Kodansha was founded by Seiji Noma in 1909 as a spin-off of the Dai-Nippon Yūbenkai (Greater Japan Oratorical Society). Its first publication was the literary magazine Yūben. The name Kodansha was taken from Kōdan Club, a now defunct magazine published by the company, and was first used in 1911 when the publisher formally merged with the Dai-Nippon Yūbenkai. The company's current legal name has been in use since 1958. Its motto is "Omoshirokute tame ni naru" (To be interesting and beneficial).
The company also owns the Otowa Group, which manages subsidiary companies such as King Records and Kobunsha, and publishes Nikkan Gendai, a daily tabloid. It also has close ties with The Walt Disney Company and is an official sponsor of Tokyo Disneyland. Kodansha also sponsors the prestigious Kodansha Manga Award, which has run in its current form since 1977 (under other names since 1960).
Kodansha was long considered the largest publisher in Japan, and at one point yearly revenues were over 200 billion JPY. However, due to the recent Japanese recession and accompanying downturn in the publishing industry, revenues have dropped and Shogakukan is now a rival. Kodansha also sponsors the prestigious Kodansha Manga Award, which has run in its current form since 1977 (since 1960 under other names).
The company is a stockholder in various broadcasters across Japan, and is believed to hold 20% of the TBS Group's stock. It also holds stock in Nippon Cultural Broadcasting, along with Kobunsha. In the recent Nippon Broadcasting System takeover war between Livedoor and Fuji TV, Kodansha supported Fuji TV by selling their stock to them.
Analysis & Key Developments
Kondansha’s revenues remained almost flat for fiscal 2016 at 117.3 billion JPY against 116.8 billion JPY in 2015.
Konadnsha’s books, comics, magazines, TV and movie adaptations, and merchandise are available in over 40 countries around the world. Major licensing partners are South Korea (8.3%), Taiwan (8.5%), France (14.3%), China (17.2%) and the US (24.5%).
Kodansha Europe is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Kodansha publishing group. Set up in 1990, one of Kodansha Europe’s principle roles has been the import and sale of Kodansha’s books in English on Japanese culture. Two more publishers were added in 2011: HPH Publishing (South Africa); and Niyogi Books, which specializes in Indian culture.
Almost 90% of Kondansha books (excluding children’s books) and comics are available in electronic format. The company aims to release print and electronic editions of magazines simultaneously in Japan and overseas. Kondansha also publishes the popular manga series Attak on Titan in English, French, Korean, and Chinese on the same day they are released in Japan as e-comics.
In a challenging overall environment for book publishing in Japan, Kodansha has been successful with its bunko (light) novels.