DISPATCHES FROM THE WORLD OF JAPANESE LITERATURE, CULTURE, AND PUBLISHING

JUNE 2010

N E W S
  • Shogakukan Publishing in the Red for Second Straight Year
  • Publishers' Response to the iPad Divided into Aggressive and Conservative Factions

    A U T H O R ' S  V O I C E
  • Vol.18: Yukio Takizawa

    R E V I E W
  • "Fragments"


  • N E W S
    Shogakukan Publishing in the Red for Second Straight Year

    At the general meeting of stockholders held at the head office in Tokyo on May 27, Shogakukan reported a decrease in sales of 7.7%, resulting in an income loss of 117,721,000,000 yen over the last five years. From a profit standpoint, business operations and administration have posted base losses for the current period, putting the company in the red for the second straight year.

    In terms of publications by genre, sales of "pure book" were 14,114,000,000 yen, down 6%, while sales of DVDs and combined package products were 5,250,000,000 yen, down 3%. "Illustrated reference works," chosen because they met the various conditions of marketing and consignments, resulted in the printing of 540,000 copies of hit works.

    Although sales costs, administrative expenses, and operating costs decreased by 13,600,000,000 yen over the previous year, in terms of profits business operations still posted a loss of 3,791,000,000 yen (compared to losses of approximately 7,500,000,000 yen the previous year) while administrative losses were 1,802,000,000 yen (totaling approximately 6,300,000,000 yen in losses).

    ♦ Some of the book titles are tentative translations. Copyright © 2010 Shinbunka all rights reserved.
    Publishers' Response to the iPad Divided into Aggressive and Conservative Factions

    Both Internet news sites and newspaper pages are buzzing with publishers' responses to the release of the iPad in Japan. The ten-odd companies who comprise the Association of Japanese Electronic Book Publishers were queried by telephone, and irrespective of company size, many responded that they were still studying the situation. On one hand, companies already selling apps for the iPhone are looking into cases where they may also respond to the iPad, with responses at bipolar opposites.

    According to Diamond Inc., "If the Girl Manager of a High School Baseball Team Read Drucker's 'The Practice of Management '" can download this to the iPhone in three sections, and this also sells on the iPad. Similarly Shufunotomo Publishing is preparing to offer a list of 50 practical use books. Shogakukan's "Digital Daijisen" dictionary and the comics of Taiyo Matsumoto are also for sale on the iPad. Future prospects for publishing companies to gradually build up online content are strong.

    A small number of companies such as Kodansha and Diamond are developing apps exclusively for subscription. Although not from a publishing company, the software "iBunkoHD" is an app which can be used to read books at no cost.

    Still, there are few apps available for the sale of both books and magazines online. In the future, as the number of books and magazines increases, if books can be sold as a separate category through a kind of iBookstore, then the potential for electronic books to expand will be even greater.

    ♦ Some of the book titles are tentative translations. Copyright © 2010 Shinbunka all rights reserved.
    AUTHOR'S VOICE

    Vol.18
    interview with
    Yukio Takizawa

    A global red wine boom recently came into full swing after it was clinically proven that the polyphenol found in red wine helped prevent arteriosclerosis by preventing the oxidation of bad cholesterol. Even Japanese sake, which, like red wine, is fermented liquor, has in these recent times gained recognition for its effectiveness in supporting health and beauty. This summer, a book titled "Japanese Sake for Health and Longevity - Settling an Upset of Lifestyle-Related Disease - (tentative title) will be published in the United States. I approached the author, Dr. Yukio Takizawa, who is also a professor emeritus of Akita University in addition to being a doctor of medicine.    Read More

    R E V I E W

    "Fragments"
    by Nanae Aoyama


    Imagine wanting to be connected to someone but also wishing to avoid very deep relationships. Unable to grasp an appropriate sense of personal space, you frequently become incapable of moving at all. Yet rather finding this a horribly detestable, difficult way to live, you actually find it quite pleasant. It is this kind of sensitivity to restrained feelings which flows from the pen of Nanae Aoyama in the fresh, gentle writing style of her collected short stories.

    When her work "Fragments" won the Yasunari Kawabata Literary Prize, Aoyama became the youngest author ever to receive this honor. The story by this name depicts a typical day between an indifferent father and daughter, with no descriptions of affection. Despite this, the world which rises before them emits a special light, and the desire to find the source of this light is what leads one to read this mysterious, complex work again and again.

    Kiriko, a twenty-year-old student no longer living at home, unexpectedly ends up on a one-day cherry-picking tour with her father. To Kiriko, her father lives a dismal existence devoid of contention or harm, but with almost no interests. Their bus tour together is unavoidably awkward. The father is not altogether bad, but this middle-aged man, so utterly clumsy, cannot possibly enjoy a natural conversation with girl Kiriko's age, and their "father-daughter dialogue" takes on the tone of a comic skit. Kiriko's goal is to take pictures on the theme of "fragments," an assignment she has been given in a photography class which she just started taking. Kiriko, who is searching for a photographic subject appropriate for "fragments," views the figure of her father as a man who helps people, and so without thinking she jumps in, accepting the discomfort as if gazing at "a pet who had suddenly mastered human language" ...

    The cherry park offers a mountain view. The mountains are too big to be seen completely, so they appear like fragments of the Alps. Similarly, no matter how close we might become to our family members or lover - possibly even more so the closer we become - in reality all we can see are fragments of each other. This is hinted at repeatedly throughout the story. Through the camera, a device which produces a fragmentary clip of the world, Kiriko is guided into coming to face the beauty and value which cannot be seen in her father's expression. Without realizing it, she accepts her father whom she both knows and does not know, and their relationship which both exists and does not exist, as a valuable treasure.

    In the second story, "The Zelkova Room," the narrator is reticent young man on the brink of marriage. He still clings to the meager memories of a lover from whom he parted four years earlier, although this is not the reason he has remained single. Rather, he wonders why this memory constantly resurfaces. In the end, he breaks suddenly with his girlfriend, but subtle traces of her perfume continue to waft about... It is this moment which makes an impact. In another story, "Mountain Cat," a newly married couple living in Tokyo receive a visit from the wife's cousin, who has come from Iriomete Island to visit potential universities. The story of these three is depicted from the perspective of the husband and wife, whose emotions are rocked by this unsociable cousin with unfathomable thoughts.

    All of these stories ultimately depict people who can only see each other in fragments. If one becomes impatient, and desperately scrapes together all the fragments in hopes of forming a complete whole, the result will be simply exchanges of love and hate crushed into one. But this book smoothly avoids that kind of tumult. The reader will continually find endless encounters with these fragments which sparkle together even as they maintain a delicate sense of distance. The work is carefully shaded in a subtle earnestness and the richness of being together with others in an existence which embraces space.

    Satoko Goto           


    "Fragments" by Nanae Aoyama, published by Shinchosha

    ♦Some of the book titles are tentative translations.
    Copyright © 2010 Dokushojin all rights reserved.


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