100 books like The Heike Story

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

Here are 100 books that The Heike Story fans have personally recommended if you like The Heike Story. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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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 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 Dragon Sword and Wind Child

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?

While it feels a little slow to start, this novel is the kind of thing that takes typical fantasy tropes, puts them in a bucket, and dumps it upside down. The story is fantastical and doesn't shy away from that fact, but it is also deeply influenced by Japan's folklore, mythology, and spiritual traditions.

By Noriko Ogiwara, Cathy Hirano (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Dragon Sword and Wind Child as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 13, 14, 15, and 16.

What is this book about?

The forces of the God of Light and the Goddess of Darkness have waged a ruthless war across the land of Toyoashihara for generations. But for 15-year-old Saya, the war is far away and unimportant--until the day she discovers that she is the reincarnation of the Water Maiden and a princess of the Children of the Dark. Raised to love the Light and detest the Dark, Saya must come to terms with her heritage even as she tumbles into the very heart of the conflict that is destroying her country. The armies of the Light and Dark both seek to…


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 The Tale of the Heike

Stephen Morillo Author Of War and Conflict in the Middle Ages: A Global Perspective.

From my list on about medieval warfare globally.

Why am I passionate about this?

I fell in love with medieval military history in high school, and have been studying and writing about it as an undergraduate at Harvard, as a graduate student at Oxford, and as a professor of history ever since, eventually bringing the comparative methods and urge to generalize of a world historian to the task. I’ve written ten books and numerous articles. Good history gives me the thrill of time travel without the risk of the bubonic plague, and it has spawned related interests in sword and sorcery fantasy lit and wargaming, alongside my interests in painting, cartooning, and cooking the food of my native New Orleans. My motto: Have fun!

Stephen's book list on about medieval warfare globally

Stephen Morillo Why did Stephen love this book?

So if you want to get away from academic historians and go straight to the sources, this is a great place to start. The Tale of the Heike is the epic story, developed over centuries by Japanese storytellers, of the great war between the Taira clan and the Minamoto clan for dominance in Japan in the Genpei War of 1180-1185, the war from which emerged the first samurai-centered government in Japanese history, the Kamakura. Full of colorful characters, dramatic battle scenes, and betrayal-soaked politics, it gives an authentic window onto medieval warfare.

By Helen Craig McCullough (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Tale of the Heike is one of the masterworks of Japanese literature, ranking with The Tal of Genji in quality and prestige. This new translation is not only far more readable than earlier ones, it is also much more faithful to the content and style of the original. Intended for the general audience as well as the specialist, this edition is highly annotated.


Book cover of Japan, a View from the Bath

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 40 years of bathing in onsen (hot springs), our local sento (public bathhouse), and all sorts of equivalents, I’ve come to understand that bathing in Japan is a lot more than a way of keeping clean – it’s an immersion in culture as well as hot water. I found Clark’s book fascinating and often found myself muttering “ah, yes, he’s right” to myself, as I looked back on my bathing experiences in Japan. Historically, bathing is not something to be undertaken alone, but in groups, be they family, friends, or workmates. Some of my best experiences in Japan have been the daily ritual of taking my children to our local sento and becoming friends with locals in our neighborhood. “Hadaka no tsukiai” – friends in nakedness – nothing is hidden! 

By Scott Clark,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Japan, a View from the Bath as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A study of the significance of bathing in Japanese mythology and the historical development of communal bathing.


Book cover of Shogun

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been fascinated by history since I was eight. I remember reading through the biography section of my grade school library, cleaning out the names from the Revolution, the Civil War, famous pioneers, and the Wild West. I also had some unbelievable professors in college. One of my first courses was entitled “The World Since 1919.”  It began with Herman Muller blinking in the Hall of Mirrors as he signed the Treaty of Versailles. The course material took us from that moment until the morning news on the last day of class. We learned that history isn’t about the past but how we came to the present.

J.'s book list on books that sweep through time and immerse you in a story so compelling that you don’t even realize you’re learning about history

J. Boyce Gleason Why did J. love this book?

I have read everything James Clavell has written.

This book is a story about a British pilot landing in Japan with the intention of breaking up the Portuguese monopoly on trade. He becomes quickly entangled in the country's internal politics and becomes immersed in Japanese culture.

A new film version of the saga is currently on Apple TV and is exceptional. I highly recommend both the book and the mini-series.

By James Clavell,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Alternate Cover for 0440178002A bold English adventurer. An invincible Japanese warlord. A beautiful woman torn between two ways of life. All brought together in an extraordinary saga aflame with passion, conflict, ambition, and the struggle for power.Here is the world-famous novel of Japan that is the earliest book in James Clavell’s masterly Asian saga. Set in the year 1600, it tells the story of a bold English pilot whose ship was blown ashore in Japan, where he encountered two people who were to change his a warlord with his own quest for power, and a beautiful interpreter torn between two…


Book cover of They Came to Japan: An Anthology of European Reports on Japan, 1543-1640

David Flath Author Of The Japanese Economy

From my list on captivating Japanese history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a retired economics professor from the US who studied Japan for most of my 46-year career and have lived in Kyoto since 2008. I first visited Kyoto in 1981, naively hoping to revel in the splendors of the Heian era, and was disappointed to find that the physical manifestations of medieval Japan as evoked in The Tale of Genji had vanished. But the persisting legacy of that ancient age is still evident to the trained observer. Japan today embodies its past. It's not enough to know that Japan today is a prosperous country. Curious people also want to know how it got that way. The roots lie deep in the past. 

