Top 7 Japanese Books To Read This Winter | Culture

Winter is here in Tokyo. Whether that means you’re ready to curl up on the sofa with a cup of coffee, make yourself comfortable in your kotatsu with a mug of green tea or a mug of fresh hot coffee in a classic kissaten, you need a solid wintery playlist to go with you. From Kazuo Ishiguro’s long-awaited book “Klara and the Sun” to the racing novel “Bullet Train” by Kotaro Isaka (translated by Sam Malissa), we’ve put together a list of our favorite Japanese writers, translators, and creators posting in the English-speaking literary scene this winter. Read on for the full breakdown of what’s on our list. Books about Japan you must have on your reading list this winter.

Klara and the sun by Kazuo Ishiguro
Published in March 2021

Klara is an obsolete model of an artificial humanoid (FA) friend, but she has an exceptional capacity for insight and empathy. She is chosen by Josie, a frail teenager, and her family at a store to be her companion while she is homeschooled in America. Klara immediately devotes herself to fulfilling her AF mission.

Best-known writer Kazuo Ishiguro, perhaps best known for “Never Let Me Go,” describes the possibility of unconditional belief and denial of objective facts, no matter how smart the person is in this book. While the tone of the narrative is soft, the harsh reality this story tells highlights the bitterness of modern society. A long-awaited novel is finally hitting shelves, and if you haven’t read it yet, it must be on your list.

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High speed train by Kotaro Isaka
Translated by Sam Malissa
Published in March 2021

Soon to be adapted into a Hollywood film starring Brad Pitt and directed by David Leitch, it’s a must-read thriller before its cinematic counterpart hits theaters in April 2022. On the Tokyo Shinkansen in Morioka, five assassins cross paths, each in road to different missions. But is it really a coincidence? Kimura, a former alcoholic murderer, plans to take revenge on his young son against “The Prince”, a supposedly model high school student with the hidden personality of a cunning psychopath. Tangerine and Lemon, a deadly duo, receive a secret mission from a big name in the underground world. And Nanao, nicknamed Ladybug, also self-proclaimed “the most unlucky assassin in the world” is ordered to steal the ransom money on the bullet train.

Although this is the second book in the Isaka series, the first of which was “Grasshopper”, don’t worry if you haven’t read in order as it’s still an engaging read without any story.


Behind the Kaiju Curtain by Norman England
Published in November 2021

This is the first book in English to speak in such depth about the modern Japanese film industry. With plenty of behind-the-scenes information, from the production of Godzilla to the development of Japanese films, England shares its less-than-ordinary journey to the heart of the industry’s secrets.

England, who moved from New York to Japan in 1992, worked in the Japanese film industry and was instrumental in the production of kaiju (a monster) films. His stories in this book are aimed at anyone who enjoys exploring Japanese culture, history and media at the same time.

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Louise Erdrich’s sentence
Published in November 2021

We know, we know: while having no connection to Japan, we just couldn’t miss this one on our must-watch list this winter. Tookie, a middle-aged Native American bookseller specializing in native works, longs for a life in which she has a home to return to and a husband to wait for after work. Against her will, a ghost named Flora haunts Tookie at the bookstore. Flora is an elderly woman who, even in death, longs to be Native American. The ghost is just one thing that haunts Tookie, and the story of his past soon unfolds.

Louise Erdrich is a Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winning author and her work was selected by Amazon as one of the “100 Best Books to Read in a Lifetime”. A Native American herself, her cultural connections weave beautifully through her books, and while the comedic plot of the ghost story is humorous, her words also deftly turn to bigger questions of life and place. dead.


The Easy Life in Kamusari by Shion Miura
Translated by Juliet Winters Carpenter
Published in November 2021

Yuki Hirano, 19, has just graduated from high school. He is enrolled by his parents in a forestry training program against his will. Kamusari, a remote village deep in the mountains of Mie Prefecture, Japan, is said to be the last place a city boy wants to spend his time, but meeting people who engage with the forest and deal with it. with nature in the village, and thanks to his work himself learning the hard profession of forestry, he begins to appreciate harmony in Kamusari.

A true coming-of-age story, this is the first book in the Forest series by award-winning Japanese author Shion Miura of “The Great Passage”, translated by the superb Juliet Winters Carpenter. Yuki’s adaptation to life without phones, internet, shopping and the most common expression in the village “naa-naa”(Relax) depicts the modern world’s appreciation for ancient traditions and harmony with nature.

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Dame Joker by Kaoru Takamura
To be released in February 2022

A criminal group targets a large company in the beer industry and kidnaps its CEO, Kyosuke Joyama. The group claims 2 billion yen from the company after the CEO’s release; it turns out they stole 3.5 million liters of beer as a real hostage in his place. Based on the true 1984 crime story, the Glico-Morinaga Extortion Case, this novel is one of Takamura’s best-selling books in Japan. Originally released in 1997 and adapted for theaters in 2004, it is only now that it is finally translated into English.

This book is a must read for mystery lovers this winter. It also aptly explores the darkness of discrimination against minority groups in Japanese society, including buraku communities, Koreans living in Japan and people with disabilities. Although the gang seems to be the bad guys, when you view their original motive of the criminal gang as revenge against the injustice of society, you may begin to wonder who the real antagonist in this world is.

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Arcs and Circles by Marc Peter Keane
To be released February 8, 2022

How do the names of the gardens reveal their essential meaning? Of Arcs and Circles considers nature as an art and gardens as allegorical compositions. What are trees really made of and what is the enigmatic torii (doors found in Shinto shrines) symbolize? From discovering why we give flowers as gifts to exploring the essential and underlying unity of the world, Keane, a landscape designer and writer based in Kyoto, Japan, shares his insights into art. , nature and Japanese gardens. Over the past 20 years, he has designed and built numerous gardens for private residences, businesses, and temples in Japan, ranging in size from 1,200 square feet. tea garden at a six acre park. Keane is also the author of “The Japanese Tea Garden, The Art of Setting Stones” and “Japanese Garden Design”.

Want more Japanese literature? U.S. too. Check out our books page here.

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