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The Best Japanese Literature & Fiction Books

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“What are the best Japanese Literature & Fiction?” We looked at 105 of the top books, aggregating and ranking them so we could answer that very question!

The top 50 titles, all appearing on 2 or more “Best Japanese Literature” book lists, are ranked below by how many lists they appear on. The remaining 50+ titles, as well as the lists we used are in alphabetical order at the bottom of the page.

Happy Scrolling!



Top 50 Japanese Literature Books



50 .) After Dark by Haruki Murakami

Lists It Appears On:

  • Goodreads 1
  • Goodreads 2

At its center are two sisters—Eri, a fashion model slumbering her way into oblivion, and Mari, a young student soon led from solitary reading at an anonymous Denny’s toward people whose lives are radically alien to her own: a jazz trombonist who claims they’ve met before, a burly female “love hotel” manager and her maid staff, and a Chinese prostitute savagely brutalized by a businessman. These “night people” are haunted by secrets and needs that draw them together more powerfully than the differing circumstances that might keep them apart, and it soon becomes clear that Eri’s slumber—mysteriously tied to the businessman plagued by the mark of his crime—will either restore or annihilate her.

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49 .) All She Was Worth by Miyuki Miyabe

Lists It Appears On:

  • Barnes & Noble
  • Asia Books

Here is a deftly written thriller that is also a “deep and moody” (NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW) journey through the dark side of Japan’s consumer-crazed society. Ordinary people plunge into insurmountable personal debt and fall prey to dangerous webs of underground creditors-so dangerous, in fact, that murder may be the only way out. A beautiful young woman vanishes, and the detective quickly finds she is not whom she claims to be. Is she a victim, a killer, or both? In a country that tracks its citizens at every turn, how can two women claim the same identity and then disappear without a trace?

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48 .) Almost Transparent Blue by Ryu Murakami

Lists It Appears On:

  • Bachelors Degree Online
  • The Culture Trip

Almost Transparent Blue is a brutal tale of lost youth in a Japanese port town close to an American military base. Murakami?s image-intensive narrative paints a portrait of a group of friends locked in a destructive cycle of sex, drugs and rock?n?roll. The novel is all but plotless, but the raw and often violent prose takes us on a rollercoaster ride through reality and hallucination, highs and lows, in which the characters and their experiences come vividly to life. Trapped in passivity, they gain neither passion nor pleasure from their adventures. Yet out of the alienation, boredom and underlying rage and grief emerges a strangely quiet and almost equally shocking beauty.

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47 .) Asleep by Banana Yoshimoto

Lists It Appears On:

  • Asia Books
  • Flashlight Worthy Books

Banana Yoshimoto has a magical ability to animate the lives of her young characters, and here she spins the stories of three women, all bewitched into a spiritual sleep. One, mourning a lost lover, finds herself sleepwalking at night. Another, who has embarked on a relationship with a man whose wife is in a coma, finds herself suddenly unable to stay awake. A third finds her sleep haunted by another woman whom she was once pitted against in a love triangle. Sly and mystical as a ghost story, with a touch of Kafkaesque surrealism, Asleep is an enchanting book from one of the best writers in contemporary international fiction.

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46 .) Audition by Ryū Murakami

Lists It Appears On:

  • Goodreads 1
  • Japan Info

In this gloriously over-the-top tale, Aoyama, a widower who has lived alone with his son ever since his wife died seven years before, finally decides it is time to remarry. Since Aoyama is a bit rusty when it comes to dating, a filmmaker friend proposes that, in order to attract the perfect wife, they do a casting call for a movie they don’t intend to produce. As the résumés pile up, only one of the applicants catches Aoyama’s attention―Yamasaki Asami―a striking young former ballerina with a mysterious past. Blinded by his instant and total infatuation, Aoyama is too late in discovering that she is a far cry from the innocent young woman he imagines her to be. The novel’s fast-paced, thriller conclusion doesn’t spare the reader as Yamasaki takes off her angelic mask and reveals what lies beneath.

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45 .) Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman by Haruki Murakami

Lists It Appears On:

  • Goodreads 1
  • Goodreads 2

From the bestselling author of Kafka on the Shore and The Wind-up Bird Chronicles comes this superb collection of twenty-four stories that generously expresses Murakami’s mastery of the form. From the surreal to the mundane, these stories exhibit his ability to transform the full range of human experience in ways that are instructive, surprising, and relentlessly entertaining.

