100 books like Japan, a View from the Bath

By Scott Clark,

Here are 100 books that Japan, a View from the Bath fans have personally recommended if you like Japan, a View from the Bath. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The Roads to Sata: A 2000-mile walk through Japan

Jonathan DeHart Author Of Moon Japan: Plan Your Trip, Avoid the Crowds, and Experience the Real Japan

From my list on evoking a deep, personal discovery of Japan.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a Tokyo-based writer who first came to Japan during university to live with a host family and study the language. After a stint in Shanghai, Japan brought me back in 2012 and I’ve lived here ever since. I’ve cycled across remote Okinawan islands, wandered Kyoto’s cobblestone lanes, and trekked to mountaintop temples in heavy snow. But some of my best memories have happened over homemade plum wine at a friend’s dinner table. I’ve written two books published by Moon Travel Guides and countless articles on Asia, with some being chosen for “best of” lists by The Washington Post, The Atlantic, Foreign Policy, and Real Clear World

Jonathan's book list on evoking a deep, personal discovery of Japan

Jonathan DeHart Why did Jonathan love this book?

This travelogue brilliantly narrates Alan Booth’s southward trek across Japan, end to end, from Cape Soya in Hokkaido to Cape Sata in Kyushu. The book’s subtitle, A 2,000 Mile Walk Through Japan, speaks volumes. The journey, which some would call masochistic, is practically measured in blisters. We see Booth, fluent in Japanese, trudge through rain and shine along backcountry roads, from greasy spoons to lonesome karaoke bars, collapsing into countless futons along the way. His journey comes to life with colorful characters, boozy local festivals, and pithy realizations about his adopted homeland, at turns entertaining, illuminating, and hilarious. For me, this book captures the joy of discovering the salty, unexpected side of Japan. It also cements Booth’s status as one of the (unsung) travel writing greats.  

By Alan Booth,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Roads to Sata as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'A memorable, oddly beautiful book' Wall Street Journal

'A marvellous glimpse of the Japan that rarely peeks through the country's public image' Washington Post

One sunny spring morning in the 1970s, an unlikely Englishman set out on a pilgrimage that would take him across the entire length of Japan. Travelling only along small back roads, Alan Booth travelled on foot from Soya, the country's northernmost tip, to Sata in the extreme south, traversing three islands and some 2,000 miles of rural Japan. His mission: 'to come to grips with the business of living here,' after having spent most of his…


Book cover of Japanese Pilgrimage

Craig McLachlan Author Of Tales of a Summer Henro

From my list on understanding Japan and the Japanese.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have a passion for Japan and the Japanese stretching back over four decades. I’ve done a lot of wandering around my wife Yuriko’s home-country – walked the 3200km length of it; hiked across it from the Sea of Japan to the Pacific, climbing all 21 of its 3000m peaks; broken the record for climbing its 100 Famous Mountains; walked around the 88 Sacred Temples of Shikoku Pilgrimage; and journeyed around the Saigoku 33 Temples of Kannon Pilgrimmage – and written books on all these adventures. I’ve co-written Lonely Planet’s “Japan” and “Hiking in Japan” guidebooks since the late 1990s, covering everywhere from Hokkaido to Okinawa.

Craig's book list on understanding Japan and the Japanese

Craig McLachlan Why did Craig love this book?

After walking the length of Japan, I still wasn’t satisfied. I still needed to find more of ‘the real Japan’. Shikoku was the natural next step, and Statler enthralled me with the story of his personal search for enlightenment on the 88 Sacred Temples of Shikoku pilgrimage. Not only that, his book tells you how to undertake the pilgrimage in a traditional manner, delving into its history and ‘pilgrimage culture’. This book is entertaining, enlightening, and extremely inspiring – so much so, that after reading this, you might be heading off to Japan and Shikoku on your own search for enlightenment.    

By Oliver Statler,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Japanese Pilgrimage as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Japanese Pilgramage' is Oliver Statler's account of walking the Shikoku Pilgrimage, a thousand-mile trek around the fourth largest island in Japan following the path of an ancient Buddhist master. It is a fascinating story of a spiritual journey that shows the many sides of Japan.


Book cover of Basho and His Interpreters: Selected Hokku with Commentary

Craig McLachlan Author Of Tales of a Summer Henro

From my list on understanding Japan and the Japanese.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have a passion for Japan and the Japanese stretching back over four decades. I’ve done a lot of wandering around my wife Yuriko’s home-country – walked the 3200km length of it; hiked across it from the Sea of Japan to the Pacific, climbing all 21 of its 3000m peaks; broken the record for climbing its 100 Famous Mountains; walked around the 88 Sacred Temples of Shikoku Pilgrimage; and journeyed around the Saigoku 33 Temples of Kannon Pilgrimmage – and written books on all these adventures. I’ve co-written Lonely Planet’s “Japan” and “Hiking in Japan” guidebooks since the late 1990s, covering everywhere from Hokkaido to Okinawa.

