Are you looking for some great Japanese translated novels? Keep on reading because you are at the right place.
I feel that Japanese literature has overshadowed all the other literature across the globe simply because is told from very different, rather strange. I am saying strange because some Japanese stories are told from the perspective of cat while some from the perspective that we do not find in any other literature.
Do we find such narratives in the literature from any other country?
Japanese Literature makes even the most strange things happen and that is something which makes me read more. I have made a list of all the books that will make you fall in love with Japanese literature.
1. Men Without Women
Men without women is a collection of several short stories about men who are suffering from isolation due to the loss of women in their lives. Every story was different in its own way.
𝐃𝐫𝐢𝐯𝐞 𝐦𝐲 𝐜𝐚𝐫 ⭐️⭐️⭐️/5
It follows an actor who appoints the female driver in order to take him to the rehearsals. Initially, that in the journey can ever used to even talk to each other but gradually he reflects on his life about his wife and all the affairs she had before she died.
“Yesterday is two days before tomorrow, The day after two days ago.”
The story follows two characters— Erika and Kitaru and its a journey of their relationship.
𝐀𝐧 𝐢𝐧𝐝𝐞𝐩𝐞𝐧𝐝𝐞𝐧𝐭 𝐨𝐫𝐠𝐚𝐧 ⭐️⭐️/5
The story follows Dr. Tokai who feels that “Women are all born with a special, Independent organ which allows them to lie.”
It is a story about a man named Habara who is confined within his own house. Twice or thrice in a week, a woman comes to supply him food. The man in this story calls the women by the name ‘Scheherazade’. The lady tell various stories to Habara and he is always worried whether he’ll be able to see her again or not.
This story follows a man who opens a bar just to keep his mind distracted. He was continuously running away from the feeling that his wife broke up with him. He was hurt deep inside.
Why I gave this story 5 star?because I got magical realism vibes the most from this particular story.
𝐒𝐚𝐦𝐬𝐚 𝐢𝐧 𝐥𝐨𝐯𝐞 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5/5
This story but somewhat similar to Franz Kafka’s— metamorphosis. It follows a boy who wake up one morning and found that you have turned into an insect.
𝐌𝐞𝐧 𝐰𝐢𝐭𝐡𝐨𝐮𝐭 𝐖𝐨𝐦𝐞𝐧 ⭐️⭐️⭐️/5
It’s a story about a man who receives a call in the middle of the night from his ex girlfriend’s husband who tells him that she has died.
2. The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa, Philip Gabriel (Translator)
Sometimes you have to leave behind everything you know to find the place you truly belong…
Nana the cat is on a road trip. He is not sure where he’s going or why, but it means that he gets to sit in the front seat of a silver van with his beloved owner, Satoru. Side by side, they cruise around Japan through the changing seasons, visiting Satoru’s old friends. He meets Yoshimine, the brusque and unsentimental farmer for whom cats are just ratters; Sugi and Chikako, the warm-hearted couple who run a pet-friendly B&B; and Kosuke, the mournful husband whose cat-loving wife has just left him. There’s even a very special dog who forces Nana to reassess his disdain for the canine species.
But what is the purpose of this road trip? And why is everyone so interested in Nana? Nana does not know and Satoru won’t say. But when Nana finally works it out, his small heart will break…
3. Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami, Jay Rubin (Translator)
Toru, a quiet and preternaturally serious young college student in Tokyo, is devoted to Naoko, a beautiful and introspective young woman, but their mutual passion is marked by the tragic death of their best friend years before. Toru begins to adapt to campus life and the loneliness and isolation he faces there, but Naoko finds the pressures and responsibilities of life unbearable. As she retreats further into her own world, Toru finds himself reaching out to others and drawn to a fiercely independent and sexually liberated young woman.
A magnificent blending of the music, the mood, and the ethos that was the sixties with the story of one college student’s romantic coming of age, Norwegian Wood brilliantly recaptures a young man’s first, hopeless, and heroic love.
4. Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata, Ginny Tapley Takemori (Translator)
Convenience Store Woman is the heartwarming and surprising story of thirty-six-year-old Tokyo resident Keiko Furukura. Keiko has never fit in, neither in her family, nor in school, but when at the age of eighteen she begins working at the Hiiromachi branch of “Smile Mart,” she finds peace and purpose in her life. In the store, unlike anywhere else, she understands the rules of social interaction ― many are laid out line by line in the store’s manual ― and she does her best to copy the dress, mannerisms, and speech of her colleagues, playing the part of a “normal” person excellently, more or less. Managers come and go, but Keiko stays at the store for eighteen years. It’s almost hard to tell where the store ends and she begins. Keiko is very happy, but the people close to her, from her family to her coworkers, increasingly pressure her to find a husband, and to start a proper career, prompting her to take desperate action…
A brilliant depiction of an unusual psyche and a world hidden from view, Convenience Store Woman is an ironic and sharp-eyed look at contemporary work culture and the pressures to conform, as well as a charming and completely fresh portrait of an unforgettable heroine.
5. Strange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami, Allison Markin Powell (Translator)
Tsukiko is drinking alone in her local sake bar when by chance she meets one of her old high school teachers and, unable to remember his name, she falls back into her old habit of calling him ‘Sensei’. After this first encounter, Tsukiko and Sensei continue to meet. Together, they share edamame beans, bottles of cold beer, and a trip to the mountains to eat wild mushrooms. As their friendship deepens, Tsukiko comes to realise that the solace she has found with Sensei might be something more.
6. Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi, Geoffrey Trousselot (Translator)
What would you change if you could go back in time?
In a small back alley in Tokyo, there is a café which has been serving carefully brewed coffee for more than one hundred years. But this coffee shop offers its customers a unique experience: the chance to travel back in time.
In Before the Coffee Gets Cold, we meet four visitors, each of whom is hoping to make use of the café’s time-travelling offer, in order to: confront the man who left them, receive a letter from their husband whose memory has been taken by early onset Alzheimer’s, to see their sister one last time, and to meet the daughter they never got the chance to know.
But the journey into the past does not come without risks: customers must sit in a particular seat, they cannot leave the café, and finally, they must return to the present before the coffee gets cold . . .
Toshikazu Kawaguchi’s beautiful, moving story 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?
7. The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide, Eric Selland (Translator)
A bestseller in France and winner of Japan’s Kiyama Shohei Literary Award, The Guest Cat, by the acclaimed poet Takashi Hiraide, is a subtly moving and exceptionally beautiful novel about the transient nature of life and idiosyncratic but deeply felt ways of living. A couple in their thirties live in a small rented cottage in a quiet part of Tokyo; they work at home, freelance copy-editing; they no longer have very much to say to one another. But one day a cat invites itself into their small kitchen. It leaves, but the next day comes again, and then again and again. Soon they are buying treats for the cat and enjoying talks about the animal and all its little ways. Life suddenly seems to have more promise for the husband and wife — the days have more light and color. The novel brims with new small joys and many moments of staggering poetic beauty, but then something happens….
As Kenzaburo Oe has remarked, Takashi Hiraide’s work “really shines.” His poetry, which is remarkably cross-hatched with beauty, has been acclaimed here for “its seemingly endless string of shape-shifting objects and experiences,whose splintering effect is enacted via a unique combination of speed and minutiae.”
8. The Nakano Thrift Shop by Hiromi Kawakami, Allison Markin Powell (Translator)
Among the jumble of paperweights, plates, typewriters and general bric-a-brac in Mr Nakano’s thrift store, there are treasures to be found. Each piece carries its own story of love and loss – or so it seems to Hitomi, when she takes a job there working behind the till. Nor are her fellow employees any less curious or weatherworn than the items they sell. There’s the store’s owner, Mr Nakano, an enigmatic ladies’ man with several ex-wives; Sakiko, his sensuous, unreadable lover; his sister, Masayo, an artist whose free-spirited creations mask hidden sorrows. And finally there’s Hitomi’s fellow employee, Takeo, whose abrupt and taciturn manner Hitomi finds, to her consternation, increasingly disarming. A beguiling story of love found amid odds and ends, The Nakano Thrift Shop is a heart-warming and utterly charming novel from one of Japan’s most celebrated contemporary novelists.
9. Sweet Bean Paste by Durian Sukegawa, Alison Watts (Translator)
Sentaro has failed. He has a criminal record, drinks too much, and his dream of becoming a writer is just a distant memory. With only the blossoming of the cherry trees to mark the passing of time, he spends his days in a tiny confectionery shop selling dorayaki, a type of pancake filled with sweet bean paste.
But everything is about to change.
Into his life comes Tokue, an elderly woman with disfigured hands and a troubled past. Tokue makes the best sweet bean paste Sentaro has ever tasted. She begins to teach him her craft, but as their friendship flourishes, social pressures become impossible to escape and Tokue’s dark secret is revealed, with devastating consequences.
