2023 Upcoming Japanese Fiction Releases

“Woman Reading a Letter” by Utamaro (c. 1750-1806)

Listed released dates listed are tentative. Descriptions are excerpted from book sellers’ or publishers’ websites. Translators are listed unless I wasn’t able to find information.

Things change quickly in the publishing industry. I’ve made my best attempt to be comprehensive. Please contact me if I have missed any titles.

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

See a list of all new releases available to order or preorder at RJL’s Bookshop.

Upcoming Releases

Days at the Morisaki Bookshop by Satoshi Yagisawa

Translated by Eric Ozawa

(North American and European releases expected summer 2023)

The Devil’s Flute Murders by Seishi Yokomizo

Translated by Jim Rion

(North American and European releases expected summer 2023)

“This classic from the golden age of crime presents a mind-bending Japanese mystery from the great Seishi Yokomizo, whose fictional detective Kosuke Kindaichi is a pop culture phenomenon akin to Sherlock Holmes. This time the beloved scruffy sleuth Kosuke Kindaichi investigates a series of gruesome murders within the feuding family of a brooding, troubled composer, whose most famous work chills the blood of all who hear it…”

The End of August by Yu Miri

Translated by Morgan Giles

(North American and European releases expected late summer 2023)

“In 1930s Japanese-occupied Korea, Lee Woo-cheol was a running prodigy and a contender for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics. But he would have had to run under the Japanese flag. Nearly a century later, his granddaughter is living in Japan and training to run a marathon herself. She summons Korean shamans to hold an intense, transcendent ritual to connect with Lee Woo-cheol. When his ghost appears, alongside those of his brother Lee Woo-Gun, and their young neighbor, who was forced to become a comfort woman to Japanese soldiers stationed in China during World War II, she must uncover their stories to free their souls…”

The Flowers of Buffoonery by Osamu Dazai

Translated by Sam Bett

(North American and European releases expected late summer 2023)

The Flowers of Buffoonery opens in a seaside sanitarium where Yozo Oba—the narrator of No Longer Human at a younger age—is being kept after a failed suicide attempt. While he is convalescing, his friends and family visit him, and other patients and nurses drift in and out of his room. Against this dispiriting backdrop, everyone tries to maintain a lighthearted, even clownish atmosphere: playing cards, smoking cigarettes, vying for attention, cracking jokes, and trying to make each other laugh…”

The Forest Brims Over by Ayase Maru

Translated by Hadyn Trowell

(North American and European releases expected summer 2023)

“A woman turns herself into a forest after long being co-opted to serve as the subject of her husband’s novels–this surrealist fable challenges traditional gender attitudes and exploitation in the literary world…”

Honeybees and Distant Thunder by Ondo Riku

Translated by Philip Gabriel

(North American and European releases expected spring 2023)

“In a small coastal town just a stone’s throw from Tokyo, a prestigious piano competition is underway. Over the course of two feverish weeks, three students will experience some of the most joyous—and painful—moments of their lives. Though they don’t know it yet, each will profoundly and unpredictably change the others, for ever…”

Hit Parade of Tears by Izumi Suzuki

Translated by Daniel Joseph, Sam Bett, and David Boyd

(North American and European releases spring 2023)

“Izumi Suzuki had ideas about doing things differently, ideas that paid little attention to the laws of physics, or the laws of the land. In this new collection, her skewed imagination distorts and enhances some of the classic concepts of science fiction and fantasy…”

I Guess All We Have Is Freedom by Genpai Akasegawa

Translated by Matthew Fargo

(North American release expected spring 2023)

“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…”

Love at Six Thousand Degrees by Maki Kashimada

Translated by Hadyn Trowell

(North American and European releases expected spring 2023)

“An ordinary housewife finds herself haunted by visions of a mushroom cloud and abruptly leaves her husband and son to travel alone to the city of Nagasaki, where she soon begins an affair with a young half-Russian, half-Japanese man…”

Marshland by Otohiko Kaga

Translated by Albert Novick

(North American and European releases expected early summer 2023)

“An epic novel on a Tolstoyan scale, running from the pre-World War II period to the turbulence of 1960s Japan. At forty-nine, Atsuo Yukimori is a humble auto mechanic living an almost penitentially quiet life in Tokyo, where his coworkers know something of his military record but nothing of his postwar past as a petty criminal. Out of curiosity he accompanies his nephew to a demonstration at a nearby university, and is gradually drawn into a friendship, then a romance, with Wakako Ikéhata, the brilliant but mentally unstable daughter of a university professor. As some of the student radical groups turn to violence and terrorism, Atsuo and Wakako find themselves framed for the lethal bombing of a Tokyo train….”

