The best books about Japan

Who picked these books? Meet our 321 experts.

321 authors created a book list connected to Japan, and here are their favorite Japan books.
Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission

What type of Japan book?


The Thief

By Fuminori Nakamura,

Book cover of The Thief

Milena Michiko Flašar Author Of Mr Kato Plays Family

From the list on diving into modern Japan from someone half Japanese.

Who am I?

As someone half-Japanese who grew up in Austria, I've spent the last few years making sense of my relationship to my mother’s homeland. My mother spoke Japanese to us children from an early age, and we spent many childhood summers with our grandparents in Okayama. Because of this, my mother's home feels intimate and familiar to me. But it is also distant and foreign, and it is precisely this unknown, the seemingly exotic and mysterious, that I hope to approach through reading. For me, Japan is a kind of poetic space I set my characters in. In my last three books Japan was both the setting and the secret protagonist.

Milena's book list on diving into modern Japan from someone half Japanese

Discover why each book is one of Milena's favorite books.

Why did Milena love this book?

From the start, the reader can’t help but notice a tower looming in the distance.

The image has something threatening about it, and also deeply significant; the tower will continue to surface over the course of the novel’s unfolding, when certain fateful moments in the plot become clear, as well as the inescapable and hopeless nature of the main character entangled in it.

For me this book is so much more than “just” a crime novel, like it says on the cover. It is an existential masterwork. Slim, though so much is contained within its pages! The reader stays close at the pickpocket’s heels, following him breathlessly through a maze of streets, at the end of which stands the tower, appearing and disappearing in the distance. Nakamura has been compared to Dostoyevsky.

In my opinion, he doesn’t need that ascription. He is Nakamura – through and through. And for anyone…

By Fuminori Nakamura,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Nishimura is a seasoned pickpocket, weaving through Tokyo's crowded streets, in search of potential targets. He has no family, no friends, no connections ...But he does have a past, which finally catches up with him when his old partner-in-crime reappears and offers him a job he can't refuse. Suddenly, Nishimura finds himself caught in a web so tangled and intricate that even he might not be able to escape. Taut, atmospheric and cool, The Thief will steal your breath away.

The Elephant Vanishes

By Haruki Murakami,

Book cover of The Elephant Vanishes: Stories

Robert Pope Author Of Not A Jot or A Tittle: 16 Stories by Robert Pope

From the list on strangely miraculous short fiction.

Who am I?

Early on, I identified with American short story writers Bernard Malamud and Flannery O’Connor. Though firmly ensconced in the American canon, neither had a fear of allowing the comic or fantastic to play important roles in stories with serious spiritual values. I enjoyed fabulous writers as well, the wildness of Nikolai Gogol, the magic of Ray Bradbury, the comic impulses of Mark Twain. I came across Dune and read it several times. Since those days, I have taken in many stories that do not stick to representations of reality, discovering writers all over the world with the same fascinations. I can’t keep myself from trying to join them. 

Robert's book list on strangely miraculous short fiction

Discover why each book is one of Robert's favorite books.

Why did Robert love this book?

The Elephant Vanishes includes two of my favorite stories by any contemporary writer.

Set in the forested vicinity of a factory that makes elephants, “The Dancing Dwarf” follows the adventures of a marvelous dwarf who once danced for the king, alas, now pursued by soldiers of the revolution. The other side of the spectrum, “The Last Lawn of the Afternoon” partakes of the fantastic only by osmosis. The care this teenage boy takes mowing and trimming his assigned lawns feels so real it reminds me of myself.

This range keeps the reader slightly off balance and full of expectation, which might not be so exciting if we weren’t in the hands of one of the finest practitioners of the craft anywhere in the world.  

By Haruki Murakami,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A dizzying short story collection that displays Murakami's genius for uncovering the surreal in the everyday, the extraordinary within the ordinary

*Featuring the story 'Barn Burning', the inspiration behind the Palme d'Or nominated film Burning*

When a man's favourite elephant vanishes, the balance of his whole life is subtly upset. A couple's midnight hunger pangs drive them to hold up a McDonald's. A woman finds she is irresistible to a small green monster that burrows through her front garden. An insomniac wife wakes up in a twilight world of semi-consciousness in which anything seems possible - even death.

