10 Books That Will Make You Want to Book a Trip to Japan
Thinking of going to Japan? These books will convince you to book that trip, stat.
No doubt, nothing beats a good read. After all, a great book can instantly take you to a new
world, allows you to meet new people, and lets you experience a different culture. Here, we’ve
compiled 10 good reads that will do just that. Ranging from offbeat neighborhood guides, food
recommendations, cultural introductions, and interesting works of fiction, these books give us a
slice of life of what it’s like to be in Japan -- so much so that they make us want to transport
ourselves to the land of the rising sun asap. Take a look at them below:
Tokyo on Foot: Travels in the City's Most Colorful Neighborhoods by Florent Chavouet
Get it for the adorable illustrations of everyday Tokyo (the book has really cute hand-drawn
maps) and stay for Florent Chavouet’s personalized tour of Tokyo’s neighborhoods. What’s
great about this book is that it strays from common tourist spots and gives you a snapshot of
everyday living in the city instead. So, if you want to get lost in the Tokyo streets and get to
know their characters a little better, this one’s perfect for you.
Hello Sandwich Tokyo Guide by Ebony Bizys
This one-of-a-kind Tokyo guide might be a bit harder to find (you have to order it directly from
the author’s website), but trust us, it’s very much worth it. Written by a former Vogue art director, this fun book is chock-full of interesting recommendations for someone who wants to discover Tokyo like a true local. Try out new experiences in the lesser trodden Tokyo suburbs such as Kichijoji and Shimokitazawa, sip coffee at the coolest cafes, and even take a gander at cute and easy crafts—because why not?
Tokyo Stories: A Japanese Cookbook by Tim Anderson
Chef Tim Anderson will definitely whet your appetite for all things Japanese, as he gives readers a virtual tour of the dishes that make Tokyoites’ mouths water: from convenience stores and depachika (underground department stores) secrets to traditional cuisine. What’s even better is that he offers easy-to-follow recipes that will prep your taste buds for Japanese food.
Rice, Noodle, Fish: Deep Travels Through Japan’s Food Culture by Matt Goulding
Can’t get enough of Japanese cuisine? Let Matt Goulding be your guide to the Japanese
foodscape, as he explores food traditions from various regions all over the country: from Kyoto,
Osaka, Tokyo, Fukuoka, Hiroshima, Noto, and Hokkaido. He offers interesting tidbits about the
intersection of food and culture, so if you want to have a more in-depth understanding of
Japanese food, this one would be perfect for you. There’s just a catch, though: his awesome
insider recommendations might just have you booking a flight to Japan, stat.
Tokyo Stories: A Literary Stroll (Voices from Asia) by Lawrence Rogers
Not to be confused from the previously mentioned cookbook, Tokyo Stories is an anthology of
short stories that offer a snapshot of Japanese society at the dawn of the 20 th century—straight
from Japanese literary greats themselves. This compilation offers a great introduction to
Japanese literature, as it features works by famed author Akutagawa Ryunosuke and acclaimed
feminist writer Hayashi Fumiko, among others.
Wabi Sabi: Japanese Wisdom for a Perfectly Imperfect Life by Beth Kempton
Beth Kempton’s meditation on the Japanese concept of wabi sabi makes not just for an interesting self-help book but also as a great introduction to Japan, as she shares vignettes of her own experiences in the country. Thinking of doing your very own eat, pray love in Japan? This book might convince you to do just that.
The Great Passage by Shion Miura
This novel is every language lover’s dream, more so if you want to know a bit of Nihongo. It
introduces us to Mitsuya Majime, who is tasked with creating the ideal dictionary—one that
bridges relationships through “the sea of words.” Join the protagonist as he forges friendships
and discovers nuances behind certain words. If you’re looking for a great introduction to
Japanese culture by way of fiction, this one’s for you.
After Dark by Haruki Murakami
This well-known Japanese author has penned tons of books that it’s just hard to pick one. He
may be famous for literary tomes such as IQ84 or Kafka on the Shore, but After Dark evokes a
dizzying peek at Tokyo’s night scape that’s equal parts evocative and energetic.
Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami
We just can’t resist adding another Murakami novel here—just because this one revolves around a protagonist who goes to his hometown in Nagoya. Nestled between Tokyo and Osaka, this city is home to famous spots such as Nagoya Castle, Atsuta Shrine, and Shirotori Garden. If you’re looking for a break from the usual tourist traps, you might want to give Nagoya a visit.
Strange Weather In Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami
Shortlisted for the prestigious Man Asian Literary Prize in 2013, this novel revolves around an
unlikely love story between a 38-year old woman and her former teacher. That doesn’t sound
very romantic, but take our word for it when we say that this book is so charmingly written—it
made us want to go to Japan ASAP. The author takes us to what it is like to live in Japan,
allowing us to witness the tiny details that herald the changing of the seasons, the silent rituals
at late-night izakayas, or the breath of fresh air that comes when you go to the countryside for a
brief respite from the city.