9 Best Japanese Authors Books: Explore the Far East

Check out the best Japanese authors books to expand your reading list and take a trip to the islands of the Far East.

The best Japanese authors’ books we’ve gathered here are the perfect way to introduce East Asian novels to your bookshelf. Japanese literature has a storied history–the country is known for producing Murasaki Shikibu’s The Tale of Genji, widely regarded as the world’s first novel, written a millennia ago.

Japan has celebrated voices that historically went unsung (such as those by female writers) long before other cultures. It is known for its humor, to-the-point style, and ability to bring readers into the world of well-developed characters. If you’re interested in this topic, you might also enjoy our round-up of the best Chinese authors and the best Urdu writers!

Here Are The Best Japanese Authors Books

1. Lonely Castle in the Mirror by Tsujimura Mizuki

Lonely Castle in the Mirror by Tsujimura Mizuki
A girl in a dark skirt and jacket sits on a wooden floor looking in an ornate mirror while a human-like wolf in a red dress peers through from the other side

This Japanese novel follows the story of Kokoro, a young girl who gets physically ill at the thought of returning to school and dealing with her classmates. Kokoro mopes around day after day, and the patience of her parents begins to grow thin. One day, Kokoro wakes up to discover that the mirror in her bedroom is illuminated and has become a portal that allows her to travel to a castle. Upon entering the castle, she meets six students and begins to wonder what the seven of them have in common.

Together, they work with the Wolf Queen, who explains how to get access to the wishing room–find the key on the castle grounds, enter the room, and have your wish granted. Mizuki’s novel is praised for approaching tough topics (like teen bullying and anxiety) in a sensitive way, and this story is a good fit for anyone who has felt like they don’t quite fit in with their peers. Lonely Castle is a great fit for young teens working to figure out their place in life.

“A hypothetical reality seemed preferable to present reality, and the more she fantasized about how great it would if certain things could come true, the more reality that world seemed to take on.”

Mizuki Tsujimura, Lonely Castle in the Mirror
Lonely Castle in the Mirror
  • Tsujimura Mizuki (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 360 Pages - 09/01/2022 (Publication Date) - RANDOM HOUSE UK (Publisher)

2. The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka

The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka
A dark pink umbrella with a wooden handle on a brown briefcase

This stunning novel follows the story of women brought from Japan to the United States as “picture brides.” The story delves into themes of loyalty, country, and identity. Throughout their lives, the characters detail their experiences getting married, raising children, and the experience of being an immigrant during difficult times (the book is set in the time of World War II, and the women describe their experience surrounding the bombing of Pearl Harbor).

Otsuka expertly explains the differences between what the brides expected from life–and what they got once they arrived in California. Finally, the women find themselves in internment camps with mixed feelings–some were in a hurry to leave a life that was less than what they’d hoped for, while others were devastated to leave the lives they grew to love.

“We praised them when they were kind to others but told them not to expect to be rewarded for their good deeds. We scolded them whenever they tried to talk back. We taught them never to accept a handout. We taught them never to brag. We taught them everything we knew.”

Julie Otsuka, The Buddha in the Attic
The Buddha in the Attic (Pen/Faulkner Award - Fiction)
  • Winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award For Fiction National Book Award and Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist A New York Times Notable Book
  • Otsuka, Julie (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 144 Pages - 03/20/2012 (Publication Date) - Vintage (Publisher)

3. How Do You Live? by Genzaburo Yoshino

How Do You Live? by Genzaburo Yoshino
A cartoon-drawn boy wearing glasses and a robe stands atop a hill

How Do You Live? follows the story of Koperu, a 15-year-old boy growing up in Japan. He’s a popular student with close relationships with his mother and uncle (Koperu’s father passed away when he was young). Koperu shares stories of his life with his uncle, who then, unbeknownst to Koperu, records the boy’s stories in a journal, including his insights on the trials the boy encounters. The book discusses friendship, academics, and what it takes to find one’s place in society, and it is heralded as a classic Japanese novel.

“The car continued to run onward through the bright sunshine, laughing voices floating out of its windows in all directions. Ahead of them, the white road extended off into the distance, and at the end of it, a tiled rooftop shone warmly, bathed in sunlight.”

Genzaburo Yoshino, How Do You Live?
How Do You Live?: The uplifting Japanese classic that has enchanted millions
  • How Do You Live: The uplifting Japanese classic that has enchanted millions
  • Hardcover Book
  • Genzaburo Yoshino (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 280 Pages - 04/08/2021 (Publication Date) - Rider (Publisher)

4. The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa

The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa
A tan cartoon-drawn bird between two tan plants on a gray background

This science fiction novel takes place on an island and follows the story of a writer controlled by the Memory Police. On the island, inhabitants forget their attachments to both concepts and objects. The Memory Police get rid of objects when their purpose is no longer a part of the memory of people on the island. Some people on the island are unaffected by the Memory Police and work to hide or escape.

The writer’s editor is one of the few on the island who can hang onto their memories. After the writer’s novel disappears, things take a turn for the worse. Readers are left on the edge of their seats as they wait to discover the fate of those remaining on the island. You might also like these authors like Yoko Ogawa.

“I remember hearing a saying long ago: Men who start by burning books end by burning other men.”

Yoko Ogawa, The Memory Police
The Memory Police: Yoko Ogawa
  • Ogawa, Yoko (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 288 Pages - 08/06/2020 (Publication Date) - Vintage (Publisher)

5. Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata
A tower made of bricks with various ropes and small objects protruding from the sides on a white background

Convenience stores are a common part of life in Japan, and the author based Convenience Store Woman partially on her own experiences working as a store clerk three times each week. This Japanese bestseller is Murata’s first novel to be translated into English. The plot follows the store of Keiko Furukura, a 36-year-old part-time convenience store clerk.