Mild Vertigo by Mieko Kanai

Translated by Polly Barton

(North American and European releases summer 2023)

“Housewife Natsumi leads a small, unremarkable life in a modern Tokyo apartment with her husband and two sons: she does the laundry, goes on trips to the supermarket, exchanges gossip with neighbours. Tracing the conversations and interactions she has with her family and friends as they blend seamlessly into her internal monologue, Mild Vertigo explores the dizzying inability to locate oneself in the endless stream of minutiae that make up a life confined to the home, where both everything and nothing happens.”

The Mill House Murders by Ayatsuji Yukito

Translated by Ho-Ling Wong

(European release expected late winter 2023; North American release expected spring 2023)

“As they do every year, a small group of acquaintances pay a visit to the remote, castle-like Water Mill House, home to the reclusive Fujinuma Kiichi, son of a famous artist, who has lived his life behind a rubber mask ever since a disfiguring car accident.

This year, however, the visit is disrupted by an impossible disappearance, the theft of a painting and a series of baffling murders…”

The North Light by Hideo Yokoyama

Translated by Louise Heal Kawai

(European release expected fall 2023)

“Minoru Aose is an architect whose greatest achievement is to have designed the Yoshino house, a prizewinning and much discussed private residence built in the shadow of Mount Asama. Aose has never been able to replicate this triumph and his career seems to have hit a barrier, while his marriage has failed. He is shocked to learn that the Yoshino House is empty apart from a single chair, stood facing the north light of nearby Mount Asama…”

People Who Talk to Stuffed Animals Are Nice by Ao Omae

Translated by Emily Balistrieri

(North American and European releases expected summer 2023)

“Composed of the title novella and three short stories, People Who Talk to Stuffed Animals Are Nice sensitively explores gender, friendship, romance, love, human interaction and its absence, and how a misogynistic society limits women and men…”

The Rainbow (also titled Beyond the Rainbow) by Yasunari Kawabata

Translated by Hadyn Trowell

(North American and European releases expected spring 2023)

“With the Second World War only a few years in the past, and Japan still reeling from its effects, two sisters—born to the same father but different mothers—struggle to make sense of the new world in which they are coming of age…”

The Rope Artist by Fuminori Nakamura

Translated by Sam Bett

(North American and European releases expected late spring 2023)

“Two detectives. Two identical women. One dead body—rapidly becoming two, then three, then four. All knotted up in Japan’s underground BDSM scene and kinbaku, a form of rope bondage which bears a complex cultural history of spirituality, torture, cleansing, and sacrifice…”

Sunrise: Radiant Stories by Erika Kobayashi

Translated by Brian Bergstrom

(North American and European releases expected summer 2023)

Sunrise is a collection of interconnected stories continuing Erika Kobayashi’s examination of the effects of nuclear power on generations of women. Connecting changes to everyday life to the development of the atomic bomb, Sunrise shows us how the discovery of radioactive power has shaped our history and continues to shape our future…”

What You Are Looking for Is In the Library by Michiko Aoyama

Translated by Sam Bett

(European release expected fall 2023)


Read about Japanese books in English translation published in 2022.

Episode 18: Cats in Japanese Literature

 “Cats of the Tokaido Road” by Utagawa Kuniyoshi

Check out Episode 18 of the Read Literature podcast.

Today, we’re going to look at cats in Japanese literature.

We’ll start with the history of cats in Japan.

We’ll move on to cats in Japanese folklore and fiction, including the work of Haruki Murakami.

And finally we’ll end with a discussion of our readers’ choice, “The Town of Cats” by Sakutaro Hagiwara.

Become an RJL supporter for seven minutes of bonus content.

Support this podcast by buying from Bookshop.org.

Modanizumu: Modernist Fiction from Japan, 1913-1938, edited by William J. Tyler 

  • includes the story “The Town of Cats” (translated by Jeffrey Angles)

“The Town of Cats” also titled “Cat Town” also appears in Cat Town by Sakutaro Hagiwara (translated by Hiroaki Sato)

Cat stories by Haruki Murakami:

Recently-translated “cat books”:

This episode also recommends:

Find Out More

The Letters of Lafcadio Hearn. This episode opened with a discussion of Hearn’s letter to Basil Chamberlain dated August 1891.

“Japan’s Love-Hate Relationship with Cats.” A free, article-long summary of Davisson’s work via Smithsonian Magazine.

