Japanese literature entered my life years ago in a way I didn’t expect. A friend of mine, who is now a publisher, told me that I look and feel like Murakami’s women. I did not understand what he meant since I didn’t know who Haruki Murakami was. To understand if it was a compliment or an insult, I ordered one of his books and started reading. To be honest, I still don’t understand if what he said was a compliment or not, but his words changed my life. There was a new and exciting world for me to discover page by page.
If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood
We wouldn’t be exaggerating if we say that Haruki Murakami jazzed up the literary world and thanks to him, people all over the world are now interested in Japanese literature. We started to see various Japanese writers in bookstores, and to show more interest in the culture of this country. As the translations of the books of other Japanese writers gained speed, it turned out that Japanese literature is an amazing land to be discovered. While some have just read Haruki Murakami and done with Japanese literature, others, like me, are trying to explore every corner of this new world, to read all writers from classics to modern ones. That’s why I wanted to prepare a special page for Japanese literature and share my discoveries.
Learning about a country with fiction
One weekend, me and my friends went to one of London’s biggest bookstores. I don’t know how much time I spent in the Japan section on the lower floor, but they were finished browsing the whole bookstore and waiting for me. One said, “Elif, you are learning about Japan only by reading books, I think it’s deeper and more beautiful than just travelling around the country, don’t you think?” To be honest, I never believe that reading is enough if we are talking about learning about a country and it’s culture. But I have seen that I am much more familiar with the culture of this country than most people. And yes, it is somehow more profound than just travelling and taking photos.
The thing is, I don’t read to learn about the culture or the country, I read because Japanese literature suits me. It is nothing like I’ve read before and it makes me want to read more. Learning about this country and its exciting culture is just one of the perks. It is a magical land to be discovered with all its ups and downs, I want you to join the expedition as well.
Books from Japanese authors
- The Guest Cat – Takashi Hiraide
- The Travelling Cat Chronicles – Hiro Arikawa
- The Restaurant of Love Regained – Ito Ogawa
- Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro
- Kitchen – Banana Yoshimoto
- The Lonesome Bodybuilder – Yukiko Motoya
- The Tale of Genji – Murasaki Shikibu
- Asleep – Banana Yoshimoto
- Rashomon and Other Stories – Ryunosuke Akutagawa
- Convenience Store Women – Sayaka Murata
- The Little House – Kyoko Nakajima
Novels and Books on Japanese Literature and Culture
In this section, I will list every book I read about Japan written by authors of any other nationality. There’ll be memoirs, travel books, fiction, non-fiction and many more.
If you need a little more inspiration, I would recommend Contemporary Japanese Literature. It is my favourite blog out there.