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Japanese novels in English

5 Japanese Novels in English: A Literary Taste of The Far-East

translated japanese fiction - Wordsworth Books

Translated versions of the most well-known Japanese novels in English have granted readers worldwide access to the intriguing, some times perplexing, but mostly thought-provoking world of Japanese literature.

The Japanese way of thinking is articulated in written form across a multitude of genres, most notably crime fiction, high-school romance and more than just a few dystopian classics.

This list of Japanese novels will provide curious readers with a literary taste of what's to offer from the land of the rising sun.

Explore celebrated authors the likes of Haruki Murakami, Sayaka Murata and more here!

5 Japanese Novels in English To Pique Your Interest

Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage

9780099590378 Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage Philip Gabriel

We follow Tsukuru who still reels from the sudden ostracisation of his group of friends back in high school. Now at a point in his life where he needs to move on and understand what had happened, he seeks out his old friends one by one. 

This book by Haruki Murakami is about the effects of explicit dreams and nightmares and their effects on daily life. This is an uncomplicated novel of self-discovery and letting go of the past. 


Before the Coffee Gets Cold

9781529029581 - Before the coffee gets cold - Toshikazu KawaguchiWhat would you change if you could go back in time?
In a small back alley in Tokyo, there is a cafe which has been serving carefully brewed coffee for more than one hundred years. But this coffee shop offers its customers the unique experience: the chance to travel back in time.

But the journey into the past does not come without risks: customers must sit in a particular seat, they cannot leave the cafe, and finally, they must return to the present before the coffee gets cold...

Toshikazu Kawaguchi's beautiful, moving story - translated from Japanese by Geoffrey Trousselot - explores the age-old question: what would you change if you could travel back in time? More importantly, who would you want to meet, maybe for one last time?

Explore the world of Japanese graphic novels with our
top 10 manga books for beginners! 

Convenience Store Woman

9781846276842 - Convenience Store Woman - Sayaka Murata

We follow Keiko, a near middle-aged woman who has worked in the same convenience store for the past 18 years. In the eyes of her friends and family, at her age, she has two choices. 1) Get married and become a house wife. 2) Get a proper job at a corporation and focus on a successful career. The problem is, Keiko has never had a boyfriend and simply cannot imagine a job more fulfilling than her role at the convenience store.

A glance into molding oneself to fit in with society norms at the cost of happiness. Keiko is a unique character that offsets the Japanese workaholic stereotype found in media. With the modern day setting focused around the convenience store, and Keiko as the expert in all things related to the convenience store, the reader is quickly accustomed to the setting and characters.

Well worth a read as this can be completed in one sitting. For fans of Sally Rooney and Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine.

The Memory Police

9781784700447 - the memory police - Yoko Ogawa

Can you miss something that you no longer have memory of, and no longer exists in a physical form? On a remote, island, memories are systematically removed from the people. The loss is gradual, made up of banal things, until the impact of the missing memories snowball into something of greater import, especially if you happen to be of the few whose memory have not been affected. 

A young writer discovers that her editor is one of those people. She struggles and tries to prevent him from being discovered by the Memory Police and then to be taken away and forgotten. 

Like most dystopian novels, this illustrates the demonising element of totalitarianism, Yoko Ogawa, however, does this expertly with subtle tension and does not focus wholly on political views. 

The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea

9781784875428 - sailor who fell from grace - Yukio Mishima

This book is often lauded at the Japanese Lord of the Flies. The story is dark and not for the feint of heart. There was three central characters, Nobaru, a 13 year old boy, his mother Fusako, the owner of an imports store and Ryuji, a sailor at port in Yokohama. 

Nobaru has an idealised view of life and ideals to match. He looks up to Ryuji as the man starts an affair with his mother, but soon finds that rugged man of the sea tamed by love for Fusako. Nobaru takes this as a personal betrayal. 

The writing is lyrical and detailed, which can make the scenes of violence within this book uncomfortable to read. While the book deserves the comparison with the Lord of the Flies, it is very much indeed a story onto itself, with themes of disillusion, age and westernism. 


That covers our list of Japanese novels in English for you to get going with — trust that you'll enjoy reading them as much as we do recommending them!

Have you read any Japanese literature before? What's your favourite book? Who is your most loved author? 

Let us know in the comments section below. 

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