Episode 9: The Women Writers of Meiji Japan

A print of a Meiji-era Japanese woman in Western dress via Wikimedia Commons

Check out Episode 9 of the Read Japanese Literature podcast.

In the last episode, we talked about the coming of the West and the way it impacted Japanese literature.

This time we’re talking about women as they take up a prominent position in the story of Japanese literature for the first time in almost 1000 years.

Special focus on Ichiyō Higuchi and her best-beloved story “Takekurabe”.

Please note that this episode mistakenly attributes quotes from Higuchi’s diary to translator Melek Ortabasi. The translations are by Kyoko Omori.

Support this podcast by buying from Bookshop.org. 

In the Shade of the Spring Leaves by Robert Lyons Danly. Includes translations of 9 of Higuchi’s stories, including “Child’s Play”, translated by Robert Lyons Danly

The Modern Murasaki edited by Rebecca Copeland and Melek Ortabasi. Includes a chapter about Ichiyō Higuchi and translated excerpts from her diary

Modern Japanese Literature: From 1868 to the Present Day edited by Donald Keene. Includes “Growing Up,” translated by Edward Seidensticker

More to Read

Daughters of the Samurai: A Journey from East to West and Back by Janice P. Nimura. An historical account of five Japanese girls sent to study in the United States in the 1870s.

Find Out More

“Deep Tokyo: Ichiyo Higuchi” from Pei-Pei Channel. A video tour of Tokyo sites related to Higuchi’s life.

“Where Are the Women Writers? The Missing Literature of Japan’s Edo Period” @ CUPBlog.org. A translator’s reflection on why so little women’s writing from the Edo Period is available to English-language readers.

“Tori-no-Ichi Fair: Experiencing Asakusa’s Amazing Festival! @ Live Japan. More information about how the Otori Festival is celebrated today.

The History of Japan Podcast, hosted by Isaac Meyer

Linfamy’s Japanese History and Folktales YouTube Channel

Understanding Japan: A Cultural History by Professor Mark J. Ravina. Produced by The Great Courses, 2015.

  • 17: The Meiji Restoration

“Literature” at Japanese Wiki Corpus

Japanese Literature at Facebook

Selected Sources

Copeland, Rebecca. Lost Leaves: Women Writers of Meiji Japan, U of HI Press, 2000.

–. “The Meiji Woman Writer ‘Amidst a Forest of Beards’” in Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, 1997.

–, ed. Women Critiqued: Translated Essays on Japanese Women’s Writing, U of HI Press, 2006.

Copeland, Rebecca and Melek Ortabasi, eds. The Modern Murasaki: Writing by Women of Meiji Japan, Columbia UP, 2006.

Danly, Robert Lyons. In the Shade of the Spring Leaves: The Life of Higuchi Ichiyo, with Nine of Her Best Stories, Norton, 1992.

De Bary, Theodore, et al., eds. Sources of Japanese Tradition, 1600-2000, Columbia, 1964.

Gordon, Andrew. A Modern History of Japan: From Tokugawa Times to the Present, 4th ed. OUP, 2019.

Hideo Kamei. Transformations of Sensibility: The Phenomenology of Meiji Literature. Trans. Michael Bourdaghs. U of MI, 2002. (Open Access)

Kenne, Donald. “Higuchi Ichiyō” in Dawn to the West: Japanese Literature of the Modern Era—Fiction, 4th ed., 1999.

Marcus, Marvin. Japanese Literature from Murasaki to Murakami, Association for Asian Studies, 2015.

Mitsutani, Margaret. “Higuchi Ichiyō: A Literature of Her Own” in Comparative Literature Studies, 1985.
Sakaki Atsuko. “Sliding Doors: Women in the Heterosocial Literary Field of Early Modern Japan” in US-Japan Women’s Journal, 1999.

Episode 8: Meiji Literature and Japan’s Most Famous Literary Cat

In this 1874 print by Kyōsai, Japanese yōkai adapt to the modern era.
via the Museum of International Folk Art

Check out Episode 8 of the Read Japanese Literature podcast.

In this episode, we’re looking at the Meiji Era of Japanese history and its literature.

The shogunate is replaced.

Japan looks outward to the West and inward toward itself.

And a man named Natsume Sōseki chronicles it all from the perspective of a stray cat.

Support this podcast by buying from Bookshop.org. 

I Am a Cat by Natsume Soseki

Kusamakura by Natsume Soseki

More by Soseki:

Find Out More

A synopsis of I am a Cat via Somesmart.com

The Meiji at 150 Project at UBC

The History of Japan Podcast, hosted by Isaac Meyer

Linfamy’s Japanese History and Folktales YouTube Channel

Understanding Japan: A Cultural History by Professor Mark J. Ravina. Produced by The Great Courses, 2015.

