100 books like The Woman in the Dunes

By Kobo Abe,

Here are 100 books that The Woman in the Dunes fans have personally recommended if you like The Woman in the Dunes. 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 The Garden of Evening Mists

David Joiner Author Of Kanazawa

From my list on Japanese settings not named Tokyo or Kyoto.

Why am I passionate about this?

My book recommendations reflect an abiding passion for Japanese literature, which has unquestionably influenced my own writing. My latest literary interest involves Japanese poetry—I’ve recently started a project that combines haiku and prose narration to describe my experiences as a part-time resident in a 1300-year-old Japanese hot spring town that Bashō helped make famous in The Narrow Road to the Deep North. But as a writer, my main focus remains novels. In late 2023 the second in a planned series of novels set in Ishikawa prefecture will be published. I currently live in Kanazawa, but have also been lucky to call Sapporo, Akita, Tokyo, and Fukui home at different times.

David's book list on Japanese settings not named Tokyo or Kyoto

David Joiner Why did David love this book?

This is a novel whose beautiful writing adds layers to this highly engaging story told from multiple time periods in a Malaysian woman’s life. Although the novel mostly plays out in Malaysia, it involves a Japanese character of great significance to the story and explores in engaging detail the art of Japanese gardening and the Malay experience of Japanese wartime colonialism. This is an important book, and while it won many awards, including the 2012 Man Booker Prize, I hope the book remains in the reading public’s eye for a long time. I greatly envy writing that can carry emotion this weighty while exhibiting such beauty and depth both in its character development and description of time and place.

By Tan Twan Eng,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Garden of Evening Mists as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Malaya, 1951. Yun Ling Teoh, the scarred lone survivor of a brutal Japanese wartime camp, seeks solace among the jungle-fringed tea plantations of Cameron Highlands. There she discovers Yugiri, the only Japanese garden in Malaya, and its owner and creator, the enigmatic Aritomo, exiled former gardener of the emperor of Japan. Despite her hatred of the Japanese, Yun Ling seeks to engage Aritomo to create a garden in memory of her sister, who died in the camp. Aritomo refuses but agrees to accept Yun Ling as his apprentice "until the monsoon comes." Then she can design a garden for herself.…


Book cover of The Makioka Sisters

Connie Kronlokken Author Of Pulled Into Nazareth

From my list on siblings who help each other to evolve.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a reader, I am deeply interested in the real and complex lives of people. This often leads me to history and biography. Fiction shows both the interior and exterior lives of its characters and gives language to relationships, places, and the times in which they live. I am always looking for books with their feet on the ground and their pages crackling with the details of reality. Coming from a large family myself, I have found that, even if you live far apart, siblings make up each other’s world, and that, as my mother used to insist, our siblings may be our best friends throughout our lives.

Connie's book list on siblings who help each other to evolve

Connie Kronlokken Why did Connie love this book?

Set in Japan in the period just before World War II, this is the story of Sachiko and her three sisters.

Yukiko is in need of a husband, but she is stiff in her old-fashioned habits. Taeko, by contrast, is a rebel who sleeps with men and becomes pregnant. Sachiko, modeled by Tanizaki on his pretty and spirited wife, loves all of her sisters and feels responsible for them.

I found the picture of the sisters’ daily life, which was by turns cosmopolitan, traditional, and modern, fascinating in its detail. One thing follows another, open-ended, surprising, and completely authentic in feel. I cannot recommend this book enough!

By Junichirō Tanizaki,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Makioka Sisters as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Tanizaki's masterpiece is the story of four sisters, and the declining fortunes of a traditional Japanese family. It is a loving and nostalgic recreation of the sumptuous, intricate upper-class life of Osaka immediately before World War Two. With surgical precision, Tanizaki lays bare the sinews of pride, and brings a vanished era to vibrant life.


Book cover of Temple of Wild Geese and Bamboo Dolls of Echizen

David Joiner Author Of Kanazawa

From my list on Japanese settings not named Tokyo or Kyoto.

Why am I passionate about this?

