30 Best Japanese Books To Read (From & Set There)

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Travel across Asia with the best Japanese books to read before you go. These books about, from, and set in Japan are sure to transport you there.

Many great Japanese novels showcase incredible characters, vast journeys, and magical realism. And, let’s not forget: cats. Lots of cats – some that even talk.

Although not all brief, you can also certainly find the perfect short Japanese book or two when you aren’t looking to read a hefty tome over the weekend.

But, don’t let that page count fool you; these tales are chock full of meaning and raise larger questions to help improve our lives.

Plus, there are a plethora of fantastic translated Japanese books out there that examine everyday life, love, friendships, artificial intelligence, and women’s bodies.

Below, uncover just a few of the best Japanese novels in English to add to your growing TBR pile.

Many of these titles are written by Japanese authors, but we’ve also included a few from authors around the world who are famous for writing about Japanese culture and history (or lived in Japan).

Be sure to let us know your favorites in the comments as you explore the best Japanese fiction, mystery, fantasy, and romance novels. Let’s get started!

If you enjoy these books set in Japan, be sure to watch these Japanese movies.

Japanese Books and Books About Japan with photo of Mount Fuji from a distance in fall with tree with red leaves over lake
Travel across Asia with the best Japanese books to read before you go. Find books about Japan to teach you more as well as books set in Japan to take you there.

30 Best Japanese Books To Read Now

1. Earthlings by Sayaka Murata

Translated into English by Ginny Tapley Takemori | Celebrated Japanese author Sayaka Murata has always used her work to explore the darkness and weirdness of human nature against the backdrop of conformity and taboo in contemporary Japan. In Earthlings, she turns the dial up to eleven.

Earthlings by Sayaka Murata book cover with hedgehog in spacePin

The main character, Natsuki, has known she is “different” for as long as she can remember, but cracks in her “normal” facade are beginning to show.

Her sexless marriage fails to produce any children, and the dark shadows of her own childhood are looming.

She seeks out her cousin, Yuu, to see if he’ll be willing to make good on the strange promise they made as children. This Japanese book is not for the faint of heart!

Read Earthlings: Amazon | Goodreads

2. An Artist Of The Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro

Kazuo Ishiguro occupies an interesting liminal space, with his English upbringing and his Japanese heritage fusing to produce Nobel Prize-winning literature. Of all his Japanese novels, An Artist Of The Floating World is the most surprising.

An Artist Of The Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro book cover with hands holding a writing or painting utensil Pin

Steering away from his more popular dystopian and sci-fi premises, this is a historical fiction story told in four parts, across the seasons, in the life of an aging Japanese artist.

He is forced to reckon with the consequences of his willingness to produce propaganda for the government during World War II.

The choice might have been politically expedient at the time, but in post-war Japan, he faces damage to his reputation that threatens to tear his family apart.

Discover even more WWII historical fiction books to read set across the globe.

Read An Artist Of The Floating World: Amazon | Goodreads

3. Heaven by Mieko Kawakami

Translated into English by Sam Bett and David Boyd | Two isolated teenagers seek solace and comfort in each other, with devastating consequences. That’s the premise of Heaven, one of the shortest Japanese books on this list (167 pages). Don’t be fooled, though: it’s a complex, multilayered story that still manages to pack a real punch!

Heaven by Mieko Kawakami book cover with green background and swirls of yellow, white, orange, and pink paintPin

Heaven is narrated by an unnamed 14-year-old boy who is tormented by his peers for his lazy eye and his shy nature.

He manages to connect with Kojima, a classmate who is also bullied for her dirty clothes and eccentricity, through clandestine letters they pass in secret.

Your heart will break for them, but beware: things are going to get worse for them; there’s no promise they’ll get any better.

Heaven will especially speak to dark academia book seekers.

Read Heaven: Amazon | Goodreads

4. There’s No Such Thing As An Easy Job by Kikuko Tsumura

Translated into English by Polly Barton | Haven’t we all dreamed of an “easy job?” One that requires very little of us – ideally, no thinking at all? That’s what the unnamed narrator of There’s No Such Thing As An Easy Job is after.

