Japanese Children’s Literature in English Translation

RJL’s booklists don’t include children’s literature, so here’s a list for your reference.

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Check out the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Japan Translation Group’s blog for more suggestions, including young adult titles.

Middle Grade

The Animals: Poems by Michio Mado (translated by Empress Michiko)

The Beast Player by Nahoko Uehashi (translated by Cathy Hirano)

  • First entry in a series that straddles middle grade and YA

The Birth of Kitaro by Shigeru Mizuki (translated by Zach Davvison)

  • First entry in a series

The Book of Heroes by Miyuki Miyabe (translated by Alexander O. Smith)

Brave Story by Miyuki Miyabe (translated by Alexander O. Smith)

Classic Japanese Fairy Tales by Mimei Ogawa (translated by J. D. Wisgao)

  • First entry in a series

Dragon Sword and Wind Child by Noriko Ogiwara (translated by Cathy Hirano)

The Friends by Kazumi Yumoto (translated by Cathy Hirano)

How Do You Live? by Genzaburo Yoshino (translated by Bruno Navasky)

The I Wonder Bookstore by Shinsuke Yoshitake (translated by Geoffrey Trousselot)

Ico: Castle in the Mist by Miyuki Miyabe (translated by Alexander O. Smith)

J-Boys: Kazuo’s World, Tokyo 1965 by Shogo Oketani (translated by Avery Fischer Udagawa)

Kiki’s Delivery Service by Eiko Kadano (translated by Emily Balistrieri)

The Magic Pocket: Poems by Michio Mado (translated by Empress Michiko)

Night on the Milky Way Railroad by Kenji Miyazawa (translated by Roger Pulvers)

  • There are many translations of Miyazawa’s work available in English. The stories often overlap.

The Secret of the Blue Glass by Tomiko Inui (translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori)

Soul Lanterns by Shaw Kazuki (translated by Emily Balistrieri)

Temple Alley Summer by Sachiko Kashiwaba (translated by Avery Fischer Udagawa)

Tomo: Friendship through Fiction—An Anthology of Japan Teen Stories edited by Holly Thompson

Totto-Chan: The Little Girl at the Window by Tetsuko Kuroyanagi (translated by Dorothy Britton)

The Whale That Fell in Love with a Submarine by Akiyuki Nosaka (translated by Ginny Tapley Takemura)

  • These stories are best read together with an adult.
  • Learn more about Nosaka and his stories with the RJL podcast.

Picture Books

14 Forest Mice and the Harvest Moon Watch by Iwamura Kazuo

Animals Brag about Their Bottoms by Maki Saito (translated by Brian Bergstom)

Blackie, the Crayon by Miwa Nakaya (translated by Mia Lynn Perry)

Chirri & Chirra by Kaya Doi (translated by Yuki Kaneko)

  • First entry in a series with different translators

The Doll’s Day for Yoshiko by Momoko Ishii

Everyone Poops by Taro Gomi

  • Everyone Poops is Gomi’s most famous book in English, but a huge body of this popular author’s work has been translated.

A Friend by Tanikawa Shuntaro

The Holes in Your Nose by Genichiro Yagyu

  • Part of the My Body Science Series

The Gas We Pass: The Story of Farts by Shinta Cho

Guri and Gura: The Giant Egg by Rieko Nakagawa

Gracie Meets a Ghost by Keiko Sena

It Might Be an Apple by Shinsuke Yoshitake

Little Daruma and Little Tengu: A Japanese Children’s Tale by Satoshi Kako

The Tongue-Cut Sparrow by Momoko Ishii (trans. Katherine Paterson)

The World’s Poorest President Speaks Out by Yoshimi Kusaba (translated by Andrew Wong)

You Look Yummy! by Tatsuya Miyanashi

  • Series

2 thoughts on “Japanese Children’s Literature in English Translation

  1. Thank you for this!!! I would characterize the titles in the first section as “Middle Grade and Young Adult,” as several are considered YA/geared to teens. One example is the amazing The Great Shu Ra Ra Boom by Manabu Makime, translated by Wendy Uchimura. https://ihatov.wordpress.com/2022/09/12/wendy-uchimura-new-edition-the-great-shu-ra-ra-boom/

    The difference between MG and YA was not clear to me until I started translating! https://www.masterclass.com/articles/whats-the-difference-between-middle-grade-fiction-vs-young-adult-fiction

    1. You’re very welcome.

      I used to teach middle and high school, so I’m pretty aware of the different. I had to guess on some of these. Plus the markets sometimes seem to get crossed when a title makes its way across the Pacific?

      I was trying to leave things that are decidedly YA off.

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