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, so 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 so, thanks to him, people all over the world are now interested in Japanese literature. We started to see various Japanese writers in bookstores, and as a result, we are more interest in the culture of this country. In due time, the translations of the books of other Japanese writers gained speed and, 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. For this reason, I wanted to prepare a special page for Japanese literature and share my discoveries.
Learning about a country with fiction
One weekend, my friends and I 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 waiting for me after browsing the whole store. 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 of 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 Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea – Yukio Mishima
- Death in Midsummer and Other Stories – Yukio Mishima
- The Guest Cat – Takashi Hiraide
- The Travelling Cat Chronicles – Hiro Arikawa
- The Restaurant of Love Regained – Ito Ogawa
- Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro
- The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
- Kitchen – Banana Yoshimoto
- Asleep – Banana Yoshimoto
- The Lonesome Bodybuilder – Yukiko Motoya
- The Tale of Genji – Murasaki Shikibu
- Rashomon and Other Stories – Ryunosuke Akutagawa
- Convenience Store Women – Sayaka Murata
- Earthlings – Sayaka Murata
- The Little House – Kyoko Nakajima
- Territory of Light – Yuko Tsushima
- A Personal Matter – Kenzaburo Oe
- Tokyo Ueno Station – Yu Miri
- Botchan – Natsume Soseki
- The Friends – Kazumi Yumoto
- The Girl Who Leapt Through Time – Yasutaka Tsutsui
- Twinkle Twinkle – Kaori Ekuni
- I Haven’t Dreamed of Flying for a While – Taichi Yamada
- Sweet Bean Paste – Durian Sukegawa
- Ms Ice Sandwich – Mieko Kawakami
- The Sound of the Mountain – Yasunari Kawabata
- There’s No Such Thing as an Easy Job – Kikuko Tsumura
- Lonely Castle in the Mirror – Mizuki Tsujimura
- Touring the Land of the Dead – Maki Kashimada
- The Pillow Book – Sei Shonagon
- The Beauty of Everyday Things – Soetsu Yanagi
- Goodbye Things: On Minimalist Living – Fumio Sasaki
- The Life-Changing Manga of Tidying Up – Marie Kondo
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. So, there’ll be memoirs, travel books, fiction, non-fiction and many more.
- The Office of Gardens and Ponds – Didier Decoin
- The Buddha in the Attic – Julie Otsuka
- Night Boat – Alan Spence
- Kwaidan – Lafcadio Hearn
- A Tokyo Romance – Ian Buruma
- The Bells of Old Tokyo – Anna Sherman
- Kaizen – Sarah Harvey
- Ikigai – Hector Garcia Puigcerver
- A Year in Japan – Kate T. Williamson
If you still need a little more inspiration, I would recommend Contemporary Japanese Literature. It is my favourite blog out there.