There’s No Such Thing As An Easy Job by Kikuko Tsumura book cover with person with head down on desk with laptopPin

Each chapter revolves around a different “easy” job she takes on, each with its own unique set of farcical challenges.

As she spins through the revolving door of busy work, she’s forced to confront the possibility that capitalism’s grip on her mental and physical health might not be so easily shaken.

The best Japanese novels in English make for the perfect backdrop against which to interrogate our social and economic realities and Kikuko Tsumura’s book will do just that.

There’s No Such Thing As An Easy Job is also a must-read Japanese novel for fans of My Year Of Rest And Relaxation!

Read There’s No Such Thing As An Easy Job: Amazon | Goodreads

5. The Perfect World Of Miwako Sumida by Clarissa Goenawan

Japanese mystery novels don’t (always) revolve around criminals and detectives. The Perfect World Of Miwako Sumida by Clarissa Goenawan explores a more domestic mystery, that of a seemingly perfect teenage girl’s suicide.

The Perfect World Of Miwako Sumida by Clarissa Goenawan with sketch of person with black hair and swirls of pink and redish-orange on coverPin

This “elegantly cryptic Murakami-esque ‘whydunnit’” is told from three perspectives: the boy who loved Miwako, his sister, and her best friend. All of them are searching for answers.

The reader can’t help but be drawn in to search alongside them. Miwako Sumida herself is notably silent, making the circumstances of her death all the more haunting and mysterious.

Over the course of this carefully plotted novel, Goenawan gradually pulls apart the perfect facade of Miwako Sumida’s life, to reveal the tragic truth.

Discover even more brilliant books that take place in Japan.

Read The Perfect World Of Miwako Sumida: Amazon | Goodreads

6. The Phone Box At The Edge Of The World by Laura Imai Messina

Translated by Lucy Rand | The 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami devastated Japan, killing nearly 20,000 people and leaving thousands more injured or missing. Inevitably, Japanese books set after this disaster reflect its huge impact on the lives of Japanese people.

The Phone Box At The Edge Of The World by Laura Imai Messina book cover with sketched phone box shaded in light bluePin

The Phone Box At The Edge Of The World does so directly, through the stories of two characters who lost everything under the waves.

Yui and Takeshi meet at the titular phone box, both grappling with a grief that threatens to overwhelm them; in each other and the phone box, they find solace and support.

The Phone Box is an actual place, known as the wind phone (風の電話, kaze no denwa) in real life; 30,000 people have visited Ōtsuchi to ‘call’ their lost loved ones over the past ten years.

Read The Phone Box At The Edge Of The World: Amazon | Goodreads

7. My Year Of Meats by Ruth Ozeki

For the best Japanese fiction, Ruth Ozeki’s award-winning debut novel, My Year Of Meats, is one of the more unusual books about Japanese culture – one that interrogates it by comparison with its American equivalent.

My Year Of Meats by Ruth Ozeki book cover with cow between chopsticks and red, pink, green, blue, and yellow stripes down coverPin

In this story, a Japanese-American documentary filmmaker finds herself working with BEEF-EX, an export business with an unusual idea to promote the sale of American beef in Japan.

They employ her to produce a reality television show, called My American Wife.

Meanwhile, the wife of a BEEF-EX employee finds herself under intense pressure from her husband to start baby-making.

He makes her watch the show and mimic the diet it depicts, with dark consequences.

The premise is funny, and the prose is witty, but there are some hard flinty truths at the core of this Japanese book.

Read My Year Of Meats: Amazon | Goodreads

8. The Makioka Sisters by Jun’ichirō Tanizaki

Translated into English by Edward G. Seidensticker: The Makioka Sisters is one of the most fascinating and enduring books about Japan of the 20th century. Initially published in serial form during World War II (1943-1948), it offers a fascinating window into a unique period in Japanese history.

The Makioka Sisters by Junichiro Tanizaki book cover with two woman each in a square corner of the bookPin

The Makioka family was once one of the wealthiest in the Osaka region, but with world conflict looming their fortunes have fallen.

Where they once had their pick of suitors for the younger unmarried Makioka sisters, they are now scrambling to secure engagements before the shame of spinsterhood comes for them.