My book recommendations reflect an abiding passion for Japanese literature, which has unquestionably influenced my own writing. My latest literary interest involves Japanese poetry—I’ve recently started a project that combines haiku and prose narration to describe my experiences as a part-time resident in a 1300-year-old Japanese hot spring town that Bashō helped make famous in The Narrow Road to the Deep North. But as a writer, my main focus remains novels. In late 2023 the second in a planned series of novels set in Ishikawa prefecture will be published. I currently live in Kanazawa, but have also been lucky to call Sapporo, Akita, Tokyo, and Fukui home at different times.

David's book list on Japanese settings not named Tokyo or Kyoto

David Joiner Why did David love this book?

Perhaps it's because I’ve lived in Fukui and have been to Echizen where the famous bamboo dolls are made that I found this novel so compelling. The novel’s uniqueness comes partly from its focus on a character who makes traditional bamboo dolls produced close to where I now live in Kanazawa, an hour north of Echizen, and part from the style of storytelling, which might be described as sparse but richly imagistic, and evocative of an all-but-lost past. The novel can easily be viewed as a modern folk tale, and moments unfold in the rural setting of 1920s Fukui that border on the mysterious-if-not-quite-supernatural. The relationship between the doll-maker and his wife is indeed strange, yet much can be extrapolated beyond that strangeness through all that’s left unsaid and un-acted on.

By Tsutomu Minakami,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Temple of Wild Geese and Bamboo Dolls of Echizen as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Temple of the Wild Geese, a semi-autobiographical account of Mizukami's childhood, tells the tale of Jinen, a Buddhist monk raised by villagers after his mother, a beggar, abandoned him. Sent to live at a temple at the age of ten, his resentment smolders for years until it explodes in a shocking climax. In Bamboo Dolls of Echizen, no woman is willing to marry the diminutive Kisuke, a bamboo artisan, until Tamae, a prostitute, comes to pay her respects at the grave of Kisuke's father. In Tamae, Kisuke sees shadows of his own mother, who died when he was young,…


Book cover of Snow Country

Michael Grothaus Author Of Beautiful Shining People

From my list on reads set in Japan.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve spent a lot of time in Japan, and my new novel, Beautiful Shining People, is a direct result of two profound experiences I had there. The first was when I was hiking through the hills of Kyoto late one night and turned around to see a glowing creature–some have said they think I saw a kami. The second experience happened when I was in Hiroshima at the Peace Park. I immediately started crying, seeing all the schoolchildren learning about the horrible atrocity committed against their ancestors. I have no idea why it affected me so much, but it was one of the most moving experiences of my life.

Michael's book list on reads set in Japan

Michael Grothaus Why did Michael love this book?

Yasunari Kawabata was the first Japanese author to ever win the Nobel Prize in Literature – and Snow Country is a perfect example of why he did.

It’s the simple tale of a Tokyo businessman who meets a geisha when he takes a trip to a rural onsen (hot springs) town. It’s a melancholy tale, and you feel for the geisha and her harrowing circumstance much more than the Tokyoite.

It’s also a slim book, but one with beautiful descriptions of the snow. You can read it in one sitting, but it will stick with you long after.

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

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Shimamura is tired of the bustling city. He takes the train through the snow to the mountains of the west coast of Japan, to meet with a geisha he believes he loves. Beautiful and innocent, Komako is tightly bound by the rules of a rural geisha, and lives a life of servitude and seclusion that is alien to Shimamura, and their love offers no freedom to either of them. Snow Country is both delicate and subtle, reflecting in Kawabata's exact, lyrical writing the unspoken love and the understated passion of the young Japanese couple.


Book cover of Zen in the Art of Archery

Mark Edward Harris Author Of The Way of the Japanese Bath

From my list on books that offer glimpses of ancient and modern Japan.

Why am I passionate about this?

My Master’s is in history, so books in the field are particularly of interest, especially those focused on the asides of the subject. One of the most unusual is No Surrender: My Thirty-Year War by Hiroo Onoda. When World War II ended in 1945, a number of Japanese soldiers, mostly in the jungles of the South Pacific, refused to surrender. Onoda was one of them. For three decades, the Japanese government tried to convince him that the war was over and flush him out of his hiding place in the Philippines, but to no avail. I found it fascinating to see his confirmation bias at work and described so clearly.

Mark's book list on books that offer glimpses of ancient and modern Japan

Mark Edward Harris Why did Mark love this book?

