10 Best Japanese Novels to Read in English

Japanese Books You Must Read in English

Best Japanese Novels

6. Snow Country (Yasunari Kawabata)

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Snow Country (雪国) was written in 1937 by Yasunari Kawabata who first won the Nobel Prize in Literature in Japan in 1968. There are several parts in Snow Country, which were based on his real experience during the trip to Yuzawa Onsen in Niigata Prefecture. The old novel represents a live affair between the main character Shimamura from Tokyo and the heroine Komako working as a geisha in an Onsen town.

Published in Japanese: 1937

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7. Night on the Galactic Railroad (Kenji Miyazawa)

Night on the Galactic Railroad by Kenji Miyazawa
Night on the Galactic Railroad by Kenji Miyazawa on Amazon.com

Night on the Galactic Railroad (銀河鉄道の夜), sometimes translated as The Night of the Milky Way Train or Night on the Milky Way Train, is published in 1934. The fantasy novel by Kenji Miyazawa has been made into movie and anime adaptions. The setting is Iwate Prefecture which is the home of the author. One day, a poor young boy Giovanni notices that he rides on the Galactic Railroad with his best friend Campanella, getting away from the hard life.

Published in Japanese: 1934

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8. I Am a Cat (Soseki Natsume)

I Am a Cat by Soseki Natsume
I Am a Cat by Soseki Natsume on Amazon.com

I Am a Cat (吾輩は猫である), published in 1905, is the first novel by Soseki Natsume and it is one of his masterpieces. Its story is narrated by a cat as the first person with the famous opening sentences “I am a cat. As yet I have no name.” The cat observes and satirizes human behaviors and humans themselves including its owner Kushami Chinno.

Published in Japanese: 1905

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9. The Sound of Waves (Yukio Mishima)

The Sound of Waves by Yukio Mishima
The Sound of Waves by Yukio Mishima on Amazon.com

The Sound of Waves (潮騒) is a popular romance novel written by Yukio Mishima in 1954 and has been made into movie adaptions for some times. The author visited Kamishima Island in Mie Prefecture as a land away from the hustle and bustle of the city to write this novel. The story focuses on pure love between a poor young fisherman Shinji and a diver Hatsue from a wealthy family. They try to overcome lots of problems and obstacles to succeed in love.

Published in Japanese: 1954

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10. Kitchen (Banana Yoshimoto)

Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto
Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto on Amazon.com

Kitchen (キッチン), the representative novel of contemporary Japanese literature, was written by one of the most famous female authors Banana Yoshimoto. In Kitchen, a university-age girl Mikage Sakurai loses her parents when she was young and lives with her grand mother. However, the grand mother, her only family, passes away. The story is followed by the sequel titled Kitchen Part 2: Full Moon.

Published in Japanese: 1988

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Did you find the book that made you want to read? Those 10 novels have been must-read Japanese novels for book lovers for the long time. Enjoy modern Japanese literature in English!

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