There are multiple marriage plots and family dramas weaving throughout this story of social status – one of the best Japanese books for Jane Austen fans!

Discover more books about WW2 set around the world.

Read The Makioka Sisters: Amazon | Goodreads

9. The Tale Of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu

Edition above translated into English by Royall Tyler | Of all the classic Japanese novels, The Tale Of Genji occupies a particularly special place in the canon: it was (very probably) the first novel ever written, anywhere in the world.

The Tale Of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu book cover with illustrated person in purple top and yellow-beige pantsPin

As best we can tell, with some certainties lost to the annals of time, it was written in the early 11th century by a noblewoman-slash-lady-in-waiting, Murasaki Shikibu.

She did “write what you know” before it was cool, as The Tale Of Genji depicts the lives of Japanese high courtiers, following the story of an emperor’s disowned successor.

The story wasn’t fully translated into English until the early 20th century, but the translation (by Japanese poet Akiko Yosano) is now widely available.

Classic works of the best Japanese literature don’t get any more famous than this.

Read The Tale Of Genji: Amazon | Goodreads

10. The Memory Police by Yōko Ogawa

Translated into English by Stephen Snyder | Japanese books often find a second life in their English translation. The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa was published in its original Japanese in 1994. However, it didn’t reach the awards shortlists and bestseller status until 2019, when the English translation was published in the U.S. and the Commonwealth.

The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa book cover with photograph of person with lips slightly parted and blue hue along with pieces of illustrated facePin

This dystopian story evokes George Orwell and Franz Kafka: a novelist lives on an island under the control of the titular Memory Police.

People frequently “forget” objects or concepts (like hats, or birds).

It’s a melancholy and chilling Japanese novel, one that will someday be held in the high esteem of 1984 or The Trial.

If you enjoy books like The Memory Police, discover even more Japanese novels for fantasy lovers.

Read The Memory Police: Amazon | Goodreads

11. Breasts And Eggs by Mieko Kawakami

Translated into English by Sam Bett and David Boyd: Breasts And Eggs is the first of Mieko Kawakami’s Japanese novels to be translated into English.

Breasts And Eggs by Mieko Kawakami book cover with pink circle at topPin

The story is told in two parts, with separate plots that are tied together by the narrator – Natsuko, a Tokyo writer – and their themes, womanhood and motherhood in contemporary Japan.

Kawakami has a unique talent for using mundane day-to-day activities – grocery shopping, home decorating, small talk about the weather – to communicate razor-sharp insights about what it means to be a woman.

This is a riveting and revelatory read, one recommended by none other than the master of the best Japanese books ever written, Haruki Murakami.

Read Breasts And Eggs: Amazon | Goodreads

12. If Cats Disappeared From The World by Genki Kawamura

Translated into English by Eric Selland | For Japanese fiction, the premise of If Cats Disappeared From The World is startling, to say the least. A man finds out his days are numbered when he is diagnosed with terminal brain cancer.

If Cats Disappeared From The World by Genki Kawamura book cover with person and cat sitting on bench looking out at ombre blue skyPin

He returns to his apartment only to find the Devil(!) with a special Faustian pact on offer.

The Devil says that the man can have one extra day of life, in exchange for making one thing disappear from the world.

The man is forced to reckon with the consequences of a monumental decision. What would happen if cats disappeared from the world?

What can we live without, and what makes life worth living? A lot of the best Japanese novels in English translation prominently feature cats, and this one is a must.

Read If Cats Disappeared From The World: Amazon | Goodreads

13. Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

Pachinko is one of the sweeping epic Japanese books that interrogates race, class, and family against a rich backdrop.

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee book cover with person with long dress where you can see mountains and landscape in the bottomPin

A pregnant teenager discovers that her lover is married, and chooses to marry a minister, against her own father’s and the baby’s father’s wishes.

The complex characters at the heart of Lee’s iconic novel explore bustling markets, university halls, and underworld parlors across Japan – and further afield.

The dramatic saga reaches across continents and generations, with the spiraling fallout of one personal and moral quandary having ramifications for decades to come.

Your heart will soar – and break – for the characters in Lee’s wonderful, profoundly moving novel – the perfect choice if you’re looking for the best Japanese novels throughout the diaspora.