My first somewhat clear understanding of what Zen is, and perhaps isn’t, came from the reading of this book.

I have seen in my own life when I’m doing photography or playing golf that I can enter a state of Zen. Nothing else exists while I’m depressing the shutter or hitting that little white ball. The concept of mindfulness is something that is much easier to read about than put into practice, but reading this book has helped me take strides toward living in the present.  

By Eugen Herrigel,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Zen in the Art of Archery as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A classic work on Eastern philosophy, and a charming, deeply illuminating story of one man’s experience with Zen.

Eugen Herrigel, a German professor of Philosophy in Tokyo, took up the study of archery as a step toward an understanding of Zen Buddhism. This book is the account of the six years he spent as a student of one of Japan’s great kyudo (archery) masters, and of how he gradually overcame his initial inhibitions and began to feel his way toward new truths and ways of seeing.


Book cover of Hototogisu

Mark Edward Harris Author Of The Way of the Japanese Bath

From my list on books that offer glimpses of ancient and modern Japan.

Why am I passionate about this?

My Master’s is in history, so books in the field are particularly of interest, especially those focused on the asides of the subject. One of the most unusual is No Surrender: My Thirty-Year War by Hiroo Onoda. When World War II ended in 1945, a number of Japanese soldiers, mostly in the jungles of the South Pacific, refused to surrender. Onoda was one of them. For three decades, the Japanese government tried to convince him that the war was over and flush him out of his hiding place in the Philippines, but to no avail. I found it fascinating to see his confirmation bias at work and described so clearly.

Mark's book list on books that offer glimpses of ancient and modern Japan

Mark Edward Harris Why did Mark love this book?

Hototogisu (The Cuckoo)  is a Japanese novel by Kenjiro Tokutomi under the pen name Roka Tokutomi. It was initially published in serialized form between 1898 and 1899. My English copy, renamed “The Heart of Nami-san,” dates back to 1918.

I first became aware of the book when I was in Ikaho working on my Japanese hot spring series. One of the ryokans there had a small museum dedicated to the author. The story takes place over a century ago, but the interactions between a couple and their in-laws could take place not only in present-day Japan but almost anywhere around the globe. The ending (which I won’t give away) is very much a product of Japan, a country where simplistic Hollywood happy endings are seldom, if ever, appreciated. 

By Roka Tokutomi, Mako Takami (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Late 19th Century, Tokyo. Namiko, born as the daughter of an army lieutenant, loses her mother, and finds herself suffering at the hands of her new stepmother. Soon, her kindly aunt introduces her to Navy General Takeo Kawashima. Now Namiko lives happily ever after, or so she thought...


Book cover of The Floating World

Mark Edward Harris Author Of The Way of the Japanese Bath

From my list on books that offer glimpses of ancient and modern Japan.

Why am I passionate about this?

My Master’s is in history, so books in the field are particularly of interest, especially those focused on the asides of the subject. One of the most unusual is No Surrender: My Thirty-Year War by Hiroo Onoda. When World War II ended in 1945, a number of Japanese soldiers, mostly in the jungles of the South Pacific, refused to surrender. Onoda was one of them. For three decades, the Japanese government tried to convince him that the war was over and flush him out of his hiding place in the Philippines, but to no avail. I found it fascinating to see his confirmation bias at work and described so clearly.

Mark's book list on books that offer glimpses of ancient and modern Japan

Mark Edward Harris Why did Mark love this book?

I am a big fan of Japanese art, with Japanese woodblock prints in the form of ukiyo-e and hanga at the top of the list. While James Michener might be best known for his novels, he was a very serious collector of woodblock prints and did deep research into the art form. I have in my collection this textbook on the subject, as well as his fine art limited edition books.

By James A. Michener,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Floating World by novelist James A. Michener is a classic work on the Japanese print of the Edo period (1615-1868). Mr. Michener shows how the Japanese printmakers, cut off from revivifying contacts with the art of the rest of the world and hampered by their own governmental restrictions, were able to keep their art vital for two centuries through their vigor and determination.

For this new edition, Howard A. Link updates the scholarship and expands on many theoretical aspects introduced in Michener's study.