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44 .) Confessions of a Mask by Yukio Mishima

Lists It Appears On:

  • Goodreads 1
  • Goodreads 2

This autobiographical novel, regarded as Mis hima”s finest book, is the haunting story of a Japanese boy” s development towards homosexuality during and after the Sec ond World War ‘

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43 .) Dance Dance Dance by Haruki Murakami

Lists It Appears On:

  • Goodreads 1
  • Goodreads 2

High-class call girls billed to Mastercard. A psychic 13-year-old dropout with a passion for Talking Heads. A hunky matinee idol doomed to play dentists and teachers. A one-armed beach-combing poet, an uptight hotel clerk and one very bemused narrator caught in the web of advanced capitalist mayhem. Combine this offbeat cast of characters with Murakami’s idiosyncratic prose and out comes Dance Dance Dance.

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42 .) Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami

Lists It Appears On:

  • Goodreads 1
  • Goodreads 2

In this hyperkinetic and relentlessly inventive novel, Japan’s most popular (and controversial) fiction writer hurtles into the consciousness of the West. Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World draws readers into a narrative particle accelerator in which a split-brained data processor, a deranged scientist, his shockingly undemure granddaughter, Lauren Bacall, Bob Dylan, and various thugs, librarians, and subterranean monsters collide to dazzling effect. What emerges is simultaneously cooler than zero and unaffectedly affecting, a hilariously funny and deeply serious meditation on the nature and uses of the mind.

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41 .) Hotel Iris by Yōko Ogawa

Lists It Appears On:

  • Goodreads 1
  • Asia Books

In a crumbling seaside hotel on the coast of Japan, quiet seventeen-year-old Mari works the front desk as her mother tends to the off-season customers. When one night they are forced to expel a middle-aged man and a prostitute from their room, Mari finds herself drawn to the man’s voice, in what will become the first gesture of a single long seduction. In spite of her provincial surroundings, and her cool but controlling mother, Mari is a sophisticated observer of human desire, and she sees in this man something she has long been looking for.

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40 .) In the Miso Soup by Ryū Murakami

Lists It Appears On:

  • Goodreads 1
  • Goodreads 2

From postmodern Renaissance man Ryu Murakami, master of the psychothriller and director of Tokyo Decadence, comes this hair-raising roller-coaster ride through the nefarious neon-lit world of Tokyo’s sex industry. In the Miso Soup tells of Frank, an overweight American tourist who has hired Kenji to take him on a guided tour of Tokyo’s sleazy nightlife. But Frank’s behavior is so strange that Kenji begins to entertain a horrible suspicion—that his new client is in fact the serial killer currently terrorizing the city. It is not until later, however, that Kenji learns exactly how much he has to fear and how irrevocably his encounter with this great white whale of an American will change his life.

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39 .) Japanese Tales from Times Past: Stories of Fantasy and Folklore from the Konjaku Monogatari Shu by Konjaku Monogatari Shu

Lists It Appears On:

  • Bachelors Degree Online
  • Kyuhoshi

“This collection of traditional Japanese folklore is akin to the Canterbury Tales of Chaucer or Dante’s Inferno—powerfully entertaining tales that reveal striking aspects of the cultural psychology, fantasy, and creativity of medieval Japan—tales that still resonate with modern Japanese readers today.

The ninety stories in this book are filled with keen psychological insights, wry sarcasm, and scarcely veiled criticisms of the clergy, nobles, and peasants alike—suggesting that there are, among all classes and peoples, similar failings of pride, vanity, superstition and greed—as well as aspirations toward higher moral goals. “

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38 .) Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

Lists It Appears On:

  • Asia Books
  • Goodreads 2

A literary sensation and runaway bestseller, this brilliant debut novel tells with seamless authenticity and exquisite lyricism the true confessions of one of Japan’s most celebrated geisha. Nominated as one of America’s best-loved novels by PBS’s The Great American Read Speaking to us with the wisdom of age and in a voice at once haunting and startlingly immediate, Nitta Sayuri tells the story of her life as a geisha. It begins in a poor fishing village in 1929, when, as a nine-year-old girl with unusual blue-gray eyes, she is taken from her home and sold into slavery to a renowned geisha house. We witness her transformation as she learns the rigorous arts of the geisha: dance and music; wearing kimono, elaborate makeup, and hair; pouring sake to reveal just a touch of inner wrist; competing with a jealous rival for men’s solicitude and the money that goes with it. In Memoirs of a Geisha, we enter a world where appearances are paramount; where a girl’s virginity is auctioned to the highest bidder; where women are trained to beguile the most powerful men; and where love is scorned as illusion. It is a unique and triumphant work of fiction—at once romantic, erotic, suspenseful—and completely unforgettable.

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37 .) Naomi by Jun’ichirō Tanizaki

Lists It Appears On:

  • Asia Books
  • Goodreads 1

When twenty-eight-year-old Joji first lays eyes upon the teenage waitress Naomi, he is instantly smitten by her exotic, almost Western appearance. Determined to transform her into the perfect wife and to whisk her away from the seamy underbelly of post-World War I Tokyo, Joji adopts and ultimately marries Naomi, paying for English and music lessons that promise to mold her into his ideal companion. But as she grows older, Joji discovers that Naomi is far from the naïve girl of his fantasies. And, in Tanizaki’s masterpiece of lurid obsession, passion quickly descends into comically helpless masochism.

