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Author claims publisher cut ties after he criticized book by writer close to Japan PM

Author Yasumi Tsuhara (Photo courtesy of Yasumi Tsuhara)

TOKYO -- A publisher that was going to put out the paperback edition of a book by author Yasumi Tsuhara backpedaled on its plans after Tsuhara attacked right-wing writer Naoki Hyakuta's recent book, also published by the same company, and accused him of plagiarism, Tsuhara alleges.

Tsuhara's novel, "Hicky Hicky Shake," which was to be issued in paperback form by publishing house Gentosha Inc., was first published in 2016 in hardcover and was shortlisted for the Oda Sakunosuke Prize.

Following the publication of Hyakuta's "Nihon Kokuki" by Gentosha in November of last year, Tsuhara criticized it as "a book praising one's own country filled with copy-and-pasted excerpts from the web."

Hyakuta's book had been hailed by Gentosha as "the ultimate overview of Japanese history that our generation's best storyteller is putting out into the world in the last year of the Heisei era." It has striking historical revisionist characteristics, including the denial that the Nanking Massacre ever happened. Scattered throughout are expressions of praise for Japan, such as in the foreword, which says, "There is no other country that has such an extraordinary history as Japan." The book also includes the active promotion of constitutional revision, along the same lines as Hyakuta's sworn ally Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, with whom he has published a book in the form of a dialogue between the two men.

"Nihon Kokuki" has no bibliography, which history books usually include, and many parts of it closely resemble excerpts from Wikipedia and newspaper columns. Soon after the book went on sale, the internet lit up with suspicions that portions of the book were copy-and-pasted from other sources. Since the book's publication, Tsuhara had addressed the "copy-and-paste" scandal on Twitter, about which he says, "As an author who also puts out books from Gentosha, I simply recommended that Mr. Hyakuta apologize to the public."

"Nihon Kokuki" by Naoki Hyakuta. (Mainichi)

Tsuhara told the Mainichi Shimbun that in early January this year, he suddenly received an email from his editor at Gentosha that said, "My colleagues are giving me disapproving looks over your tweets (about "Nihon Kokuki"), and it has put me in a very uncomfortable position at work." The email asked for Tsuhara to be "considerate" of the editor's "predicament" and requested an opportunity to discuss the issue, so the author gave the editor a call. It was then that he was told that "staff from the sales and marketing department are saying 'they cannot cooperate (with Mr. Tsuhara).'" Tsuhara said he then asked his editor, "Do you mean to say that there's no point in publishing the book at Gentosha? What specifically do you want from me?" to which the editor replied, "I'll think about it." The phone call ended there.

Late that afternoon, however, Tsuhara was suddenly informed by his editor that publication of the paperback edition of his novel was off the table via an email that said, "There's no choice but to give up," and that "nothing good may come out of forcing through the publication of your paperback."

Once Gentosha pulled out, publication of the paperback edition of "Hicky Hicky Shake" was momentarily up in the air. But it caught the eye of a Hayakawa Publishing Corp. editor, and is now slated to go on sale from the Hayakawa Bunko JA imprint on June 6.

The Hayakawa Publishing editor tweeted May 14, "It is true that I felt an emotion not unlike indignation, that there should not be a situation in which this book does not make it out into the world in paperback form."

So are Tsuhara's claims true? He told the Mainichi that he didn't understand why Gentosha was lying, since he never asked for the paperback publication to be canceled, and had proof in the form of an email in which his former editor at Gentosha wrote "There's no choice but to give up" -- which he posted to a tweet on May 16. Meanwhile, a Gentosha representative told the Mainichi, "Mr. Tsuhara's claim that we unilaterally rescinded plans to publish the paperback is untrue." But the publisher also admitted to urging Tsuhara to stop criticizing Hyakuta's "Nihon Kokuki," saying, "It was early this year that we contacted Mr. Tsuhara about the vast number of tweets he'd written about 'Nihon Kokuki' and told him, 'As you might expect, this puts us in a difficult position.'"

According to Gentosha, in subsequent communications between Tsuhara and his editor via phone and other means, it was Tsuhara who suggested, "If we can't maintain integrity between our respective philosophies regarding publishing, then we should cancel publication (of the paperback edition) and part ways."

But according to Tsuhara, it was a Gentosha employee who wrote in an email to an associate of Tsuhara's who was also involved in the publication of the paperback that the reason the project was shelved was because "the company's philosophy on publishing and Mr. Tsuhara's philosophy on writing could not be reconciled." Yet, the email made no mention of Tsuhara having requested that the project be aborted.

(Japanese original by Kenichi Omura, Integrated Digital News Center)

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