The 20th New Delhi World Book Fair




Hello! My name is Koji Chikatani and I am a senior agent at Japanese Writers' House, representing Japanese literary works for the purpose of introducing them to the world. Although this year marks the 60th anniversary of the establishment of India-Japan diplomatic relations, not many in Japan appeared to be aware about the world of Indian publishing (including myself), so I decided to come and see for myself. Here is my report on the 20th New Delhi World Book Fair.

My very first visit to India was full of surprises. Despite the fact that India and Japan enjoy warm diplomatic relations, I found exchanges at the personal level to be considerably lagging behind. Do you know how many Japanese currently reside in India? Only 3,000. There are more than 100,000 Japanese residing in Shanghai alone, even though diplomatic relations between China and Japan have been shaky these past few years due to political issues.

At the venue of the book fair, I rarely saw Japanese attendees or exhibitors; just one or two of them perhaps. This was yet another surprise, especially when I spotted many Western houses present, such as HarperCollins Publishers India, Tata McGraw Hill, and Macmillan Publishers India, etc. They all had large booths and seemed to be attracting much attention. It was quite obvious that India's economy is growing fast and has become a center for growth, which is why many companies abroad naturally wish to establish a foothold in the nation. In fact, I came across one British female writer who made her debut not from a UK publishing house, but from a large Indian publisher and they were hosting a lavish promotional party at their booth. This shows how India is leveraging English, a global language, to step up its international presence.

Most of the latest findings in the fields of science and technology are conveyed via the medium of the English language. In this sense, India has an edge, being able to directly digest such information or directly communicate and spread its own findings to the world. Japan requires a translation process each time it wishes to do the same and this disadvantage is quite critical in this fast-changing and internet-driven era. This applies to the literary scene as well. Haruki Murakami or a few other well-established authors may be known worldwide, but most other Japanese authors remain domestic in their fame and rarely get translated. Undeniably, the language barrier exists.

However, I discovered some seeds of hope during the book fair. I met a young, talented graphic novelist from South India. He excitedly told me how he was carried away when he was younger by The Seven Samurai, one of the timeless cinematic masterpieces directed by the world-renowned director, Akira Kurosawa, a legendary Japanese maestro. This novelist from South India studied film in New York and is currently engaged in various artistic activities including creating graphic novels. He talked nonstop about the latest Japanese anime works, some of which even I wasn’t aware. I also came to know during the book fair that the “Rising Star,” a Japanese baseball manga and anime TV series beloved by Japanese boys growing up in the 1960s and '70s, will be adapted for the Indian market by switching the story’s setting from baseball to cricket. Meanwhile, back in Japan, the Indian SF action movie, Enthiran (The Robot), is making waves and will be shown in theatres soon. These developments fill me with hope, affirming my belief that the passion and enthusiasm for quality contents can overcome barriers. And this affirmation was one of the most valuable findings I made during my stay.

Last, but not least, I would like to congratulate you on the 20th anniversary of the New Delhi World Book Fair with its 40 year-history. Suffice to say, I am very happy to know this biennial event has now turned into an annual event. I have fallen in love with your dynamic, ever-growing country.

Warm regards,

Koji Chikatani
Senior agent
Japanese Writers' House