In every…

Hiroshige's Japan

By Philippe Delord,

Book cover of Hiroshige's Japan: On the Trail of the Great Woodblock Print Master - A Modern-day Artist's Journey on the Old Tokaido Road

Dennis Kawaharada Author Of Roads of Oku: Journeys in the Heartland

From the list on exploring roads less traveled in Japan.

Who am I?

Between 2004 and 2020, I made twenty-five road trips around Japan’s four main islands, covering over thirty thousand miles, mainly in a rental car with my partner Karen. We traced the 1689 journey of the poet Bashō to northeastern Honshū and searched for famous places depicted in woodblock prints of nineteenth-century artist Utamaro Hiroshige. My recommendations include the books I consulted to explore roads less traveled and sites less frequented to learn about the literature, history, and culture of our ancestral homeland. The road trips are documented in my featured book and online at my website.

Dennis' book list on exploring roads less traveled in Japan

Discover why each book is one of Dennis' favorite books.

Why did Dennis love this book?

The delightful scenes in Hiroshige’s nineteenth-century woodblock print series known as “Fifty-three Stations of the Tōkaidō” beckon travelers to journey along the Tōkaidō, Japan’s most famous Edo Period road. The road connected Kyōto, the ancient Imperial capital, to Edo (Tōkyō), where the shogun’s castle was located. Delord, a French artist, makes the journey on a motor scooter. His book provides historical notes, personal experiences, and sketches and watercolors of the road’s fifty-three stations, or post towns where travelers could find lodging, porters, and packhorses. Delord’s contemporary images of modern asphalted highways and urban landscapes document how the road and towns have changed. But one can still recognize the scenes depicted in Hiroshige’s prints and find remnants of the old road.

By Philippe Delord,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Presented alongside Hiroshige's prints, with descriptions and context, Delord's work offers an absorbing contemplation of Japan's past and present via one legendary travel route, and shows how thoroughly upended our surroundings have been in what was, in wider perspective, only a short time." -- The New York Times

Journey along the famed Tokaido Road--an ancient thoroughfare with a modern twist.

The Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido is the best-known work of the great 19th century Japanese woodblock artist Utagawa Hiroshige. The series of 53 masterful woodblock prints depicts stops along the ancient Tokaido Road--which, from the eleventh to the nineteenth…

The Grass Roof

By Younghill Kang,

Book cover of The Grass Roof

Eugenia Kim Author Of The Kinship of Secrets

From the list on historical fiction set in Korea.

Who am I?

Eugenia Kim’s debut novel, The Calligrapher’s Daughter, won the 2009 Borders Original Voices Award, was shortlisted for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and was a critic’s pick by the Washington Post. For that novel, which is set during the Japanese Colonial Period in Korea, 1910-1945, and for her second novel (below), whose first half is set during the Korean War, 1950-1953, she read more than 500 books and twice traveled to Korea in order to accurately depict these little-known slices of history.

Eugenia's book list on historical fiction set in Korea

Discover why each book is one of Eugenia's favorite books.

Why did Eugenia love this book?

This is an autobiographical novel of a scholar’s son’s coming of age in a small village during the Japanese occupation, though that is felt with some distance. Kang focuses on classical education in that era, traditions for holidays and ceremonies, schooling, friends, family dynamic, a detailed account of the March First Independence Movement Day, and finally emigration to America as a young man. It is a little-known prequel to Kang's book, East Goes West, a seminal work in Korean American literature, which covers his immigration to New York in the 1920s through the war years.

By Younghill Kang,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Text: English, German (translation)

Lost Japan

By Alex Kerr,

Book cover of Lost Japan: Last Glimpse of Beautiful Japan

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

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

Who am I?

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

Discover why each book is one of Jonathan's favorite books.

Why did Jonathan love this book?

In this award-winning memoir, first penned in Japanese, artist, collector, and Japanologist Alex Kerr recounts three decades of experience backstage of Japan’s rich cultural and artistic life. He rubs shoulders with Kabuki stars, art dealers, and literati, leads readers through Osaka’s demimonde, and pulls back the curtain on Tokyo boardrooms during the dizzying bubble years. But the heart of the book revolves around something more ephemeral: an ode to Japan’s fading traditional culture, found in the secluded temples of Nara, Kyoto’s hidden corners, and most palpably, Shikoku’s remote, vine-tangled Iya Valley, which Kerr made his home. This book gave me a profoundly nuanced and personal view of Japan’s well-worn beauty––slowly conceding to modernity––that I needed as a student in hypermodern Tokyo two decades ago.

