption in Japan was focused on the country’s aristocrats, Buddhist monks, Shinto priests and society’s upper classes not the mass market. However, in the early 1800s book lending shops started to appear.

    According to historians, their number grew from around 650 in Tokyo (or Edo as it was known then) in 1808 – expanding to meet demand – to 800 by 1832. These shops alongside increasingly high literary rates created demand that supported a very high ratio of approximately 1 lending shop per 1,500 people. The capital had a population of over 1 million at the time making it one of the world’s largest cities.

    Currently, the population per bookstore in Japan is high compared to other nations (estimated at 7,710 per store vs. 23,363 in the United States), but lower than lending shop ratios of the Edo Period. Records also show that there was in fact a book rental shop in Nagoya even earlier, as far back as 1767, which provided a continuous service for 130 years. It built up a collection of more than 20,000 titles during its operating life.
    Book rental and lending schemes have a very long history in Japan Posted by Richard Nathan
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    90% of Japanese people under the age of 30 still read books[UPDATED: 12-27-2017]

    According to consumer surveys, despite what many might believe, the vast majority of Japanese people still read books, including people under the age of 30. However, 10 percent of Japanese people under the age of 30 say that currently they never read books.

    The most popular genre amongst both men and women in Japan who buy books are mysteries and crime fiction, according to the research conducted by DIMS DRIVE, which monitors a panel of 9,566 individuals for its surveys.  

    43 percent of those surveyed, who read a book every three months, buy books from internet sites including Amazon, but 80 percent of these regular book buyers still buy books from bricks and mortar bookstores.  

    77 percent of whose who purchase books online unsurprisingly read online reviews before deciding which books to buy.

    The three most important factors in book selection by Japanese consumers are content (71 percent) author (55 percent) and price (39 percent).
    90% of Japanese people under the age of 30 still read books Posted by Richard Nathan
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    Japan’s seven largest publishers collectively are 80% the size of the world’s largest[UPDATED: 12-10-2017]

    According to the 2017 Global Ranking of the Publishing Industry, produced by BookMap, Japan’s seven largest publishers collectively are 80% the size of the world’s largest, Pearson.


    Japan’s seven largest publishers, measured by revenue, included in the 2017 Global Ranking of the Publishing Industry, produced by BookMap, are Shueisha, Kodansha, Kadokawa, Shogakukan, Gakken, Bungeishunju, and Shinchosha.


    The BookMap analysis lists 50 of the world’s largest publishers by turnover, but excludes publishers from China in its ranking.
    Japan’s seven largest publishers collectively are 80% the size of the world’s largest Posted by Richard Nathan