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36 .) Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Lists It Appears On:

  • Flashlight Worthy Books
  • Japan Info

As children Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy were students at Hailsham, an exclusive boarding school secluded in the English countryside. It was a place of mercurial cliques and mysterious rules where teachers were constantly reminding their charges of how special they were. Now, years later, Kathy is a young woman. Ruth and Tommy have reentered her life. And for the first time she is beginning to look back at their shared past and understand just what it is that makes them special—and how that gift will shape the rest of their time together. Suspenseful, moving, beautifully atmospheric, Never Let Me Go is modern classic.

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35 .) No Longer Human by Osamu Dazai

Lists It Appears On:

  • Goodreads 1
  • Goodreads 2

Portraying himself as a failure, the protagonist of Osamu Dazai’s No Longer Human narrates a seemingly normal life even while he feels himself incapable of understanding human beings. Oba Yozo’s attempts to reconcile himself to the world around him begin in early childhood, continue through high school, where he becomes a “clown” to mask his alienation, and eventually lead to a failed suicide attempt as an adult. Without sentimentality, he records the casual cruelties of life and its fleeting moments of human connection and tenderness.

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34 .) Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

Lists It Appears On:

  • Goodreads 1
  • Goodreads 2

Toru, a quiet and preternaturally serious young college student in Tokyo, is devoted to Naoko, a beautiful and introspective young woman, but their mutual passion is marked by the tragic death of their best friend years before. Toru begins to adapt to campus life and the loneliness and isolation he faces there, but Naoko finds the pressures and responsibilities of life unbearable. As she retreats further into her own world, Toru finds himself reaching out to others and drawn to a fiercely independent and sexually liberated young woman.

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33 .) Ring by Kōji Suzuki

Lists It Appears On:

  • Flashlight Worthy Books
  • Goodreads 1

Asakawa, a hardworking journalist, is intrigued by his niece’s inexplicable death. His investigation leads him from a metropolitan tokyo teeming with modern society’s fears to a rural Japan–a mountain resort, a volcanic island, and a countryside clinic–haunted by the past. His attempt to solve the tape’s mystery before it’s too late–for everyone–assumes an increasingly deadly urgency. Ring is a chillingly told horror story, a masterfully suspenseful mystery, and post-modern trip.

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32 .) South of the Border, West of the Sun by Haruki Murakami

Lists It Appears On:

  • Goodreads 1
  • Goodreads 2

Growing up in the suburbs in post-war Japan, it seemed to Hajime that everyone but him had brothers and sisters. His sole companion was Shimamoto, also an only child. Together they spent long afternoons listening to her father’s record collection. But when his family moved away, the two lost touch. Now Hajime is in his thirties. After a decade of drifting he has found happiness with his loving wife and two daughters, and success running a jazz bar. Then Shimamoto reappears. She is beautiful, intense, enveloped in mystery. Hajime is catapulted into the past, putting at risk all he has in the present.

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31 .) Spring Snow by Yukio Mishima

Lists It Appears On:

  • Goodreads 1
  • Goodreads 2

Tokyo, 1912. The closed world of the ancient aristocracy is being breached for the first time by outsiders – rich provincial families, a new and powerful political and social elite. Kiyoaki has been raised among the elegant Ayakura family – members of the waning aristocracy – but he is not one of them. Coming of age, he is caught up in the tensions between old and new, and his feelings for the exquisite, spirited Satoko, observed from the sidelines by his devoted friend Honda. When Satoko is engaged to a royal prince, Kiyoaki realises the magnitude of his passion.

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30 .) Takekurabe by Higuchi Ichiyo

Lists It Appears On:

  • Bachelors Degree Online
  • Kyuhoshi

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29 .) Taketori Monogatari

Lists It Appears On:

  • Bachelors Degree Online
  • Kyuhoshi

“A Gentle Introduction to Japanese Literature

Taketori Monogatari is the classic tale of the mysterious moon-child Kaguyahime and the unsettling effect that she has on the lives of all those around her.

The story is one of the earliest surviving works of Japanese literary fiction and in this edition it has been interpreted for modern readers by a specialist in ancient texts, Dr. Mankichi Wada.

It is written in a straightforward, elegant style and although the premise of the tale is fantastic, the characters and the situations in which they find themselves are described with realism, pathos and humor.”

