Some of the Best Modern Japanese Fiction

shelved under Fiction and Travel & Places

A few years ago I grew very tired of reading novels that were nothing special. I was in a major rut. A friend of mine recommended I read something by Haruki Murakami. I took her advice and it opened a door into the world of Modern Japanese Fiction. Since this genre is likely quite different from anything you've read, I'm happy to start you off with the flashlight worthy novels below. Some will move you, some will thrill you, and some will make you laugh. Enjoy!


Sputnik Sweetheart

by Haruki Murakami

While much shorter than most of Murakami's other novels, this one certainly packs a punch. Sputnik Sweetheart is a meditation on loneliness and love. It's very minimalist work and incredibly surreal.



by Banana Yoshimoto, translated by Michael Emmerich

Asleep is a series of three novellas, each one dealing with a unique aspect of sleep. I read most of this book at night and it put me in a very dreamlike state. The words flow effortlessly and the stories are not too deep.


Battle Royale

by Koushun Takami

Battle Royale will keep you up all night. It's about a battle to the last person left alive in a yearly contest in futuristic Japan. The kicker? The battle takes place between a class of young students that were randomly selected. Other than being insanely creepy, this novel is also very moving. It's very character driven and you get to really connect with all of them. It's a real treat if you are looking for a thrill.


Black Rain

by Masuji Ibuse, translated by John Bester

Black Rain is a very interesting novel because while it is about the atom bomb being dropped on Hiroshima, the author based the novel on interviews from Holocaust sufferers. The novel lays out in a very unemotional way just how the bomb destroyed lives. It does not blame anyone for the bombing... it just tells how a Japanese family is dealing with it. A very sobering and eye opening read.



by Koji Suzuki

This is what the horror movie of the same name is based on. Quite simply, this novel is terrifying. TERRIFYING. Suzuki is a great writer and his horror is subtle. You'll get goose bumps hours after you sit the book down, just from thinking about it.



by Ryu Murakami

Ryu is the other, lesser known Murakami. He's a much more graphic writer than Haruki. This is a very scary novel about a man who is afraid he will stab his baby. I wont go into why. "Piercing" is brutal and honest. You'll feel tense and anxious and if that is your thing, you will love it. Definitely a page turner!


Never Let Me Go

by Kazuo Ishiguro

This novel is truly stunning. It's extremely detailed and the pace is somewhat slow, but in the end it is all worth it. I would almost call Ishiguro the Japanese John Steinbeck. You will think of this novel long after you have finished it and moved on. (Editor's name: While Ishiguro was born in Japan, his family moved to England when he was 6. He's just too excellent a writer though to leave off this list.)