The most recommended books about Tokyo

Who picked these books? Meet our 77 experts.

77 authors created a book list connected to Tokyo, and here are their favorite Tokyo books.
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Book cover of Lonely Castle in the Mirror

Milena Michiko Flašar Author Of Mr Kato Plays Family

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

Why am I passionate about this?

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

Milena Michiko Flašar Why did Milena love this book?

It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen sometimes: you start a book only to find you simply can’t put it down. This was the case for me with Lonely Castle in the Mirror, a coming-of-age story.

At first glance the book seems like an entertainment novel with a fantasy element. Six teenagers slip through their respective bedroom mirrors and find themselves in a surreal castle with a mission to complete. Only at second glance does it become clear what this book is really about.

It is about loneliness and friendship, and about the painful process of growing up. None of the teenagers are really any good at forming relationships. And yet: by taking the risk and accepting commitments, the sense of responsibility within them grows, and they surpass themselves.

A magical parable. And who actually says that good literature can’t also be entertaining? It’s ideal when both happen at…

By Mizuki Tsujimura, Philip Gabriel (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Lonely Castle in the Mirror as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

For fans of BEFORE THE COFFEE GETS COLD, fairy tale and magic are weaved together in sparse language that belies a flooring emotional punch.

'Strange and beautiful. Imagine the offspring of The Wind-up Bird Chronicle with The Virgin Suicides' GUARDIAN
'Genuinely affecting. A story of empathy, collaboration and sharing truths' FINANCIAL TIMES

Translated by Philip Gabriel, a translator of Murakami
_______________________________

Would you share your deepest secrets to save a friend?

In a tranquil neighbourhood of Tokyo, seven teenagers wake to find their bedroom mirrors are shining.

At a single touch, they are pulled from their lonely lives to a…


Book cover of Neighborhood Tokyo

Blair A. Ruble Author Of Second Metropolis: Pragmatic Pluralism in Gilded Age Chicago, Silver Age Moscow, and Meiji Osaka

From my list on for understanding Japanese urban history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a comparative urban specialist who came to Japanese urban history through my aspiration to place Russian urban studies within a comparative context.  Several Japanese and Western Japan specialists encouraged me to advance this exploration by examining capitalist industrial urbanization in Japan.  Historians and political scientists -- particularly at Kyoto National University -- provided a platform for me to expand my engagement with Japanese urbanization; relations which have continued for some three decades.  More recently, I included Kabuki in The Muse of Urban Delirium, a collection of essays that seeks answers to the challenges of urban diversity, conflict, and creativity using various performing arts – opera, dance, theater, music – as windows onto urban life.

Blair's book list on for understanding Japanese urban history

Blair A. Ruble Why did Blair love this book?

Theodore Bestor carries the neighborhood theme forward into the boom years of the 1980s.  Based on ethnographic fieldwork between 1979 and 1981, Bestor pulls apart the deep web of social, economic, and political relationships which hold neighborhoods and communities together despite being submerged in the enormity of Tokyo.  He uncovers actors, institutions, and customs which facilitated modernization while sustaining a veneer of tradition.  At it core, Bestor’s neighborhood revealed a social and cultural inventiveness that enabled its communities to engage with and benefit from unprecedented social change.

By Theodore C. Bestor,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In the vastness of Tokyo these are tiny social units, and by the standards that most Americans would apply, they are perhaps far too small, geographically and demographically, to be considered "neighborhoods." Still, to residents of Tokyo and particularly to the residents of any given subsection of the city, they are socially significant and geographically distinguishable divisions of the urban landscape. In neighborhoods such as these, overlapping and intertwining associations and institutions provide an elaborate and enduring framework for local social life, within which residents are linked to one another not only through their participation in local organizations, but also…


Book cover of Tokyo, Form and Spirit

Jilly Traganou Author Of The Tôkaidô Road: Travelling and Representation in EDO and Meiji Japan

From my list on travel in premodern and modern Japan.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an architect from Greece who traveled to Japan in the 1990s as an exchange student. Visiting Japan in the early 1990s was a transformative experience. It led me to a career at the intersection of Japanese studies and spatial inquiry and expanded my architectural professional background. I did my PhD on the Tokaido road and published it as a book in 2004. Since then I have written several other books on subjects that vary from the Olympic Games to social movements. In the last 16 years, I've taught at Parsons School of Design in New York where I am a professor of architecture and urbanism. My current project is researching the role of space and design in prefigurative political movements.