  • 17: The Meiji Restoration

“Literature” at Japanese Wiki Corpus

Japanese Literature at Facebook

Selected Sources

Fujii, James A. “Contesting the Meiji Subject: Sōseki’s Neko Reconsidered” in Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, 1989.

Kenne, Donald. “Natsume Sōseki” in Dawn to the West: Japanese Literature of the Modern Era—Fiction, 4th ed., Columbia, 1999.

Marcus, Marvin. Japanese Literature from Murasaki to Murakami. Association for Asian Studies, 2015.

McClellan, Edwin. “An Introduction to Sōseki” in Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, 1959.

McKinney, Meredith. “Introduction” in Kusamakura. Penguin Classics, 2008.

Fillmore, Millard. Letter to the Emperor of Japan, 13 November 1852.

Gordon, Andrew. A Modern History of Japan: From Tokugawa Times to the Present, 4th ed. OUP, 2019.

Nathan, Richard. Soseki’s Cat: A Quantum Leap for Japanese Literature at RedCircleAuthors.com, 2021.

Perry, Matthew C. Letter to the Emperor of Japan, 14 July 1853.

Episode 7: Kaidan—Japan’s Ghost Stories

An image of Okiku, the ghost who inspired The Ring, by Toyohara Kunichika (via Wikimedia Commons)

Check out Episode 7 of the Read Japanese Literature podcast.

In this episode, we’ll be talking about Ueda Akinari and his Tales of Moonlight and Rain, some of the most influential Japanese ghost stories ever written.

A raging intellectual debate

A supernatural party game

And a friend just dying to keep his promises

Support this podcast by buying from Bookshop.org. 

Find Out More

“Japanese Confucian Philosophy” at Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

“Japanese Philosophy: Neo-Confucianism, the Samurai Code and Tokugawa Society” at Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy

“The Kokugaku (Native Japan Studies) School” at Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

The History of Japan Podcast, hosted by Isaac Meyer

Ueda Akinari 1734-1809: Scholar, Poet, Writer of Fiction by Blake Morgan Young (Open Access PhD)

Zach Davisson’s website, Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai—Translated Japanese Ghost Stories and Tales of the Weird and Strange

“The Real Japanese Story That Helped Inspire ‘The Ring’ at iHorror.com

“Smartening Up” by Aoko Matsuda at Granta Magazine

Linfamy’s Japanese History and Folktales YouTube Channel

Understanding Japan: A Cultural History by Professor Mark J. Ravina. Produced by The Great Courses, 2015.

“Literature” at Japanese Wiki Corpus

Japanese Literature at Facebook

Selected Sources

Araki, James T. “A Critical Approach to the Ugetsu Monogatari” in Monumenta Nipponica, 1967.

Chambers, Anthony, trans. “Introduction” in Tales of Moonlight and Rain, 2008.

–. “Hankai: A Translation from Harusame Monogatari” in Monumenta Nipponica, 1970.

Davisson, Zack. Yurei: The Japanese Ghost, 2015.

De Bary, Theodore, et al., eds. Sources of Japanese Tradition, 1600-2000, 1964.

Kato Kazumitsu. “Some Notes on Mono no Aware” in Journal of the American Oriental Society, 1962.

Marcus, Marvin. Japanese Literature from Murasaki to Murakami. Association for Asian Studies, 2015.

Meyer, Isaac. “Episode 355: Tales of Moonlight and Rain”.  History of Japan Podcast, 2020.

Reider, Noriko T. “The Emergence of ‘Kaidan-Shū’:The Collection of Tales of the Strange and Mysterious in the Edo Period” in Asian Folklore Studies, 2001.

Roddy, Stephen J. “In Praise of Jeweled Streams: ‘Ugetsu Monogatari’, Nativism, and Tea” in Japanese Language and Literature, 2015.

Saunders, Dale. “‘Ugetsu Monogatari’ or Tales of Moonlight and Rain” in Monumenta Nipponica, 1966.

Teeuwen, Mark. “Review: Kokugaku vs. Nativism” in Monumenta Nipponica, 2006.

Whitehouse, Wilfred, trans. “Shiramine” in Monumenta Nipponica, 1938.

Young, Blake Morgan, trans. “‘Hankai’ A Tale from the Harusame Monogatari by Ueda Akinari” in Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, 1972.

