Factbook

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    Two Japanese magazines, launched in the 1920s, played a critical role in the development of Science Fiction writing in Japan[UPDATED: 3-8-2018]

    Two magazines in the 1920s Shinseinen (New Youth) and Kagaku Gaho (Science Pictorial) played pivotal roles in the development and establishment of the modern Science Fiction genre in Japan. 

    New Youth, launched in 1920 was packed full of short stories targeting “urban modern men”, and quickly became an outlet and publishing platform for science-fiction-type stories and detective stories. 

    The editor of the magazine grouped these stories into two categories: 1) honkaku (classic) and 2) henkaku (irregular) stories.

    Science fiction fell into the latter and was, according to Robert Matthew in his book Japanese Science Fiction: A View of a Changing Society, initially categorized in Japan in its modern form as ‘irregular detective fiction’ 

    Science Pictorial, set up just after Amazing Stories, science fiction magazine launched in the United States in April 1926 by Hugo Gernsback’s Experimenter Publishing, also played a critical role. Gernsback is generally credited for the first use of the term Science Fiction. Both magazines were the first in each country to be devoted solely to science fiction. 

    Science Pictorial ‘s mission at launch was to “seek revolutionary works of high literary value which are purely scientific in their material and do not lapse into the detective style ”. 

    The two Japanese magazines published stories such as: Jinzo Ningen (Artificial Human) by Hatsunosuke Hirabayashi (1892-1932), which is often cited by academics as a classic example of Japan’s so-called “early Showa robot literature”, which there was lots of. Other notable examples include: Chitei Jigoku (The Animal Kingdom Under the Earth) by Juran Kuze (1901-1946); and Shindoma (The Demon of Vibration) by Juza Unno (1897-1949), who is sometimes referred to as the Father of Japanese Science Fiction. 

    Despite this early creativity, the terms Science Fiction (Saiensufikushon), SF and Sci-Fi, however, only came into use in Japan after the Second World War. 

    Nevertheless, the words Kagaku Shosetsu (科学小説), which is still occasionally used today, alongside Kuusou Kagaku Shosetsu  (空想科学小説), meaning imaginary science novel, were coined as early as 1886 for the Japanese “scientific novel”. 

    The genre’s roots, however, go back much further in Japan to stories known as Mirai-ki. Nonetheless, the genesis of today’s science fiction writing in Japan is said to be the translation into Japanese of the French author and playwright Jules Verne’s (1828-1905) novels in the 1880s. 

    Verne’s books arrived during a period of rapid modernisation and change in Japan known as the Meiji Era (1868-1912), when Japan was opening up to Western influence after the resignation of the Shogun and more than two hundred years of self-imposed isolation.  Verne’s books and others like them had a major impact on readers and budding authors. 

    New Youth and Science Pictorial provided the platforms for Japanese writers interested in science and fiction, who grew up on these Western translations, to flourish and for the genre to develop with its own Japanese characteristics. 

    Subsequently, two commercially successful magazines, launched in the 1950s, Uchujin (1957-2009) and SF Magajin (1959-) played an equally important role for the next generation of Japanese authors, who are sometimes referred to by academic as “The First Generation Writers” of modern Japanese science fiction.

    This so-called first generation of authors includes writers such as Kobo Abe (1924-1993), Shinichi Hoshii (1926-1997), Osamu Tezuka (1928-1989), Sakyo Komatsu (1931-2011) and Yasutaka Tsutsui, who was born in 1934.

    Science fiction has now become an important and popular genre in Japan that is still flourishing creatively and commercially today in all formats: book, animation, film and graphic novel.
    Two Japanese magazines, launched in the 1920s, played a critical role in the development of Science Fiction writing in Japan Posted by Richard Nathan
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    Japan’s first monthly book series for Kindergartens, launched in 1907, is still being published 90 years later[UPDATED: 2-22-2018]

    Kinderbook was launched in 1927 as the Observational Picture Books Kinder Book, by Froebel-Kan, a Tokyo based company named after the German educator Friedrich Wilhelm A. Froebel (1782-1852), who established the world’s first kindergarten, and coined the name for these learning centres.  

    The decision to launch Japan’s first monthly picture book series for pre-school age children followed the first Japanese regulations in 1926, known as the Kindergarten Ordinance, introducing new standards and teacher qualifications for kindergartens. 

    The first issue, published the year after the regulations were enacted, was titled: All About Rice. Illustrated books were published monthly, in a magazine style approach, and were and still are distributed directly to kindergartens across Japan. The number of which increased after the Ordinance, when about 6% of the population attended kindergarten. 