Jilly's book list on travel in premodern and modern Japan

Jilly Traganou Why did Jilly love this book?

Tokyo, Form and Spirit was the catalogue for an exhibition at the Walker Center in 1986 with contributions of the most important Japanese urban writers of the 1990s: Henry Smith, Kenneth Frampton, Donald Richie, Marc Treib, Chris Fawcett to name but a few. While I never saw the exhibition, the perspective of the authors created a mental scaffolding that shaped my understanding of the transition from the feudal to modern Japan. Henry

Smith is reading the city of Edo through a bipartite scheme characterized by the sky and the water, or how the city was viewed differently from above, as incarnated by the gaze of the samurai and other authorities, and from below, typically by the commoners who enjoyed life across the city’s waterways. He then searches for this structure in today’s Tokyo where the city’s skyline is dominated by wirescape and high-rise edifices, and the water has almost evaded.…

By Mildred S. Brandon, James R. Walker,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Essays discuss the evolution of Tokyo's art and architecture from the seventeenth century to the present and the coexistence of technology and tradition


Book cover of My Year of Meats

J.M. Donellan Author Of Killing Adonis

From my list on reminding us why we should eat the rich.

Why am I passionate about this?

We live in a bizarre era of Elon Musk stans who seem certain that if you work hard you’ll be rewarded not only with ‘fuck you’ money, but ‘fuck everyone’ money. I think any writer worth their salt should at some point tackle the issues of their age in their writing. In our era racism, sexism, climate change, and a range of other social justice issues are all exacerbated through the improper distribution of wealth. You could give a man a fish, and he might eat for a day. Or you could eviscerate the rich, share their wealth, and throw the whole world a parade! 

J.M.'s book list on reminding us why we should eat the rich

J.M. Donellan Why did J.M. love this book?

While I enjoyed this book while I was reading it, it was only after I’d digested it (pun intended) that I really came to appreciate its value. I think one of the real measures of an artwork is how much it sits with you in the months and years after the initial read/watch/listen, and this is one I think about often. The story follows a documentarian attempting to serve the corporate hierarchy and produce an asinine show about American wives and the meat-filled dinners they serve their husbands, but the novel gradually unfolds as a complex critique of misogyny, corporate control, Japanese and American culture, and the brutal nature of the modern livestock industry. 

By Ruth Ozeki,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked My Year of Meats as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

*PRE-ORDER RUTH OZEKI'S NEW NOVEL, THE BOOK OF FORM AND EMPTINESS, TODAY*

In a single eye-opening year, two women, worlds apart, experience parallel awakenings.

In New York, Jane Takagi-Little has landed a job producing Japanese docu-soap My American Wife! But as she researches the consumption of meat in the American home, she begins to realize that her ruthless search for a story is deeply compromising her morals.

Meanwhile, in Tokyo, housewife Akiko Ueno diligently prepares the recipes from Jane's programme. Struggling to please her husband, she increasingly doubts her commitment to the life she has fallen into.

As Jane and…


Book cover of Diary of a Void

Emily Midorikawa Author Of Out of the Shadows: Six Visionary Victorian Women in Search of a Public Voice

From Emily's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Reader Mother Teacher Enthusiastic dancer

Emily's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Emily Midorikawa Why did Emily love this book?

I loved the quirky premise of Diary of a Void, which tells the story of Ms. Shibata, a Japanese single woman who fakes a pregnancy to take a leave of absence from her dull office job—a role in which she makes many cups of tea but finds her intelligence consistently overlooked.

Emi Yagi’s witty prose, translated by David Boyd and Lucy North, brilliantly captures Japan’s workplace culture, expectations of men and women, and the seemingly inescapable loneliness of modern-day society.

Since Ms. Shibata’s ruse hardly seemed to be one she could keep up forever, I wondered as I turned the pages about how her increasingly complicated deception would end. I was very interested to discover how things worked out for her.

By Emi Yagi, David Boyd (translator), Lucy North (translator)

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A woman in Tokyo avoids harassment at work by perpetuating, for nine months and beyond, the lie that she’s pregnant in this prizewinning, thrillingly subversive debut novel about the mother of all deceptions, for fans of Convenience Store Woman and Breasts and Eggs

When thirty-four-year-old Ms. Shibata gets a new job to escape sexual harassment at her old one, she finds that as the only woman at her new workplace—a manufacturer of cardboard tubes—she is expected to do all the menial tasks. One day she announces that she can’t clear away her coworkers’ dirty cups—because she’s pregnant and the smell…


Book cover of Hachiko: The True Story of a Loyal Dog

Ying Chang Compestine Author Of Dragon Noodle Party

From my list on Asian stories and voices.