Audiobooks of Japanese Literature in Translation

Kobo Abe

Hiro Arikawa

Osamu Dazai

  • No Longer Human
    • Translated by Donald Keene
    • Narrated by David Shih
  • The Setting Sun
    • Translated by Donald Keene
    • Narrated by June Angela
  • Wish Fulfilled: A Vignette
    • Translated by Reiko Seri and Doc Kane
    • Narrated by Doc Kane

Shusaku Endo

  • Deep River
    • Translated by Van C. Gessel
    • Narrated by David Holt
  • The Samurai
    • Translated by Van C. Gessel
    • Narrated by David Holt
  • Silence
    • Translated by William Johnston
    • Narrated by David Holt

Keigo Higashino

Keiichiro Hirano

  • At the End of the Matinee
    • Translated by Juliet Winters Carpenter
    • Narrated by Brian Nishii
  • A Man
    • Translated by Eli K. P. William
    • Narrated by Brian Nishii

Tomoyuki Hoshino

  • ME
    • Translated by Charles de Wolf
    • Narrated by David Shih

Kotaro Isaka

Kazuki Kaneshiro

  • Go
    • Translated by Takami Nieda
    • Narrated by Brian Nishii

Yasunari Kawabata

  • Beauty and Sadness
    • Translated by Howard Hibbett
    • Narrated by Brian Nishii
  • Snow Country
    • Translated by Edward Seidensticker
    • Narrated by Brian Nishii
  • Thousand Cranes
    • Translated by Edward Seidensticker
    • Narrated by Brian Nishii

Toshikazu Kawaguchi

Hiromi Kawakami

  • The Nakano Thrift Shop
    • Translated by Allison Markin Powell
    • Narrated by Alexandra Bailey
  • Strange Weather in Tokyo
    • Translated by Allison Markin Powell
    • Narrated by Allison Hiroto
  • The Ten Loves of Nishino
    • Translated by Allison Markin Powell
    • Narrated by Cindy Kay

Mieko Kawakami

Genki Kawamura

Aoko Matsuda

Kanae Minato

  • Confessions
    • Translated by Stephen Snyder
    • Narrated by Elaina Erika Davis and Noah Galvin
  • Penance
    • Translated by Stephen Snyder
    • Narrated by Karissa Vacker

Shion Miura

  • The Easy Life in Kamusari (Forest #1)
    • Translated by Juliet Winters Carpenter
    • Narrated by Brian Nishii
  • The Great Passage
    • Translated by Juliet Winters Carpenter
    • Narrated by Brian Nishii

Yukio Mishima

  • Life for Sale
    • Translated by Stephen Dodd
    • Narrated by Kotaro Watanabe
  • The Sailor Who Feel from Grace with the Sea
    • Translated by John Nathan
    • Narrated by Brian Nishii
  • Spring Snow
    • Translated by Michael Gallagher
    • Narrated by Brian Nishii
  • The Sound of Waves
    • Translated by Meredith Weatherby
    • Narrated by Brian Nishii
  • The Temple of the Golden Pavilion
    • Translated by Ivan Morris
    • Narrated by Brian Nishii

Minae Mizumura

  • An Inheritance from Mother
    • Translated by Juliet Winters Carpenter
    • Narrated by Allison Hiroto

Eto Mori

  • Colorful
    • Translated by Jocelynne Allen
    • Narrated by Brian Nishii

Yukiko Motoya

Haruki Murakami

Ryu Murakami

  • Audition
    • Translated by Ralph McCarthy
    • Narrated by David Shih

Sayaka Murata

Fuminori Nakamura

  • The Boy in the Earth
    • Translated by Allison Markin Powell
    • Narrated by Brian Nishii
  • Cult X
    • Translated by Kalau Almony
    • Narrated by Brian Nishii
  • Evil and the Mask
    • Translated by Satoko Izumo and Stephen Coates
    • Narrated by Kirby Heyborne
  • The Gun
    • Translated by Allison Markin Powell
    • Narrated Brian Nishii
  • The Kingdom
    • Translated by Kalau Almony
    • Narrated by Lucie Kondo
  • Last Winter, We Parted
    • Translated by Allison Markin Powell
    • Narrated by Feodor Chin, Richard Powers, and P. J. Ochlan
  • My Annihilation
    • Translated by Sam Bett
    • Narrated by Brian Nishii
  • The Thief
    • Translated by Satoko Izumo
    • Narrated by Charlie Thurston

Sosuke Natsukawa

  • The Cat Who Saved Books
    • Translated by Louise Heal Kawai
    • Narrated by Kevin Shen

Kirino Natsuo

  • Out
    • Translated by Rebecca Copleand
    • Translated by Emily Woo Zeller

Kenzaburo Oe

  • Death by Water
    • Translated by Deborah Boliver Boehm
    • Narrated by Paul Boehmer
  • Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids
    • Translated by Maki Sugiyama and Paul St. Mackintosh
    • Narrated by Edoardo Ballerini
  • A Personal Matter
    • Translated by John Nathan
    • Narrated by Eric Michael Summerer

