Here is an evocative title, evocative of manga especially, since almost all of what comes from Japan and what is published in France and almost everywhere in the world does not include or understands too few titles from another kind. But it would be a mistake to believe that there are only manga or Tokyo city guides that come out of there that are hugely successful.
The four major publishing houses: Kodansha, Shogakukan, Shueisha and Kadokawa share the market share which amounts to more than 13 billion euros and reign supreme over book sales. These four houses and others smaller produced more than 78,000 titles in 2012 of which the most sold are also cookbooks, martial arts, poetry and of course dictionaries. That same year, an average of 213 pounds per day was produced. Only here, all these figures that make your head spin on first reading are not that dizzying compared to other countries. Proof of this is that you are less likely to come across a single Japanese title than twenty titles in English or Spanish. Certain factors come into play like the culture, the policy of isolation practiced by the Japanese until the end of the 19th century, and what allows us to understand any book: the language. Latin being the mother of French, Italian, Spanish and geographically and historically is very distant from the Far East. The Japanese language having no connection with these languages thus constitutes a barrier which can handicap many readers.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, the slow progression is nevertheless visible in the sense that the translation of Japanese books into other languages has gone from too little to very little … a notable advance may have been noticed all the same, but it will not come. only in the 2000s with the creation of several subsidiaries of the pillars of Japanese publishing, mainly for manga but not only. Thus poetry has always taken a great place in the Japanese literary universe because of its presence in heritage and folklore. The novelties of the 2000s do not stop there. Indeed, the parallel market that is digital content broadens horizons by offering a multitude of titles and exclusives. This market alone represents nearly 600 million euros in turnover and emerged in 2006. Four years later the market will experience a real boom, in particular with the distribution of fashion magazines by Shogakukan and Shueisha.
It’s all very positive, however you are all wondering where did these titles go, did they stay in Japan? The answer is yes and much to the regret of book addicts; the majority of works are not translated due to the establishment of an increasingly demanding royalty system for translations, which is why and for other economic reasons that it is difficult to obtain the rights and who says law says trade. Which is sad to see revolting when we know that knowledge should be accessible at a lower price (but that is another debate and it only concerns a small percentage of published books).
With the arrival of the digital book market, international trade can look forward to a bright future, especially when it comes to Japanese literature. However, there will always be the Otakus of the book who prefer the good old smell of printed paper.
JBPA, An introduction to publishing in Japan 2014-2015, 2014.