Turning Japanese | Five Novels about Japan

I'm an avid reader and if I'm not too busy with creative projects or planning trips, I'm reading. Most of the time, reading is how I relax. I love the feeling of being able to forget all my stress and escape into another world. I noticed recently that most of the books I've been reading lately were somehow related to Japan. I think I subconsciously chose those books with the intention of hyping myself up for my trip. I wanted to share these books and a few other favorites. Even if you can't travel to Japan, you can still experience Japanese culture through these novels!

1. Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
I feel a bit silly having this on the list because by now, everyone has at least heard of this book or film. This was probably one of the first books I read that was set in Japan. If you've never heard of the novel, it's the story of a young geisha in Kyoto during World War II. Before reading this book, I didn't know much about the world of the geisha. I knew it was very secretive and a very special. I always wondered what it was like to be a geisha. It's actually quite an interesting story and although it's not my favorite, it showed me a world that would've always been a mystery.

2. Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
This novel is set in Tokyo and is a coming of age story of a young Japanese man named Toru Watanabe. I really loved the story and read it in two days. I really liked the tone of Norwegian Wood. I tend to read a lot of coming of age novels and really enjoyed reading about Toru's troubles with two very different women in his life. It was interesting reading about what relationships are like in Japan. Even though we come from different cultures, one thing will always be the same, the endless search for love and a connection with another.

3. Battle Royale by Koushun Takami
I know it's very strange that I have such a violent book on a list about traveling to Japan, but I think it deserves to be noted. Back when I read Hunger Games, Markus told me that it was just a tamer version of Battle Royale. I didn't believe him, but after reading it, the similarities were uncanny. There is no doubt that this book is violent and to a certain degree, soul crushing. It doesn't waste any time and gets right into the battle. It's pretty intense and I would probably never read it again. Despite all of this, it's such a Japanese book. It has that sort of signature style that you would expect from a Japanese film or anime.

4. Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
Just a few weeks ago, I finished reading my second Murakami novel. As I stated before, I really enjoyed Norwegian Wood and Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is one of his most popular. When Markus asked me to describe this book to him, it was a bit hard. I basically said, "It's about this guy that loses his cat and his wife and he has a lot of weird dreams." It wasn't my favorite book by Murikami but it when it was good, it was good. While I was reading this book, I was also planning our Japan trip. As I continued to read, I started to feel excited because I knew that soon I would be visiting the places that he was describing.

5. A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
This is the latest book I've read and it's quite good. The concept is quite interesting and really unique. Ruth in British Columbia finds a diary on the beach and features the world of sixteen year old Nao from Tokyo. I enjoyed Nao's story more than Ruth's because Nao felt so real. I could imagine her pain and her struggles. I could empathize with her constant loneliness and bullying from her classmates. It's an amazing book because of this. Also, there is so much about Japanese pop-culture and history. It's a story that connects the past, the present and the future. I loved this book and was the the perfect book to read before a trip to Japan.

I hope you enjoyed reading about my top five Japanese novels. Were there any novels that I left out or ones that I should read? I love to hear from my readers, so please leave me a comment!