Mimei Ogawa

Yoko Ogawa

Natsume Soseki

  • I Am a Cat
    • Translated by Aiko Ito and Graeme Wilson
    • Narrated by David Shih
  • Kusamakura [Grass Pillow]
    • Translated by Meredith McKinney
    • Narrated by Kotaro Watanabe and Elizabeth Jasicki
  • Kokoro [Heart]
    • Translated by Edwin McClellan
    • Narrated by Matt Shea
  • Kokoro [Heart]
    • Translated by Meredith McKinney
    • Narrated by Kotaro Watanabe and Elizabeth Jasicki
  • Sanshiro
    • Translated by Jay Rubin
    • Narrated by Andrew Koji

Kaoru Takamura

  • Lady Joker, Vol. 1
    • Translated by Marie Iida and Allison Markin Powell
    • Narrated by Brian Nishii

Yoko Tawada

Kikuo Tsumura

Seishi Yokomizo

  • The Honjin Murders
    • Translated by Louise Heal Kawai
    • Narrated by Akira Matsumoto
  • The Inugami Curse (Honjin Murders #2)
    • Translated by Louise Heal Kawai
    • Narrated by Akira Matsumoto
  • The Village of Eight Graves (Honjin Murders #3)
    • Translated by Louise Heal Kawai
    • Narrated by Akira Matsumoto

Banana Yoshimoto

  • Amrita
    • Translated by Megan Backus
    • Narrated by Alexandra Bailey
  • Asleep (stories)
    • Translated by Megan Backus
    • Narrated by Emily Zeller
  • Kitchen
    • Narrated by Emily Zeller
    • Translated by Megan Backus
  • Lizard (stories)
    • Narrated by Emily Zeller
    • Translated by Megan Backus
  • N.P.
    • Narrated by Emily Zeller
    • Translated by Megan Backus

Eiji Yoshikawa

  • Musashi
    • Translated by Charles S. Terry
    • Narrated by Brian Nishii

Miri Yu

Support this podcast by buying your audiobooks through Libro.fm, an audiobook seller supporting local, independent bookstores. Titles without links aren’t available on Libro.fm. ReadJapaneseLiterature believes single-platform audiobooks limit readers’ choices.

Episode 6: High and Low Literature in Edo Japan

Saikaku’s illustration of Yonosuke sailing for the Island of Women.

Check out Episode 6 of the Read Japanese Literature podcast.

This episode is marked mature.

How does “this fleeting world” transform from a Buddhist precept to a name for the red-light district?

What did reading look like in early Modern Japan?

And how many dildos does a man need to pack for a trip to the Island of Women?

It’s time to talk about high and low literature in Edo Japan.

Support this podcast by buying from Bookshop.org. 

Early Modern Japanese Literature: An Anthology, 1600-1900 ed. Hauro Shirane

Find Out More

The Freer-Sackler Library’s collection of Illustrated Japanese books.

Eminent scholar of Japanese literature Donald Keene on Saikaku: The Comic Novelist.

History of Japan Podcast, hosted by Isaac Meyer

Linfamy’s Japanese History and Folktales YouTube Channel

“Literature” at Japanese Wiki Corpus

Understanding Japan: A Cultural History by Professor Mark J. Ravina. Produced by The Great Courses, 2015.

  • 11: Japan’s Isolation in the Tokugawa Period

Japanese Literature at Facebook

Selected Sources

Drake, Chris. “Introduction” in Excerpts from Life of a Sensuous Man, Aksornsami Press, 2010.

Huffman, James L. Creating a Public: People and Press in Meiji Japan, University of Hawaii, 1997.

Korniki, P. F. “Literacy Revisited: Some Reflections on Rirchard Rubinger’s Findings” in Monumenta Nipponica, 2001.

Marcus, Marvin. Japanese Literature from Murasaki to Murakami. Association for Asian Studies, 2015.

Moretti, Laura. “Kanazoshi Revisited: The Beginnings of Japanese Popular Literature in Print” in Monumenta Nipponica, 2010.

Rubinger, Richard. “From ‘Dark Corners’ into ‘The Light’: Literacy Studies in Modern Japan” in History of Education Quarterly, 1990.

Shirane, Haruo, ed. Early Modern Japanese Literature—An Anthology, 1600-1900. Columbia, 2002.

Episode 5: Setsuwa and Medieval Japanese Buddhism

A 15th century illustration of Kiyohime

Check out Episode 5 of the Read Japanese Literature podcast.

Enjoy the story of a vengeful would-be lover who turns into a 40-foot snake, a sharp-witted woman with criticisms of her husband’s equipment, and a curmudgeonly Buddhist priest who learns to love poetry. In this episode, we’re talking about setsuwa—medieval Japanese anecdotes. Many of them originate as Buddhist preaching, so we’ll also take a look at “Kamakura Buddhisms”: Pure Land, Zen, and Nichiren.