Book cover of Vintage Murakami

Mark Edward Harris Author Of The Way of the Japanese Bath

From my list on books that offer glimpses of ancient and modern Japan.

Why am I passionate about this?

My Master’s is in history, so books in the field are particularly of interest, especially those focused on the asides of the subject. One of the most unusual is No Surrender: My Thirty-Year War by Hiroo Onoda. When World War II ended in 1945, a number of Japanese soldiers, mostly in the jungles of the South Pacific, refused to surrender. Onoda was one of them. For three decades, the Japanese government tried to convince him that the war was over and flush him out of his hiding place in the Philippines, but to no avail. I found it fascinating to see his confirmation bias at work and described so clearly.

Mark's book list on books that offer glimpses of ancient and modern Japan

Mark Edward Harris Why did Mark love this book?

While I have read books by Kawabata, Mishima, and other well-known Japanese writers, there’s something very approachable and identifiable in the works of Haruki Murakami.

This book includes both fiction and nonfiction works, both equally enthralling:  “Shizuko Akashi” from Underground, his nonfiction book on the 1995 Tokyo subway attack, is shockingly powerful, especially for those who have ridden those cars many times, and the short story “Ice Man,” a story that, for some reason, I particularly identified with.

By Haruki Murakami,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Vintage Readers are a perfect introduction to some of the greatest modern writers presented in attractive, accessible paperback editions.

“Murakami’s bold willingness to go straight over the top is a signal indication of his genius. . . . A world-class writer who has both eyes open and takes big risks.” —The Washington Post Book World

Not since Yukio Mishima and Yasunari Kawabata has a Japanese writer won the international acclaim enjoyed by Haruki Murakami. His genre-busting novels, short stories and reportage, which have been translated into 35 languages, meld the surreal and the hard-boiled, deadpan comedy and delicate introspection.

Vintage…


Book cover of Fodor's Essential 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?

Like other traditional guidebooks, Essential Japan, aims for almost encyclopedic coverage of its topic, and it successfully manages this without seeming overwhelming—not an easy task judging by other major guidebooks.

In the edition I read, most (but not all) of its “how to” instructions are up to date, but where it really excels is in helping visitors choose what kinds of experiences they would like to have in Japan. For instance, I found its suggested itineraries for Tokyo to be spot-on, and the entire book is rich with recommendations.

Because the book is heavy, I suggest using it to map out your trip itinerary—and then take a lighter reference guide and use online sources for your actual trip.

By Fodor's Travel Guides,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Fodor's Essential Japan as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Whether you want to have sushi in a top Tokyo restaurant, visit the shrines of historic Kyoto, or head to the beaches of Okinawa, the local Fodor's travel experts in Japan are here to help! Fodor's Essential Japan guidebook is packed with maps, carefully curated recommendations, and everything else you need to simplify your trip-planning process and make the most of your time. This new edition has been fully redesigned with an easy-to-read layout, fresh information, and beautiful color photos. Fodor's "Essential" guides have been named by Booklist as the Best Travel Guide Series of 2020!

Fodor's Essential Japan travel…


Book cover of 14 Days in Japan: A First-Timer's Ultimate Japan Travel Guide Including Tours, Food, Japanese Culture and History

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?

Even though the author remains conspicuously unidentified in this book, I found the tale of her and her husband’s two-week trip oddly intriguing.

This was the first book I read ahead of my own Japan adventure, and it attempts to be both a travel log and recommendation guide. While the recommendations seem a bit limited, I enjoyed reading about the author’s specific adventures and it definitely gave me some ideas about what my daughter and I might like to do in Japan.

It won’t replace any of the above books, but is a nice additional option if you have the time and inclination.

By IDtravelling,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked 14 Days in Japan as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Are you thinking about traveling to Japan? Discover Japan through this easy to follow guide tailored for first-time travelers!
Most available online resources contain too much information!
If you've searched for a Japan travel guide online, you may have noticed:

- Most guides contain disorganized information that may leave you with more questions than answers.
- It is impossible to find practical information like how much a trip to Japan would cost, where to stay, and what transportation to use.

14 Days in Japan is the ultimate travel guide tailored for a first‑time traveler. It provides detailed information about visiting…


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