By Alex Kerr,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An enchanting and fascinating insight into Japanese landscape, culture, history and future.

Originally written in Japanese, this passionate, vividly personal book draws on the author's experiences in Japan over thirty years. Alex Kerr brings to life the ritualized world of Kabuki, retraces his initiation into Tokyo's boardrooms during the heady Bubble Years, and tells the story of the hidden valley that became his home.

But the book is not just a love letter. Haunted throughout by nostalgia for the Japan of old, Kerr's book is part paean to that great country and culture, part epitaph in the face of contemporary…

Book cover of Malt Whisky Yearbook 2021: The Facts, the People, the News, the Stories

Hans Offringa Author Of A Field Guide to Whisky: An Expert Compendium to Take Your Passion and Knowledge to the Next Level

From the list on whisky & whiskey.

Who am I?

Hans Offringa has written 25 books about whisky in one way or another, among which the international bestseller A Field Guide to Whisky. He has been contributing editor of Whisky Magazine and American Whiskey for a number of years, and is a Keeper of the Quaich, Kentucky Colonel, Lifetime International Ambassador of the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival, Founder of International Whisky Day, Honorary Ambassador of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, and Patron of the Whisky Festival North Netherlands. Together with his American spouse Becky Lovett Offringa, who is co-author and contributing photographer to at least ten of Hans’ books, he conducts tastings and presentations.

Hans' book list on whisky & whiskey

Discover why each book is one of Hans' favorite books.

Why did Hans love this book?

Ingvar Ronde, a Swedish whisky connoisseur, writer, and publisher, surprised the whisky world with the first edition of The Malt Whisky Yearbook back in 2006. It became a classic instantly and has seen 15 updated editions so far. The MWY is an unmissable guide for professionals and whisky aficionados alike, fully packed with information about malt whisky distilleries around the world, images, figures about the industry, essays by foremost whisky writers, and tasting notes on the side. It is the only whisky book that always travels with me, wherever I go.

By Ingvar Ronde,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Malt Whisky Yearbook 2021 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Whisky enthusiasts all over the world look forward to the Malt Whisky Yearbook every autumn. This 16th edition is again fully revised and packed with new and up-to-date information on more than 400 whisky distilleries from all over the world. Distinguished whisky experts contribute with new features written exclusively for this new edition along with details of hundreds of whisky shops, whisky sites and new bottlings. The Independent Bottlers chapter gives you all the details about the worlds most successful blenders and bottlers complete with tasting notes. A comprehensive summary of the whisky year that was and all the latest…

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

Craig McLachlan Author Of Tales of a Summer Henro

From the 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

Discover why each book is one of Craig's favorite books.

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 Frank Lloyd Wright and Japan: The Role of Traditional Japanese Art and Architecture in the Work of Frank Lloyd Wright

Simon Unwin Author Of Analysing Architecture: the Universal Language of Place-Making

From the list on traditional architecture and its contemporary practice.

Who am I?

As a student fifty years ago I struggled with architecture. I have spent my whole career as an architect and teacher trying to understand how it works. All my books are intended to convey that understanding to others as clearly as I can. I believe that architecture is a universal language of place-making, simply and directly expressed in the traditional architectures of different cultures around the world, and lifted into the realms of poetry by some gifted individuals. For many years I taught at the Welsh School of Architecture in Cardiff, Wales. I am currently Professor Emeritus at The University of Dundee in Scotland. 

Simon's book list on traditional architecture and its contemporary practice

Discover why each book is one of Simon's favorite books.

Why did Simon love this book?

All of my recommendations are about the ways modern architects have learnt from traditional architecture. The first appeared when I began working on the first edition of Analysing Architecture back in the 1990s. It is Kevin Nute’s exploration of the ideas that Frank Lloyd Wright gleaned from encounters with traditional Japanese architecture in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Nute’s book influenced my perception of architectural creativity as not fitting neatly into separate historical/stylistic categories, but as a realm of possible cross-fertilisation across cultures.