Support this podcast by buying your copy from Bookshop.org. 

Shirane, Haruo, ed. Traditional Japanese Literature: An Anthology, Beginnings to 1600. Columbia, 2008.

Tales of Times Now Past, translated by Marian Ury, U of Michigan, 1992.

Find Out More

“Smartening Up” by Aoko Matsuda

History of Japan Podcast, hosted by Isaac Meyer

Linfamy’s Japanese History and Folktales YouTube Channel

“Literature” at Japanese Wiki Corpus

Understanding Japan: A Cultural History by Professor Mark J. Ravina. Produced by The Great Courses, 2015.

  • Pure Land Buddhism and Zen Buddhism

Japanese Literature at Facebook

Selected Sources

Childs, Margaret H. “Kyōgen-Kigo: Love Stories as Buddhist Sermons” in Japanese Journal of Religious Studies (1985).

Dykstra, Yoshiko K. “Miraculous Tales of the Lotus Sutra: The Dainihonkoku Hokkegenki” in Monumenta Nipponica (1977).

De Bary, Theodore, et. al, eds. Sources of Japanese Tradition: From Earliest Times to 1600, Columbia, 1964.

Marcus, Marvin. Japanese Literature from Murasaki to Murakami. Association for Asian Studies, 2015.

Shirane, Haruo, ed. Traditional Japanese Literature: An Anthology, Beginnings to 1600. Columbia, 2008.

Episode 4: Yoshitsune Ballads and Tomoe Drama

A 19th century woodblock print of Yoshitsune and Benkei fighting with swords via Wikimedia Commons

Check out the Read Japanese Literature podcast.

We’re talking about two central genres of Medieval Japanese literature—the warrior ballad and Noh drama. We’ll see two characters from The Tale of the Heike again, including the valiant female warrior Tomoe. This time, she’s a mournful ghost.

Support this podcast by buying your books from Bookshop.org.

Ataka at The-Noh.com (free online)

“The Story of Yoshitsune” in Traditional Japanese Literature: An Anthology, Beginnings to 1600, Columbia, 2008.

Tomoe at The-Noh.com (free online)

Warrior Ghost Plays from the Japanese Noh Theater: Parallel Translations with Running Commentary, Translated by Chifumi Shimazaki, 2010.


Yoshitsune: A Fifteenth-Century Japanese Chronicle, Translated by Helen Craig McCollough, Stanford, 1966.

Find Out More

Samurai Rising: The Epic Life of Minamoto Yoshitsune by Pamela S. Turner, illustrated by Gareth Hinds, 2016. (YA narrative nonfiction biography of Minomoto Yoshitsune)

The-Noh.com

“Tomoe Gozen: Badass Women in Japanese History” at Tofugu.com

The History of Japan Podcast, hosted by Isaac Meyer

Japanese Literature at Facebook

Linfamy’s Japanese History and Folktales YouTube Channel

“Literature” at Japanese Wiki Corpus

Understanding Japan: A Cultural History by Professor Mark J. Ravina. Produced by The Great Courses, 2015.

  • Lecture 7: The Rise of the Samurai
  • Lecture 9: Samurai Culture in the Ashikaga Period
  • Lecture 10: Japan at Home and Abroad, 1300-1600
  • Lecture 12: Japanese Theater: Noh and Kabuki

Sources

Marcus, Marvin. Japanese Literature from Murasaki to Murakami. Association for Asian Studies, 2015.

De Bary, Theodore, et. al, eds. Sources of Japanese Tradition: From Earliest Times to 1600, Columbia, 1964.

McAlpine, Helen and William. Japanese Tales and Legends, Oxford, 1989.

Mori, Masaki. Epic Grandeur: Toward a Comparative Poetics of the Epic. State University Press of New York, 1997.

Oyler, Elizabeth. “Gio: Women and Performance in the ‘Heike Monogatari’.” Harvard Review of Asiatic Studies, 2004.

Shirane, Haruo, ed. Traditional Japanese Literature: An Anthology, Beginnings to 1600. Columbia, 2008.

2022 Upcoming Japanese Fiction Releases

“Woman Reading a Book on a Sofa” by Yumeji Takehisa via Wikimedia Commons

Dates listed are the earliest tentative release dates I can find in the US or UK. Descriptions are excerpted from book sellers’ or publishers’ websites. Translators are listed unless I wasn’t able to find information.

Please contact me if I have missed any titles.

Thank you to the Goodreads Japanese Literature Group for pooling information.