“Feline Fatale: A Look at Japan’s Growing Cat Mania.” A fascinating article translated from Japanese about the place of cat’s in Japanese culture and literature.

“Cats in Japanese Art—Printed, Painted, and Sculpted Felines: Cat Memes from 300 Years Ago.”

“6 Books for People Who Love Japan and Cats.” Books and Bao is a fantastic resource for translated fiction recommendations. You can also check out the YouTube channel, including the video “7 Great Japanese Books Featuring Cats.”

Naoki-Prize-winning author Kazufmi Shirashi talks about his love for cats. Three of Shirashi’s novels have been translated into English: Me Against the World, The Part of Me That Isn’t Broken Inside, and Stand-in Companion. Sadly, none prominently feature cats.

Author Mitsuyo Kakuta talks about her love for cats. Two of Kakuta’s novels have been translated into English, The Eighth Day and Woman on the Other Shore.

An interview between Haruki Murakami and Deborah Tresiman for The New Yorker. This 2011 interview discusses “Town of Cats”. It was translated by Jay Rubin. (free—article limit)

Murakami’s essay “Abandoning a Cat: Memories of My Father” in The New Yorker. (free—article limit)

What Is the Uncanny? A six-minute video by Oregon State University Professor Ray Malewitz.

“Literature” at Japanese Wiki Corpus

Japanese Literature at Facebook

Japanese Literature at Goodreads

Other RJL Episodes of Interest:

  • Episode 2: The Tale of Genji. A full episode about The Tale of Genji, the site of an early encounter with cats in Japanese literature.
  • Episode 6: High and Low Literature in Edo Japan. This episode includes a description of Japanese printing. It also explains with “low literature” or popular fiction is such a key part of Japanese literary history.
  • Episode 8: Meiji Literature and Japan’s Most Famous Literary Cat. Natsume Soseki’s I Am a Cat is probably Japan’s best known story about cats.
  • Episode 14: Banana and the Bubble. Banana was part of the kawaii movement that included cat (or cat-like) pop-culture icon Hello Kitty.

Sources

Chen Yan. “A Cat in the History of Japanese Literature” at LaiTimes.com, 2021. (free)

Cucinelli, Diego. “Feline Shadows in the Rising Sun: Cultural Values of Cats in Pre-Modern Japan” in Ming Qing Studies, 2013.

Davisson, Zack. Kaibyō: The Supernatural Cats of Japan, 2nd ed. Mercuria, 2021.

Eiji Iwazai. “‘Wakeneko’ Studies: A Journey into Japan’s Cat Lore” at Nippon.com, 2021. (free)

Manabe Masayuki. “Objections to the History of Cats as Commonly Portrayed” at Waseda Online. (free)

Murakami Haruki. “Abandoning a Cat: Memories of My Father” translated by Philip Gabriel in The New Yorker. (free—article limit)

–. “Man-Eating Cats” translated by Philip Gabriel in The New Yorker, 2000.

 –. “This Week in Fiction: Haruki Murakami.” Interview conducted by Deborah Treisman, translated by Jay Rubin in The New Yorker, 2011. (free—article limit)

Nathan, Richard. “Cool for Cats: Japanese Literature and the Feline Form” at Red Circle, 2017. (free)

Rosen, Allen. “Lafcadio Hearn and Cats” at Kumamoto University Repository System, 2010.

Sakutaro Hagiwara. “The Town of Cats: A Fantasy in the Manner of a Prose Poem,” Jeffrey Angles, trans. in Modanizumu: Modernist Fiction from Japan, 1913-1938. U of HI, 2008.

Tyler, William J., ed. Modanizumu: Modernist Fiction from Japan, 1913-1938. U of HI, 2008.

Updike, John. “Subconscious Tunnels: Haruki Murakami’s Dreamlike New Novel” in The New Yorker, 2005. (free—article limit)

Vasukem Adeline. “Cat Imagery in Haruki Murakami’s Fiction”, 2012.
Yosuke Kita. “Feline Fatale: A Look at Japan’s Growing Cat Mania” at Nippon.com, 2017. (free)

Episode 17: The Smile of the Mountain Witch

 “Yamamba” from Bakemono no e, circa 1700 (via Wikimedia Commons)

Check out Episode 17 of the Read Literature podcast.

In this episode…

Is she a man-eating crone?

Is she a lonely wanderer?

Or is she a sensual matriarch?

However you define her, she’s the yama-uba—Japan’s legendary mountain witch.

Donate to RJL’s Patreon.

Support this podcast by buying from Bookshop.org.

