Since we can’t travel anytime soon what better way to visit a country than through books? Here is a list of books set in Japan and written by Japanese authors that will definitely take you there.
Coin Locker Babies by Ryū Murakami
Coin Locker Babies is Ryu Murakami’s cult cyberpunk novel. Two babies are left in a Tokyo station coin locker and survive against the odds, but their lives are forever tainted by this inauspicious start. As they grow up, they join the ranks of Toxitown: a district of addicts, freaks, and prostitutes. One becomes a bisexual rock star and looks for his mother, while the other one, an athlete, seeks revenge. This savage and stunning story unfolds in a surrealistic whirl of violence.
Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata
Keiko has never really fitted in. At school and university, people find her odd, and her family worries she’ll never be normal. To appease them, Keiko takes a job at a newly opened convenience store. Here, she finds peace and purpose in the simple, daily tasks and routine interactions. She is, she comes to understand, happiest as a convenience store worker. Convenience store woman marks the English-language debut of a writer who has been hailed as the most exciting voice of her generation.
The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea by Yukio Mishima
A band of savage thirteen-year-old boys reject the adult world as illusory, hypocritical, and sentimental, and train themselves in a brutal callousness they call ‘objectivity’. When the mother of one of them begins an affair with a ship’s officer, he and his friends idealize the man at first; but it is not long before they conclude that he is in fact soft and romantic. They regard this disillusionment as an act of betrayal on his part – and the retribution is deliberate and horrifying
Strange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami
Tsukiko is in her late 30s and living alone when one night she happens to meet one of her former high school teachers, ‘Sensei’, in a bar. He is at least thirty years her senior, retired and, she presumes, a widower. After this initial encounter, the pair continue to meet occasionally to share food and drink sake, and as the seasons pass – from spring cherry blossom to autumnal mushrooms – Tsukiko and Sensei come to develop a hesitant intimacy which tilts awkwardly and poignantly into love. Perfectly constructed, funny, and moving, Strange Weather in Tokyo is a tale of modern Japan and old-fashioned romance.
I Am a Cat by Natsume Sōseki
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.
Some Prefer Nettles by Jun’ichirō Tanizaki
The marriage of Kaname and Misako is disintegrating: whilst seeking passion and fulfillment in the arms of others, they contemplate the humiliation of divorce. Misako’s father believes their relationship has been damaged by the influence of a new and alien culture, and so attempts to heal the breach by educating his son-in-law in the time-honored Japanese traditions of aesthetic and sensual pleasure. The result is an absorbing, chilling conflict between ancient and modern, young and old
The Pillow Book by Sei Shōnagon
Written by the court gentlewoman Sei Shonagon, ostensibly for her own amusement, The Pillow Book offers a fascinating exploration of life among the nobility at the height of the Heian period, describing the exquisite pleasures of a confined world in which poetry, love, fashion, and whim dominated, while the harsh reality was kept firmly at a distance. Moving elegantly across a wide range of themes including nature, society, and her own flirtations, Sei Shonagon provides a witty and intimate window on a woman’s life at court in classical Japan
Schoolgirl by Osamu Dazai
The novella that first propelled Dazai into the literary elite of post-war Japan. Essentially the start of Dazai’s career, Schoolgirl gained notoriety for its ironic and inventive use of language. Now it illuminates the prevalent social structures of lost time, as well as the struggle of the individual against them–a theme that occupied Dazai’s life both personally and professionally.
Vibrator by Mari Akasaka
Rei Hayakawa, a lonely, bulimic freelance writer with a drinking problem, wanders into a convenience store. She’s swaddled in her coat and scarf, while her thoughts – of alienation, of hunger, of the need for gin and white wine – drift in via stream-of-consciousness. A trucker named Okabe walks in, deliberately grazes her behind, and at the same time, Rei’s cell phone, set on vibrate, goes off over her heart. Rei impulsively gets into Okabe’s truck with him – and stays.
Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami
A narrative particle accelerator that zooms between Wild Turkey Whiskey and Bob Dylan, unicorn skulls and voracious librarians, John Coltrane and Lord Jim. Science fiction, detective story and post-modern manifesto all rolled into one rip-roaring novel, Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World is the tour de force that expanded Haruki Murakami’s international following.