Translated by Anthony Chambers and Paul McCarthy (January 2022)

“Junichiro Tanizaki is one of the most prominent Japanese writers of the twentieth century, renowned for his investigations of family dynamics, eroticism, and cultural identity. Most acclaimed for his postwar novels such as The Makioka Sisters and The Key, Tanizaki made his literary debut in 1910. This book presents three powerful stories of family life from the first decade of Tanizaki’s career that foreshadow the themes the great writer would go on to explore…”

My Annihilation by Fuminori Nakamura

Translated by Sam Bett (January 2022)

“With My Annihilation, Fuminori Nakamura, master of literary noir, has constructed a puzzle box of a narrative in the form of a confessional diary that implicates its reader in a heinous crime…”

Rip It Up by You Machida

Translated by Daniel Joseph (January 2022)

“Set in a kaleidoscopic hyperreal Japan circa Y2K, Rip It Up catalogues the misdeeds and misgivings of a down-and-out wannabe debonair who ekes out a meager living at the fringes of the art world, wracked by jealousy at his friend’s success and despondency of his own creative (and moral) bankruptcy.”

Read my review of Rip It Up.

Fish Swimming in Dappled Sunlight by Riku Onda

Translated by Alison Watts (February 2022)

“Set in a Tokyo flat over the course of one night, Aki and Hiro spend one last night together before going their separate ways. Each believes the other to be a murderer and is determined to extract a confession before the night is over. Who has been killed and why? Which one is the killer?”

Six Short Stories: The Early Works of Osamu Dazai by Osamu Dazai

Translated by Michael and Shizuka Blaskowsky, et al. (February 2022)

“With most stories translated into English for the first time, the book gives you a rare glimpse into the complex psyche of the nascent novelist on his way to becoming one of the most celebrated writers Japan has ever had.”

*This volume is only available on Kindle.

Woman Running in the Mountains by Yuko Tsushima

Translated by Geraldine Harcourt (February 2022)

“Set in 1970s Japan, this tender and poetic novel about a young, single mother struggling to find her place in the world is an early triumph by a modern Japanese master…”

Read my review of Woman Running in the Mountains.

Scattered All Over the Earth by Yoko Tawada

Translated by Margaret Mitsutani (March 2022)

“Welcome to the not-too-distant future: Japan, having vanished from the face of the earth, is now remembered as “the land of sushi.” Hiruko, its former citizen and a climate refugee herself, has a job teaching immigrant children in Denmark with her invented language Panska (Pan-Scandinavian)…”

Read my review of Scattered All Over the Earth.

At the Edge of the Woods by Masatsugu Ono

Translated by Juliet Winters Carpenter (April 2022)

“In an unnamed foreign country, a family of three is settling into a house at the edge of the woods. But something is off. A sound, at first like coughing and then like laughter, emanates from the nearby forest. Fantastical creatures, it is said, live out there in a castle where feudal lords reigned and Resistance fighters fell…”

Read my review of At the Edge of the Woods.

The Color of the Sky Is the Shape of the Heart by Chesil

Translated by Takami Nieda (April 2022)

“Now in translation for the first time, the award-winning debut that broke literary ground in Japan explores diaspora, prejudice, and the complexities of a teen girl’s experience growing up as a Zainichi Korean, reminiscent of Min Jin Lee’s classic Pachinko and Sandra Cisneros’s The House on Mango Street…”

Beautiful Star by Yukio Mishima

Translated by Stephen Dodd (April 2022)

“The Osugi family have come to a realisation. Each of them hails from a different planet. Father from Mars, mother from Jupiter, son from Mercury and daughter from Venus. Already seen as oddballs in their small Japanese town in the 1960s, this extra-terrestrial knowledge brings them closer together; they climb mountains to wait for UFOs, study at home together, and regard their human neighbours with a kindly benevolence…”

*This book has no scheduled US release date.

Read more about the work of Yukio Mishima:

Summer of Strangers and Other Stories by Masao Yamakawa

Translated by J. D. Wisgo (April 2022)

“‘Summer of Strangers’ is a collection of Yamakawa’s works selected around the theme of life difficulties, the first collection of this author’s stories available in English. A secondary theme is the season of summer, an important element in several of these works.”

Three Assassins by Kotaro Isaka

Translated by Sam Malissa (April 2022)

“Their mission is murder. His is revenge. Suzuki is just an ordinary man until his wife is murdered. When he discovers the criminal gang responsible he leaves behind his life as a maths teacher and joins them, looking for a chance to take his revenge…”

All the Lovers in the Night by Mieko Kawakami

Translated by Sam Bett and David Boyd (May 2022)

“Fuyuko Irie is a freelance copy editor in her mid-thirties. Working and living alone in a city where it is not easy to form new relationships, she has little regular contact with anyone other than her editor, Hijiri, a woman of the same age but with a very different disposition…”

Read my review of All the Lovers in the Night.