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28 .) The Changeling by Kenzaburo Oe

Lists It Appears On:

  • Barnes & Noble
  • Japan Info

In The Changeling, Nobel Prize–winning author Kenzaburo Oe takes readers from the forests of southern Japan to the washed-out streets of Berlin as he investigates the impact our real and imagined pasts have on our lives. Writer Kogito Choko is in his sixties when he rekindles a childhood friendship with his estranged brother-in-law, the renowned filmmaker Goro Hanawa. As part of their correspondence, Goro sends Kogito a trunk of tapes he has recorded of reflections about their friendship. But as Kogito is listening one night, he hears something odd. “I’m going to head over to the Other Side now,” Goro says, and then Kogito hears a loud thud. After a moment of silence, Goro’s voice continues, “But don’t worry, I’m not going to stop communicating with you.” Moments later, Kogito’s wife rushes in; Goro has jumped to his death from the roof of a building. With that, Kogito begins a far-ranging search to understand what drove his brother-in-law to suicide. The quest takes him to Berlin, where he confronts ghosts from both his own past, and that of his lifelong, but departed, friend.

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27 .) The Diving Pool: Three Novellas by Yōko Ogawa

Lists It Appears On:

  • The Culture Trip
  • Goodreads 1

“From Akutagawa Award-winning author Yoko Ogawa comes a haunting trio of novellas about love, fertility, obsession, and how even the most innocent gestures may contain a hairline crack of cruel intent.

A lonely teenage girl falls in love with her foster brother as she watches him leap from a high diving board into a pool–a peculiar infatuation that sends unexpected ripples through her life.

A young woman records the daily moods of her pregnant sister in a diary, taking meticulous note of a pregnancy that may or may not be a hallucination–but whose hallucination is it, hers or her sister’s?

A woman nostalgically visits her old college dormitory on the outskirts of Tokyo, a boarding house run by a mysterious triple amputee with one leg.”

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26 .) The Elephant Vanishes by Haruki Murakami

Lists It Appears On:

  • Goodreads 1
  • Goodreads 2

With the same deadpan mania and genius for dislocation that he brought to his internationally acclaimed novels A Wild Sheep Chase and Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, Haruki Murakami makes this collection of stories a determined assault on the normal. A man sees his favorite elephant vanish into thin air; a newlywed couple suffers attacks of hunger that drive them to hold up a McDonald’s in the middle of the night; and a young woman discovers that she has become irresistible to a little green monster who burrows up through her backyard.

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25 .) The Lake by Banana Yoshimoto

Lists It Appears On:

  • Asia Books
  • Goodreads 1

“While The Lake shows off many of the features that have made Banana Yoshimoto famous—a cast of vivid and quirky characters, simple yet nuanced prose, a tight plot with an upbeat pace—it’s also one of the most darkly mysterious books she’s ever written.

It tells the tale of a young woman who moves to Tokyo after the death of her mother, hoping to get over her grief and start a career as a graphic artist. She finds herself spending too much time staring out her window, though … until she realizes she’s gotten used to seeing a young man across the street staring out his window, too.

They eventually embark on a hesitant romance, until she learns that he has been the victim of some form of childhood trauma. Visiting two of his friends who live a monastic life beside a beautiful lake, she begins to piece together a series of clues that lead her to suspect his experience may have had something to do with a bizarre religious cult. . . .”

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24 .) The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea by Yukio Mishima

Lists It Appears On:

  • Goodreads 1
  • Goodreads 2

Thirteen-year-old Noboru is a member of a gang of highly philosophical teenage boys who reject the tenets of the adult world — to them, adult life is illusory, hypocritical, and sentimental. When Noboru’s widowed mother is romanced by Ryuji, a sailor, Noboru is thrilled. He idolizes this rugged man of the sea as a hero. But his admiration soon turns to hatred, as Ryuji forsakes life onboard the ship for marriage, rejecting everything Noboru holds sacred. Upset and appalled, he and his friends respond to this apparent betrayal with a terrible ferocity.

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23 .) The Sound of Waves by Yukio Mishima

Lists It Appears On:

  • Asia Books
  • Goodreads 2

Set in a remote fishing village in Japan, The Sound of Waves is a timeless story of first love. It tells of Shinji, a young fisherman and Hatsue, the beautiful daughter of the wealthiest man in the village. Shinji is entranced at the sight of Hatsue in the twilight on the beach and they fall in love. When the villagers’ gossip threatens to divide them, Shinki must risk his life to prove his worth.

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22 .) The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami

Lists It Appears On:

  • Goodreads 1
  • Goodreads 2

Opening the flaps on this unique little book, readers will find themselves immersed in the strange world of best-selling Haruki Murakami’s wild imagination. The story of a lonely boy, a mysterious girl, and a tormented sheep man plotting their escape from a nightmarish library, the book is like nothing else Murakami has written.

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21 .) Villain by Shūichi Yoshida

Lists It Appears On:

  • Goodreads 1
  • Waterstones

“A young insurance saleswoman is found strangled at Mitsuse Pass. Her family and friends are shocked and terrified. The pass—which tunnels through a mountainous region of southern Japan—has an eerie history: a hideout for robbers, murderers, and ghostly creatures lurking at night.