Craig's book list on understanding Japan and the Japanese

Craig McLachlan Why did Craig love this book?

Matsuo Bashō is considered the most influential figure in the history of hokku (or haiku) poems and this book brings them to life with excellent English translations and commentary. I particularly enjoy Bashō because he was a traveller. He didn’t just sit and write poems in comfy surroundings. He hit the road and wrote about his experiences, be they good or bad. In many ways, they are the humorous, spontaneous, gritty writings of a fatigued experiencer of life. One of my favourites - “My summer robe, there are still some lice, I have not caught”. Ueda’s book is brilliant and allows English speakers to glimpse Bashō’s true thoughts as he rambled about the countryside in 17th century Japan.

By Makoto Ueda,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Basho and His Interpreters as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book has a dual purpose. The first is to present in a new English translation 255 representative hokku (or haiku) poems of Matsuo Basho (1644-94), the Japanese poet who is generally considered the most influential figure in the history of the genre. The second is to make available in English a wide spectrum of Japanese critical commentary on the poems over the last three hundred years.


Book cover of Pictures from the Water Trade: An Englishman in Japan

Craig McLachlan Author Of Tales of a Summer Henro

From my list on understanding Japan and the Japanese.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have a passion for Japan and the Japanese stretching back over four decades. I’ve done a lot of wandering around my wife Yuriko’s home-country – walked the 3200km length of it; hiked across it from the Sea of Japan to the Pacific, climbing all 21 of its 3000m peaks; broken the record for climbing its 100 Famous Mountains; walked around the 88 Sacred Temples of Shikoku Pilgrimage; and journeyed around the Saigoku 33 Temples of Kannon Pilgrimmage – and written books on all these adventures. I’ve co-written Lonely Planet’s “Japan” and “Hiking in Japan” guidebooks since the late 1990s, covering everywhere from Hokkaido to Okinawa.

Craig's book list on understanding Japan and the Japanese

Craig McLachlan Why did Craig love this book?

Morley writes from experience in this intriguing look at the “mizu-shōbai” – the “water trade”. “The water trade?” I hear you ask. “Mizu-shōbai” is one of those lovely euphemistic Japanese terms that has no meaning to the uninitiated foreigner, even if they have academically studied the Japanese language, but is a term that is infused in daily Japanese life – the night-time world of cosy bars, cabarets and dare we say it, brothels. This book is a look into the murky evening world that few foreign visitors get to see, even if they have heard rumours of its’ existence. It’s a “Japan-by-experience” book that is highly entertaining, often hilarious, and may provide insights that set you to sail for Japan at the first opportunity.

By John David Morley,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Pictures from the Water Trade as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

For several years, John David Morley immersed himself in Japanese life, from learning "Shodo", the art of calligraphy, to frequenting the night-time world of the "water trade", its brothels, clubs and bars. This book is the tale of an Englishman's journey into the enigma of Japan.


Book cover of Lonely Planet Japan

Sneed B. Collard III Author Of First-Time Japan: A Step-By-Step Guide for the Independent Traveler

From my list on travel guides for conquering your Fear of Japan.

Why am I passionate about this?

Although my travels had taken me to Asia numerous times, Japan eluded me until my teen daughter and I spent three weeks there following the country’s re-opening from covid. The trip exceeded all of our expectations, but facing the country’s impenetrable language and complex transportation system felt intimidating. To prepare, I devoured a shelf full of guidebooks. I learned that each has its strengths and weaknesses, but these books and our own adventures greatly informed my decision to write First-Time Japan. I was especially fortunate to collaborate with Japan tour guide Roy Ozaki, who contributed greatly to the book and gave me essential insights into Japan’s people, places, and culture.

Sneed's book list on travel guides for conquering your Fear of Japan

Sneed B. Collard III Why did Sneed love this book?

Lonely Planet guidebooks are almost always the first guides I buy when traveling to a new country.

I read through one almost as if I am reading a novel, taking notes about the places I want to visit and things I’d like to do. That said, the books can be overwhelming simply because they attempt to do so much.

The densely-packed design also doesn’t succeed as well as Fodor’s Essential Japan. Especially if this is your first trip, this is an excellent additional resource—but again, because of its weight you will probably want to leave it at home and take a lighter reference on your actual trip.

For booking hotels and finding transportation details, you’ll probably do better using more up-to-date and extensive internet resources.

