Writing was introduced to Japan from China in the 5th century via Korea. The oldest surviving works are two historical records, the Kojiki and Nihon Shoki, which were completed in the early 8th century. In the 11th century, during the peak of the Heian Period, the world's first novel, The Tale of Genji, was written in Japan.
During the Meiji Period (1868-1912), an influx of foreign texts spurred the development of modern Japanese literature. Influential authors of the time include Higuchi Ichiyo, whose image is on the 5000 yen bill; Natsume Soseki, who is best known for his Matsuyama-based novel "Botchan"; and Miyazawa Kenji, a poet and children's literature author from Iwate best known for his work "Night on the Galactic Railroad".
Since then, Japan has maintained a vibrant literary culture, and contemporary writers such as Kawabata Yasunari and Oe Kenzaburo have won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1968 and 1994 respectively.
Below are a few places in Japan where the country's literary heritage can be appreciated:
See also our page about Japanese poetry.