Why am I passionate about this?

Ying Chang Compestine is the multi-talented author of 25 books including fiction, picture books, and cookbooks. Frequently sought after by the media, Ying has been featured on numerous national television programs, is regularly profiled in prestigious news media outlets, and has been named one of the "50 Great Writers You Should Be Reading" by The Author's Show. Her keen interest in cuisine has led her to weave food into all of her writing–including cookbooks, novels, and picture books for young readers. Ying grew up in Wuhan, China during the Chinese Cultural Revolution. She uses these experiences, as well as her passion for food, in all her writing.

Ying's book list on Asian stories and voices

Ying Chang Compestine Why did Ying love this book?

Hachiko is a tale of genuine friendship that holds an important lesson on the cultural value of loyalty.

Turner really captures the essence of Japan in her colorful and heartfelt retelling of the legend of Hachiko, the dog that faithfully waited for its owner at a train station after his passing.

By Pamela S. Turner, Yan Nascimbene (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Hachiko as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 6, 7, 8, and 9.

What is this book about?

Imagine walking to the same place every day, to meet your best friend. Imagine watching hundreds of people pass by every morning and every afternoon. Imagine waiting, and waiting, and waiting. For ten years. This is what Hachiko did.
Hachiko was a real dog who lived in Tokyo, a dog who faithfully waited for his owner at the Shibuya train station long after his owner could not come to meet him. He became famous for his loyalty and was adored by scores of people who passed through the station every day. This is Hachiko’s story through the eyes of Kentaro,…


Book cover of What Did You Eat Yesterday? 1

Brianne Moore Author Of All Stirred Up

From my list on mouthwatering reads for foodies.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in a family of chefs and restaurant owners, so it’s probably no surprise that food plays a major role in my debut novel, All Stirred Up. (The two main characters are, in fact, chefs and restaurant owners. You write what you know!) Cooking plays a major part in my life as well—I’m always making something for family and loved ones. It’s probably no surprise that I love a good food book as well, whether it be fiction, memoir, or history. On my list are just five of my favourites.

Brianne's book list on mouthwatering reads for foodies

Brianne Moore Why did Brianne love this book?

I like to branch out into different genres, and I’ve recently started getting into Manga. This is a really wonderful series about a gay couple—one of whom loves to try out new dishes the other is always eager to try—whose relationship deepens over the meals they enjoy together. It’s something that really touched a chord in me, as someone who also uses food as a love language.

By Fumi Yoshinaga,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked What Did You Eat Yesterday? 1 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From award-winning author Fumi Yoshinaga comes a casual romance between two middle-aged men and the many meals they share together.

A hard-working middle-aged gay couple in Tokyo come to enjoy the finer moments of life through food. After long days at work, either in the law firm or the hair salon, Shiro and Kenji will always have down time together by the dinner table, where they can discuss their troubles, hash out their feelings and enjoy delicately prepared home cooked meals!


Book cover of Target Tokyo: Jimmy Doolittle and the Raid That Avenged Pearl Harbor

Paul Wilson Author Of Bad Karma: The True Story of a Mexico Trip from Hell

From my list on the Greatest Generation.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up without a TV in the home, so I read everything I could get my hands on. I believe the type of historical recreations I embraced had a lot to do with my writing style and "voice" that I employed in BAD KARMA: The True Story of a Mexico Trip from Hell. Although I hadn't written anything since junior high school, I put myself into the head of the authors above and endeavored to tell the story in a straight-forward and engaging way. My goal was to put the reader in the scene with me. My book is approaching 40,000 copies sold, an Amazon #1 for more than a year, and recently optioned for a movie, so I believe I have succeeded beyond my wildest expectations.

Paul's book list on the Greatest Generation

Paul Wilson Why did Paul love this book?

I've always had an interest in aircraft, and particularly WWII era craft, probably because my dad was a reconnaissance photographer in the Army Air Corp in the Pacific theater of WWII, where a guy in his role averaged only 7 missions before being killed. (He flew 27.) Knowing more about this whole experience and dynamic gave me a lot better insight into why my dad was such a tough SOB with us.

