Home 5 Articles and Reports 5 Must-Read Japanese Books In Translation

Must-Read Japanese Books In Translation

by | Jun 10, 2024 | Articles and Reports

Japanese books have proven in the last few years that they are a huge success and a must have book especially if you are looking for a light and short read.

We have put together a list of the most popular and must read Japanese books that have been translated into English.

 

Days at the Morisaki Bookshop by Satoshi Yagisawa

The Morisaki bookshop has been in 25-year-old Takako’s family for generations. Tucked away in a quiet street corner in Jimbocho, Tokyo, the book lover’s paradise seems to appeal to everyone but the heir apparent to the hidden second-hand institution.

That is, until Takako learns of her boyfriend’s desire to marry someone else. Heartbroken and with nowhere else to turn, she begrudgingly accepts her Uncle Satoru’s invitation to live rent-free in the room above his beloved bookshop.

A treatise on the healing power of literature, enjoy the rather meta-fictional journey of Takako as she attempts to mend a broken heart.

 

“NORWEGIAN WOOD” BY HARUKI MURAKAMI 

Set in the late 1960s in Tokyo, Japan, Toru Watanabe reminisces on his college days including a peculiar roommate, conversations with his smug classmate, and all the ups and downs that come with young adolescence. All the while, he is still processing the devastating death of his beloved best friend. In a desperate attempt to rekindle those memories, he connects with his best friend’s ex-girlfriend, Naoko, the only other person who understands what he’s going through. But Naoka is troubled within herself…

Norwegian Wood begs to question if two grieving souls can pull each other out of despair. It is a story that remarks on themes of love, loss, and its bewildering complexities.

 

“CONVENIENCE STORE WOMAN” BY SAYAKA MURATA (2016)

Keiko Furukura, a woman in her 30s who has only ever worked in a convenience store, has never quite fit the expectations society set for her. However, it is at work at “Smile Mart” in Tokyo’s Hiromachi that she feels she can “fit in” if she just follows the rules; say irasshaimase, smile at the customers and do the work of a convenience store employee. Until one day she realizes that her family and friend’s expectations of what a “functioning member of society” is, is far greater than she had ever imagined. 

In this short novella, we join Keiko on her journey as she desperately tries to figure out what it means to be “normal” in today’s society, drawing close attention to gender stereotypes.

“BEFORE THE COFFEE GETS COLD” BY TOSHIKAZU KAWAGUCHI 

“‘Are you listening?’ Kazu continued. ‘When you return to the past, you must drink the entire cup, before the coffee gets cold.’”

In the backstreets of Tokyo, tucked away in a basement, you’ll find a quaint cafe that serves one particularly special brew. One hundred years in business, this shop offers customers a rumored experience, the chance to travel back in time. 

 

In Before the Coffee Gets Cold we meet four characters on their journeys, all with the same hope to use the cafe’s time-traveling service and each with a unique objective, to confront an ex-lover, to receive a letter from her husband whose memory is fading, to meet their sister for the last time and to speak with a daughter she never had the chance to know. The process for time travel is simple but does not come without its risks, customers must sit in a particular seat, they cannot leave and they must drink all the coffee before it gets cold. Perhaps easy enough but make a mistake and the consequences are dire.

 

What You Are Looking for is in the Library by Michiko Aoyama

This popular bestseller in Japan is firmly on the side of warmth and joy, highlighting the power of books and blending the comforting qualities of a classic with the accessible style of much modern Japanese fiction. It is set in a “Community House” where the library is run by Sayuri Komachi. The town’s citizens come to Sayuri with their problems – such as a retired man who realises he has no friends – and her reading recommendations take their lives in unexpected directions. This is not a saccharine book, but one steeped in humanity and wisdom, rather like a literary Repair Shop.

 

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