100 books like The Roads to Sata

By Alan Booth,

Here are 100 books that The Roads to Sata fans have personally recommended if you like The Roads to Sata. 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 Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan

Brian Klingborg Author Of Thief of Souls

From my list on international crime both fiction and nonfiction.

Who am I?

I grew up in a small town in the days before the internet and cable television, so books were my escape, and through them, I traveled to faraway places and learned about different customs and cultures. Later, I studied Chinese cultural anthropology and lived and worked in Asia for many years. Now, I write a series about a Chinese police inspector in the brutally cold far north province of Heilongjiang and use mystery stories to unpack some of the more fascinating and essential aspects of Chinese society, politics, and religion.

Brian's book list on international crime both fiction and nonfiction

Brian Klingborg Why did Brian love this book?

This is an autobiographical tale by an American journalist on the crime beat in Tokyo.

It’s not only a riveting tour of the underbelly of Japanese society – hostess bars, yakuza gangs, murder, and mayhem – it’s a fascinating cultural journey.

The author, Jake Adelstein, studied at a Japanese university and fell into journalism almost as an afterthought.

His description of the stringent procedures for getting hired, the brutally hierarchical nature of working for a major Japanese daily, and his growth as an intrepid investigative reporter is a must-read for anyone interested in Japanese culture, society, media, and crime.

By Jake Adelstein,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A riveting true-life tale of newspaper noir and Japanese organised crime from an American investigative journalist. Soon to be a Max Original Series on HBO Max

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EITHER ERASE THE STORY, OR WE'LL ERASE YOU. AND MAYBE YOUR FAMILY. BUT WE'LL DO THEM FIRST, SO YOU LEARN YOUR LESSON BEFORE YOU DIE.

From the only American journalist ever to have been admitted to the insular Tokyo Metropolitan Police press club: a unique, first-hand, revelatory look at Japanese culture from the underbelly up.

At nineteen, Jake Adelstein went to Japan in search of peace and tranquility. What he got was a…


Book cover of Minka: My Farmhouse in Japan

Sam Baldwin Author Of For Fukui’s Sake: Two years In Rural Japan

From my list on life in Japan.

Who am I?

Sam Baldwin spent two years living in Ono, Fukui, a rural area of Japan. For Fukui's Sake is a true account of his adventures. He has written about travel for The Guardian, The Times and The Independent and has contributed to numerous magazines and guidebooks. After returning to his native UK, he relocated to Slovenia where he writes about the adventures of restoring a 300-year-old mountain cabin

Sam's book list on life in Japan

Sam Baldwin Why did Sam love this book?

Minka is the true story of an American AP correspondent who, reluctantly at first, fell into buying a 250 year-old traditional Japanese farmhouse for a pittance (it was in an area soon to be flooded by dam construction) had it disassembled, transported, and re-built in the rural outskirts of Tokyo.

It's an insight into two aspects of Japan; firstly the rural, artisan side as Roderick befriends a family from Gifu and uses many of the rural folk from the prefecture for their carpentry skills, and secondly it provides us with an interesting view on some of the high society that Roderick mixes with, being a well-connected ex-pat (Hilary Clinton once visits his house!).

Roderick writes with a good deal of humor, and his love and knowledge of Japan makes him a welcome guide as he takes us through the quirks and curios of Japan during the ‘60s and ‘70s. The…

By John Roderick,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In 1959 journalist John Roderick joined the Tokyo bureau of the Associated Press. There, he befriended a Japanese family, the Takishitas. After musing offhandedly that he would like to one day have his own house in Japan, the family unbeknownst to Johnset out to grant his wish. They found Roderick a 250-year-old minka, or hand-built farmhouse, with a thatched roof and held together entirely by wooden pegs and joinery. It was about to be washed away by flooding and was being offered for only fourteen dollars. Roderick graciously bought the house, but was privately dismayed at the prospect of living…


Book cover of Tonoharu: Part 1

Sam Baldwin Author Of For Fukui’s Sake: Two years In Rural Japan

From my list on life in Japan.

Who am I?

Sam Baldwin spent two years living in Ono, Fukui, a rural area of Japan. For Fukui's Sake is a true account of his adventures. He has written about travel for The Guardian, The Times and The Independent and has contributed to numerous magazines and guidebooks. After returning to his native UK, he relocated to Slovenia where he writes about the adventures of restoring a 300-year-old mountain cabin

Sam's book list on life in Japan

Sam Baldwin Why did Sam love this book?

I recommend this three-part series of graphic novels for their beautiful artwork and painstaking attention to detail. Illustrator Martinson has a superb knack for observing the smallest aspects of the Japanese environment, with every frame bursting with the minutiae of everyday Japan.

The story follows ‘Dan’ a downbeat American, working as an English teacher in Japan who is experiencing severe isolation in his host country. Dan’s attitude to his new life is at the very extreme end of the culture shock spectrum, whereas in my experience, most foreigners embrace life more than he does, and therefore enjoy a more balanced experience. However for the artwork alone, I recommend the three part Tōnoharu series which are truly beautiful works, and make a worthy addition to any Japanophile's library.

By Lars Martinson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Daniel Wells begins a new life as an assistant junior high school teacher in the rural Japanese village of Tonoharu. Isolated from those around him by cultural and language barriers, he leads a monastic existence, peppered only by his inept pursuit of the company of a fellow American who lives a couple towns over. But contrary to appearances, Dan isn't the only foreigner to call Tonoharu home. Across town, a group of wealthy European eccentrics are boarding in a one-time Buddhist temple, for reasons that remain obscure to their gossiping neighbors.


Book cover of Inaka: Portraits of Life in Rural Japan

Sam Baldwin Author Of For Fukui’s Sake: Two years In Rural Japan

From my list on life in Japan.