By Kevin Nute,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This book is the first thorough account of Frank Lloyd Wright's relationship with Japan and its arts. It presents significant new information on the nature and extent of Wright's formal and philosophical debt to Japanese art and architecture.

Eight primary channels of influence are examined in detail, from Japanese prints to specific individuals and publications, and the evidence of their impact on Wright is illustrated through a mixture of textual and drawn analyses.

A Wild Sheep Chase

By Haruki Murakami,

Book cover of A Wild Sheep Chase

Chris Guillebeau Author Of Gonzo Capitalism: How to Make Money in an Economy That Hates You

From the list on thinking differently and live unconventionally.

Who am I?

I'm a curious writer and compulsive traveler. My lifelong goal is to communicate the message “You don’t have to live your life the way others expect.” From 2002-2015 I went to every country in the world, chronicling the journey on my blog The Art of Non-Conformity. At first I thought the blog would be just about travel, but along the way I began meeting lots of people interested in living unconventionally. Ever since, I've been writing books, hosting events, and avoiding traditional employment by any means necessary. 

Chris' book list on thinking differently and live unconventionally

Discover why each book is one of Chris' favorite books.

Why did Chris love this book?

This was the book that set me off on a decade-long journey of reading (and re-reading) Murakami. Along with The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, another favorite, I've re-read it at least twice.

So why is it about thinking differently? Because the book is written so differently! If you've read any recent speculative fiction, the author likely owes a debt to Murakami and his wondrous approach to narrative storytelling. You'll get lost in a bizarre, beautiful quest that takes on all sorts of twists and turns.

By Haruki Murakami,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked A Wild Sheep Chase as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Features a cast of bizarre characters, including a sheep with a mysterious star on its back, caught up in a Nietzschean quest for power.

Book cover of China’s War with Japan 1937-1945: The Struggle for Survival

Malcolm H. Murfett Author Of Naval Warfare 1919-45: An Operational History of the Volatile War at Sea

From the list on Asian theatre in the Second World War.

Who am I?

I lived and taught in Asia for over 30 years and love the place to bits. Leaving Oxford for Singapore may have seemed like a daring adventure in 1980, but it complemented my doctoral research and introduced me to a wonderful set of students who have enriched my life ever since. Asia has a fascination for me that I can’t resist. I have written and edited 15 books on naval and defence themes, much of which have been set in the Asian continent. An associate editor of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography for the past 25 years, I am also the editor for the series Cold War in Asia. 

Malcolm's book list on Asian theatre in the Second World War

Discover why each book is one of Malcolm's favorite books.

Why did Malcolm love this book?

In my opinion, you cannot fully understand the Pacific War without grasping the tragedy of the undeclared Sino-Japanese War which preceded Pearl Harbor by virtually four and a half years. Remarkably, however, the story is not well known. It’s often passed over as if it was of hardly any consequence at all. Far from being a minor item on the road to war, however, China’s horrendous struggle with Japan is pivotal because it managed to suck in arguably the best troops of the Imperial Japanese Army and kept them fighting throughout the duration of the Pacific War. This ensured that they couldn’t be released to go elsewhere because China refused to give in. Mitter’s excellent book reveals why this dramatic fight for survival influenced Chinese leaders both then and now.

By Rana Mitter,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked China’s War with Japan 1937-1945 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of the Duke of Westminster Medal for Military Literature

Different countries give different opening dates for the period of the Second World War, but perhaps the most compelling is 1937, when the 'Marco Polo Bridge Incident' plunged China and Japan into a conflict of extraordinary duration and ferocity - a war which would result in many millions of deaths and completely reshape East Asia in ways which we continue to confront today.

With great vividness and narrative drive Rana Mitter's book draws on a huge range of new sources to recreate this terrible conflict. He writes both about the…

Book cover of Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms

Priya Huq Author Of Piece by Piece: The Story of Nisrin's Hijab

From the list on graphic novels that use environment as storyteller.

Who am I?

Environmental storytelling in comics is something that I’ve always admired and want to be better at. As a cartoonist I’m always thinking of better ways to tell visual stories, because it’s fun.

Priya's book list on graphic novels that use environment as storyteller

Discover why each book is one of Priya's favorite books.

Why did Priya love this book?

