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Books on or based in Japan 2008/5/22 18:50
we're planning on travelling to Japan later this year. I'd like to read some good books - non fiction or fiction on Japan. Any suggestions
by Ann  

Depends... 2008/5/23 10:54
What kinds of books do you like to read? Fiction? Non-fiction? Love stories? Horror? New and modern? Ancient legends?

I'd love to recommend some, but it helps to know what interests you. :)
by Nika rate this post as useful

books? 2008/5/23 14:35
I agree with last post.
What type do you want?.
A good guide book is a must
if you have not been to Japan before.
I like Lonely Planet Japan
and have there books on Tokyo and Kyoto as well.
Also I now have map books of Tokyo and major cities in japan to help get me around after leaving train stations.
Of course the major cities all
have big book shops with big English sections to look at
as well. I have actually found it cheaper to buy books in Japan to read there then buy them in NZ.
Good luck
by Kiwi rate this post as useful

Some Books 2008/5/23 18:00
There are many titles and many genres.

Giles Milton's "Samurai William: The Englishman Who Opened the East " is a non fiction account of the first Englishman in Japan. It is a great read if you have any interest in history and gives an insight into the unification of Japan. This is my favorite non fiction read on Japan.

"Tales of the Genji" and "Musashi" are famous japanese books but they are a bit heavy. Haiku by Basho is shorter and something different.

If you are interested in something more modern then there are novels and manga.

Oh and Lonely Planet is always a must have.
by Michael Riley rate this post as useful

o n Japan 2008/5/23 18:51
Lonely Planet makes the same mistake as most guides. Their lists of hotels, restaurants etc. aren't up-to date and they still haven't clicked on the differences between monorails and AGT/ ALRT like the Rokko liner and Portliner an dothers. the more I know Japan the more mistakes I find in LP. Rough guide is just as good/ bad
I read several books by Lafcadio Hearn (and saw his home in Matsue) and was amazed to be able to follow his tracks over one hundred years later.
by Auntie Bert rate this post as useful

books 2008/5/24 07:32
I like "The Roads to Sata" and "Looking for the Lost" by Alan Booth, who walked from one end of Japan to the other, all on foot, and writes about his experiences.

For Japanese writers in translation, you could check out Banana Yoshimoto (I liked "Kitchen" and "NP"). I liked "Norwegian Wood" by Haruki Murakami who is a very famous Japanese novelist, and "Coin-locker Babies" by Ryu Murakami is quite disturbing but still an interesting read.
by ___ rate this post as useful

books on or in Japan 2008/5/24 08:33
I was going to recommend Alan Booth too.

Some other choices in non-fiction:
'Learning to Bow' by Feiler, a story of his JET experiences. Kind of anecdotal (and occasionally he makes it seem like he was the only person to ever do this, whoo-hoo, when instead there are hundreds of JETs all over the place) but interesting nonetheless.

'The Great Wave', Benfey, a collection of profiles of people who 'opened' up Japan at the beginning of the Meiji period.

Very old and shows it, but fascinating, the turn-of-the-century book 'Japanese Homes' by Edward Morse. This guy travelled all over Japan and made line drawings and wrote descriptions of Japanese houses, recognizing that they were disappearing quickly in the rush to Westernize. Much of it is dry as dust but a lot of it explains much that mystified me about Japanese houses and objects I'd see at flea markets.

'Totto-chan' was recommended to me by a friend but I've never bothered.

'A Boy Called H' was an interesting memoir of a childhood in WWII Japan, though a loooooong book to get through. Also on WWII, an account of Kamikaze pilots 'Blossoms in the Wind' is a revelation of how WWII was presented to the Japanese people (particularly the chapter on the schoolgirls drafted to wait on the military - no, really, all they did was cook, clean and be sweet, but they were totally in the dark about the larger picture)

In fiction:

Oliver Statler's 'The Japanese Inn' is interesting - a fictional account of the life of a Japanese Inn. Reads a bit too much like a textbook at times but it's an engaging way to learn some Japanese history. (the Inn, by the way, no longer exists, I understand)

'The Ginger Tree', a painless way to learn some Asian history, the story of a Scotswoman who goes off to China to marry, and ends up in Japan...it ends just prior to WWII, and is entirely fiction, but very entertaining and a quick read.

'Out' by Natsuo Kirino - creepy! Modern crime and desperate lives.

Murakami is a great favorite of mine but so...strange.

Oh, and the light mysteries of Sujata Massey, which star a young Japanese/American trying to make a living as an antiques dealer in Tokyo while getting all involved in random crimes.

Oh, and last, here's a nice website for a huge list of books on, in, or featuring Japan:

by Spendthrift rate this post as useful

books 2008/5/24 16:04
Spendthrift, thank you for recommending Sujata Massey!. I was able to follow her footsteps in Yanaka for example.. How could I forget to mention her! the first 4 or 5 ones where most if not all of the action takes place in Japan are most interesting for a Japan novice.
by Auntie Bert rate this post as useful

more books 2008/5/25 08:00
I agree Sujata Massey is a good read. I read "A Boy Called H" too and recommend it.

Totto-chan was ok, not that interesting though IMO.
by Sira rate this post as useful

. 2008/5/25 14:47
A friend of mine sent me this. I will be traveling to Tokyo soon. I'm considering getting this book. The reviews are favorable. The 3rd editon is 2004 I think. Still a lot of info.

by Danny San rate this post as useful

Books 2008/5/25 15:29
Josie Dew wrote two books about her cycling trips throughout Japan: A ride in the neon sun and The sun in my eyes. Very nice to read where she's been and who she met.
by Trudy rate this post as useful

Tokyo Bilingual Atlas 2008/5/26 07:21
Danny San, I love the Tokyo bilingual atlas and don't go into the city without it, but it is just maps, no guide or information. It's very comprehensive, though, and the maps of the subways and trains are so useful and legible.
Another Tokyo book that I like is the Knopf mapguide:
you can get it from amazon.com too. It breaks the city into six districts, and lists attractions & their descriptions in each fold-out map section. It's small and easy to carry. It's not as far-ranging as the atlas nor quite as detailed in the map department, but it's very convenient for a tourist visit. The subway map is a little small though - makes my eyes hurt.
by Spendthrift rate this post as useful

books 2008/5/26 15:06
_Yankee Hobo in the Orient_ is a lot of fun as is _Shogun_. Pico Iyer's books on Japan are good. There are a whole bunch more here:

by acase rate this post as useful

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