Factbook

A Dynamic Compendium of Interesting Japanese Literary and Publishing Facts
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    • Libraries

    Japan’s first national library was set up following a legal decree in 702[UPDATED: 2-28-2018]

    According to historians, the first libraries in Japan were set up by by Shotoku Taishi (574-622) – The Prince of Holy Virtue – a regent and author also known as Prince Umayado (Prince of the Stables). 

    The Horyuji Temple, in Nara, founded in 607, is believed to have been the location of Japan’s first library, which was within the Prince’s ‘study’ at the temple. Subsequently, many temples across Japan started collections of manuscripts and important texts including copies of the Nihon Shoki (The Chronicles of Japan), one of Japan’s first written accounts of the nation’s history.

    Shotoku Taishi is an important historical figure in Japan and still admired today. His image was included on 10,000 yen notes issued until 1986, and he is credited with developing Japan’s first set of laws – a set of 17 rules – which stress the importance of harmony in the community. The rules have been described as an early type of constitution. 

    According to the Encyclopedia of Library History, Japan’s first national library, Zushoryo, was set up about one hundred years later in the 8th century following new legislation issued in 702, Formalising and standardising the trend started by Shotoku Taishi. 

    The library was modelled on a library in China and run by a government ministry. It was Japan’s official national archive and therefore didn’t need to buy books; five copies of every book written or copied in temples were supposed to be lodged there. 

    The library was also responsible for collecting and conserving both Buddhist and Confucian books and was required to compile official histories of Japan. According to historians, it had a staff of 4 papermakers, 10 brushmakers, 4 inkmakers and 20 copyists. It continued this work until the 11th century.
    Japan’s first national library was set up following a legal decree in 702 Posted by Richard Nathan
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    • Libraries

    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
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    • Libraries

    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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    • Libraries

    Most frequently requested novel at Peking University library in 2016 was a translated Japanese crime fiction title[UPDATED: 7-3-2017]

    In 2016, a novel by the Japanese crime-writer Keigo Higashino, Mysterious Night, was the third most frequently borrowed book at Peking University Library.

    According to an analysis by the library, only two books, both non-fiction academic related titles, an introduction to psychology and an account of mass hysteria in 18th Century China, were borrowed more often by students at the university, which is considered one of China’s most prestigious and most difficult to gain entry to.  

    Higashino also had the two most requested and reserved books at Peking University Library, The Miracle in the Grocery Store, and Journey Under the Midnight Sun. The only other novel in the top ten was Animal Farm, by George Orwell (1903-1950), the seventh most borrowed book at the library.    
    Most frequently requested novel at Peking University library in 2016 was a translated Japanese crime fiction title Posted by Richard Nathan