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The Best Tokyo Books (About And Set In)

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“What are the best books about or set in Tokyo?” We looked at 90 of the top Tokyo books, aggregating and ranking them so we could answer that very question!

The top 11 titles, all appearing on 2 or more “Best Tokyo” 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 12 Books About Tokyo



11 .) Coin Locker Babies by Ryu Murakami

Lists It Appears On:

  • Frommers
  • Tor

“A surreal coming-of-age tale that establishes Ryu Murakami as one of the most inventive young writers in the world today.

Abandoned at birth in adjacent train station lockers, two troubled boys spend their youth in an orphanage and with foster parents on a semi-deserted island before finally setting off for the city to find and destroy the women who first rejected them. Both are drawn to an area of freaks and hustlers called Toxitown. One becomes a bisexual rock singer, star of this exotic demimonde, while the other, a pole vaulter, seeks his revenge in the company of his girlfriend, Anemone, a model who has converted her condominium into a tropical swamp for her pet crocodile.”

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10 .) Dance Dance Dance (The Rat, #4) by Haruki Murakami

Lists It Appears On:

  • Frommers
  • Goodreads

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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9 .) In the Miso Soup by Ryu Murakami

Lists It Appears On:

  • Frommers
  • The Guardian

It is just before New Year’s. Frank, an overweight American tourist, has hired Kenji to take him on a guided tour of Tokyo’s sleazy nightlife on three successive evenings. 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 isn’t 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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8 .) Kokoro by Natsume Sōseki

Lists It Appears On:

  • Frommers
  • Goodreads

Hailed by The New Yorker as “rich in understanding and insight,”Kokoro — “the heart of things” — is the work of one of Japan’s most popular authors. This thought-provoking trilogy of stories explores the very essence of loneliness and stands as a stirring introduction to modern Japanese literature.

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7 .) Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

Lists It Appears On:

  • Goodreads
  • Travel Associates

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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6 .) Tokyo Rising – The City since the Great Earthquake

Lists It Appears On:

  • Frommers
  • Japan Visitor

With his deep feeling for Japanese literature and long personal acquaintance with Tokyo, Edward Seidensticker was able to evoke the early years of modern Tokyo in Low City, High City. Here he tells the even more startling and colorful story of how Tokyo rose from ruins — twice — to become Asia’s greatest metropolis.

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5 .) Tokyo Underworld by Robert Whiting

Lists It Appears On:

  • Japan Visitor
  • The Culture trip

In this unorthodox chronicle of the rise of Japan, Inc., Robert Whiting, author of You Gotta Have Wa, gives us a fresh perspective on the economic miracle and near disaster that is modern Japan.

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4 .) Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan by Jake Adelstein

Lists It Appears On:

  • Goodreads
  • Tokyo Cheapo

“From the only American journalist ever to have been admitted to the insular Tokyo Metropolitan Police press club: a unique, firsthand, revelatory look at Japanese culture from the underbelly up.

At nineteen, Jake Adelstein went to Japan in search of peace and tranquility. What he got was a life of crime . . . crime reporting, that is, at the prestigious Yomiuri Shinbun. For twelve years of eighty-hour workweeks, he covered the seedy side of Japan, where extortion, murder, human trafficking, and corruption are as familiar as ramen noodles and sake. But when his final scoop brought him face to face with Japan’s most infamous yakuza boss—and the threat of death for him and his family—Adelstein decided to step down . . . momentarily. Then, he fought back.”

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3 .) Number9dream by David Mitchell

Lists It Appears On:

  • Goodreads
  • The Guardian
  • Tor

David Mitchell follows his eerily precocious, globe-striding first novel, Ghostwritten, with a work that is in its way even more ambitious. In outward form, number9dream is a Dickensian coming-of-age journey: Young dreamer Eiji Miyake, from remote rural Japan, thrust out on his own by his sister’s death and his mother’s breakdown, comes to Tokyo in pursuit of the father who abandoned him. Stumbling around this strange, awesome city, he trips over and crosses—through a hidden destiny or just monstrously bad luck—a number of its secret power centers. Suddenly, the riddle of his father’s identity becomes just one of the increasingly urgent questions Eiji must answer. Why is the line between the world of his experiences and the world of his dreams so blurry? Why do so many horrible things keep happening to him? What is it about the number 9? To answer these questions, and ultimately to come to terms with his inheritance, Eiji must somehow acquire an insight into the workings of history and fate that would be rare in anyone, much less in a boy from out of town with a price on his head and less than the cost of a Beatles disc to his name.