Soon afterward, a young construction worker becomes the primary suspect. As the investigation unfolds, the events leading up to the murder come darkly into focus, revealing a troubled cast of characters: the victim, Yoshino, a woman much too eager for acceptance; the suspect, Yuichi, a car enthusiast misunderstood by everyone around him; the victim’s middle-aged father, a barber disappointed with his life; and the suspect’s aging grandmother, who survived the starvation of postwar Japan only to be tormented by local gangsters. And, finally, there is desperate Mitsuyo, the lonely woman who finds Yuichi online and makes the big mistake of falling for him. “

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20 .) Battle Royale by Koushun Takami

Lists It Appears On:

  • Flashlight Worthy Books
  • Goodreads 1
  • Goodreads 2

Koushun Takami’s notorious high-octane thriller is based on an irresistible premise: a class of junior high school students is taken to a deserted island where, as part of a ruthless authoritarian program, they are provided arms and forced to kill one another until only one survivor is left standing. Criticized as violent exploitation when first published in Japan – where it then proceeded to become a runaway bestseller – Battle Royale is a Lord of the Flies for the 21st century, a potent allegory of what it means to be young and (barely) alive in a dog-eat-dog world. Made into a controversial hit movie of the same name, Battle Royale is already a contemporary Japanese pulp classic, now available for the first time in the English language.

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19 .) Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami

Lists It Appears On:

  • Goodreads 1
  • Goodreads 2
  • Japan Info

Here he gives us the remarkable story of Tsukuru Tazaki, a young man haunted by a great loss; of dreams and nightmares that have unintended consequences for the world around us; and of a journey into the past that is necessary to mend the present. It is a story of love, friendship, and heartbreak for the ages.

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18 .) Out by Natsuo Kirino

Lists It Appears On:

  • Goodreads 2
  • Asia Books
  • Barnes & Noble

This mesmerizing novel tells the story of a brutal murder in the staid Tokyo suburbs, as a young mother who works the night shift making boxed lunches strangles her abusive husband and then seeks the help of her coworkers to dispose of the body and cover up her crime. The coolly intelligent Masako emerges as the plot’s ringleader, but quickly discovers that this killing is merely the beginning, as it leads to a terrifying foray into the violent underbelly of Japanese society.

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17 .) Silence by Shūsaku Endō

Lists It Appears On:

  • AV Club
  • Goodreads 1
  • Goodreads 2

In 1637 two Portuguese missionaries undertake a perilous search for their Jesuit tutor missing on the hostile islands of Japan. The Shogun and his Samurai have purged the land of Western influence, rooting out Christians and subjecting them to a fate worse than death – torture until they renounce the word of God. Father Rodrigues knows that if they are discovered, they face the same brutal treatment as the persecuted Christian peasantry; the same mistreatment that – if the rumours are to be believed – caused their tutor to renounce his faith. The deeper Rodrigues journeys into Japan, the closer he comes to the truth, and the more he finds himself questioning the meaning of God’s silence in answer to their prayers and to the suffering of the Japanese Christians.

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16 .) Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami

Lists It Appears On:

  • Flashlight Worthy Books
  • Goodreads 1
  • Goodreads 2

Sumire is in love with a woman seventeen years her senior. But whereas Miu is glamorous and successful, Sumire is an aspiring writer who dresses in an oversized second-hand coat and heavy boots like a character in a Kerouac novel. Sumire spends hours on the phone talking to her best friend K about the big questions in life: what is sexual desire, and should she ever tell Miu how she feels for her? Meanwhile K wonders whether he should confess his own unrequited love for Sumire. Then, a desperate Miu calls from a small Greek island: Sumire has mysteriously vanished…

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15 .) The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yōko Ogawa

Lists It Appears On:

  • Asia Books
  • AV Club
  • Goodreads 1

“She is an astute young Housekeeper―with a ten-year-old son―who is hired to care for the Professor.
And every morning, as the Professor and the Housekeeper are introduced to each other anew, a strange and beautiful relationship blossoms between them. Though he cannot hold memories for long (his brain is like a tape that begins to erase itself every eighty minutes), the Professor’s mind is still alive with elegant equations from the past. And the numbers, in all of their articulate order, reveal a sheltering and poetic world to both the Housekeeper and her young son. The Professor is capable of discovering connections between the simplest of quantities―like the Housekeeper’s shoe size―and the universe at large, drawing their lives ever closer and more profoundly together, even as his memory slips away.
Yoko Ogawa’s The Housekeeper and the Professor is an enchanting story about what it means to live in the present, and about the curious equations that can create a family.”

