Japan is known for its rich and unique culture, and its literature is no exception. Japanese authors have produced some of the most captivating and thought-provoking works of literature that have captivated readers around the world. From classics to modern works, there is something for everyone to discover in Japanese literature.
In this blog post, we will introduce 10 great books by Japanese authors that you may not have heard of yet, but definitely should add to your reading list.
Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi
In Tokyo’s quaint alleyway, stands a cafe that has catered to the locals for over a century. However, this cafe is no ordinary establishment. It offers its customers a unique experience: the chance to travel back in time.
In the novel, “Before the Coffee Gets Cold,” we meet four characters, each hoping to utilize the time-traveling service provided by the cafe, specifically to bid farewell to their departed loved ones. However, embarking on this journey comes with its risks and repercussions. Travelers must occupy a specific seat, refrain from leaving the cafe, and return before their cup of coffee turns cold.
Chronicle of My Mother by Yasushi Inoue
Yasushi Inoue, a Japanese writer and journalist, recounts his mother’s gradual mental decline and her final nine years of life through three literary works in this novel. In vivid detail, Inoue depicts how his mother regresses into childhood, gradually losing her memories of her life and loved ones.
This poignant story is a timeless reminder of the bitter reality that every individual must face: the painful experience of watching their loved ones’ lives slip away.
Goodreads: “It is a story as old as the world itself.”
Strange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami
At a local bar, Tsukiko, a thirty-seven-year-old single woman, meet an elegant and reclusive man twice her age, who she quickly recognizes as her former Japanese teacher from high school. As they renew their acquaintance, they find that they share mutual interests and begin to spend time together, sharing meals and engaging in deep conversations. As they continue to meet, their bond strengthens, and they develop a deep affection for each other through small gestures and shared experiences.
This novel is a beautiful portrayal of the transformative power of love and human connection. Through the lens of a story about two individuals overcoming loneliness, the narrative showcases how love defies age and transcends time.
Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
This novel is a nostalgic story about loss and sexuality.
The story is narrated by its protagonist, Toru Watanabe, who evokes the time when he entered university and lived in Tokyo. Through his memories, the reader witnesses the development of his relationships with two very different women: Naoko, a girl with a turbulent emotional life; and Midori, the sociable and lively one.
The story takes place in Tokyo in the late 1960s, a historical moment when Japanese students, like many others in different countries, were involved in protests against the established order. These protests are the backdrop against which the novel takes place.
Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata
The shop assistant tells the story of Keiko, a woman in her 30s, who works part-time as an employee in a konbini (micromarket open 24 hours a day). She has never had a boyfriend or another job.
This novel tells of the social pressures that single women experience in Japan, especially from the gaze of others. Her family, her friends, and her co-workers insist on reminding her that she should look for a respectable man , a decent job, and have children “before it is too late “.
Earthlings by Sayaka Murata
This novel, by the author of “Convenience Store Woman” , tells the story of Natsuki, a peculiar girl who is different: she has a wand and a transforming mirror. She could be a witch or an alien from another planet.
Together with her cousin Yuu, Natuski spends her summers dreaming of other worlds in the wild mountains of Nagano, until a terrifying sequence of events threatens to tear them apart. But they made a promise: to survive at all costs .
Never let me go by Kazuo Ishiguro
Hailsham appears to be a good English boarding school, far from the influences of the big city. The school teaches its students art and literature and everything necessary for them to become the type of person that society expects. But at Hailsham nothing is taught about the outside world, a world with which almost all contact is forbidden.
Kathy and her friends Ruth and Tommy grow up indifferent to the rest of the world. In this dystopian place, some people are specially created to donate organs.
The remains of the day by Kazuo Ishiguro
This novel is a classic of literature and also has a big screen adaptation starring Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson.
In this story about lost time, an elderly butler, solitary and perfectionist, who works for a millionaire, begins a journey of inner discovery. As he looks back, he remembers the years he spent working at Darlington Hall with the rest of the servants, especially with her, the housekeeper, whom he was in love with all that time.
Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto
When her grandmother dies, young Mikage is left completely alone in a house that is too big, and she takes refuge in the kitchen. Only there does she feel safe. “The place where you sleep best is next to the refrigerator,” she confesses. But one day a miracle occurs: Yuichi, a boy, knocks on her door and suggests that she come live with him and his mother, Eriko. In this way, the three of them form an improvised family, through life’s tragedies.
Journey Under The Midnight Sun by Keigo Higashino
Journey Under The Midnight Sun is a thriller and mystery novel.
It tells us the case of Yosuke Kirihara, a man who is found dead in an abandoned building in 1973 in Osaka. In parallel, we get to know the detective in charge for the past twenty years and his obsession with solving this crime; and we also learn about the lives and perspectives of the two main suspects – both under 18 years old.
Not only is it a great intriguing novel, but it is also very detailed and adds great descriptions of Japan’s most important cities: Tokyo and Osaka.