Pachinko is also an excellent selection if you are looking to read more books set in and about Korea.

Read Pachinko: Amazon | Goodreads

14. The Cat Who Saved Books by Sosuke Natsukawa

Translated into English by Louise Heal Kawai | If you’ve ever met a bookshop cat, you know they live a charmed life. Each cat is as unique as the shop it calls home, but the one at the heart of The Cat Who Saved Books is… especially so.

The Cat Who Saved Books by Sosuke Natsukawa book cover with tabby cat going through a red bookPin

Teenage bookworm Rintaro Natsuki is closing up his grandfather’s secondhand bookshop when Tiger, a talking cat, demands his help in a mission of the utmost importance.

This might be a tough read for book lovers who cringe at crimes against books (like the man who cuts books up into manageable chunks, or the man who puts books on his shelves but never reads them).

However, it’s the perfect pick for feline friends who want to immerse themselves in the best Japanese books with unlikely friendships at their heart.

Read The Cat Who Saved Books: Amazon | Goodreads

15. The Factory by Hiroko Oyamada

Translated into English by David Boyd | Everyone feels like a worker bee sometimes, and the three characters at the heart of The Factory are no exception.

The Factory by Hiroko Oyamada book cover with smoke coming out of green trash can on pink backgroundPin

One studies moss, one shreds paper, and the other proofreads documents – all of them work in the factory, in the heart of an unnamed Japanese city.

Slowly, over the course of this short but surreal story, the factory expands and comes to consume everything.

Soon, the workers have no way of knowing where the factory ends and their real lives begin.

The best Japanese novels in English translation are full of magical realism; Hiroko Oyamada does it particularly well in this searing critique of late-stage capitalism.

Read The Factory: Amazon | Goodreads

16. Memorial by Bryan Washington

If you’re looking for LGBTIQ+ books set in Japan, you can’t go past the 2020 bestseller and #bookstagram favorite: Memorial by Bryan Washington.

Memorial by Bryan Washington book cover with bag on a stick like a flagPin

In this profound dramedy, a Japanese-American chef in a lackluster relationship returns to Osaka to visit his dying father, just as his mother arrives in Texas to visit.

His mother is backed into a corner, staying with her son’s on-the-rocks partner without her son as a buffer.

Both men undergo huge personal transformations: one at home, and one in his homeland.

This is a story of becoming, of reckoning with who you really are, and how it tests the bounds of love.

Read Memorial: Amazon | Goodreads

17. Kafka On The Shore by Haruki Murakami

Translated into English by Philip Gabriel | All contemporary Japanese books owe some debt to Haruki Murakami, the award-winning, bestselling Japanese author of the past fifty years.

Kafka On The Shore by Haruki Murakami book cover with blue and white coloringPin

Kafka On The Shore includes all the elements that make Murakami novels iconic: remarkable characters, an odyssey, cats, and magical realism.

A teenager runs away from home to search for his long-lost family members. An aging man turns to reading Kafka for reasons even he can’t understand.

They are fated to cross paths, and within each other, they will find a new destiny. Murakami has mastered the art of compelling – if sometimes confusing – fiction.

Read Kafka On The Shore: Amazon | Goodreads

More Books From Japanese writer, Haruki Murakami:

18. Klara And The Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

Many dystopian Japanese novels focus on what could happen if the machines rise up against us and we are hoisted with our own technological petard. In his most recent book, Kazuo Ishiguro explores whether the opposite could be true.

Klara And The Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro red book cover with sun in palm of handPin

What if anthropomorphized artificial intelligence behaved exactly as it was designed to and served us faithfully, with complete devotion?

Klara is an Artificial Friend, waiting in a store to be selected as a playmate for a family.

She sees and hears everything; so, she knows when she is chosen that something isn’t quite right.

Her surprisingly moving narration makes this all-too-plausible story truly unforgettable.

Read Klara And The Sun: Amazon | Goodreads

19. Strange Weather In Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami

Translated into English by Allison Markin Powell | Did you ever see one of your teachers outside of school? Even as a grown-up, it’s weird; one amazing film memorably described the feeling as “like seeing a dog walk on its hind legs.”