I first heard of Kouno’s work through the animated adaptation of In This Corner of the World. Town of Evening Calm and Country of Cherry Blossoms are a short story and short series (respectively) about Hiroshima. Like many other shojo/josei artists, Kouno uses the natural world to impart tone and mood, but is particularly good at it.

By Fumiyo Kouno,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

What impact did World War II and the dropping of the atomic bomb have on the common people of Japan? Through the eyes of an average woman living in 1955, Japanese artist Fumiyo Kouno answers these questions. This award-winning manga appears in an English translation for the first time. Fumiyo Kouno’s light, free style of drawing evokes a tender reflection of this difficult period in Hiroshima’s postwar past. As the characters continue with everyday life, the shadow of the war and the atomic bombing linger ghostlike in the background. Kouno’s beautiful storytelling touches the reader’s heart but is never overly…

Kafka on the Shore

By Haruki Murakami,

Book cover of Kafka on the Shore

C.R. Fladmark Author Of The Gatekeeper's Son

From the list on urban fantasy with Japan-focused themes.

Who am I?

I’ve been interested in Japanese culture, mythology, and martial arts since I was a teenager. My favorite books are those where I become completely submerged, losing myself in the story and forgetting where the main character ends and I begin. Stories that focus on an ordinary person who gets pulled into another world while remaining firmly planted in their current world. Stories where the character has to learn new skills or discover special talents; a connection to the past or to another realm; or becomes part of some mysterious group operating outside of society. When I couldn’t find enough books that fulfilled my hunger for this specific genre, I decided to write some myself!

C.R.'s book list on urban fantasy with Japan-focused themes

Discover why each book is one of C.R.'s favorite books.

Why did C.R. love this book?

I love and hate Murakami’s books. He writes literary fiction, not urban fantasy or YA. However, he’s the best at injecting fantasy into an otherwise normal and often sad story (I kind of like sad stories). His characters are real people, they have no special powers. I can relate to them and their experiences, which makes all his books meaningful to me. Kafka follows a runaway kid who is trying to find a long-lost mother and sister. Straight forward enough, until a cat talks and fish rain down on Tokyo. It’s complicated, PG, and in true Murakami style, there’s no neat wrap-up, no explanation about the fish. His books just end, leaving me to imagine what happens next. It drives me crazy, and I’ve bought every book he’s written!

By Haruki Murakami,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Kafka on the Shore as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"A stunning work of art that bears no comparisons" the New York Observer wrote of Haruki Murakami's masterpiece, The Wind-up Bird Chronicle. In its playful stretching of the limits of the real world, his magnificent new novel, Kafka on the Shore is every bit as bewitching and ambitious. The narrative follows the fortunes of two remarkable characters. Kafka Tamura runs away from home at fifteen, under the shadow of his father's dark prophesy. The aging Nakata, tracker of lost cats, who never recovered from a bizarre childhood affliction, finds his highly simplified life suddenly overturned. Their parallel odysseys - as…

Cruising the Anime City

By Patrick Macias, Tomohiro Machiyama,

Book cover of Cruising the Anime City: An Otaku Guide to Neo Tokyo

Gianni Simone Author Of Otaku Japan: The Fascinating World of Japanese Manga, Anime, Gaming, Cosplay, Toys, Idols and More!

From the list on otaku Japan.

Who am I?

I have lived in Japan for the last 30 years but my love for manga, anime, and games is much older and dates back to when UFO Robot Grendizer was first shown on Italian TV a fateful summer evening in 1978. Many years later, I was able to turn my passion for all things Japanese into a job and now I regularly write about politics, society, sports, travel, and culture in all its forms. However, I often go back to my first love and combine walking, urban exploration, and my otaku cravings into looking for new stores and visiting manga and anime locations in and around Tokyo.

Gianni's book list on otaku Japan

Discover why each book is one of Gianni's favorite books.

Why did Gianni love this book?

The mother of all otaku guides was published by current Otaku USA magazine’s honcho Macias and famous otaku writer Machiyama and reflects their tastes and idiosyncratic approach to the subject. Admittedly, you can find better, more complete, and updated otaku travel guides now (e.g. my book… wink wink) but this colorful book has a funky turn-of-the-century design and features things that you will hardly find elsewhere, like interviews with Mandarake owner Masuzo Furukawa, magazine editor Hisanori Nukata (about action figures), past cosplay queen Jan Kurotaki and Japan’s most notorious plastic model kit collector Chimatsuri. It’s a wonderful blast from the past.