Read more about the work of Mieko Kawakami:

Kamusari Tales Told at Night by Shion Miura

Translated by Juliet Winters Carpenter (May 2022)

“It’s been a year since Yuki Hirano left home—or more precisely, was booted from it—to study forestry in the remote mountain village of Kamusari. Being a woodsman is not the future he imagined, but his name means “courage,” and Yuki hopes to live up to it…”

A sequel to The Easy Life in Kamusari. Read my review of The Easy Life in Kamusari.

Solo Dance by Li Kotomi

Translated by Arthur Reiji Morris (May 2022)

“Cho Norie, twenty-seven and originally from Taiwan, is working an office job in Tokyo. While her colleagues worry about the economy, life-insurance policies, marriage, and children, she is forced to keep her unconventional life hidden―including her sexuality and the violent attack that prompted her move to Japan…”

The Shining Sea by Koji Suzuki

Translated by Brian Bergstrom (May 2022)

“A young woman who attempted suicide by drowning has lost her memory and ability to speak. Her lover, a young man, is on a pelagic tuna fishing boat. What happened between them…?”

Tokyo Express by Seicho Matsumoto

Translated by Jesse Kirkwood (May 2022)

“In a rocky cove in the bay of Hakata, the bodies of a young and beautiful couple are discovered. Stood in the coast’s wind and cold, the police see nothing to investigate: the flush of the couple’s cheeks speaks clearly of cyanide, of a lovers’ suicide…”

*This book has no scheduled US release date.

Death on Gokumon Island by Seishi Yokomizo

Translated by Louise Heal Kawai (June 2022)

“Kosuke Kindaichi arrives on the remote Gokumon Island bearing tragic news–the son of one of the island’s most important families has died, on a troop transport ship bringing him back home after the Second World War. But Kindaichi has not come merely as a messenger–with his last words, the dying man warned that his three step-sisters’ lives would now be in danger…”

A Detective Kosuke Kindaichi novel

Trinity, Trinity, Trinity by Erika Kobayashi

Translated by Brian Bergstrom (June 2022)

“Nine years after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster, Japan is preparing for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. An unnamed narrator wakes up in a cold, sterile room, unable to recall her past. Across the country, the elderly begin to hear voices emanating from black stones, compelling them to behave in strange and unpredictable ways. The voices are a symptom of a disease called ‘Trinity’…”

3 Streets by Yoko Tawada

Translated by Margaret Mitsutani (July 2022)

“The always astonishing Yoko Tawada here takes a walk on the supernatural side of the street” in three stories.

Early Light by Osamu Dazai

Translated by Donald Keene and Ralph McCarthy (July 2022)

Early Light offers three very different aspects of Osamu Dazai’s genius…”

Life Ceremony: Stories by Sayaka Murata

Translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori (July 2022)

“The long-awaited first short story-collection by the author of the cult sensation Convenience Store Woman, tales of weird love, heartfelt friendships, and the unsettling nature of human existence…”

Read more about the work of Sayaka Murata:

Dead End Memories by Banana Yoshimoto

Translated by Asa Yoneda (August 2022)

“First published in Japan in 2003 and never-before-published in the United States, Dead-End Memories collects the stories of five women who, following sudden and painful events, quietly discover their ways back to recovery.”

Diary of a Void by Emi Yagi

Translated by David Boyd and Lucy North (August 2022)

“A prizewinning, thrillingly subversive debut novel about a woman in Japan who avoids harassment at work by perpetuating, for nine months and beyond, the lie that she’s pregnant…”

Lady Joker, Volume 2 by Kaoru Takamura

Translated by Allison Markin Powell and Marie Iida (August 2022)

“Inspired by the real-life Glico-Morinaga kidnapping, an unsolved case which terrorized Japan for two years, Lady Joker reimagines the circumstances of this watershed episode in modern Japanese history and brings into riveting focus the lives and motivations of the victims, the perpetrators, the heroes and the villains…”

A sequel to Lady Joker, Volume 1

The Thorn Puller by Hiromi Ito

Translated by Jeffrey Angles (August 2022)

“The first novel to appear in English by award-winning author Hiromi Ito explores the absurdities, complexities, and challenges experienced by a woman caring for her two families: her husband and daughters in California and her aging parents in Japan…”

I Guess All We Have Is Freedom by Genpei Akasegawa

Translated by Matthew Fargo (fall 2022)

“In these stories, ostensibly quiet tales of a single dad in 1970s Tokyo, a doorknob practices radical politics, a peeled tomato smarts in pain, raw oysters tick like time bombs and gravestones provide a critique of capitalism…”

A Boy and His Dog by Hase Seishu

Translated by Alison Watts (October 2022)

“One dog changes the life of everyone who takes him in on his journey to reunite with his first owner in this inspiring tribute to the bond between humans and dogs and the life-affirming power of connection.”