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14 .) Thousand Cranes by Yasunari Kawabata

Lists It Appears On:

  • Bachelors Degree Online
  • Goodreads 1
  • Goodreads 2

While attending a traditional tea ceremony in the aftermath of his parents’ deaths, Kikuji encounters his father’s former mistress, Mrs. Ota. At first Kikuji is appalled by her indelicate nature, but it is not long before he succumbs to passion—a passion with tragic and unforeseen consequences, not just for the two lovers, but also for Mrs. Ota’s daughter, to whom Kikuji’s attachments soon extend. Death, jealousy, and attraction convene around the delicate art of the tea ceremony, where every gesture is imbued with profound meaning.

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13 .) Underground: The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche by Haruki Murakami

Lists It Appears On:

  • Asia Books
  • Waterstones
  • The Guardian

In spite of the perpetrators’ intentions, the Tokyo gas attack left only twelve people dead, but thousands were injured and many suffered serious after-effects. Murakami interviews the victims to try and establish precisely what happened on the subway that day. He also interviews members and ex-members of the doomsdays cult responsible, in the hope that they might be able to explain the reason for the attack and how it was that their guru instilled such devotion in his followers.

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12 .) 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

Lists It Appears On:

  • Asia Books
  • Goodreads 1
  • Goodreads 2
  • Japan Info

A young woman named Aomame follows a taxi driver’s enigmatic suggestion and begins to notice puzzling discrepancies in the world around her. She has entered, she realizes, a parallel existence, which she calls 1Q84 —“Q is for ‘question mark.’ A world that bears a question.” Meanwhile, an aspiring writer named Tengo takes on a suspect ghostwriting project. He becomes so wrapped up with the work and its unusual author that, soon, his previously placid life begins to come unraveled.

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11 .) A Personal Matter by Kenzaburō Ōe

Lists It Appears On:

  • Bachelors Degree Online
  • Books Tell You Why
  • Goodreads 1
  • Goodreads 2

Kenzaburo Oe, the winner of the 1994 Nobel Prize for Literature, is internationally acclaimed as one of the most important and influential post-World War II writers, known for his powerful accounts of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and his own struggle to come to terms with a mentally handicapped son.

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10 .) I Am a Cat by Natsume Sōseki

Lists It Appears On:

  • Bachelors Degree Online
  • Goodreads 2
  • Kyuhoshi
  • The Guardian

Written from 1904 through 1906, Soseki Natsume’s comic masterpiece, I Am a Cat, satirizes the foolishness of upper-middle-class Japanese society during the Meiji era. With acerbic wit and sardonic perspective, it follows the whimsical adventures of a world-weary stray kitten who comments on the follies and foibles of the people around him.

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9 .) Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

Lists It Appears On:

  • Asia Books
  • Goodreads 1
  • Goodreads 2
  • The Culture Trip

Kafka on the Shore is powered by two remarkable characters: a teenage boy, Kafka Tamura, who runs away from home either to escape a gruesome oedipal prophecy or to search for his long-missing mother and sister; and an aging simpleton called Nakata, who never recovered from a wartime affliction and now is drawn toward Kafka for reasons that, like the most basic activities of daily life, he cannot fathom.

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8 .) The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu

Lists It Appears On:

  • Bachelors Degree Online
  • Kyuhoshi
  • The Culture Trip
  • The Guardian

Written in the eleventh century, this exquisite portrait of courtly life in medieval Japan is widely celebrated as the world’s first novel. Genji, the Shining Prince, is the son of an emperor. He is a passionate character whose tempestuous nature, family circumstances, love affairs, alliances, and shifting political fortunes form the core of this magnificent epic. Royall Tyler’s superior translation is detailed, poetic, and superbly true to the Japanese original while allowing the modern reader to appreciate it as a contemporary treasure. Supplemented with detailed notes, glossaries, character lists, and chronologies to help the reader navigate the multigenerational narrative, this comprehensive edition presents this ancient tale in the grand style that it deserves.

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7 .) Kokoro by Natsume Sōseki

Lists It Appears On:

  • Asia Books
  • Goodreads 1
  • Goodreads 2
  • Kyuhoshi
  • The Culture Trip

I always called him “Sensei.” I shall therefore refer to him simply as “Sensei,” and not by his real name. It is not because I consider it more discreet, but it is because I find it more natural that I do so. Whenever the memory of him comes back to me now, I find that I think of him as “Sensei” still. And with pen in hand, I cannot bring myself to write of him in any other way. It was at Kamakura, during the summer holidays, that I first met Sensei. I was then a very young student. I went there at the insistence of a friend of mine, who had gone to Kamakura to swim. We were not together for long. It had taken me a few days to get together enough money to cover the necessary expenses, and it was only three days after my arrival that my friend received a telegram from home demanding his return. His mother, the telegram explained, was ill. My friend, however, did not believe this. For some time his parents had been trying to persuade him, much against his will, to marry a certain girl. According to our modern outlook, he was really too young to marry. Moreover, he was not in the least fond of the girl. It was in order to avoid an unpleasant situation that instead of going home, as he normally would have done, he had gone to the resort near Tokyo to spend his holidays. He showed me the telegram, and asked me what he should do. I did not know what to tell him. It was, however, clear that if his mother was truly ill, he should go home. And so he decided to leave after all. I, who had taken so much trouble to join my friend, was left alone.

