Reading Japan: Top 6 books

Japan is rich in culture and teeming with intricate and fascinating traditions, which make for excellent reading. We have picked out our six favourite books about the country to prepare you for your trip.

by Arthur Golden

A compelling tale exploring life as a geisha in mid-20th century Japan, Memoirs of a Geisha chronicles the experiences of a young peasant girl as she trains in the art of geisha. A fictional story told in the style of a true confession, the book provides an engaging glimpse into the process of becoming an accomplished geisha able to bewitch Japan’s most powerful men.

by Florent Chavouet

Tokyo on Foot is a beautifully illustrated graphic memoir documenting a Westerner’s experiences of Tokyo’s streets, people and lifestyle. The book takes you on an illustrated tour of Tokyo, full of wit and warmth, and introduces you to the many different characters that live in this vibrant and dynamic city, from salarymen and shopkeepers to hipsters, grandmothers, and policemen.

by James Clavell

Shogun is the epic tale of John Blackthorne, an English sailor shipwrecked on the shores of feudal Japan. The novel charts John’s rise from reviled foreigner to integrated member of Japanese society, and later, samurai. This captivating historical novel is a wonderful introduction to 17th century Japanese culture and life as a samurai warrior.

by Robert Twigger

For those interested in Japanese martial arts, as well as contemporary culture in Japan, Angry White Pyjamas is a highly entertaining read. The author’s account of budo training with the Tokyo Riot Police is a wonderful blend of ancient and modern, exploring traditional rituals and nightclubs alike. This insight into everyday Tokyo life of the 1990s is very well written and funny.

by Hector Garcia

A Geek in Japan is an original and creative guide to Japanese culture and society, covering everything from traditional culture and history to manga, music and movies, and full of photographs and illustrations. A great spin on the traditional guidebook and not just for geeks, this is a fantastic way to brush up your knowledge on tea ceremonies, samurais and sushi.

by Junichiro Tanizaki

A nostalgic evocation of upper-class life in Osaka, Tanizaki’s masterpiece tells the story of the declining fortunes of four aristocratic sisters, as they try to preserve a vanishing way of life in Japan during the 1940s and 50s. The novel offers a brilliant insight into Japan’s struggle to move from a traditional society to a modern one.

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