Peter Rabbit enthralls Japanese children


TOKYO -- Japanese children are hooked on Peter Rabbit. The translations of "The Tale of Peter Rabbit" and other children's books written and illustrated by British author Beatrix Potter (1866-1943) are among Japanese children's favorite foreign story books.

"The series, which offers high quality humor, was one that I had always wanted to publish," said Atsuo Saito, director of Fukuinkan Shoten Publishers, which started publishing the series in Japanese in 1971, 40 years after the first translation of Potter's works had been introduced to Japan.

"We were nervous about putting out the book, but it seems to have captured children's imaginations much more firmly than we thought it would," Mr. Saito said.

Since then the company has published 23 Peter Rabbit books, and about 9 million copies have been sold. According to the publisher, the books are probably the most popular series of children's books translated from a foreign language into Japanese.

A set of three books sells for 1,800 yen ($14.20).

Shin'ichi Yoshida, professor of English and children's literature at Japan Women's University, said that while Potter's books are translated into many languages, the Japanese version is probably the most widely read in non-English speaking countries.

Mr. Yoshida says the books are also interesting for adults, because Potter's illustrations and stories are not simply a product of her imagination but are based on detailed observations of the real world.

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