Japan’s Top 10 Bestselling Books in 2021, According to Nippan
Every year, Nippan (Nippon Shuppan Hanbai Inc.) publishes and reports on the bestselling books of the year, based on point-of-sale data collected from 3,000 bookstores nationwide.
Nippan is Japan’s largest wholesale distributor of books, serving as the middleman between publishers and sellers, including Rakuten Books, Amazon Japan, and other online book retailers.
While many bestselling book lists are published at year’s end in Japan, the two that are widely considered definitive is Nippan’s list and another annually published list by Tohon.
(Naturally, if you’re a far-gone bibliophile 😏 then you might prefer yearly award lists to inform your to-be-read book pile. So, just for you, we’re including other noteworthy book ranking lists 🏆 at the end of the article.)
But, back to Nippan’s 2021 bestseller list: here you get a window into what readers in Japan were buying during Japan’s second pandemic year.
Let’s take a look at the books themselves.
Note: Nippan’s bestseller list is based on data collected from November 24, 2020 to November 21, 2021.
Hitowa hanashikata ga kyu wari (trans.: People are 90% how they talk)
Author: 永松茂久 Nagamatsu Shigehisa
Publish date: September 2019
The tagline states: “How to move people in one minute and get them to like you 100% of the time.” Focusing on communication tips, Nippan attributes the book’s popularity to readers searching for actions to solve the decline in face-to-face communication brought on by COVID restrictions and the resulting communication issues in the workplace and with friends and family. According to Nippan’s figures, a total of 850,000 copies were sold in 2021.
Sumaho no (trans.: Smartphone brain)
Author: Anders Hansen
Publish date: November 2020
A translation of Skärmhjärnan by Swedish psychiatrist Anders Hansen took second place in Nippan’s bestseller ranking. With the increased use of smartphones during Japan’s self-restraint period due to the pandemic, along with increased efforts toward the digitization of society as a whole, this book was a popular choice for those interested in the psychological effects of digital tools.
Oshi, moyu (trans.: stan, burn)
Author: 宇佐見りん Rin Usami
Publish date: September 2020
A novel about a high school girl whose life’s purpose is to recommend idols. The book sold 520,000 copies, according to Nippan. The author of the novel, Rin Usami, became the third youngest person ever to win the 164th Akutagawa Prize 芥川賞 at the age of 21.
Hoshihitomi no tenseijutsu (trans.: Hoshi Hitomi's astrology)
Author: 星ひとみ Hitomi Hoshi
Publish date: December 2020
Hitomi Hoshi, a TV personality, has originated her own fortune-telling method, detailed in this bestselling book. Hoshi is a host on Fuji TV’s show: 「突然ですが占ってもいいですか？」 (trans. This is sudden, but can I tell you your fortune?) where she provides astrological guidance and her appraisals of musicians, idols, comedians, and other people in various fields often become trending topics.
Hontou no jiyuu wo te ni ireru okane no daigaku (trans.: The money university for real freedom)
Author: 両＠リベ大学長 Ryou @ Ribedaigakuchou
Publish date: June 2020
Ryougakuchou is the username of a well-known YouTuber in Japan who teaches and explains wealth concepts and strategies on his channel where he has 1.7 million subscribers. The popularity of his book is likely an indication of those who used the pandemic’s self-restraint measures to look for ways to reinvest in themselves and build wealth.
52 herutsu no kujiratachi (trans.: 52 hertz whales)
Author: 町田そのこ Sonoko Machida
Publisher: 中央公論新社 Publish date: April 2020
A heart-warming story that deals with domestic violence, abuse, and the difficulties transgenders face. Winner of the 2021 Honya Taisho prize 本屋大賞 and many other awards. The title refers to an unidentified whale that is famous for its song that is at a frequency inaudible to other whales, often described as the world’s loneliest whale. “52 hertz whales” serves as a metaphor for the characters in the novel who are often overlooked in society.
Kimetsu no yaiba nuriechou (coloring book)
Author: 吾峠呼世晴 Koyoharu Gotouge
Publish date: March 2021
In December 2020, the final volume of Kimetsu no yaiba was released where it instantly hit No.1 in sales charts due to the manga’s persistent popularity. This coloring book that features definitive scenes and characters from Kimetsu no yaiba clinched 7th place in the all-categories bestseller list. The installment “Kimetsu no yaiba: kaze no michishirube”『鬼滅の刃 風の道しるべ』, which was published in July 2020 came in 20th place.
Himitsu no hou (trans.: the secret law)
Author: 大川隆法 Ryuho Okawa
Publish date: January 2021
Himitsu no hou by the founder of Happy Science made it to 8th place on Nippan’s bestseller list (and all-around No.1 bestseller on Tohon). The religion and principles taught by Ryuho Okawa are seen as cult-like, both within Japan and abroad, so we’re a little taken aback this made the list, but it appears that his teachings have an audience significant enough to influence sales lists.
Yokeina hitokoto wo sukareru serifu ni kaeru iikae zukan (trans.: A picture book of phrases to turn an unwanted word into a well-liked line)
Author: 大野萌子, Moeko Ohno
Publish date: August 2020
Here’s the second book on communication themes that made the top 10 list. The author promises that when you learn how to communicate in a positive manner, you will be able to make a good impression and build a trusting relationship. In this book, readers are introduced to 141 examples of how to turn an "idle word" into a "well-liked line.”
10. 呪術廻戦 逝く夏と還る秋
Jujutsu kaisen, yuku natsu to kaeru aki (trans.: Jujutsu kaisen: The Passing Summer and the Returning Autumn)
Four books based on serializations published in Weekly Shonen Jump magazine made it to Nippan’s list of top 20 bestselling books nationwide, including the previously mentioned Kimetsu no yaiba coloring book, which came in 7th place.
"Jujutsu Kaisen: The Passing Summer and the Returning Autumn" came in 10th, and "Jujutsu Kaisen: yoakeno ibara michi”『呪術廻戦 夜明けのいばら道』was 19th and “Kimetsu no yaiba: kaze no michishirube”『鬼滅の刃 風の道しるべ』was 20th.
Addendum for far-gone bibliophiles of Japanese books
As promised, here are more places to search for your next reading adventure 📚🏕️
Amazon’s bestselling books list (updated hourly; not a cumulative year ranking, but interesting viewing nonetheless)
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