Weasels in the Attic by Hiroko Oyamada

Translated by David Boyd (October 2022)

“In these three interconnected stories, Hiroko Oyamada revisits the same set of characters at different junctures in their lives. In the back room of a pet fish store full of rare and exotic fish, old friends discuss dried shrimp and a strange new relationship. A couple who recently moved into a rustic home in the mountains discovers an unsettling solution to their weasel infestation. And a dinner party during a blizzard leads to a night in a room filled with aquariums and unpleasant dreams.”

Before Your Memory Fades by Toshikazu Kawaguchi

Translated by Geoffrey Trousselot (November 2022)

“The latest novel in the international bestselling Before the Coffee Gets Cold Series, following four new customers in a little Tokyo café where customers can travel back in time.”

Read more about Before the Coffee Gets Cold.

Idol, Burning by Rin Usami

Translated by Asa Yoneda (November 2022)

“A blistering novel of fame, disconnection, obsession, and disillusion by a young writer not much older than the novel’s heroine, Idol, Burning shines a white-hot spotlight on fandom and ‘stan’ culture, the money-making schemes of the pop idol industry, the seductive power of social media, and the powerful emotional void that opens when an idol falls from grace, only to become a real—and very flawed—person.”

The Tatami Galaxy by Tomohiko Morimi

Translated by Emily Balistrieri (December 2022)

“The inspiration behind the much-loved anime series, Tomihiko Morimi’s contemporary classic is a fantastic journey through time and space, where a half-eaten castella cake, a photograph from Rome, and a giant cavity in a wisdom tooth hold the keys to self-discovery. A time-traveling romp that speaks to everyone who has wondered what if, The Tatami Galaxy will win readers’ hearts over… and over… and over again.”

Read more about the work of Tomohiko Morimi:

Death in Tokyo by Keigo Higashino

Translated by Giles Murray (December 2022)

“Tokyo Police Detective Kaga finds himself forced to try and makes sense of a most unusual murder…”

A Detective Kaga novel

Episode 3: The Tale of the Heike

A 19th century woodblock print of Tomoe from The Mirror of Beauties Past and Present via Wikimedia Commons

Check out the Read Japanese Literature podcast.

Episode 3: The Tale of the Heike—The great samurai epic and the rise of the samurai class.

Support this podcast by buying your copy of The Tale of the Heike from Bookshop.org. 

Find Out More

A. L. Sadler’s text of The Tale of the Heike (free online)

Website for The Tale of the Heike (Heike monogatari)

  • Reading notes and summaries of the entire Tale of the Heike

The History of Japan Podcast, hosted by Isaac Meyer

Linfamy’s Japanese History and Folktales YouTube Channel

“Tomoe Gozen: Badass Women in Japanese History” at Tofugu.com

Japanese Literature at Facebook

Sources

Marcus, Marvin. Japanese Literature from Murasaki to Murakami. Association for Asian Studies, 2015.

De Bary, Theodore, et. al, eds. Sources of Japanese Tradition: From Earliest Times to 1600, Columbia, 1964.

McAlpine, Helen and William. Japanese Tales and Legends, Oxford, 1989.

Mori, Masaki. Epic Grandeur: Toward a Comparative Poetics of the Epic. State University Press of New York, 1997.

Oyler, Elizabeth. “Gio: Women and Performance in the ‘Heike Monogatari’.” Harvard Review of Asiatic Studies, 2004.

Shirane, Haruo, ed. Traditional Japanese Literature: An Anthology, Beginnings to 1600. Columbia, 2008.

Episode 2: The Tale of Genji

Check out the Read Japanese Literature podcast.

A 19th-Century Illustration of The Tale of Genji via Wikimedia Commons

Episode 2: The Tale of Genji—The world’s oldest novel. A hero who is a paragon of beauty with an extreme Oedipus complex.

(CW: sex, rape, incest, pedophilia.)

Support this podcast by buying your copy from Bookshop.org. 

Find Out More

Project Gutenberg: The Tale of Genji. The full on-line text of the Arthur Waley translation of The Tale of Genji

Tony’s Reading List. A comparison of different English-language translations of The Tale of Genji

Sources

Bargen, Doris G. “Yūgao: A Case of Spirit Possession in The Tale of Genji” in Mosaic, 1986.

Marcus, Marvin. Japanese Literature from Murasaki to Murakami. Association for Asian Studies, 2015.
De Bary, Theodore, et. al, eds. Sources of Japanese Tradition: From Earliest Times to 1600. Columbia, 1964.