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6 .) The Makioka Sisters by Jun’ichirō Tanizaki

Lists It Appears On:

  • Asia Books
  • AV Club
  • Goodreads 1
  • Goodreads 2
  • Kyuhoshi

Tsuruko, the eldest sister of the once-wealthy Makioka family, clings obstinately to the prestige of her family name even as her husband prepares to move their household to Tokyo, where that name means nothing. Sachiko compromises valiantly to secure the future of her younger sisters. The shy, unmarried Yukiko is a hostage to her family’s exacting standards, while the spirited Taeko rebels by flinging herself into scandalous romantic alliances and dreaming of studying fashion design in France. Filled with vignettes of a vanishing way of life, The Makioka Sisters is a poignant yet unsparing portrait of a family—and an entire society—sliding into the abyss of modernity. It possesses in abundance the keen social insight and unabashed sensuality that distinguish Tanizaki as a master novelist.

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5 .) The Temple of the Golden Pavilion by Yukio Mishima

Lists It Appears On:

  • Bachelors Degree Online
  • Books Tell You Why
  • Goodreads 1
  • Goodreads 2
  • Kyuhoshi

Mizoguchi, an ostracized stutterer, develops a childhood fascination with Kyoto’s famous Golden Temple. While an acolyte at the temple, he fixates on the structure’s aesthetic perfection and it becomes his one and only object of desire. But as Mizoguchi begins to perceive flaws in the temple, he determines that the only true path to beauty lies in an act of horrific violence. Based on a real incident that occurred in 1950, The Temple of the Golden Pavilion brilliantly portrays the passions and agonies of a young man in postwar Japan, bringing to the subject the erotic imagination and instinct for the dramatic moment that marked Mishima as one of the towering makers of modern fiction. With an introduction by Donald Keene; Translated from the Japanese by Ivan Morris.

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4 .) Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata

Lists It Appears On:

  • Asia Books
  • Books Tell You Why
  • Goodreads 1
  • Goodreads 2
  • Kyuhoshi
  • The Culture Trip

At an isolated mountain hot spring, with snow blanketing every surface, Shimamura, a wealthy dilettante meets Komako, a lowly geisha. She gives herself to him fully and without remorse, despite knowing that their passion cannot last and that the affair can have only one outcome. In chronicling the course of this doomed romance, Kawabata has created a story for the ages — a stunning novel dense in implication and exalting in its sadness.

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3 .) The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami

Lists It Appears On:

  • Bachelors Degree Online
  • Books Tell You Why
  • Goodreads 1
  • Goodreads 2
  • The Guardian
  • Japan Info

In a Tokyo suburb a young man named Toru Okada searches for his wife’s missing cat. Soon he finds himself looking for his wife as well in a netherworld that lies beneath the placid surface of Tokyo. As these searches intersect, Okada encounters a bizarre group of allies and antagonists: a psychic prostitute; a malevolent yet mediagenic politician; a cheerfully morbid sixteen-year-old-girl; and an aging war veteran who has been permanently changed by the hideous things he witnessed during Japan’s forgotten campaign in Manchuria.

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2 .) The Woman in the Dunes by Kōbō Abe

Lists It Appears On:

  • AV Club
  • Bachelors Degree Online
  • Books Tell You Why
  • Goodreads 1
  • Goodreads 2
  • Kyuhoshi

After missing the last bus home following a day trip to the seashore, an amateur entomologist is offered lodging for the night at the bottom of a vast sand pit. But when he attempts to leave the next morning, he quickly discovers that the locals have other plans. Held captive with seemingly no chance of escape, he is tasked with shoveling back the ever-advancing sand dunes that threaten to destroy the village. His only companion is an odd young woman. Together their fates become intertwined as they work side by side at this Sisyphean task.

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1 .) Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto

Lists It Appears On:

  • Asia Books
  • Bachelors Degree Online
  • Barnes & Noble
  • Goodreads 1
  • Goodreads 2
  • Japan Info
  • The Guardian

With the publication of Kitchen, the dazzling English-language debut that is still her best-loved book, the literary world realized that Yoshimoto was a young writer of enduring talent whose work has quickly earned a place among the best of contemporary Japanese literature. Kitchen is an enchantingly original book that juxtaposes two tales about mothers, love, tragedy, and the power of the kitchen and home in the lives of a pair of free-spirited young women in contemporary Japan. Mikage, the heroine, is an orphan raised by her grandmother, who has passed away. Grieving, Mikage is taken in by her friend Yoichi and his mother (who is really his cross-dressing father) Eriko. As the three of them form an improvised family that soon weathers its own tragic losses, Yoshimoto spins a lovely, evocative tale with the kitchen and the comforts of home at its heart.