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2 .) Out by Natsuo Kirino

Lists It Appears On:

  • Goodreads
  • The Culture trip
  • Travel Associates

“Natsuo Kirino’s novel tells a story of random violence in the staid Tokyo suburbs, as a young mother who works a night shift making boxed lunches brutally strangles her deadbeat husband and then seeks the help of her co-workers to dispose of the body and cover up her crime.

The ringleader of this cover-up, Masako Katori, emerges as the emotional heart of Out and as one of the shrewdest, most clear-eyed creations in recent fiction. Masako’s own search for a way out of the straitjacket of a dead-end life leads her, too, to take drastic action.

The complex yet riveting narrative seamlessly combines a convincing glimpse into the grimy world of Japan’s yakuza with a brilliant portrayal of the psychology of a violent crime and the ensuing game of cat-and-mouse between seasoned detectives and a group of determined but inexperienced criminals. Kirino has mastered a Thelma and Louise kind of graveyard humor that illuminates her stunning evocation of the pressures and prejudices that drive women to extreme deeds and the friendship that bolsters them in the aftermath.”

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1 .) After Dark by Haruki Murakami

Lists It Appears On:

  • Goodreads
  • The Culture trip
  • The Guardian
  • Travel Associates

“A short, sleek novel of encounters set in Tokyo during the witching hours between midnight and dawn, and every bit as gripping as Haruki Murakami’s masterworks The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and Kafka on the Shore.

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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The 50+ Additional Best Books Set In Tokyo



 