By Lonely Planet, Rebecca Milner, Ray Bartlett , Andrew Bender , Samantha Forge , Craig McLachlan , Kate Morgan , Thomas O'Malley , Simon Richmond , Phillip Tang

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Lonely Planet Japan as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Lonely Planet's Japan is your passport to the most relevant, up-to-date advice on what to see and skip, and what hidden discoveries await you. Explore over a thousand temples in old imperial capital Kyoto, relax in one of the onsens scattered across the archipelago, and sample the breadth of Japan's sublime cuisine; all with your trusted travel companion. Get to the heart of Japan and begin your journey now!

Inside Lonely Planet's Japan Travel Guide:

Up-to-date information - all businesses were rechecked before publication to ensure they are still open after 2020's COVID-19 outbreak

NEW top experiences feature - a…


Book cover of The Tale of Genji: The Authentic First Translation of the World's Earliest Novel

Alina Lee Author Of Paper Crane Memories

From my list on the history, folklore, and mythology of Japan.

Why am I passionate about this?

Growing up, I was introduced to Japanese culture and history through anime. But I decided to dig a little deeper, reading history books and looking up more and more information. I was fascinated by what was presented of “Old Japan,” both the misconceptions that were spread by pop culture and by the surprising details that it gets right that no one would believe. This fascination is one of the most consistent things about me through the years, and the idea of delving into works of my own that merged samurai drama with lesbian relationships has been a recurring desire of mine for years.

Alina's book list on the history, folklore, and mythology of Japan

Alina Lee Why did Alina love this book?

Though potentially incomplete (some scholars argue we're missing one or two chapters, or that the story was never meant to end), The Tale of Genji manages to paint a vivid picture of the life of a lost age, with its own array of traditions, values, and fashions; a world where one's skill with poetry was just as valuable as political acumen and their outlook is so different from a modern perspective. At the same time, it presents the timeless complexity of relationships between men and women, and the social expectations and norms that impact those connections.

By Murasaki Shikibu, Kencho Suematsu (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Tale of Genji as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Written centuries before the time of Shakespeare and even Chaucer, The Tale of Genji marks the birth of the novel and after more than a millennium, this seminal work continues to enchant readers throughout the world. Lady Murasaki Shikibu and her tale's hero, Prince Genji, have had an unmatched influence on Japanese culture. Prince Genji manifests what was to become an image of the ideal Heian era courtier: gentle and passionate. Genji is also a master poet, dancer, musician and painter. The Tale of Genji follows Prince Genji through his many loves, and varied passions. This book has influenced not…


Book cover of The Heike Story

Alina Lee Author Of Paper Crane Memories

From my list on the history, folklore, and mythology of Japan.

Why am I passionate about this?

Growing up, I was introduced to Japanese culture and history through anime. But I decided to dig a little deeper, reading history books and looking up more and more information. I was fascinated by what was presented of “Old Japan,” both the misconceptions that were spread by pop culture and by the surprising details that it gets right that no one would believe. This fascination is one of the most consistent things about me through the years, and the idea of delving into works of my own that merged samurai drama with lesbian relationships has been a recurring desire of mine for years.

Alina's book list on the history, folklore, and mythology of Japan

Alina Lee Why did Alina love this book?

Japan is full of figures from its own history that loves to villainize, and few of them stand out, like Taira no Kiyomori. This prose retelling of the original epic covers the rise and fall of the Taira Clan is full of politics, scheming, ruthlessness, and more than a few bloody battles. Kiyomori is someone I can understand the motivations of, even as I condemn him for his tactics and monstrous actions. The Heike Story is the bloodstained and muddy underbelly that emerges as the samurai warrior class rises to prominence and the power of the old aristocracy wanes.

By Eiji Yoshikawa, Kenkichi Sugimoto (illustrator), Fuki Wooyenaka Uramatsu (translator)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Heike Story as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Kyoto in the twelfth century was a magnificent city, but crime, disorder, and lust were rampant. The people were abused by the nobility, while the armed Buddhist monks terrorized court and commoner alike. In despair, the Emperor called upon the Heike and Genji clans to quell civil disturbances. Although the clans succeeded, they quarreled over the spoils of war and plunged the country into a century of warfare.This novel describes the rise to power of Kiyomori of the Heike clan during this turbulent time. From a youth sunk in poverty, Kiyomori eventually rose to become the Emperor's Chief Councillor. Although…


Book cover of Yamada Monogatari: Demon Hunter

Alina Lee Author Of Paper Crane Memories

From my list on the history, folklore, and mythology of Japan.

Why am I passionate about this?

Growing up, I was introduced to Japanese culture and history through anime. But I decided to dig a little deeper, reading history books and looking up more and more information. I was fascinated by what was presented of “Old Japan,” both the misconceptions that were spread by pop culture and by the surprising details that it gets right that no one would believe. This fascination is one of the most consistent things about me through the years, and the idea of delving into works of my own that merged samurai drama with lesbian relationships has been a recurring desire of mine for years.