Strange Weather In Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami book cover with person with white and red outfit jumping and flying into air in a storePin

That’s how Strange Weather In Tokyo begins, with Tsukiko – now in her late 30s – running into one of her former high-school teachers at a local sake bar.

Unable to shake the habit, she defaults to calling him Sensei (a Japanese honorific for “person who came before,” one who teaches).

They meet again, and again, and gradually their relationship transitions from that of teacher-student to something else entirely.

It might not be a traditional beginning to a great love story, but the best Japanese romance novels are always a little unconventional.

Read Strange Weather In Tokyo: Amazon | Goodreads

20. A Tale For The Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

A Tale For The Time Being is a story of chance, hope, and the search for belonging. Ruth is a novelist, living on a remote island.

A Tale For The Time Being by Ruth Ozeki book cover with water, mountains, trees in blue, red, yellow, and green shadingPin

One day, she discovers among the usual flotsam a Hello Kitty lunchbox.

Inside, she finds a collection of artifacts that connect her – across time and geography – to a sixteen-year-old girl living in Tokyo, prior to the 2011 tsunami.

The girl, Nao, had planned to end her own life, but there was something else she felt she had to do first: make a record of the life of her great-grandmother, a centenarian Buddhist nun.

For stunning Japanese fiction, A Tale For The Time Being weaves past and present, fact and fiction. It will have you reaching for the tissues more than once.

Discover even more books set on remote islands.

Read A Tale For The Time Being: Amazon | Goodreads

21. The Woman In The Purple Skirt by Natsuko Imamura

Translated into English by Lucy North | Alfred Hitchcock meets Zoë Heller meets the best Japanese literature in The Woman In The Purple Skirt. This is a prize-winning psychological novel by Natsuko Imamura.

The Woman In The Purple Skirt by Natsuko Imamura book cover with illustrated person's face in various colors like red, yellow, blue, and greenPin

Every day, the Woman in the Purple Skirt buys a cream bun and sits on a park bench to eat it. Unbeknownst to her, she’s being closely watched by the Woman in the Yellow Cardigan.

As the Woman in the Yellow Cardigan lures the Woman in the Purple Skirt into her life, she sets in motion a chain of events that she couldn’t foresee, the exact opposite of what she wants most.

This short novel is an unsettling and eerie read, but one that will compel you all the way through. No collection of Japanese fiction is complete without it!

Read The Woman In The Purple Skirt: Amazon | Goodreads

22. The Traveling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa

Translated into English by Philip Gabriel | Cats feature frequently and prominently in the best Japanese novels. In Japanese culture, these feline companions portend good luck and are said to have protective powers for their companions.

The Traveling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa book cover with illustrated white cat and red, yellow, and orange leaves on branchesPin

That certainly seems to be the case for Nana, the cat on a road trip in The Traveling Cat Chronicles.

He doesn’t know where he is traveling or why, but he’s happy to be with his beloved owner Satoru as they drive across Japan and meet new people and old friends.

Nana seems to be very popular with everyone he meets; is there some special reason they’re paying him so much attention? It turns out, there is, and it will break Nana’s heart.

This is a beautiful and heart-wrenching work of Japanese fiction, translated into English by Philip Gabriel.

Discover even more books that will take you on a road trip.

Read The Traveling Cat Chronicles: Amazon | Goodreads

23. What You Are Looking For Is In The Library by Michiko Aoyama

Translated by Alison Watts | If you’re looking for brand-new Japanese books to read, keep your eyes peeled for What You Are Looking For Is In The Library, a 2023 book release.

What You Are Looking For Is In The Library by Michiko Aoyama book cover with illustrated cat looking out window with house and pink tree next to stack of books and house plantPin

Michiko Aoyama’s latest novel was released in Japan in 2020, and now Alison Watts’ English translation is coming to our shelves.

This is one of the must-read Japanese novels for fans of The Midnight Library and Before The Coffee Gets Cold.

What You Are Looking For Is In The Library is a sweet and nostalgic story about a librarian who prescribes the perfect book for each and every patron who comes through his doors.

Booklovers will relish this love letter to the importance of books in our lives, the safe haven of libraries, and the wisdom of librarians.