By James M. Scott,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

On April 18, 1942, sixteen U.S. Army bombers under the command of daredevil pilot Jimmy Doolittle lifted off from the deck of the USS Hornet on a one-way mission to pummel Japan's factories, refineries, and dockyards in retaliation for their attack on Pearl Harbor. The raid buoyed America's morale, and prompted an ill-fated Japanese attempt to seize Midway that turned the tide of the war. But it came at a horrific cost: an estimated 250,000 Chinese died in retaliation by the Japanese. Deeply researched and brilliantly written, Target Tokyo has been hailed as the definitive account of one of America's…


Book cover of A History of Tokyo 1867-1989: From EDO to Showa: The Emergence of the World's Greatest City

Blair A. Ruble Author Of Second Metropolis: Pragmatic Pluralism in Gilded Age Chicago, Silver Age Moscow, and Meiji Osaka

From my list on for understanding Japanese urban history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a comparative urban specialist who came to Japanese urban history through my aspiration to place Russian urban studies within a comparative context.  Several Japanese and Western Japan specialists encouraged me to advance this exploration by examining capitalist industrial urbanization in Japan.  Historians and political scientists -- particularly at Kyoto National University -- provided a platform for me to expand my engagement with Japanese urbanization; relations which have continued for some three decades.  More recently, I included Kabuki in The Muse of Urban Delirium, a collection of essays that seeks answers to the challenges of urban diversity, conflict, and creativity using various performing arts – opera, dance, theater, music – as windows onto urban life.

Blair's book list on for understanding Japanese urban history

Blair A. Ruble Why did Blair love this book?

This new edition combines under one cover Edward Seidensticker’s colossal Low City: Tokyo from Edo to the Earthquake and Tokyo Rising.  Few cities have been so fortunate as to have such erudite-yet-accessible books written about them; by an outsider, no less. A towering figure on late twentieth-century Japanese studies and letters, Seidensticker arrived in Tokyo weeks after General Douglas MacArthur had assumed control of the country. His work on major twentieth-century Japanese writers earned him graduate degrees and faculty appointments at major American universities; his freelance writing on Japanese life extended the reach of his work well beyond the halls of academia. Most strikingly, his historical works about Tokyo demonstrate a deep knowledge of, and passionate devotion to,  the city on every page.

By Edward G. Seidensticker,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A History of Tokyo 1867-1989 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This is a freaking great book and I highly recommend it... if you are passionate about the history of 'the world's greatest city,' this book is something you must have in your collection. JapanThis.com. Edward Seidensticker's A History of Tokyo 1867-1989 tells the fascinating story of Tokyo's transformation from the Shogun's capital in an isolated Japan to the largest and the most modern city in the world. With the same scholarship and sparkling style that won him admiration as the foremost translator of great works of Japanese literature, Seidensticker offers the reader his brilliant vision of an entire society suddenly…


Book cover of Lights Out in Wonderland

Tim Slee Author Of Taking Tom Murray Home

From my list on upbeat books for tough times.

Why am I passionate about this?

At a time when our news feeds are dominated by war and disease and brain-dead politicians I find my escape in the genre known as ‘uplit’ or ‘uplifing literature.’ These are feel-good stories that have a simple goal, to introduce us to characters like ourselves – human, fallible, unreasonable, and flawed – and take us on a journey with them through thick and thin. Not every story ends in the happiest of endings but the reader is always left with a sigh of satisfaction and a feeling of hope. And couldn’t we all do with a bit more of that?

Tim's book list on upbeat books for tough times

Tim Slee Why did Tim love this book?

Before ‘uplit’ was even invented, there was DBC Pierre. His fiction has been described as a ‘joyful celebration of the human spirit’ and that is none more evident than in his protagonist in Lights Out, Gabriele Brockwell, a twenty-something narcissistic pleasure seeker optimistically stumbling through life before ultimately finding his place in it. A book that leaves you with the thought that optimism is the key to turning bad luck into good.

By DBC Pierre,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Lights Out in Wonderland as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Gabriel Brockwell, aesthete, poet, philosopher, disaffected twenty-something decadent, is thinking terminal. His philosophical enquiries, the abstractions he indulges, and how these relate to a life lived, all point in the same direction. His destination is Wonderland. The nature and style of the journey is all that's to be decided. Taking in London, Tokyo, Berlin and the Galapagos Islands, "Lights Out In Wonderland" documents Gabriel Brockwell's remarkable global odyssey. Committed to the pursuit of pleasure and in search of the Bacchanal to obliterate all previous parties, Gabriel's adventure takes in a spell in rehab, a near-death experience with fugu ovaries, a…