Who am I?

Sam Baldwin spent two years living in Ono, Fukui, a rural area of Japan. For Fukui's Sake is a true account of his adventures. He has written about travel for The Guardian, The Times and The Independent and has contributed to numerous magazines and guidebooks. After returning to his native UK, he relocated to Slovenia where he writes about the adventures of restoring a 300-year-old mountain cabin

Sam's book list on life in Japan

Sam Baldwin Why did Sam love this book?

This anthology contains a collection of 18 different accounts by non-Japanese authors who have all spent extended time living in rural Japan. Arranged geographically, from Okinawa to Hokkaido, the book offers a diverse view of pastoral Japan, allowing readers to get insight into some of the less commonly known aspects of the country.

The topics covered range from Buddhist pilgrimages, to pottery; abandoned Shinto shrines to record snowfalls; romance to ryokan. This is a great book for anyone who’s interested in learning about life outside of Japan’s megacities. Most of the authors included have written other works, so it’s a great taster to sample some different flavours of storytelling, to see which pique your interest for more.

By John Grant Ross,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Inaka: Portraits of Life in Rural Japan is an affectionate but unsentimental immersion into the Japanese countryside ("inaka"). In eighteen chapters we undertake an epic journey the length of Japan, from subtropical Okinawa, through the Japanese heartland, all the way to the wilds of Hokkaido. We visit gorgeous islands, walk an ancient Buddhist pilgrimage route, share a snow-lover's delight in the depths of record snowfall, solve the mystery of an abandoned Shinto shrine, and travel in the footsteps of a seventeenth-century haiku master. But above everything, Inaka answers the question of what it's like to be a foreigner living in…


Book cover of Japanese Pilgrimage

Craig McLachlan Author Of Tales of a Summer Henro

From my list on understanding Japan and the Japanese.

Who am I?

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 Japan, a View from the Bath

Craig McLachlan Author Of Tales of a Summer Henro

From my list on understanding Japan and the Japanese.

Who am I?

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 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.

Who am I?

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.

Who am I?

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 The Old Sow in the Back Room: An Englishwoman in Japan

Peter Popham Author Of Tokyo: The City at the End of the World

From my list on modern Japan.

Who am I?

As a teenager, I became fascinated by Japan – by the mysteries of Zen, the exotic atmosphere cooked up by its great novelists, the serene beauty of the countryside captured in old photographs. Then I moved to Tokyo and for eleven years was immersed in Japanese culture. It was like getting to know a complex human being, I went from bafflement and revulsion through fascination and infatuation, arriving at a degree of understanding and affection. I love Japan and feel I know it quite intimately. But the variety of books on my list give an idea of how many different ways this great, elusive civilization can be approached.

Peter's book list on modern Japan

Peter Popham Why did Peter love this book?

Every society has its seamy underside but few foreigners have focused on it with the laser-like intensity of Harriet Sergeant, who spent just enough time in Japan to get closely acquainted, but not so long that she ever felt cozy. Want to know just how miserable is the lot of Japanese women? The bleak saga of Japan’s almost invisible, unmentionable caste of untouchables, the Burakumin? The endemic corruption that underpinned the economic miracle? The torments endured by young children whose parents demand perfection? It’s all here, beautifully written and laced with mischievous humour.

By Harriet Sergeant,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Old Sow in the Back Room as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Japanese manufacture myths as efficiently as they do televisions, and are as adept at selling them to men who visit their country. Since it is men who write most books on Japan, those myths are perpetuated in the West. Women, though, do not count in that most foreign of countries, and no one is interested in selling myths to them. Harriet Sergeant, who lived in Tokyo for six years, took advantage of this to slip behind the scenery. In this book she provides a glimpse of backstage Japan. From her early collision with a sumo wrestler in a public…


Book cover of An Artist of the Floating World

Richard C. Morais Author Of The Man with No Borders

From my list on thinking deeper about the human condition.

Who am I?

I am a journalist and a novelist. I was both Forbes Magazine’s longest serving foreign correspondent – having served 18 years in London as their European Bureau Chief – and wrote the feel-good international best-seller The Hundred-Foot Journey, a novel that Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey made into a much-loved 2014 film starring Helen Mirren. These twin careers have shaped my approach to writing in that I believe a good micro-story (fiction) should also make astute macro points (journalism). So, the journeys my characters undertake in my novels are also trying to address points about the world or life or humanity at large.

Richard's book list on thinking deeper about the human condition

Richard C. Morais Why did Richard love this book?

The Nobel-prize winning laureate has written many more famous books dealing with the human condition, most notably The Remains of the Day and Never Let me Go, but this is, to my mind, his best rumination on humanity's familiar ache. Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day is a flawless book and similarly themed, but there is something about the post-war regrets, delusions, and self-justifications of the aging Japanese artist Masuji Ono that just slay me and make me want to weep. Ishiguro is of course the king of unreliable narrators, so I don't want to give away the big reveal here, but how denial of the truth and self-delusion can misdirect us in life, is at the core of this masterful insight into the human condition.

By Kazuo Ishiguro,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked An Artist of the Floating World as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

*Kazuo Ishiguro's new novel Klara and the Sun is now available*

SHORTLISTED FOR THE BOOKER PRIZE
WINNER OF THE WHITBREAD (NOW COSTA) BOOK OF THE YEAR

1948: Japan is rebuilding her cities after the calamity of World War II, her people putting defeat behind them and looking to the future. The celebrated painter Masuji Ono fills his days attending to his garden, his two grown daughters and his grandson, and his evenings drinking with old associates in quiet lantern-lit bars. His should be a tranquil retirement. But as his memories continually return to the past - to a life and…


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