Cover of The Lake, Japanese Authors in Translation
Reading Recommendations

Ten Books by Japanese Authors in Translation

A great way to get a feel for a country, other than living there, is to read its literature. While was in Japan in 2023, I read a lot of Japanese authors in translation.

For this post, I’ve limited myself to recommending one book by ten Japanese authors I admire divided into two categories. And I will let the books speak for themselves.

Contemporary Female Authors

Banana Yoshimoto, The Lake: “It was so gorgeous it almost felt like sadness.”

Sayaka Murata, Convenience Store Woman: “You eliminate the parts of your life that others find strange—maybe that’s what everyone means when they say they want to ‘cure’ me.”

Yōko Ogawa, The Housekeeper and the Professor: “A problem isn’t finished just because you’ve found the right answer.”

Natsuko Imamura, The Woman in the Purple Skirt: “I’ve been here all along.”

Classic Male Authors

Kōbō Abe, The Woman in the Dunes: “You can’t really judge a mosaic if you don’t look at it from a distance. If you really get close to it you get lost in detail. You get away from one detail only to get caught in another. Perhaps what he had been seeing up until now was not the sand but grains of sand.”

Yasunari Kawabata, Palm-of-the-Hand Stories: “A child walked by, rolling a metal hoop that made a sound of autumn.”

Natsume Sōseki, Kokoro: “I bear with my loneliness now, in order to avoid greater loneliness in the years ahead. You see, loneliness is the price we have to pay for being born in this modern age, so full of freedom, independence, and our own egotistical selves.”

Kenzaburō Ōe, A Personal Matter: “More often than not he finds what he is looking for, and it destroys him.”

Haruki Murakami, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: “What we see before us is just one tiny part of the world. We get in the habit of thinking, this is the world, but that’s not true at all. The real world is a much darker and deeper place than this, and much of it is occupied by jellyfish and things.”

Kakuzō Okakura, The Book of Tea: “Nothing is more hallowing than the union of kindred spirits in art.”

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