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BOOKS WITH A JAPANESE THEME


Here are some books related to Japan. They include both fiction and non-fiction for those interested in reading more about this fascinating place. All of these are fine books and I've read them with relish. It's quite a different mix including satirical, funny, sad, serious and downright bizarre. Alas, most are by western writers and the views are for the most part from a western perspective. I've included a few by Japanese writers but I don't think Japanese writers translate very well to English and the message is somehow blunted or lost in many cases. Anyway, check them out they're all recommendations for good reading. Read these books!


Non-Fiction

The Roads to Sata : A 2000-Mile Walk... cover This first book is about an English man, and long time resident of Japan, named Alan Booth who walked from the tip of Hokkaido, the northern island, to the tip of Kyushu at the southern end of Japan. It's quite interesting and deals with a lot of funny situations he becomes involved in because it takes place about 25 years ago when foreigners were still a bit rare in Japan.

Looking for the Lost : Journeys Through... cover The futher adventures of Alan Booth. This time he takes three journeys to look for the lost feeling of old Japan. He has some more interesting adventures walking through the countryside off the well beaten path. It contains a lot of insight into country life of Japanese. This book was published posthumously.

Lost Japancover This book by Alan Kerr is quite thought provoking. It's a view of Japan by a foreigner who was raised in Japan and who understands a lot about Japanese ethos. A good book about understanding what may be wrong with Japan.

36 Views of Mount Fuji : On Finding... cover Nice book by Cathy Davidson. She really hits a lot of nails right on the head with her narrative about what it's like for a foreigner to live and work in Japan. This should be required reading for anyone wishing to teaching English in Japan. Full of insight.

Little Adventures in Tokyo : 39 Thrills... cover Great book about the hidden and sometimes obvious attractions of Japan's capital city. Written by Rick Kennedy, a longtime Tokyo resident, it uncovers some interesting and inexpensive distractions in the megalopolis. A must have for the bored(?) Tokyoite.


Fiction

Audrey Hepburn's Neck : A Novel cover Funny, poignant story of a gaijin (foreigner) and a Japanese boy from Hokkaido (considered a foreign country by Japanese until about 150 years ago) trying to cope with life in Tokyo. Nicely written with a somewhat shocking revelation near the end. Quite entertaining.

Memoirs of a Geisha cover Written like a biography, (though it is pure fiction) this story tells the tale of a poor, young girl sold into virtual slavery by her destitute, fisherman father. Follow her through the hardships of her life and training to become a sought after geisha of the Gion quarter of Kyoto. Heros, villains, sex, intrigue and more in this captivating novel.

Shogun coverWhat can I say about this one? Shogun is a classic. Of course, it was made into a mini-series in the late '70's and inspired a "Japan boom" in America. This epic novel has a huge scope and never drags though is to more than 600 pages long. Read it.

Lizard cover A collection of short stories by one of Japan's leading young writers. Many of these stories deal with love and loneliness and are somewhat off-beat but hopeful.

Kitchencover This short novel by Banana Yoshimoto led to a Japanese film of the same name. It's about love and acceptance, a recurring theme in her stories. The other story included in the novel is very touching.

Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of... cover A wonderful blend of sci-fi and fantasy mixed with detective novel. It is a little confusing at the beginning because of the 2 separate stories taking place simultaneously but Murakami melds them together brilliantly. Lots of familiar references to Tokyo too.

Monkey Brain Sushi : New Tastes in...Another collection of short stories by the "new" generation of Japanese writers. Not all of the stories work but many are bizarre and strange to say the least. Great cover (sorry, no picture here).

Speed Tribes : Days and Nights With... cover What is "Generation X" Japan getting into? Well, you can find out in this provacative novel. Go to the backstreets and alleys in search of the real story of today's underground Japan.

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