#BookAuthorLists
(Titles Appear On 1 List Each)
121Q84Haruki MurakamiGoodreads
13A Clean Kill in Tokyo (John Rain, #1)Barry EislerGoodreads
14
A Modern History of Japan: From Tokugawa Times to the Present
Frommers
15A Tale for the Time BeingRuth OzekiGoodreads
16A Wild Sheep Chase (The Rat, #3)Haruki MurakamiGoodreads
17Almost Transparent BlueRyu Murakami
The Culture trip
18And ThenFrommers
19Anthology of Japanese LiteratureFrommers
20Best of Tokyo
Japan Visitor
21Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of PilgrimageHaruki MurakamiGoodreads
22
Cool Tokyo Guide: Adventures in the City of Kawaii Fashion, Train Sushi and Godzilla
Japan Visitor
23Cruising the Anime City: An Otaku Guide to Neo TokyoPatrick Macias
The Culture trip
24Debt of Honor (Jack Ryan Universe, #8)Tom ClancyGoodreads
25Eating in JapanFrommers
26
Edo, The City That Became Tokyo: An Illustrated History
Japan Visitor
27Everyday Life in Traditional JapanFrommers
28Feel and Think: A New Era of Tokyo FashionVarious Authors
The Culture trip
29Flesh and the Mirror from FireworksAngela Carter
The Guardian
30Geisha in Rivalry: A Tale of Life, Love and Intrigue in the Shimbashi Geisha QuarterKafu Nagai
The Guardian
31GhostwrittenDavid MitchellGoodreads
32Hardboiled Wonderland And The End of the WorldHaruki MurakamiTor
33Introduction to Japanese Culture,Frommers
34Japan: The Story of a NationFrommers
35Japanese Family & Culture.Frommers
36Japanese Today: Change and ContinuityFrommers
37Kata
Tokyo Cheapo
38KitchenBanana YoshimotoGoodreads
39Life in Tokyo: The Way People LiveFrommers
40Living Japanese StyleFrommers
41Lonely Planet Tokyo
Japan Visitor
42Lonely Planet’s Best of Tokyo 2018
Japan Visitor
43LoveHideo FurukawaTor
44Low City, High CityFrommers
45Martial Arts & Sports in JapanFrommers
46Model Misfit (Geek Girl, #2)Holly SmaleGoodreads
47Modern Japanese Stories: An AnthologyFrommers
48People Who Eat Darkness: The Fate of Lucie BlackmanRichard Lloyd ParryGoodreads
49Ranma ½, Vol. 1 (Ranma ½ (US 2nd), #1)Rumiko TakahashiGoodreads
50Ring (Ring, #1)Kōji SuzukiGoodreads
51Rurouni Kenshin, Vol. 1: Meiji Swordsman Romantic Story (Rurouni Kenshin, #1)Nobuhiro WatsukiGoodreads
52Rurouni Kenshin, Volume 03Nobuhiro WatsukiGoodreads
53Sailor Moon, Vol. 1 (Sailor Moon, #1)Naoko TakeuchiGoodreads
54Salaryman in JapanFrommers
55Salvation of a SaintKeigo HigashinoGoodreads
56SanshiroSoseki Natsume
The Culture trip
57Shōgun (Asian Saga, #1)James ClavellGoodreads
58South of the Border, West of the SunFrommers
59Spring Snow (The Sea of Fertility)Yukio Mishima
The Guardian
60Subway Guide to Tokyo
Japan Visitor
61Tabloid Tokyo 2Frommers
62
Tabloid Tokyo: 101 Tales of Sex, Crime, and the Bizarre from Japan’s Wild Weeklies
Frommers
63
The Chrysanthemum and the Sword: Patterns of Japanese Culture
Frommers
64
The Donald Richie Reader: 50 Years of Writing on Japan
The Guardian
65The Guest CatTakashi HiraideGoodreads
66The Hare With Amber Eyes: A Hidden InheritanceEdmund de Waal
The Guardian
67The IdiotAngo Sakaguchi
The Culture trip
68
The Japanese Mind: The Goliath Explained
Frommers
69The Japanese TodayFrommers
70The Scarlet Gang of AsakusaYasunari Kawabata
The Guardian
71The Street of a Thousand BlossomsGail TsukiyamaGoodreads
72The Sword Thief (The 39 Clues, #3)Peter LerangisGoodreads
73The Tale of GenjiMurasaki Shikibu
Travel Associates
74The ThiefFuminori NakamuraTor
75The Waiting YearsFrommers
76The Wind-Up Bird ChronicleHaruki MurakamiGoodreads
77Tokyo 1955-1970: A New Avant GardeVarious Authors
The Culture trip
78Tokyo City Atlas: A Bilingual Guide
Japan Visitor
79Tokyo Encounter
Japan Visitor
80Tokyo Pub Crawler
Japan Visitor
81Tokyo Realtime: Akihabara
Japan Visitor
82Tokyo Story
Tokyo Cheapo
83Tokyo with Children
Tokyo Cheapo
84
Tokyo, the City at a Glance (Wallpaper City Guide Tokyo)
Japan Visitor
85Tokyo: A Cultural HistoryFrommers
86Tokyo: A Spatial AnthropologyHidenobu Jinnai
The Culture trip
87Tune in Tokyo: The Gaijin DiariesTim Anderson
Travel Associates
88What’s What in Japanese Restaurants
Tokyo Cheapo
89Who Is Mr Satoshi?Jonathan Lee
The Guardian
90Winter in TokyoIlana TanGoodreads


8 Best Tokyo Book Sources/Lists



SourceArticle
Frommers Recommended Books, Films & Music in Tokyo
Goodreads Tokyo
Japan Visitor Tokyo Books
The Culture trip 10 Books Set in Tokyo: Reading the Motley City
The Guardian 10 of the best books set in Tokyo
Tokyo Cheapo Books on Tokyo
Tor Five Great Genre-Bending Novels Set in Post-1970s Tokyo
Travel Associates Books & Films Set In Tokyo