By Patrick Macias, Tomohiro Machiyama,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Cruising the Anime City as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

If you're into anime (and manga), there's no place like Neo Tokyo. Here otaku dress-up cos-play style for real, 100,000+ fans attend cons to buy and trade, and anime soundtracks are performed in concert halls. Neo Tokyo is where anime has become both urban fashion and cultural zeitgeist, and this is its first street-smart guide in English. Featuring interviews with tastemakers, it covers studios, toys, museums, games, film "locations," music, plus where to hang and how to cruise. Four-color, with maps and index.

Patrick Macias, a specialist in Asian film and Japanese pop culture, is the author of TokyoScope.


Sarabeth's Good Morning Cookbook

By Sarabeth Levine, Genevieve Ko, Quentin Bacon (photographer)

Book cover of Sarabeth's Good Morning Cookbook: Breakfast, Brunch, and Baking

Lisa Steele Author Of The Fresh Eggs Daily Cookbook: Over 100 Fabulous Recipes to Use Eggs in Unexpected Ways

From the list on cookbooks when you’re craving breakfast food.

Who am I?

I am a New Englander, born and bred, 5th generation chicken keeper, and lifelong gardener. I currently live on a small farm in Maine where I raise chickens, ducks, and geese and grow all kinds of vegetables, herbs, and edible flowers. I love cooking and baking with fresh produce from my garden and fresh eggs from my chicken coop. Eggs, in particular, are a favorite ingredient of mine because they are so plentiful, versatile, delicious, and nutritious. Breakfast for dinner is obviously a favorite at our house. 

Lisa's book list on cookbooks when you’re craving breakfast food

Discover why each book is one of Lisa's favorite books.

Why did Lisa love this book?

This gorgeously photographed cookbook by baker Sarabeth Levine, James Beard Award winner for Outstanding Pastry Chef and founder of Sarabeth’s restaurants shares many of the recipes that have made her famous brunches coveted worldwide. The wide range of recipes have been created with the home cook in mind, and there’s sure to be something that catches your eye.

By Sarabeth Levine, Genevieve Ko, Quentin Bacon (photographer)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Sarabeth's Good Morning Cookbook as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The only thing better than brunch at one of Sarabeth s restaurants is brunch in her home. In this must-have collection of more than 130 classic morning recipes, Sarabeth delivers the comforting dishes she makes for family and friends, from fluffy scrambled eggs to warm sticky buns. Over thirty-five years ago, she launched her first restaurant s wildly popular weekend brunch. Today, morning lines still snake around the block at her New York City locations, as well as at her Florida and Japan outposts. Her fans will be thrilled to re-create the warmth and joy of brunch at Sarabeth s…

Desert Exile

By Yoshiko Uchida,

Book cover of Desert Exile: The Uprooting of a Japanese American Family

Ken Mochizuki Author Of Michi Challenges History: From Farm Girl to Costume Designer to Relentless Seeker of the Truth: The Life of Michi Nishiura Weglyn

From the list on the Japanese American World War II experience.

Who am I?

Although I was born in Seattle after the World War II years, my parents, grandparents, and aunts spent time confined at the Minidoka site, and they very rarely talked about “camp.” During the ‘80s and ‘90s, I worked as a newspaper journalist during the time of the movement to obtain redress, and I heard survivors of the camps talk about it for the first time. My acquired knowledge of the subject led to my first book in 1993, Baseball Saved Us. Since then, the camp experience has become like a longtime acquaintance with whom I remain in constant contact.

Ken's book list on the Japanese American World War II experience

Discover why each book is one of Ken's favorite books.

Why did Ken love this book?

Most of the best books about the Japanese American World War II experience are memoirs by those who actually lived through it, and this is one of the best.

Removed along with her family from Berkeley, California and confined at the Topaz, Utah camp, pick any page and the reader will see Uchida’s skillful descriptions: “As we plodded through the powdery sand toward Block 7, I began to understand why everyone looked like pieces of flour-dusted pastry.”

Also, that I am a writer for young readers was trailblazed by Yoshiko Uchida who, along with her publisher, had the courage to write and publish her first book, The Dancing Kettle, and Other Japanese Folk Tales in 1949──during a time in America when hatred against all things Japanese still ran strong.