David's book list on captivating Japanese history

David Flath Why did David love this book?

This is an impressive collection of first-person accounts of experiences in Japan by various Europeans including Jesuit missionaries, adventurers, and others. Each account is short, and all are organized by themes. Here we learn of audiences with Nobunaga,  Hideyoshi, and Ieyasu, along with reports of some of their atrocities. Other entries pertain to the daily life of Japanese people and still others describe great temples and shrines that are still there today. The immediacy of these commentaries sends me back in time to this pivotal epoch in Japanese history when civil wars were ending and two centuries of closure were about to begin. This is ecstasy for the Walter Mitty in me. 

By Michael Cooper,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked They Came to Japan as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Japan accidentally discovered by the Europeans in 1543 was a country torn by internecene wars waged by independent barons who recognised no effective central government and were free to appropriate as many neighbouring fiefs as force of arms and treachery would permit. The Japan which deported the Europeans a century later was a stable, highly centralised bureaucracy under the firm control of a usurping family which was to continue to rule the country until well into the Victorian age. Europeans living in Japan at the time have not only recorded the events of this fascinating period but also provided…


Book cover of The Book of Corrections: Reflections on the National Crisis During the Japanese Invasion of Korea, 1592-1598

Antony Cummins Author Of The Book of Ninja: The Bansenshukai - Japan's Premier Ninja Manual

From my list on hidden Japan and the real samurai.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am not the type of person who likes to say “you are wrong” in fact I am the type of person who likes to say “let us add this to the whole story”. When you picture Japan you do not picture: slavery, snake dancers, or even samurai removing their shoes outdoors in a gesture of politeness to a superior, you do not imagine Italian Jesuits, western traders, pirates, and Chinese samurai, but they are all a part of actual samurai life. It is my task to add those lost items to our understanding of Japan and the samurai, but of course, in addition to this, I have to correct the story of the ninja, simply because it is a false one. The shinobi as they should be known were disfigured in the 20th century and I want to reveal their true face.

Antony's book list on hidden Japan and the real samurai

Antony Cummins Why did Antony love this book?

This book is not a page-turner by any means, but what it does have is hidden information through imagination. It is an eyewitness account in Korean, translated into English concerning the 16th-century Japanese Invasion. It is a step-by-step recounting of how one administrator had to flee the Japanese army as they burned their way through his native lands. The hidden joy is knowing that the samurai army is on his heels and you can feel them in the shadow of the book all the way through. It was a joy to read because it allowed me to see how the Japanese behaved in real war if only from a distance and without the problems of an impassioned samurai pen behind the words. 

By Yu Song-Nyong, Choi Byonghyon,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Korean


Book cover of Musui's Story: The Autobiography of a Tokugawa Samurai

Antony Cummins Author Of The Book of Ninja: The Bansenshukai - Japan's Premier Ninja Manual

From my list on hidden Japan and the real samurai.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am not the type of person who likes to say “you are wrong” in fact I am the type of person who likes to say “let us add this to the whole story”. When you picture Japan you do not picture: slavery, snake dancers, or even samurai removing their shoes outdoors in a gesture of politeness to a superior, you do not imagine Italian Jesuits, western traders, pirates, and Chinese samurai, but they are all a part of actual samurai life. It is my task to add those lost items to our understanding of Japan and the samurai, but of course, in addition to this, I have to correct the story of the ninja, simply because it is a false one. The shinobi as they should be known were disfigured in the 20th century and I want to reveal their true face.

Antony's book list on hidden Japan and the real samurai

Antony Cummins Why did Antony love this book?

There is samurai culture as understood by most people, involving bushido, loyalty, honour, and truth and then there is this book, an autobiography by a real samurai about the honest truth about actually being a samurai. Part criminal, part reluctant warrior, this man’s story is one of passion, hardship, and eventual love for his family. It is one of the greatest windows into actual Japanese life, and again, it is not a best seller and is maybe now out of print. If you want to know what a samurai’s life was like after the wars with nothing to do but to just be a samurai, look no further, this is one of my most cherished books.

By Katsu Kokichi, Teruko Craig (translator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Musui's Story as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


A series of picaresque adventures set against the backdrop of a Japan still closed off from the rest of the world, Musui's Story recounts the escapades of samurai Katsu Kokichi. As it depicts Katsu stealing, brawling, indulging in the pleasure quarters, and getting the better of authorities, it also provides a refreshing perspective on Japanese society, customs, economy, and human relationships.

From childhood, Katsu was given to mischief. He ran away from home, once at thirteen, making his way as a beggar on the great trunk road between Edo and Kyoto, and again at twenty, posing as the emissary of…


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