Furukura has worked in the store for 18 years. She knows she doesn’t quite fit in with society and is aware that expressing her views causes problems. She works to abide by the store’s corporate manual to model acceptable behavior. She meets Shiraha and feels that they are cut from the same cloth. Over time, Furukura has to decide whether she truly wants to stray from the life she’s always known.

“A convenience store is a forcibly normalized environment where foreign matter is immediately eliminated. The threatening atmosphere that had briefly permeated the store was swept away, and the customers again concentrated on buying their coffee and pastries as if nothing had happened.”

Sayaka Murata, Convenience Store Woman
Convenience Store Woman
  • Murata, Sayaka (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 03/23/2024 (Publication Date) - Faber and Faber (Publisher)

6. Breasts and Eggs by Mieko Kawakami

Breasts and Eggs by Mieko Kawakami
Two white curves against a red background

Mieko Kawakami was awarded the Akutagawa Prize for Breasts and Eggs, heralding her as Japan’s “most important contemporary novelist.” This short novel follows three women’s paths: Makiko, Natsu, and Midoriko. Their story is told from the perspective of Natsu, a writer who identifies with many of the struggles faced by women.

This book explores many themes, including aging, parenthood (and lack thereof), and societal pressures. Readers and critics praise Breasts and Eggs for its dry humor and deep emotion. While the story focuses on many unique aspects of Japanese culture, women worldwide have identified with the lives and struggles of Makiko, Natsu, and Midoriko.

“If you want to know how poor somebody was growing up, ask them how many windows they had. Don’t ask what was in their fridge or in their closet. The number of windows says it all. It says everything. If they had none, or maybe one or two, that’s all you need to know.”

Mieko Kawakami, Breasts and Eggs
Breasts and Eggs
  • Kawakami, Mieko (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 430 Pages - 06/10/2021 (Publication Date) - Picador (Publisher)

7. The Cage by Kenzo Kitakata

The Cage by Kenzo Kitakata
A book title and author name centered on a red background with a pattern of black guns and small Chinese characters

The Cage follows the story of Kazuya Takino, a supermarket manager in the suburbs of Tokyo. The businessman is forced to make difficult choices when an extortionist attempts to take his business. Takino finds himself a part of the yakuza–a world of crime where he once existed and thought he had left in the past.

As he works to save his business, Takino is followed by Detective Takagi, a well-respected member of the Tokyo police. Gang violence, retaliation, and dedication to a new life all play a role in this interesting tale of the thin line between the surface of Tokyo and the world of crime that lies beneath the surface.

“An ordinary life. And yet, to Takino, this kind of life–and the happiness that made it possible–still felt like something worth savoring. Yet he also wondered whether he had the right to walk along the street like this, like them. Had he really become a sheep, or was he still a wolf, only in sheep’s clothing?”

Kenzo Kitakata, The Cage
The Cage
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Kitakata, Kenzo (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 10/25/2022 (Publication Date) - Vertical (Publisher)

8. The Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi

The Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi
Illustration of a Japanese man wearing a colorful robe stabbing a multi-colored, scaled dragon

Recognized as one of the most important pieces of Japanese literature, The Book of Five Rings was written in the 17th century and explained many martial arts rules. Today, the book is seen as providing philosophical guidelines on how to live life. Musashi’s to-the-point style resonates with readers today and can serve as a way to understand each of the different elements of the traditional battle.

The series is divided into five books: The Book of Earth, The Book of Water, The Book of Fire, The Book of Wind, and The Book of the Void. The final book is a short section that explores Musashi’s views on life and dives into his Zen-influenced mindset. Musashi discusses how keeping a Zen level of consciousness is key to success in battle and life. You might also be interested in our guide on authors like Osamu Dazai.

“By training you will be able to freely control your own body, conquer men with your body, and with sufficient training you will be able to beat men in fights, be able to win with your eye, and beat ten men with your spirit. When you have reached this point, will it not mean you are invincible?”

Miyamoto Musashi, The Book of Five Rings
The Book of Five Rings: Adapted for the Contemporary Reader
  • Musashi, Miyamoto (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 97 Pages - 10/22/2022 (Publication Date) - Independently published (Publisher)

9. Strange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami

Strange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami
An Asian woman with black hair in a bun wearing a white long-sleeved shirt and a red jumper floating in the air in a supermarket

Strange Weather in Tokyo follows Tsukiko, a thirty-eight-year-old office worker who lives alone. On a random night out on the town, Tsukiko runs into one of her old high school teachers, whom she only calls Sensei. The two slowly develop a relationship, even though the teacher is thirty years older than Tsukiko.

The book expertly pairs their growing love with the changing seasons in Japan and combines the themes of old-fashioned romance with modern love. Looking for more? Check out our guide with the best Canadian authors!

“That’s why I left the apartment. Out on the street, I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t the only one here, that I wasn’t the only one feeling lonely. But this wasn’t the kind of thing you could tell just by looking at a passerby. The harder I tried to see, the less sure I was.”

Hiromi Kawakami, Strange Weather in Tokyo
Strange Weather in Tokyo: A Novel
  • Kawakami, Hiromi (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 192 Pages - 11/14/2017 (Publication Date) - Counterpoint (Publisher)

Looking for more? Check out these essays about Japan.


  • Amanda has an M.S.Ed degree from the University of Pennsylvania in School and Mental Health Counseling and is a National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer. She has experience writing magazine articles, newspaper articles, SEO-friendly web copy, and blog posts.