Sweet Bean Paste is a moving novel about the burden of the past and the redemptive power of friendship. Translated into English for the first time, Durian Sukegawa’s beautiful prose is capturing hearts all over the world.
10. The End of the Moment We Had by Toshiki Okada, Samuel Malissa (Translator)
On the eve of the Iraq War, a man and a woman meet in a nightclub in Tokyo. They go to a love hotel, and spend the next five days in a torrid affair. Written in a stream of consciousness, with the reader’s perceptions shifting and melting into one another, what is remarkable in this story is not what happens, but the ability of the writer to enter the minds and memories of the protagonists.In the second story, a woman living in a damp flat obsesses on the filthy state of her dwelling. She remains in bed for the duration of the narrative, but the drama and tension of her inner life – spiralling further and further into her memories and anxieties – keep the reader engrossed to the very end.The End of the Moment We Had demonstrates the fluidity and richness of this extraordinarily gifted writer’s language and ideas.
11. Slow Boat by Hideo Furukawa, David Boyd (Translator)
Trapped in Tokyo, left behind by a series of girlfriends, the narrator of Slow Boat sizes up his situation. His missteps, his violent rebellions, his tiny victories. But he is not a passive loser, content to accept all that fate hands him. He attempts one last escape to the edges of the city, holding the only safety net he has known – his dreams.
Filled with lyrical longing and humour, Slow Boat captures perfectly the urge to get away and the necessity of finding yourself in a world which might never even be looking for you.
12. The Memory Police by Yōko Ogawa, Stephen Snyder (Translator)
A haunting, Orwellian novel about the terrors of state surveillance, from the acclaimed author of The Housekeeper and the Professor
On an unnamed island off an unnamed coast, objects are disappearing: first hats, then ribbons, birds, roses—until things become much more serious. Most of the island’s inhabitants are oblivious to these changes, while those few imbued with the power to recall the lost objects live in fear of the draconian Memory Police, who are committed to ensuring that what has disappeared remains forgotten.
When a young woman who is struggling to maintain her career as a novelist discovers that her editor is in danger from the Memory Police, she concocts a plan to hide him beneath her floorboards. As fear and loss close in around them, they cling to her writing as the last way of preserving the past.
A surreal, provocative fable about the power of memory and the trauma of loss, The Memory Police is a stunning new work from one of the most exciting contemporary authors writing in any language.
13. Spring Garden by Tomoka Shibasaki, Polly Barton (Translator)
‘He’d come to realise that it was a mistake to grind up his father’s remains with such a thing. The mortar was lined with narrow grooves, a little too perfect for ashes to get stuck in.’
Divorced and cut off from his family, Taro lives alone in one of the few occupied apartments in his block, a block that is to be torn down as soon as the remaining tenants leave. Since the death of his father, Taro keeps to himself, but is soon drawn into an unusual relationship with the woman upstairs, Nishi, as she passes on the strange tale of the sky-blue house next door.
First discovered by Nishi in the little-known photo-book ‘Spring Garden’, the sky-blue house soon becomes a focus for both Nishi and Taro: of what is lost, of what has been destroyed, and of what hope may yet lie in the future for both of them, if only they can seize it.
Tomoka Shibasaki was born in 1973 in Osaka and began writing fiction while still in high school. After graduating from university, she took an office job but continued writing, and was shortlisted for the Bungei Prize in 1998. Her first book, A Day on the Planet, was turned into a hit movie, and Spring Garden won the prestigious Akutagawa Prize in 2014.
14. Tokyo Ueno Station by Miri Yū, Morgan Giles (Translator)
Born in Fukushima in 1933, the same year as the Emperor, Kazu’s life is tied by a series of coincidences to Japan’s Imperial family and to one particular spot in Tokyo; the park near Ueno Station – the same place his unquiet spirit now haunts in death. It is here that Kazu’s life in Tokyo began, as a labourer in the run up to the 1964 Olympics, and later where he ended his days, living in the park’s vast homeless ‘villages’, traumatised by the destruction of the 2011 tsunami and enraged by the announcement of the 2020 Olympics.
Akutagawa-award-winning author Yū Miri uses her outsider’s perspective as a Zainichi (Korean-Japanese) writer to craft a novel of utmost importance to this moment, a powerful rebuke to the Imperial system and a sensitive, deeply felt depiction of the lives of Japan’s most vulnerable people.