    Froebel-Kan, founded in 1906, now owned by one of Japan’s largest printing companies, Toppan Printing Co.Ltd, still publishes the series, which has evolved and developed over the last 90 years alongside new printing, design and educational techniques. 

    Many talented authors and illustrators have worked on the series including the famous Japanese poet Shuntaro Tanikawa. The books document in a very unique way Japan’s modernisation and some difficult periods that its authors, illustrators and publisher had to navigate including: the aftermath of natural disasters and war. 

    According to its publisher’s website, the series “gives children the power to live and to develop their future, and an abundance of spirit”. The company now also publishes a monthly childcare magazine, sells playground equipment, and helps design kindergartens and early learning centres. It also publishes the popular Japanese language editions of Where’s Wally, by the English illustrator Martin Handford.
    Japan’s first monthly book series for Kindergartens, launched in 1907, is still being published 90 years later Posted by Richard Nathan
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    Japan’s first magazine, Seiyo-Zasshi, was launched in October 1867[UPDATED: 2-21-2018]

    Seiyo-Zasshi, Japan’s first magazine was launched by Shunzo Yanagawa in October 1867. The magazine’s name means Western Magazine.

    The 10-page magazine, which consisted of a collection of translations of western scholarly articles, was published in booklet format, printed on Japanese paper, using woodblocks, with a folio binding. 

    The definition of the word magazine is “a periodical publication containing articles and illustrations, often on a particular subject or aimed at a particular readership”. Before the digital age it generally referred to publications with paper covers.

    The word magazine comes from the French word magasin which itself comes from the Italian word magazzino, meaning store or storehouse. Seiyo-Zasshi clearly fell within this definition of a magazine and certainly aspired to become one. 

    According to historians, the earliest international example of a magazine is said to be Erbauliche Monaths Unterredungen, Edifying Monthly Discussions, a literary and philosophy magazine, launched in 1663 in Hamburg almost 200 years before Japan’s first such publication. 

    The Gentleman’s Magazine, is generally cited as the world’s first general-interest magazine. Its first issue was published in London in 1731; its publication continued for almost 200 years.

    In contrast, the life span of Japan’s first magazine, Seiyo-Zasshi, was much more short lived. The original plan was for it to become a monthly publication as it became established, but the magazine folded after just 6 issues in September 1869, two months before the international journal of science, Nature, was launched in London that year. 

    Despite its short life and lack of commercial success, Seiyo-Zasshi’s publication was an important historic milestone that coined the Japanese term used for magazine Zasshi, which is made up for two letters (characters) – ‘mixture’ and ‘to note or register’. The publication may no longer exit, but its name lives on.
    Japan’s first magazine, Seiyo-Zasshi, was launched in October 1867 Posted by Richard Nathan
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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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    Japan has a popular product category (hybrid books and magazines) called Mukku[UPDATED: 2-21-2018]

    The definition of a Mook is a: “publication, which is physically similar to a magazine, but is intended to remain on bookstore shelves for longer periods than traditional magazines” in a similar manner to a book. They are known as mukku in Japan. 

    The word was apparently first used in 1971 at a Fédération Internationale de la Presse Périodique (FIPP) conference. 

    The format is particularly popular in Japan. Designers (mostly fashion designers) successfully use the format to promote their brands. The Wall Street Journal has reported on the phenomenon calling the ”brand mook” a Japanese publishing hotspot. 

    The format and the word were embraced in Japan, which is often mistakenly credited with coining the term. The continued success and use of the format in Japan has insured the word’s survival and continuation of the format. 

    Many English language dictionaries do not list the word under this definition and often only include a definition of the slang expression spelt the same way meaning: “a foolish, insignificant, or contemptible person”.
    Japan has a popular product category (hybrid books and magazines) called Mukku Posted by Richard Nathan
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    Japan’s first western-style fashion magazine was launched in 1936 by a controversial female novelist[UPDATED: 2-21-2018]

    Chiyo Uno (1897-1996), a novelist whose breakthrough work was Iro-zange, Confessions of Love, launched Japan’s first western-style fashion magazine, Sutairu, Style, in 1936. 

    Uno’s most highly regarded literary work is her novella Ohan (1957) published in English as Ohan in the collection of short-stories: The Old Woman, the Wife, and the Archer, translated by Donald Keane and published by Viking Press in 1961. 

    Uno, like many of the individuals in Japan who were publishing pioneers and launched magazines, was a high profile and charismatic individual so much so that The New York Times published an obituary on her shortly after her death in 1996 with the title: Chiyo Uno, 98, Writer Whose Loves Shook Japan.
    Japan’s first western-style fashion magazine was launched in 1936 by a controversial female novelist 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