Read What You Are Looking For Is In The Library: Amazon | Goodreads

24. The Mill House Murders by Yukito Ayatsuji

When most readers think of the best Japanese literature, they think of Haruki Murakami-esque magical realism and nostalgic historical novels by Nobel Prize winners like Kazuo Ishiguro.

The Mill House Murders by Yukito Ayatsuji book cover with pink mask on green backgroundPin

It’s a shame that the strong tradition of heart-racing thrillers in post-war Japan so often gets overlooked by Anglophone readers.

Books like The Mill House Murders are slowly gaining traction, though, and more often being recognized as some of the best Japanese novels in English translation.

This locked-room mystery was first published in 1988.

However, renewed interest in the Ho-Ling Wong translation has seen it re-released, with an eye-catching hot pink cover you’ve probably seen on #Bookstagram.

Agatha Christie fans can get their start in Japanese fiction with this brilliantly plotted mystery that takes some seriously twisted turns.

Read The Mill House Murders: Amazon | Goodreads

25. People Who Talk To Stuffed Animals Are Nice by Ao Omae

Translated by Emily Balistrieri | People Who Talk To Stuffed Animals Are Nice is a collection of short stories and the English-language debut of Japanese author Ao Oame.

People Who Talk To Stuffed Animals Are Nice by Ao Omae book cover with black teddy bear holding two people and pink backgroundPin

Each story explores gender, friendship, and romance in Japanese society, and each character is deftly drawn to tease out those themes.

There are the university students who use plushies for emotional support, a young woman contending with her family’s whacky beliefs, and a hikikomori boy who wants to throw himself a birthday party, all of them reflecting the quiet rebellion against conservatism in contemporary Japan.

At times funny, at others bittersweet, this beautifully written collection is one of the best Japanese books you can read in an afternoon.

Read People Who Talk To Stuffed Animals Are Nice: Amazon | Goodreads

More from Christine

26. Before the coffee gets cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi

Translated into English by Geoffrey Trousselot | One of our favorite (and shorter) time travel books, Before the coffee gets cold takes place at a cafe in Tokyo, Japan.

Before The Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi book cover with two chairs, blue wallpaper, and cat on the groundPin

Head to a 140-year-old, back-alley cafe that not only serves coffee but allows visitors to travel back in time.

We meet four patrons who are hoping to time travel to see someone for the last (or first) time; be sure to pay attention to the way each person views the cafe – as this says a lot about who they are and their outcomes.

True to its namesake, each time traveler’s trip may only last as long as it takes for the coffee to grow cold. If they don’t finish their coffee before this point, there are ghostly consequences.

Who would you wish to see one last time, and what issues would you address? Along with the many rules of time travel, these visitors are warned that the present will not change.

Would you still travel back knowing this? Can something, anything, still change – even within you?

For contemporary Japanese literature, readers and bookstagrammers either love this novel or find it quite repetitive.

Personally, we think the repetitiveness drives home a point. The story provides a touch of humor with a beautiful message. Get the tissue box ready.

Explore even more thought-provoking (and scary) books with ghosts.

Read Before the coffee gets cold: Amazon | Goodreads

27. Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata

Translated into English by Ginny Tapley Takemori | One of the best Japanese books for Women in Translation Month (August) that will also make you think more deeply, Convenience Store Woman follows the life of convenience store worker, Keiko Furukura.

Convenience Store Woman by Sakaya Murata book cover with bowl of balled up rice in shape of a woman's facePin

Keiko lives in Tokyo, Japan, and she is a people pleaser. Initially, Keiko subscribes to society’s stifling beliefs that she can only live a ‘normal’ existence if she follows a prescribed way of life.

This includes getting a ‘real’ full-time job, marrying young, and bearing children.

Even though Keiko tries to be the perfect convenience store worker, comically shouting out promotions and making sure the shelves are stocked, she knows that everyone else condemns her lifestyle.

However, when Keiko tries to conform, nothing feels right. She finds herself even more lost and miserable.

Convenience Store Woman is a satirical look at modern society and how we are cogs in it.

Short and straightforward, for the best books about Japanese culture and society, Convenience Store Woman packs a big punch. You’ll champion Keiko as she comes out on top.

