5 must-read Japanese novels

03 Mar 2017 in Just Relax

From best-selling thrillers to classic novels, we pick five essential reads by Japanese authors. How many have you read?


Considering or planning a trip to Japan? What better way to immerse yourself in the culture than through its literature?

Reading is also an essential part of relaxing on holiday – which is why many Hoshino Resorts hotels offer guests an extensive library.

Japanese library

At HOSHINOYA Karuizawa, you can choose from a selection of English-language books to read while relaxing in your private pavilion.  The calm forest surroundings make the perfect environment for uninterrupted page-turning!

Glamping hotel japan

Here are some must-read Japanese novels to inspire you:

  • I Am A Cat (1905-06) by Soseki Natsume

True, the pitch sounds odd: an early 20th-century novel narrated by a domestic cat. But this is actually a fascinating insight into Japanese culture of the time, with our feline hero casting a discerning eye on human folly in all its forms. The book was originally published as a ten-part magazine serial, making it easy to dip into.

  • Norwegian Wood (1987) by Haruki Murukami

Murukami is probably Japan’s best-known contemporary author – and this was the novel that shot him to fame. The story focuses on a college student’s different relationship with two women, but what makes it so readable is Murukami’s humorous style, which mixes romance, thriller and fantasy, and his fascination with Western culture (the book owes its title to a song by The Beatles).

  • Snow Country (1948) by Yasunari Kawabata

This is one of three novels that helped Kawabata win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1968. Set in an isolated mountain onsen during a particularly harsh winter, it relates the doomed affair between a wealthy Tokyoite and a lowly geisha. Moving, tragic and poetic, it’s a shining example of classic Japanese literature.

  • Kitchen (1988) by Banana Yoshimoto

Banana Yoshimoto (it’s not her real name) is known for probing the existential problems of contemporary Japanese youth. This international bestseller is one of her best. It focuses on Mikage, her oddball adopted family, and how she finds answers to some of life’s big questions through cooking.

If you like a good thriller, you should try Keigo Higashino’s best-selling Detective Galileo novels. Our crime-cracking hero is a University physics professor who loves solving a good mystery with his police detective friend. In this adventure, the death of a guest in a rural resort provides plenty of twists and turns.

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