Table Speech

How Many Japanese Books are Read Overseas?

6 December, 2017

Mr. Nobutaka Ueki
President, Sunmark Publishing, Inc.

 The publishing industry is said to be declining. Today I will focus on the current status and future prospects of Japanese books read overseas.

 Taiwan, South Korea and China are the top three countries that purchase rights of Japanese publications, followed by Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia. Asian countries account for 80% of the overall overseas transactions, excluding comics and YA (young adult) books.

 The Chinese market is expanding and Chinese editions of Japanese books are gaining popularity. Miracles of the Namiya General Store by Keigo Higashino has ranked in the top 3 Amazon China Bestselling Book Ranking for three consecutive years. Totto-Chan: The Little Girl at the Window by Tetsuko Kuroyanagi sold over 10 million copies and The Cat that Lived a Million Times by Yoko Sano became a million-seller picture book. Our company published Compass to Fulfillment by Kazuo Inamori and interestingly enough, the book that teaches to “live life earnestly with integrity” sold over 3 million copies in a country that has a notorious history of food fraud. I believe in the power of books to influence people’s mind and eventually change the country as a whole.

 Thinkingdom Media Group Ltd. is the fastest-growing publisher in China, publishing multiple million-selling books including 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. When I met President Chen, I was impressed by his extensive knowledge on Japanese history and his enthusiasm and dedication to make Chinese readers understand the attractiveness of Japan. I was delighted to know that the 26-volume Tokugawa Ieyasu by Souhachi Yamaoka sold over 1 million copies in China, thanks to the painstaking efforts made by the company’s four translators.

 To translate and publish Japanese books overseas is said to be a big challenge, especially in English-speaking Western countries. This time-consuming process has eased over the past 7-8 years, as Japanese authors started to sign contracts directly with literary agents. Today, fiction writers like Keigo Higashino, Natsuo Kirino, Kaoru Takamura and Yoko Ogawa are gaining popularity in English-speaking countries with their best-selling books. Our company launched copyright sales 20 years ago. Just recently, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo was a huge success in 30 countries selling 8 million copies around the world. Ms. Kondo was selected as one of “The 100 Most Influential People” by TIME magazine with her book ranking 2nd in the 2015 Amazon US Bestselling Book.

 All these achievements made the Western countries change their perception on Japanese publishers as well as encouraged us to enter the American and European markets with confidence. As there awaits limitless opportunities to disseminate Japanese publications and contents throughout the world, I have bright prospects for the future.