What’s the first thing you want to do in Japan when you arrive. You undoubtedly have a long list of things to do, but it wouldn’t hurt to learn a little bit about the country before you go. Learning more about Japan’s distinctive culture and customs can enhance your trip even further. The reading of literature about Japan is an excellent approach to do this. Here are 10 Japanese books to read before visiting Japan.

The Travelling Cat Chronicles By Hiro Arikawa

10 Japanese books to read before visiting Japan - The Travelling Cat Chronicles By Hiro Arikawa
10 Japanese books to read before visiting Japan – The Travelling Cat Chronicles By Hiro Arikawa

Traveling by car is Nana the cat. He has no idea where he is going or why, but at least he gets to ride in the front seat of Satoru’s silver van. They travel together through the many seasons of Japan, calling on some of Satoru’s old acquaintances. He meets Sugi and Chikako, a kind-hearted couple who own a B&B that welcomes pets, as well as Kosuke, a grieving husband whose cat-loving wife recently left him. Yoshimine is a brusque and unsentimental farmer who views cats as nothing more than ratters. Even a really unique puppy makes Nana rethink his contempt towards the canine genus. Although Nana is travelling by car, he is unsure of his destination.

The only thing that matters is that he may ride in the front seat of his silver van with his devoted owner Satoru. Satoru is eager to see three old pals from his boyhood, but he won’t explain why to Nana. Nana’s story examines the wonder and excitement of life’s unexpected detours against the backdrop of Japan’s changing seasons and is presented with a special gentleness and humour. It is about understanding the value of isolation and friendship, as well as knowing when to give and when to receive. A strong lesson on the value of compassion lies at the core of this novel.

Territory of Light By Yuko Tsushima

Territory of Light By Yuko Tsushima
10 Japanese books to read before visiting Japan – Territory of Light By Yuko Tsushima

A young woman begins a new life in a Tokyo apartment when her husband leaves her. Over the course of a year, Territory of Light follows her as she fights to raise her two-year-old daughter by herself. Even though the light in her new house is so bright that you have to squint to see it, she is descending more into the shadows and becoming unstable and untethered. She must face what she has lost and what she will become as the months pass by and the seasons change.

Territory of Light is a book about abandonment, longing, and metamorphosis that is simultaneously sensitive and piercing, luminous and frightening. Between 1978 and 1979, the Japanese literary magazine Gunzo published it initially in twelve sections, with each chapter marking the months in real time. ‘There is something deeply seductive about being drawn into the intimate thoughts of a woman who otherwise would tell them to no one.

Kafka on The Shore By Haruki Murakami

10 Japanese books to read before visiting Japan - Kafka on The Shore By Haruki Murakami
10 Japanese books to read before visiting Japan – Kafka on The Shore By Haruki Murakami

Two remarkable characters drive Kafka on the Shore, a tour de force of metaphysical reality: Kafka Tamura, a young man who runs away from home either to escape a horrifying oedipal prophecy or to look for his long-missing mother and sister; and Nakata, an elderly simpleton who never recovered from a wartime illness and is now drawn to Kafka for reasons that, like the most basic activities of daily life, he cannot understand. Their voyage is enhanced throughout by vivid companions and captivating incidents, making it as mysterious to them as it is to us.

Conversations between cats and people occur, a ghostlike pimp hires a Hegel-quoting prostitute, troops in a forest seem to have not aged since World War II, and fish rainstorms (and worse) fall from the sky. This and every other question are eventually resolved, just as the intertwined fates of Kafka and Nakata are gradually revealed, with one escaping his fate entirely and the other given a fresh start on his own. There is a brutal murder, with the identities of both the victim and the perpetrator remaining a mystery.

Spark By John J Ratey

Spark By John J Ratey
10 Japanese books to read before visiting Japan – Spark By John J Ratey

By increasing your heart rate and working up a sweat, you can relieve stress, improve your mood, prevent memory loss, sharpen your brain, and perform better than ever. There is no disputing the fact that aerobic exercise physically changes our brains to optimise performance. John J. Ratey, M.D., takes readers on an engrossing and entertaining journey through the mind-body connection in his book Spark. He presents shocking research that shows exercise is our best line of defence against a variety of conditions, including depression, ADD, addiction, aggression, menopause, and Alzheimer’s.

Spark is the first book to thoroughly examine the relationship between exercise and the brain and is full of outstanding case studies (such as the ground-breaking fitness programme in Naperville, Illinois, which has made this school district of 19,000 students in the world of science test scores. Your perspective on your morning run or, for that matter, just how you think, will be eternally altered by it.

Convenience Store Woman By Sayaka Murata

10 Japanese books to read before visiting Japan - Convenience Store Woman By Sayaka Murata
10 Japanese books to read before visiting Japan – Convenience Store Woman By Sayaka Murata

The inspiring and unexpected narrative of Keiko Furukura, a 36-year-old Tokyo resident, is titled Convenience Store Woman. Keiko has never felt at home, neither in her family nor at school, but when she starts working at the “Smile Mart” branch in Hiiromachi at the age of 18, she finds serenity and meaning in her life. She understands social norms in the store better than everywhere else, and she makes an effort to imitate her coworkers’ dress, mannerisms, and speech in order to play the role of a “regular” person brilliantly, more or less. Many of these norms are spelled out line-by-line in the business’s handbook.

