The best children’s books about and from Japan

The Books I Picked & Why

Kuma-Kuma Chan, the Little Bear

By Kazue Takahashi

Book cover of Kuma-Kuma Chan, the Little Bear

Why this book?

These small, sparsely illustrated books are so charming and quirky! At the surface, there seems to be very little going on, but there is a soothing quality to the simple text that allows you to contemplate the little wonders of life. The naïve artwork works so well with the quiet, short musings by Kuma-Kuma chan and the narrator.

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My Friends

By Taro Gomi

Book cover of My Friends

Why this book?

All the books I’m drawn to have striking and beautiful illustrations and this one is no exception. I love the joyful and varied way that friendship is expressed in this board book. I purchased the book when my daughter was still in preschool (she’s in high school now), and the message of finding camaraderie in as many places as possible still resonates deeply.

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Kamishibai Man

By Allen Say

Book cover of Kamishibai Man

Why this book?

I grew up reading about and experiencing “kamishibai,” which is a Japanese storytelling format using illustration boards. This book by Allen Say gorgeously renders the life of a kamishibai man and what seems like his dying art of sharing stories. I remember trying to make my own kamishibai in elementary school and I’ve been toying with the idea of making one again. The book is a gem!

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Chirri & Chirra

By Kaya Doi, Yuki Kaneko

Book cover of Chirri & Chirra

Why this book?

The intricately illustrated picture books are a feast for the eyes and senses! Chirri and Chirra are adorable twins that get into all sorts of shenanigans with all sorts of creatures in a wild assortment of settings. Enchanting details are tucked into the colorful pages and I love to browse through them slowly.

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Japanese Children's Favorite Stories

By Florence Sakade, Yoshisuke Kurosaki

Book cover of Japanese Children's Favorite Stories

Why this book?

As a little kid, I read the Japanese version of these stories and I was delighted when I found the English version to read to my then tiny daughter. “Momo-Taro,” or Peach Boy, is one of my favorite tales from childhood and there are so many others included in the book that I had forgotten about. These classic stories are a wonderful addition to any library!

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