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

    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
  • Share
    • Industry

    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
  • Share
    • Industry

    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
  • Share
    • Industry

    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
  • Share
    • Industry

    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
  • Share
    • Industry

    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
  • Share
    • Industry

    Japan is ranked 20th worldwide in terms of output per person of new books and new editions[UPDATED: 12-4-2017]

    In terms of new title publication per capita, the United Kingdom, which is a major international exporter of books and publications, leads the world with the highest ratio of 2,875 new titles published per million inhabitants.

    Japan, which has a larger domestic market than the United Kingdom (40 percent larger) and is the world’s fourth largest domestic market for books and publications, is ranked 20th with a ratio of 613 new titles or new editions per million people, according to the International Publishers Association (IPA)

    Japan is significantly behind the United States (56 percent), when measured using this IPA international benchmark. The United States, which publishes 959 titles per million people, is ranked 12th -despite being the world’s largest market for books and publications, five times larger than the Japanese market, according to the IPA’s Global Publishing Monitor 2014.

    Nevertheless, despite Japan having a much smaller overall market than China, the world’s second largest market, publishes more new books per head than China, which has a ratio of 325 and is ranked 25th in the world on this measure. However, Japan is ranked behind Taiwan 1,831, Korea 795 and Russia 699 when measured using this ratio. 

    The United Kingdom’s figures are exaggerated by its large number of academic presses that target libraries around the world and educational publishers that often publish language learning series with multiple components each of which are often counted as individual titles despite being associated with a textbook. Its domestic market is 60% the size of Japan’s.
    Japan is ranked 20th worldwide in terms of output per person of new books and new editions Posted by Richard Nathan
  • 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