By Yoshiko Uchida,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In the spring of 1942, shortly after the United States entered into war with Japan, the federal government initiated a policy whereby 110,000 persons of Japanese ancestry were rounded up and herded into camps. They were incarcerated without indictment, trial, or counsel - not because they had committed a crime, but simply because they resembled the enemy. There was never any evidence of disloyalty or sabotage among them, and the majority were American citizens. The government's explanation for this massive injustice was military necessity.

Desert Exile tells the story of one family who lived through these sad years. It is…

While I Was Away

By Waka T. Brown,

Book cover of While I Was Away

Cathy Carr Author Of 365 Days to Alaska

From the list on families, changes, and challenges.

Who am I?

I’ve been a writer a long time and a reader for even longer. But, above all, I’m someone who has always been interested in people. The book universe is filled with fast-moving, plot-driven fiction, but I find myself drawn to stories focused on layered characters and complex relationships. Since I think families are so basic to our experiences as people, I’m always interested in those stories too. What the five books here have in common are big family changes—mostly caused by adults—that challenge the books’ main characters—who are all kids.

Cathy's book list on families, changes, and challenges

Discover why each book is one of Cathy's favorite books.

Why did Cathy love this book?

In my experience, a truly unique book is rare, and I’m always excited to find one that stands apart because of premise and setting. Waka is happy in her sixth-grade class in Kansasuntil her parents notice she’s losing her Japanese language skills and decide to take action. They send Waka to Tokyo to spend several months living with her grandmother and attending a local public school. In Japan, Waka struggles with reading and writing kanji, feels awkward around her reserved grandmother, and can’t figure out the social scene at school. Japan may be her parents’ birth country, but in Tokyo, Waka is an outsider. Where is Waka’s real home, and who will she be once she figures that out? An unforgettable memoir with lots of fun 1980s flavor. 

By Waka T. Brown,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked While I Was Away as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Named one of New York Public Library's Best Books of the Year!

The Farewell meets Erin Entrada Kelly's Blackbird Fly in this empowering middle grade memoir from debut author Waka T. Brown, who takes readers on a journey to 1980s Japan, where she was sent as a child to reconnect to her family's roots.

When twelve-year-old Waka's parents suspect she can't understand the basic Japanese they speak to her, they make a drastic decision to send her to Tokyo to live for several months with her strict grandmother. Forced to say goodbye to her friends and what would have been…

The Tale of Murasaki

By Liza Dalby,

Book cover of The Tale of Murasaki

Pamela S. Turner Author Of Samurai Rising: The Epic Life of Minamoto Yoshitsune

From the list on pre-modern Japan.

Who am I?

I write books for young readers about history, science, and nature. I lived in Japan for six years and became fascinated with Japanese history—particularly the late 12th-century civil war recounted in the medieval classic The Tale of the Heike. I especially loved stories about Minamoto Yoshitsune, the warrior who won the war but was destroyed by his elder brother Yoritomo, who became the first Shogun and kicked off the 700-year reign of the samurai. I spent two years researching Samurai Rising: The Epic Life of Minamoto Yoshitsune and loved every minute of it. I’m also a second-degree black belt in kendo (Japanese sword fighting).

Pamela's book list on pre-modern Japan

Discover why each book is one of Pamela's favorite books.

Why did Pamela love this book?

The perfect companion piece to The Tale of Genji, The Tale of Murasaki is a modern historical novel about Murasaki Shikibu (author of The Tale of Genji). Author Liza Dalby is a scholar of Japanese culture as well as the only Westerner ever to become a geisha. A meticulously researched, evocative window into Heian Japan.

By Liza Dalby,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Tale of Murasaki is an elegant and brilliantly authentic historical novel by the author of Geisha and the only Westerner ever to have become a geisha.

In the eleventh century Murasaki Shikibu wrote the world’s first novel, The Tale of Genji, the most popular work in the history of Japanese literature. In The Tale of Murasaki, Liza Dalby has created a breathtaking fictionalized narrative of the life of this timeless poet–a lonely girl who becomes such a compelling storyteller that she is invited to regale the empress with her tales. The Tale of Murasakiis the story of an enchanting…

My Neighbor Totoro

By Tsugiko Kubo,

Book cover of My Neighbor Totoro

Marisha Wojciechowska Author Of My Globetrotter Book: Paris

From the list on for globetrotter kids.