15. The Aosawa Murders by Riku Onda, Alison Watts (Translator)
The novel starts in the 1960s when 17 people die of cyanide poisoning at a party given by the owners of a prominent clinic in a town on the coast of the Sea of Japan. The only surviving links to what might have happened are a cryptic verse that could be the killer’s, and the physician’s bewitching blind daughter, Hisako, the only person spared injury. The youth who emerges as the prime suspect commits suicide that October, effectively sealing his guilt while consigning his motives to mystery.
The police are convinced Hisako had a role in the crime, as are many in the town, including the author of a bestselling book about the murders written a decade after the incident, who was herself a childhood friend of Hisako’s and witness to the discovery of the killings. The truth is revealed through a skillful juggling of testimony by different voices: family members, witnesses and neighbors, police investigators and of course the mesmerizing Hisako herself.
16. Penance by Kanae Minato, Philip Gabriel (Translator)
The tense, chilling story of four women haunted by a childhood trauma.
When they were children, Sae, Maki, Akiko and Yuko were tricked into separating from their friend Emily by a mysterious stranger. Then the unthinkable occurs: Emily is found murdered hours later.
Sae, Maki, Akiko and Yuko weren’t able to accurately describe the stranger’s appearance to the police after the Emily’s body was discovered. Asako, Emily’s mother, curses the surviving girls, vowing that they will pay for her daughter’s murder.
Like Confessions, Kanae Minato’s award-winning, internationally bestselling debut, Penance is a dark and voice-driven tale of revenge and psychological trauma that will leave readers breathless.
17. Ms Ice Sandwich by Mieko Kawakami, Louise Heal Kawai (Translator)
Ms Ice Sandwich seems to lack social graces, but our young narrator is totally smitten with her. He is in awe of her aloofness, her skill at slipping sandwiches into bags, and, most electric of all, her ice-blue eyelids. Every day he is drawn to the supermarket just to watch her in action. But life has a way of interfering – there is his mother, forever distracted, who can tell the fortunes of women; his grandmother, silently dying, who listens to his heart; and his classmate, Tutti, no stranger to pain, who shares her private thrilling world with him.
Tender, warm, yet unsentimental, Ms Ice Sandwich is a story about new starts, parents who have departed, and the importance of saying goodbye.
18. Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto, Megan Backus (Translator)
Banana Yoshimoto’s novels have made her a sensation in Japan and all over the world, and Kitchen, the dazzling English-language debut that is still her best-loved book, is an enchantingly original and deeply affecting book about mothers, love, tragedy, and the power of the kitchen and home in the lives of a pair of free-spirited young women in contemporary Japan. Mikage, the heroine of Kitchen, is an orphan raised by her grandmother, who has passed away. Grieving, she is taken in by her friend Yoichi and his mother (who was once his father), Eriko. As the three of them form an improvised family that soon weathers its own tragic losses, Yoshimoto spins a lovely, evocative tale that recalls early Marguerite Duras. Kitchen and its companion story, “Moonlight Shadow,” are elegant tales whose seeming simplicity is the ruse of a writer whose voice echoes in the mind and the soul.
19. After Dark by Haruki Murakami
The midnight hour approaches in an almost empty all-night diner. Mari sips her coffee and glances up from a book as a young man, a musician, intrudes on her solitude. Both have missed the last train home.
Later, Mari is interrupted again by a girl from the Alphaville Hotel; a Chinese prostitute has been hurt by a client, and she needs Mari’s help.
Meanwhile Mari’s beautiful sister Eri sleeps a deep, heavy sleep that is ‘to perfect, too pure’ to be normal; she has lain asleep for two months. But tonight a the digital clock displays 00:00, a hint of life flickers across the TV screen, though the television’s plug has been pulled out.
Strange nocturnal happenings, or a trick of the night?
20. Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami, Philip Gabriel (Translator)
A mystery story about love, the cosmos and other fictional universes
Sumire is in love with a woman seventeen years her senior. But whereas Miu is glamorous and successful, Sumire is an aspiring writer who dresses in an oversized second-hand coat and heavy boots like a character in a Kerouac novel.
Sumire spends hours on the phone talking to her best friend K about the big questions in life: what is sexual desire, and should she ever tell Miu how she feels for her? Meanwhile K wonders whether he should confess his own unrequited love for Sumire.
Then, a desperate Miu calls from a small Greek island: Sumire has mysteriously vanished…
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