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2019.01.12 Japanese Empress’ Favorite British Classic Gains Sudden Popularity
This past October, a Japanese publisher tweeted, “Her Majesty’s beloved Jeeves series, is getting scarce. Be sure to pick one up soon” which started buzzing on the internet. It came from Kokusho Kanko-Kai which publishes the “Casebook of Jeeves” series. Since then, the books became an overnight megahit in Japan.

It started when Empress Michiko answered some questions at her last birthday celebration as the empress. She was asked by a reporter what she planned to do after retirement, and she replied, “There’s been a book series I’ve sought to read for a long time, that I have left untouched for years. I am looking forward to taking time to read each and every one.” She also said, “When I read them, I get completely hooked and can’t do anything else, so up until now I’ve kept away from them. But after retirement I can easily keep them on hand. I’ve got two or three volumes standing by.”

The book series she is referring to is a collection of novels written by the famous 20th century British author, P.G. Wodehouse, affectionately referred to as the “Jeeves series”, about the industrious and clever butler Jeeves, who is always getting his carefree master Bertie out of trouble. They are as popular in the UK as the Sherlock Holmes series. Kokusho had published all 14 books in Japanese between 2005 and 2012, though they were much less known in Japan and the sales was struggling. However, their telephones would not stop ringing the first business day after the Empress spoke about the series. Bungei Shunju, another Japanese publisher with several of Jeeves books also retweeted the Kokusho’s tweet, noting “We have some of them too with Bunshun Bunko edition!”

This sudden burst of popularity shows how impressive the role of celebrities can be in modern day Japan. It certainly gave many Japanese an opportunity to discover lesser-known British classics. How would you like to pick up a copy today?