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The 50+ Additional Japanese Fiction Books



 

#BookAuthorLists
(Titles Appear On 1 List Each)
51A Dark Night’s PassingShiga Naoya:
Bachelors Degree Online
52A Midsummer’s Equation
Barnes & Noble
53A Pale View of the HillsKazuo IshiguroAsia Books
54A Tale for the Time BeingRuth Ozeki
Goodreads 1
55A Wild Sheep ChaseHaruki Murakami
Goodreads 1
56After the QuakeHaruki Murakami
Goodreads 1
57Akira
Bachelors Degree Online
58An Artist of the Floating WorldKazuo IshiguroAsia Books
59Apparitions
Japanese Lit
60Banquet of the Wild
Japanese Lit
61Black Rain
Flashlight Worthy Books
62Byakuyakou Journey under the Midnight SunKeigo HigashinoJapan Info
63
Chain Mail: Addicted to You
Barnes & Noble
64ConfessionsKanae Minato
Waterstones
65Death in Midsummer and Other StoriesYukio Mishima
The Culture Trip
66Dreaming PachinkoIsaac Adamson
The Guardian
67Fires on the PlainOoka Shohei:
Bachelors Degree Online
68GrotesqueNatsuo Kirino
Goodreads 1
69Heaven’s Wind
Japanese Lit
70Hombres sin mujeresHaruki Murakami
Goodreads 1
71Journey Under the Midnight SunKeigo Higashino
Waterstones
72Kokin WakashuVarious:
Bachelors Degree Online
73Manazuru
Barnes & Noble
74Ms Ice Sandwich
Japanese Lit
75Nip the Buds, Shoot the KidsKenzaburo Oe
The Guardian
76
Obasan, Joy Kogawa, 1981
Asia Books
77Penance
Japanese Lit
78PhoenixOsamu Tezuka:
Bachelors Degree Online
79Piercing
Flashlight Worthy Books
80Ravina The Witch?
Japanese Lit
81Real WorldNatsuo Kirino
Goodreads 1
82
Rei Shimura Series, Sujata Massey
Asia Books
83RevengeYōko Ogawa
Goodreads 1
84Salvation of a SaintKeigo Higashino
Goodreads 1
85SanshirōNatsume Sōseki
Goodreads 1
86Seven Japanese TalesJun’ichirō Tanizaki
The Culture Trip
87Singular RebellionSaiichi Maruya
The Guardian
88Six FourHideo Yokoyama
Waterstones
89Snakes and EarringsHitomi Kanehara
Goodreads 1
90Some Prefer NettlesJunichiro Tanizaki
The Guardian
91
Strangers – Taichi Yamada, 1987
Asia Books
92The BriefcaseHiromi Kawakami
Goodreads 1
93The Complete Haiku
Bachelors Degree Online
94
The Devotion of of Suspect X
Asia Books
95The Devotion of Suspect XKeigo Higashino
Goodreads 1
96The Doctor’s WifeSawako AriyoshiAV Club
97The Remains of the DayKazuo Ishiguro:
Bachelors Degree Online
98The Setting SunOsamu Dazai
Goodreads 1
99The Sound of the MountainYasunari Kawabata
Goodreads 1
100The Tale of the HeikeVarious:
Bachelors Degree Online
101The Thief
Barnes & Noble
102The Waiting YearsFumiko Enchi
The Culture Trip
103What I Talk About When I Talk About RunningHaruki Murakami
Goodreads 2
104Woman on the Other ShoreMitsuyo KakutaJapan Info
105your name.
Japanese Lit


14 Best Japanese Novel Book Sources/Lists



SourceArticle
Asia Books Japanese Literature and Historical Fiction Books
AV Club David Mitchell on his 5 favorite Japanese novels
Bachelors Degree Online 20 Essential Works of Japanese Literature
Barnes & Noble 8 Great Japanese Books in Translation That Aren’t by Haruki Murakami
Books Tell You Why Best Books from Japan
Flashlight Worthy Books Some of the Best Modern Japanese Fiction
Goodreads 1 Popular Japanese Fiction Books
Goodreads 2 Popular Japanese Literature Books
Japan Info 9 Must-Read Contemporary Japanese Novels
Japanese Lit Contemporary Japanese Literature
Kyuhoshi 10 Japanese Classic Books to Read
The Culture Trip 10 Japanese Books You Need to Read
The Guardian Fiona Campbell’s top 10 books set in Japan
Waterstones Five Essential Japanese Novels