Japanese literature is full of literary art that is not present in any other languages. The authors from Japan have a sense of weaving words and emotions in a story. While reading old and modern Japanese literature, you will step into a world of native culture and how different people respond. Moreover, these stories revolve around common men and women to depict their struggles and accomplishments.
Everyone who starts reading Japanese fiction stumbles upon the best Japanese books authors such as Haruki Murakami, Yasunari Kawabata, and Yukio Mishima. These Japanese authors are known for their contribution to literature. Besides, they have been awarded prestigious awards such as the Nobel Prize in writing these marvelous pieces.
A person who is just starting to discover Japanese fiction stories based on native places like Kyoto and Tokyo may feel overwhelmed. We've compiled this guide to assist you in had finding the best novels from Japan so that you can read them one after the other. Reading one book will encourage you to read more in your free time. Various century-old classics from Japan still feel relevant and new.
Besides, new fictional, modern, and early classic period finds in books are a delight for everyone. And for those who do not like to read considerable books in their native language, we have Manga and translated versions of these books. After reading these, you may attempt to write some Japanese short stories yourself and begin a career in the literary world.
Read English Japanese Translation
Some people may consider reading Japanese to be very challenging. They may start reading the English translations to get an idea of the culture and how the short poems translate. Moreover, you will learn more from these books than from watching Japanese movies, shows, and Mangas. Reading authentic Japanese literature will help you gain an eye for the native life of men and women, traditions, and festivities.
Apart from this, you may feel inspired to learn Japanese and read the literature in the original language. Learning the new language will also open up doors for you to become a Japanese translator and create similar works. Till then, you may start with these Japanese to English translated novels from the best authors of the modern and early times. In addition, you may find some gems that show the history of the country, native art, and the world of geishas, Japanese food, and other traditional tales.
The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu
This book is translated into English by Edward Seidensticker. The book revolves around the life of an educated noblewoman of the Heian period in Japan. This may be the first novel in the entire world. The tale of Genji is the finest form of literature that tells a visual story from various scenes. Moreover, the tale is referred to as the story of the emperor’s son, who is eliminated from the reign.
Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata
Translated by Edward Seidensticker, the book has a beautiful story in the form of art expressions. Yasunari Kawabata is one of the best authors who is considered to be obsessed with art and beauty. The novel shows the love story between a Tokyo man and a beautiful geisha living in the onsen town. It is a magnificent love story about the man and the geisha during their life.
Rashomon by Ryunosuke
This book is translated by Takashi Kojima and depicts the stories of the Japanese honor in fighting to stay alive. The short story shows the tale of a servant who is at the broken Rashomon. He has a choice to starve to death or fight to survive. On this journey, he meets a woman at the gate who has already decided.
The Makioka Sisters by Junichiro Tanizaki
Translated by Edward Seidensticker, this book dives into the world of the Japanese gentry. These are like the Japanese version of the Jane-Austen writing style. The novel had a story of a rich family in Osaka in the 20th century. This is one of the greatest classics of Japanese literature.
Kokoro by Natsume Soseki
This novel is translated by Meredith McKinney, and the story is set between Tokyo and Kamakura. The novel revolves around the relationship of a young man with his sensei. In this novel, the young man admires his sensei a lot; however, this perspective changes. Both of them have a touching relationship that is shown in the book. It is a truly transparent description of their relationship, love, and admiration.
Birthday Girl by Haruki Murakami
This is a really short story about a waitress on her birthday. She is working as usual even on her twentieth birthday. However, her life will take a strange turn on the same day. The story has so many interpretations; hence is a delight for the readers. This is one of the books that you can read again and again.
You may find different published versions from the same author. This is a tiny published book that you may carry around while reading. Apart from this, there are several other novels from the author for the reader to bug in you.
List of the best Japanese books for Japanese Literature
Here is a list of some more books from Japanese authors. These Japanese books may encourage you to read more native languages such as Chinese and French. Moreover, you may find online tagged Japanese novels at a convenience store to add to the reading list.
Seventeen, by Kenzaburô Ôé
This is a fiction novel that was published in 1961. The author also published Hiroshima Notes and has received a Nobel Prize in literature. His masterpiece book has a plot set in the 1960s when Japan was under the surge of ultra- nationalism. In addition, the land was still recovering from the horrors of World War II.
This book is about a seventeen-year-old who is exploring his life and other struggles. It shows how vulnerable he is when his family cannot understand him. This is a classic book that depicts complicated teenage life. He meets some people during his journey in life that makes him drift away from his own family. The depiction of rebellious years of seventeen shows a purpose when he wears a uniform.
Kafka on the Shore, by Murakami Haruki
This is another fiction masterpiece published in 2002. The author Haruki Murakami knows the art of storytelling and proves it with this book. This book is well known for its depiction that often shows a parallel world. The book shows different plot lines for the two main characters.
Their stories are full of ironies and lessons as they go on their solo journeys. The first story is of Nakata, who is a professional cat finder. So you will read about the traveling cat chronicles. Another story is about the one who has escaped his home to get away from his father.
The Last Shogun: The Life of Tokugawa Yoshinobu, by Shiba Ryotaro
This is a historical fiction novel that was published in the year 1967. The story is entertaining and not at all like the boring history lessons. This book is about the life of Tokugawa Yoshinobu, who is the last Shogun of the Tokugawa family.
The story is of a man who chooses a peaceful path for his country's dreams. He helps in ending the 260 years of feudal Japan. The book may not have a very accurate depiction; however, it is entertaining and full of romance.
A Midsummer's Equation, by Higashino Keigo
Published in 2014, this book is for those who love mystery thrillers. This book is from the Galileo series, the most famous book series on adventure and thriller. It is about physicist Yukawa and his old friend Yochimu who is a police detective. They both solve mysterious cases together. You should read this series for the twist and turns in the tale for the surprise element.
Read Japanese Manga
If Japanese novels are not a cup of your tea, you may try Japanese Manga. Some people are so inspired by manga that they get Japanese-themed tattoos. Read the Vagabond Manga series that shows the adventures of a swordsman, Miyamoto Musashi. The book will give you a literary tour from Kyoto to Edo and describe the lives of Japanese people. Moreover, it also approaches Buddhism, Shinto, and medieval Japanese culture.
Learn Japanese on Superprof
Learning about Japanese literature from the books is very informative and fun for the readers. There are several Japanese authors who have dedicated their lives towards the depiction of authentic Japanese culture, native historical stories, and struggles of the rising from after the war.
Another way to enjoy Japanese literature is to read it in its original form. Now you may understand the stories and poems in the translated English; however, the true emotions may not get translated.
Therefore, register on Superprof to learn the language and read these books in Japanese. Superprof has top-notch Japanese teachers who are experienced in the language and the teaching field. They will walk you through different writing letters of the language and vocabulary to understand the novels.
Moreover, you may find native teachers who can help you in learning more about the culture and native norms. This will help you prepare for studying in Japan or for your next trip to the native land. All the learner has to do is register on the website and scroll through different teacher profiles. You can contact the teachers via inbox, tell them your expectations and requirements to get started.
One of the best ways to learn online is to communicate your needs as much as possible with the teachers. You may receive more book recommendations to enrich your vocabulary and knowledge. Learning Japanese and reading their literature will open up your mind to a new world of traditions and emotions.