A Taste of Japan

Japanese fiction: Where to begin?

Curious about Japanese literature but wondering where to begin? With thousands of Japanese novels now translated into English, we’re spoiled for choice. I’ve read scores of Japanese novels (I lived there for a decade), but I’ve always found it difficult to recommend starter books.

Recently, however, I discovered a new series of five Japanese novels published by Vintage Classics (a Penguin imprint). I’ve read the entire series and can recommend them all. The Mishima novel, The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With the Sea, was the very first Japanese novel I read (a couple of decades ago!) and it ignited in me an enduring passion for Japanese literature.

I recommend starting either with the Mishima novel, or if you want something a little more contemporary, then read Yoko Ogawa’s The Housekeeper and the Professor, an enchanting and tender tale that will likely leave you wanting to read more from Ogawa.

As an added bonus, each book in the series has a beautiful cover designed by the brilliant Yuko Shimizu.

Which are your favorite Japanese novels?