Alina's book list on the history, folklore, and mythology of Japan

Alina Lee Why did Alina love this book?

For me, it's hard to find stories that are so willing to dive into the feel of a bygone era, especially one that is potentially as obscure to some audiences as the Heian period of Japan. Set in a period of slow change, this short story collection combines the tensions of the period (a rising warrior class, Shinto vs Buddhist religious tensions, factions in the imperial court) in combination with the rich variety of strange beings in the folklore of Japan. I love how it paints a picture of a world that is simultaneously grounded in human motivations and populated by the esoteric and supernatural.

By Richard Parks,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Yamada Monogatari as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In an ancient Japan where the incursions of gods, ghosts, and demons into the living world is an everyday event, an impoverished nobleman named Yamada no Goji makes his living as a demon hunter for hire. With the occasional assistance of the reprobate exorcist Kenji, whatever the difficulty - ogres, demons, fox-spirits - for a price Yamada will do what needs to be done, even and especially if the solution to the problem isn't as simple as the edge of a sword. Yet, no matter how many monsters he has to face, or how powerful and terrible they may be,…


Book cover of Katsuno's Revenge and Other Tales of the Samurai

Alina Lee Author Of Paper Crane Memories

From my list on the history, folklore, and mythology of Japan.

Why am I passionate about this?

Growing up, I was introduced to Japanese culture and history through anime. But I decided to dig a little deeper, reading history books and looking up more and more information. I was fascinated by what was presented of “Old Japan,” both the misconceptions that were spread by pop culture and by the surprising details that it gets right that no one would believe. This fascination is one of the most consistent things about me through the years, and the idea of delving into works of my own that merged samurai drama with lesbian relationships has been a recurring desire of mine for years.

Alina's book list on the history, folklore, and mythology of Japan

Alina Lee Why did Alina love this book?

These eight short stories are samurai-focused historical fiction done with an appreciation for the traditions and the legacy of the warrior class of Old Japan. They all come from the years of the Warring States period, which many argue was the heyday of the samurai and the height of their prowess. These stories capture the values and emotions that drove these warriors, even outside the battlefield. These stories are framed almost like snapshots or sketches, capturing the moment and the character of that moment in vivid fashion.

By Asataro Miyamori,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Katsuno's Revenge and Other Tales of the Samurai as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

These eight compelling stories offer valuable insights into Japanese culture. Recounted by a distinguished scholar, they feature scenes from samurai life that embody the concept of Bushido, the "way of the warrior." Their portrayals of loyalty, romance, passion, and heroism offer a true reflection of the values of the Japanese knighthood.
Largely fact-based, these fables originated among the traditional storytellers of Japan and were later adapted into romances and historical dramas. Asataro Miyamori, a professor of English at the Oriental University in Tokyo, drew upon authentic sources in compiling this volume, which first appeared in 1920. In the preface, Miyamori…


Book cover of The Oxford Book of Japanese Short Stories

Marian Frances Wolbers Author Of Rider

From my list on a sweet journey into Japan.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been enjoying Japanese stories from the moment I first found them, a direct result of living, studying, and working in Japan for five years, from Imari City (in Kyushu Island) to Tokyo (on Honshu). The pacing of Japanese novels—starting out slowly and deliberately, then speeding up like a tsunami out of nowhere—totally appeals to me, and feels infinitely more connected to exploring the subtleties, complexity, and beauty of relationships. This is especially true when compared to Western novels, which seem overly obsessed with splashing grand, dramatic action and injury on every other page. I just love revisiting Japan through reading.

Marian's book list on a sweet journey into Japan

Marian Frances Wolbers Why did Marian love this book?

Looking for a well-curated, wide variety of Japanese short stories written by nearly all the famous modernist novelists revered in Japan? This collection contains everything from Kawabata’s "The Izu Dancer" to Satomi Ton’s marvelously deep story called "Blowfish", wherein the hero—a famously talented Kabuki actor succumbs to the kind of brain-fogging, body-busting death that only blowfish poison can deliver. The author manages to get inside the head of his character, uncovering what transitioning into death feels like, with humor sprinkled here and there, and an emotional recollection/revelation about his own actor-father dying in a theater fire. 

By Theodore W. Goossen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Oxford Book of Japanese Short Stories as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This collection of short stories, including many new translations, is the first to span the whole of Japan's modern era from the end of the nineteenth century to the present day. Beginning with the first writings to assimilate and rework Western literary traditions, through the flourishing of the short story genre in the cosmopolitan atmosphere of the Taisho era, to the new breed of writers produced under the constraints of literary censorship, and the current writings reflecting the pitfalls and paradoxes of modern life, this anthology offers a stimulating survey of the development of the Japanese short story. Various indigenous…


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