The best fiction books set in Japan

Who am I?

Michael Booth is the author of seven non-fiction books including the award-winning, international best-sellers The Almost Nearly Perfect People: The Truth About the Nordic Miracle, and Sushi and Beyond: What the Japanese Know About Cooking. His books have been translated into more than 15 languages, the most recent is Three Tigers, One Mountain: A Journey Through the Bitter History and Current Conflicts of China, Korea, and Japan. He writes regularly for newspapers and magazines around the world, including The Sunday Times, Condé Nast Traveller, Asahi Shimbun, and Politiken. He is the Denmark correspondent for Monocle magazine and Monocle 24 Radio.


I wrote...

Three Tigers, One Mountain: A Journey Through the Bitter History and Current Conflicts of China, Korea, and Japan

By Michael Booth,

Book cover of Three Tigers, One Mountain: A Journey Through the Bitter History and Current Conflicts of China, Korea, and Japan

What is my book about?

From the author of The Almost Nearly Perfect People, a lively tour through Japan, Korea, and China, exploring the intertwined cultures and often fraught history of these neighboring countries. There is an ancient Chinese proverb that states, "Two tigers cannot share the same mountain." However, in East Asia, there are three tigers on that mountain: China, Japan, and Korea, and they have a long history of turmoil and tension with each other. In his latest entertaining and thought-provoking narrative travelogue, Michael Booth sets out to discover how deep, really, is the enmity between these three "tiger" nations, and what prevents them from making peace.

The books I picked & why

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Norwegian Wood

By Haruki Murakami,

Book cover of Norwegian Wood

Why this book?

I suspect for a lot of people this will be the first fiction by a Japanese author they read. Murakami’s world can be dream-like, sometimes supernatural so, often, you don’t always notice the emotional impact of his stories. Norwegian Wood is one of his more ‘straightforward’ narratives, a timeless depiction of young love and all its agonies.

Norwegian Wood

By Haruki Murakami,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Norwegian Wood as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

DISCOVER THE SHORT STORY COLLECTION THAT GAVE THE WORLD DRIVE MY CAR, THE BAFTA AND OSCAR WINNING FILM

A dazzling Sunday Times bestselling collection of short stories from the beloved internationally acclaimed Haruki Murakami.

Across seven tales, Haruki Murakami brings his powers of observation to bear on the lives of men who, in their own ways, find themselves alone. Here are vanishing cats and smoky bars, lonely hearts and mysterious women, baseball and the Beatles, woven together to tell stories that speak to us all.

Marked by the same wry humour that has defined his entire body of work, in…


Convenience Store Woman

By Sayaka Murata, Ginny Tapley Takemori,

Book cover of Convenience Store Woman

Why this book?

What stays with you long after you read this is the authentic voice of the protagonist, and the compelling attention to detail of her life. Like all the best fiction, Murata-san takes you to an unfamiliar place, and makes it real and relevant.

Convenience Store Woman

By Sayaka Murata, Ginny Tapley Takemori,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Convenience Store Woman as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Meet Keiko.

Keiko is 36 years old. She's never had a boyfriend, and she's been working in the same supermarket for eighteen years.

Keiko's family wishes she'd get a proper job. Her friends wonder why she won't get married.

But Keiko knows what makes her happy, and she's not going to let anyone come between her and her convenience store...


The Master of Go

By Yasunari Kawabata, Edward G. Seidensticker (translator),

Book cover of The Master of Go

Why this book?

Sometimes the Nobel committee does get it right. There is a stillness and a rare beauty to this tale of an ageing master of the board game go, fighting a losing battle, literally and figuratively. It manages to say so much about traditional Japanese mores and culture.

The Master of Go

By Yasunari Kawabata, Edward G. Seidensticker (translator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Master of Go as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Go is a game of strategy in which two players attempt to surround each other's black or white stones. Simple in its fundamentals, infinitely complex in its execution, it is an essential expression of the Japanese sensibility. And in his fictional chronicle of a match played between a revered and invincible Master and a younger, more progressive challenger, Yasunari Kawabata captured the moment in which the immutable traditions of imperial Japan met the onslaught of the twentieth century.

The competition between the Master of Go and his opponent, Otake, is waged over several months and layered in ceremony. But beneath…


The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet

By David Mitchell,

Book cover of The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet

Why this book?

Mitchell is one of the greatest living English novelists, a virtuoso prose stylist and compelling explorer of ideas. He has often written about Japan, where he once lived. The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet evokes a very curious place and time in Japanese history, the late eighteenth century, when the country was mostly closed to the world, apart from Dejima, a tiny man-made island in Nagasaki harbour which served as a quarantined Dutch trading post. I could also add another of his books set in contemporary Japan, ‘number9dream’ - a vivid, violent quest set in the Tokyo underworld.

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet

By David Mitchell,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Sunday Times Number One Bestseller, from the author of CLOUD ATLAS and THE BONE CLOCKS.

Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2010

'Brilliant' - The Times
'A masterpiece' - Scotsman

Be transported to a place like no other: a tiny, man-made island in the bay of Nagasaki, for two hundred years the sole gateway between Japan and the West. Here, in the dying days of the 18th-century, a young Dutch clerk arrives to make his fortune. Instead he loses his heart.

Step onto the streets of Dejima and mingle with scheming traders, spies, interpreters, servants and concubines as two…


Pachinko

By Min Jin Lee,

Book cover of Pachinko

Why this book?

Until I started researching my own book about East Asia, I was quite ignorant about the experience of the Koreans in Japan, the ‘Zainichi’. This heart-rending family saga spanning most of the 20th century gave me greater insight than any history book.

Pachinko

By Min Jin Lee,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked Pachinko as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

* The million-copy bestseller*
* National Book Award finalist *
* One of the New York Times's 10 Best Books of 2017 *
* Selected for Emma Watson's Our Shared Shelf book club *

'This is a captivating book... Min Jin Lee's novel takes us through four generations and each character's search for identity and success. It's a powerful story about resilience and compassion' BARACK OBAMA.

Yeongdo, Korea 1911. In a small fishing village on the banks of the East Sea, a club-footed, cleft-lipped man marries a fifteen-year-old girl. The couple have one child, their beloved daughter Sunja. When Sunja…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Japan, romantic love, and exile?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Japan, romantic love, and exile.

Japan Explore 371 books about Japan
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Exile Explore 13 books about exile

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