17 Best Books Set in Japan

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Are you trying to find the best books set in Japan?

Japan is a country that has a long and interesting history, and fascinating and unique culture. Known as the Land of the Rising Sun, Japan also has no shortage of natural beauty.

If you are planning a trip to Japan, these are some great books to read before you go. Or if you are dreaming of visiting Japan, these books will transport you there without leaving home!

I know that Japan is high up on my travel bucket list, but until I can actually visit, I will just have to settle for traveling there through the pages of a book instead!

Here are the best books set in Japan to add to your reading list:

Best Books Set in Japan

Grab your top Japanese books here:

Best Books Set in Japan

Memoirs of a Geisha

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

This fiction novel follows a geisha living and working in Kyoto, Japan before, during, and after World War II. It offers a glimpse into the mysterious and interesting world of geishas.

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norwegian wood

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

Translated by: Jay Rubin

This is another fiction novel set in Japan. It’s a coming-of-age story that follows a serious and studious college student in Tokyo who is devastated by the death of his friend five years before.

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Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

Pachinko is a historical fiction novel set in Japan. It follows four generations of an immigrant family from Korea fighting to control their destiny in 20th-century Japan.

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Snow Country

Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata

Translated by: Edward G. Seidensticker

At an isolated mountain hot spring, with snow blanketing every surface, Shimamura, a wealthy dilettante meets Komako, a lowly geisha.

She throws herself into a relationship with him fully and without remorse, despite knowing that their passion cannot last and that their affair can have only one outcome in this heartbreaking tale of doomed romance.

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convenience store woman

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata

Translated by: Ginny Tapley Takemori

Keiko finds peace and purpose in her job working at a chain store, where the rules of social interaction are neatly laid out line by line in the store’s manual.

She does her best to copy the dress, mannerisms, and speech of her colleagues in order to fit in. She’s happy, but she faces pressure from her family to start a “real” career and find a husband.

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an artist of the floating world

An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro

This Nobel Prize-winning author tells a story set in post-World War II Japan of an aging artist who looks back on his life and how attitudes towards him and his artwork have changed.

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a tale for the time being

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

In Tokyo, sixteen-year-old Nao has decided there’s only one escape from her aching loneliness and her classmates’ bullying.

But before she ends it all, Nao first plans to document the life of her great grandmother, a Buddhist nun who’s lived more than a century. A diary is Nao’s only solace, and it will touch the lives of others in ways she can scarcely imagine.

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Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto

Translated by: Megan Backus

Kitchen is a book that juxtaposes two tales 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.

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Kokoro by Natsume Soseki

Translated by: Edwin McClellan

The subject of Kokoro which can be translated as “the heart of things” is the contrast between the meanings the various parties of a relationship attached to it.

In the course of this exploration, the author brilliantly describes different levels of friendship, family relationships, and the devices by which people attempt to escape from their fundamental loneliness.

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Geisha a Life

Geisha, A Life by Mineko Iwasaki

Translated by: Rande Brown

The geisha whose interviews inspired the fictional novel Memoirs of a Geisha shares her true story in this intriguing memoir about what the profession of a geisha is really like.

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1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

Translated by: Jay Rubin and Philip Gabriel

Set in Tokyo in 1984, this magical realism novel blurs the lines between fantasy and reality. A young woman named Aomame follows a taxi driver’s enigmatic suggestion and begins to notice puzzling discrepancies in the world around her, entering a parallel existence called 1Q84.

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the thousand autumns of jacob de zoet

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell

This is a historical fiction novel set in 1799 in Japan. It follows a Dutch clerk who has come to Japan from Holland to earn a fortune but finds himself straying from his original goals.

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The Woman in the Dunes

The Woman in the Dunes by Kobo Abe

After missing the last bus home following a day trip to the seashore, an amateur entomologist is offered lodging for the night at the bottom of a vast sand pit. But when he attempts to leave the next morning, he is unable to, and must instead complete a never-ending task of shoveling sand accompanied by a mysterious woman with whom his fate becomes intertwined.

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the samurais garden

The Samurai’s Garden by Gail Tsukiyama

This historical fiction novel set in the 1930s follows Stephen, a young Chinese man who is sent to his family’s summer home in a coastal Japanese village to recover from tuberculosis. There, he is taken care of by the housekeeper Matsu, who is a skilled gardener and a samurai of the soul.

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The Japanese Mind

The Japanese Mind by Roger J. Davies and Osamu Ikeno

This nonfiction book about Japan provides a deeper insight into Japanese culture and society, and many of the aspects that are unique to it, including customs, manners, and beliefs.

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strange weather in tokyo

Strange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami

Translated by: Allison Markin Powell

Tsukiko, an office worker in her late thirties, runs into one of her old high school teachers in a Tokyo bar. As the two reconnect, their relationship blossoms into a deep love.

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The Makioka Sisters

The Makioki Sisters by Junichiro Tanizaki

In this historical fiction novel, the once-wealthy Makioka family of Osaka is in decline. Set in the years before World War II, this book follows the family’s four sisters and their lives.

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Best Books Set in Japan

These are some of the best books set in Japan.

Have you read any of these books set in Japan? Do you have any favorite books set in Japan that I should add to this list? Let me know in the comments below!

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Where next?

Travel vicariously through someone else by reading about their travel experiences in one of these Brilliant Travel Memoirs by Women. These incredible stories by female travel writers will transport you to faraway places, and have you planning your next travel adventure ASAP!

You should also check out the following series of book lists set in Asia:

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