Read Convenience Store Woman: Amazon | Goodreads

28. Tokyo Ever After by Emiko Jean

One of the sweetest YA books set in Japan, Tokoyo Ever After is for fans of Princess Diaries with a Crazy Rich Asians flair. Encounter a fun but heartwarming story of family and love.

Tokyo Ever After by Emiko Jean book coverPin

Growing up Japanese-American and living in California, Izumi Tanaka doesn’t feel as though she belongs anywhere.

Izumi doesn’t fit in at school, and when she learns that her estranged Japanese father is the Crown Prince of Japan, she quickly realizes that even in Japan, people will always see her as a foreigner.

Izumi jets off to Japan to spend time with her father and determine who she wishes to become.

Most importantly, Izumi realizes that as a leader, she must radiate integrity and inspire new traditions and change. Can Izumi act with her heart to win over an entire country?

For the best Japanese novels for teens, this is a fun romance as well as a beautiful, feel-good story about exploring heritage and families.

Izumi is courageous and empowering – shining far brighter than any glitzy tiara or perfectly selected outfit.

Read Tokyo Ever After: Amazon | Goodreads

29. Flame In The Mist by Renée Ahdieh

Head to Feudal Japan in Flame In The Mist, the first in this young adult duology by American-Korean author, Renée Ahdieh.

Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh book cover with person's face behind blue tinting and pink and white flowersPin

Mariko feels powerless in her current role as the daughter of a samurai.  

Forced into a marriage of convenience, Mariko must either sit back or fight back.  She chooses to fight.

Mulan retelling, Mariko dresses as a boy to fight against the gang who attempts to murder her.  Along the way, she finds love.  Can her new community move past her real identity?

For YA fantasy novels set in Japan, Flame In The Mist is one of our favorites. Historical fantasy meets feminism. 

Read Flame In The MistAmazon | Goodreads

30. The Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto

Translated by Megan Backus | Banana Yoshimoto’s The Kitchen is one of the best Japanese novels in English translation that discusses what it means to live as a free-spirited woman in contemporary Japanese society.

The Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto book cover with image of person in white dress with upside down orange bowl behind themPin

Upon the death of her grandmother, Mikage’s friend Yoichi and his transgender mother take her in, forming their own family. Mikage is no stranger to loss.

Unfortunately, tragedy strikes early on, and Mikage finds both solace and creativity in the kitchen.

A story about non-traditional relationships, the bonds we form, and friendship, The Kitchen explores how we find comfort in the most unexpected of places.

While this is a story about loss and loneliness, it’s also a bit of foodie fiction.

Read The Kitchen: Amazon | Goodreads

More of the best Japanese novels to read

With so many great Japanese books in English, we couldn’t possibly name them all. A few more titles to read include:

What are your favorite Japanese novels in English translation? How about the best books set in and about Japan?

What Japanese books have you read and loved? What are your favorite Japanese romance, mystery, crime, and fantasy novels? Let us know in the comments.

You may also enjoy these Japanese fantasy movies.

Travel across Asia with these book lists:

Sheree from Keeping Up With The Penguins, short black hair woman holding an orange stripped book, FrankensteinPinPin

Sheree Strange

Sheree (pronouns: she/her) is a writer and book reviewer living on the land of the Gadigal people of the Eora nation (known as Sydney, Australia). She has been reviewing books on her blog, Keeping Up With The Penguins, since 2017. She reads books of all kinds and shares her thoughts on them all across the internet.

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Christine Frascarelli

Christine (she/her) is the owner, lead editor, and tipsy book sommelier of The Uncorked Librarian LLC, an online literary publication showcasing books and movies to inspire travel and home to the famed Uncorked Reading Challenge. With a BA in English & History from Smith College, an MLIS from USF-Tampa, and a U.S. Fulbright Fellowship in Christine's back pocket, there isn't a bookstore, library, or winery that can hide from her. Christine loves brewery yoga, adopting all of the kitties, and a glass of oaked Chardonnay. Charcuterie is her favorite food group.


  1. I am so excited to find your website. So many good books! I don’t know where to start. But trust me, I will start reading through the list.

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