Keiko works at the store for eighteen years while the other managers come and go. It’s practically impossible to distinguish between her and the store. Keiko is extremely content, but everybody close to her, from her family to her co-workers, pressurize her more and more to find a marriage and to begin a respectable profession, leading her to act desperately. Convenience Store Woman is a satirical and astute look at contemporary work culture and the demands to fit in, as well as a fascinating and entirely new image of an unforgettable heroine. It is a remarkable depiction of a peculiar psychology and a world hidden from view.

The Last Children of Tokyo By Yoko Tawada

The Last Children of Tokyo By Yoko Tawada
10 Japanese books to read before visiting Japan – The Last Children of Tokyo By Yoko Tawada

Yoshiro believes he may live forever. He is one of Japan’s numerous “old-elderly,” or people over the age of 100, who can still remember a period before the air and the sea were contaminated and before horrible events forced Japan to cut off relations with the rest of the world. He may live for many years, but he is aware that his cherished great-grandson, who was born weak and prone to illness, may not reach adulthood. Every day, Mumei needs all of Yoshiro’s cunning to survive. A covert organisation launches an audacious scheme to find a cure as prospects for Japan’s youth wane; may Yoshiro’s great-grandson hold the key to save the last of Tokyo’s children.

A Tale For Time Being By Ruth Ozeki

10 Japanese books to read before visiting Japan - A Tale For Time Being By Ruth Ozeki
10 Japanese books to read before visiting Japan – A Tale For Time Being By Ruth Ozeki

In Tokyo, 16-year-old Nao has come to the conclusion that there is only one way to end her excruciating loneliness and bullying from her peers. However, before she does so, Nao intends to record the life of her great-grandmother, a Buddhist nun who has lived for more than a century. Nao’s sole source of comfort is a diary, which she can hardly comprehend how it will affect people’s lives. Across the Pacific, we meet Ruth, a writer who lives on a lonely island and finds a collection of objects that may have been tsunami debris from 2011 washed ashore in a Hello Kitty lunchbox.

Ruth is dragged into the past, into Nao’s drama and her unknowable fate, and forward into her own future as the mystery behind its contents is revealed. A Tale for the Time Being is a marvellously innovative, seductive tale of our shared humanity and the search for home. It is full of Ozeki’s trademark humour and is intimately engaged with the relationship between writer and reader, past and present, fact and fiction, quantum physics, history, and myth.

The Guest Cat By Takashi Hiraide

The Guest Cat By Takashi Hiraide
10 Japanese books to read before visiting Japan – The Guest Cat By Takashi Hiraide

The Guest Cat is a gently moving and breathtakingly beautiful story about the transitory nature of existence and peculiar but profoundly felt ways of living, written by Takashi Hiraide, a renowned poet. A couple in their forties works from home as freelance copyeditors and resides in a little rented house in a quiet neighbourhood of Tokyo. They no longer talk much to one another. However, one day a cat decides to visit their tiny kitchen. It goes, but returns the following day and continues to do so.

Soon they are buying cat snacks and talking about the cat and all of its tiny quirks. The husband and wife notice that life has more promise now that the days are lighter. The art of Takashi Hiraide “truly shines.” He has received praise for his poetry, which is astonishingly cross-hatched with beauty, for “its seemingly unending string of shape-shifting objects and sensations, whose splintering effect is executed by a unique combination of speed and precision.”

Norwegian Wood By Murakami

10 Japanese books to read before visiting Japan - Norwegian Wood By Murakami
10 Japanese books to read before visiting Japan – Norwegian Wood By Murakami

Toru, a shy and uncannily sombre young college student in Tokyo, is deeply in love with Naoko, a lovely and reflective young woman, but their shared devotion is characterised by the devastating loss of their best friend years earlier. While Naoko finds the stresses and obligations of life intolerable, Toru starts to adjust to university life and the loneliness and isolation he experiences there. Toru discovers himself reaching out to others and attracted to a fiercely independent and sexually liberated young woman as she withdraws even more into her own world. Norwegian Wood masterfully recreates a young man’s first, hopeless, and heroic love by fusing the story of one college student’s romantic coming-of-age with the music, mood, and ethos of the 1960s.

In The Miso Soup By Ryu Murakami

In The Miso Soup By Ryu Murakami
10 Japanese books to read before visiting Japan – In The Miso Soup By Ryu Murakami

Frank, a chubby American tourist, has hired Kenji to give him a tour of Tokyo’s nightlife soon before the New Year. But because of Frank’s peculiar behaviour, Kenji starts to have the horrifying idea that his client might actually harbour violent intentions. Even though Kenji is far from innocent himself, he yet wilfully plunges into a pit of evil with Frank, where only his sixteen-year-old girlfriend Jun may be able to save him.

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