Who am I?

My Globetrotter Book’s creative adventure originated from a deep desire to show the world to my son... I am from Quebec, Canada, but I have lived and traveled across the globe with my family for 20+ years and – so far – have lived in Montreal, Paris, New York, Tokyo, and Bangkok! I work as an international consultant on water security issues with the United Nations and other international organisations. My son has grown up, so now, I continue to inspire other kids to explore the myriad beauties and cultures of the world and, as of 2022, to "journey within" with the creation of My Bodytrotter Book.

Marisha's book list on for globetrotter kids

Discover why each book is one of Marisha's favorite books.

Why did Marisha love this book?

For any child who has an interest in Japan, this is a must! This Studio Ghibli animation is also delightful in its graphic novel form. Set in rural Japan, the two young sisters Satsuki and Mei meet Totoro, a magical colossal good-natured creature who lives in the trunk of a big tree. The story is infused with enchantment, humor, and childhood delight. All children deserve to have their childhood enriched with this Japanese jewel.

By Tsugiko Kubo,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

One of Studio Ghibli's most beloved classics.

The beloved animation classic by legendary Studio Ghibli director Hayao Miyazaki, My Neighbor Totoro, is now a novel. This edition features original illustrations by Miyazaki himself, accompanying a story by veteran children's author Tsugiko Kubo.

Eleven-year-old Satsuki and her sassy little sister Mei have moved to the country to be closer to their ailing mother. Soon, in the woods behind their spooky old house, Satsuki and Mei discover a forest spirit named Totoro. When Mei goes missing, it's up to Satsuki to find her sister, and she'll need help from some new, and…

In Search of the Sun

By Leza Lowitz,

Book cover of In Search of the Sun: One Woman's Quest to Find Family in Japan

Suzanne Kamata Author Of Squeaky Wheels: Travels with My Daughter by Train, Plane, Metro, Tuk-tuk and Wheelchair

From the list on memoirs by foreigners in Japan.

Who am I?

Japan is endlessly fascinating. Many foreigners who have spent a year or two engaging with Japanese culture have published memoirs. But there are also many who have lived here longer, perhaps marrying and raising families and retiring in Japan. The stories of long-term foreign residents dig deep into the culture and share unique challenges and triumphs. My own memoir, Squeaky Wheels is about my experience raising a biracial daughter who is deaf and has cerebral palsy in off-the-beaten-track Japan. It also details our mother-daughter travels around Japan, to the United States, and ultimately to Paris. It is ultimately a story of my attempt to open the world to my daughter.

Suzanne's book list on memoirs by foreigners in Japan

Discover why each book is one of Suzanne's favorite books.

Why did Suzanne love this book?

Lowitz, a poet, and novelist who founded a popular Tokyo yoga studio, writes of her journey from a broken home in Berkeley, California to love, marriage, and motherhood in Japan, stopping off at an ashram in India along the way. She endures the pain of infertility in a country where motherhood is revered, and contemplates adoption in a society where bloodlines are valued above all else, After obtaining permission from her Japanese father-in-law, Lowitz, and her Japanese husband successfully adopted a Japanese toddler, who becomes her greatest teacher. This is a beautiful and deeply moving book, written by a prize-winning poet and novelist.

By Leza Lowitz,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked In Search of the Sun as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“A new EAT, PRAY, LOVE.”—Graceful Passages

“A poignant, inspirational and moving ‘Made in Japan’ love story that demonstrates the power of persistence and never giving up on your dreams.”—Wendy Tokunaga, author of "Love in Translation"
"Before reading Leza Lowitz’s memoir Here Comes The Sun, I knew nothing about yoga. But her engaging writing hooked me: Now, I’m intrigued. What I do know about is adoption. And the story of how Leza opened her heart to become mother to her son touched me deeply."—Jessica O’Dwyer, author of "Mamalita: An Adoption Memoir"

At 30, Californian Leza Lowitz is single and travelling the…

Musui's Story

By Katsu Kokichi, Teruko Craig (translator),

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 the list on hidden Japan and the real samurai.

Who am I?

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

Discover why each book is one of Antony's favorite books.

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…