Yamamba: In Search of the Japanese Mountain Witch edited by Rebecca Copeland and Linda C. Ehrlich

  • includes Minako Oba’s “The Smile of the Mountain Witch” (translated by Norkio Mizuta Lippit, assisted by Mariko Ochi)

“The Smile of the Mountain Witch” also appears in

This episode also recommends:

Find Out More

Hyakumonogatari Kaidanka: Translated Japanese Ghost Stories and Tales of the Weird and the Strange. Zack Davisson is an English-language expert on Japanese manga and folklore. His work is accessible, and everything on this website is free to read.

The-Noh.com is a great resource for learning more about Nōh theater. This link will take you to a summary of Yamamba, including text from the play in Japanese and English.

The Asia-Pacific Journal on Japan’s Marital System Reform. A free-to-read and relatively up-to-date article.

Unseen Japan on “The Feminist Movement in Japan: WWII to the 1970s”. Part of a 3-part series about feminism in Japan, beginning in the Meiji Era.

More from RJL about sexism in Japan. This article includes my strongly-worded negative review of the book Before the Coffee Gets Cold.

Other RJL episodes of interest:

“Literature” at Japanese Wiki Corpus

Japanese Literature at Facebook

Japanese Literature at Goodreads

Sources

Ashkenazi, Michael. “Yama-Uba” in Handbook of Japanese Mythology. ABC Clio, 2003.

Bullock, Julia C. “Burning Down the House: Fantasies of Liberation in the Era of ‘Women’s Lib’” in Japanese Language and Literature, 2015.

Copeland, Rebecca. “Mythical Bad Girls: The Corpse, the Crone, and the Snake” in Bad Girls of Japan, ed. Laura Miller and Jan Bardsley. Palgrave MacMilllan, 2005.

Copeland, Rebecca and Linda C. Ehrlich. Yamamba: In Search of the Japanese Mountain Witch. Stone Bridge, 2021.

Davisson, Zack. “What’s the Difference between Urei and Yokai” at HyakumonogatariKaidankai.com, 2013. (free)

Foster, Michael Dylan. The Book of Yokai: Mysterious Creatures of Japanese Folklore. U of CA, 2015.

Fusek, Alyssa Pearl. “The Feminist Movement in Japan: WWII to the 1970s” at UnseenJapan.com, 2020. (free)

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

Hansen, Kelly. “Deviance and Decay in the Body of a Modern Mountain Witch: Ōba Minako’s ‘Yamanba no bishō’” in Japanese Language and Literature, 2014.

Hurley, Adrienne. “Demons, Transnational Subjects, and the Fiction of Ohba Minako” in Ōe and Beyond: Fiction in Contemporary Japan, ed. Stephen Synder and Philip Gabriel, U Hawaii, 1999.

Landau, Samantha. “Subversions of Gender and Power in Ōba Minako’s ‘Yamamba no Bishō’” in Gakuen, 2015.

Lippit, Noriko Mizuta and Kyoko Iriye Selden. “Introduction” in Japanese Women Writers: Twentieth Century Short Fiction, ed. and trans. Noriko Mizuta Lippit and Kyoko Iriye Selden. Routledge, 1991.

Mackie, Vera. Feminism in Modern Japan. Cambridge UP, 2003.

Mizuta Noriko. “The Dream of the Yamanba—An Overview” (translated by Luciana Sanga) in Review of Japanese Culture and Society, 2018.

“Ōba Minako” in Japanese Women Writers: A Bio-critical Sourcebook, ed. Chieko Mulhern. Greenwood Press, 1994.

Oba Minako. “Special Address: Without Beginning, Without End” (translated by Paul Gordon Schalow) in The Woman’s Hand: Gender and Theory in Japanese Women’s Writing, ed. Paul Gordon Schaler and Janet A. Walker. Stanford UP, 1996.

Reider, Norkio. Japanese Demon Lore: Oni from Ancient Times to the Present. Utah State UP, 2010.

–. “Locating the Yamamba” in Yamamba: In Search of the Japanese Mountain Witch, ed. Rebecca Copeland and Linda C. Ehrlich. Stone Bridge, 2021.

–. Mountain Witches: Yamauba. UT State UP, 2021.

Schaler, Paul Gordon and Janet A. Walker, eds. The Woman’s Hand: Gender and Theory in Japanese Women’s Writing. Stanford UP, 1996.

Toyoda Etsuko. “Japan’s Marital System Reform: The Fūfubessei Movement for Individual Rights” at The Asia-Pacific Journal, 2020. (free)

Viswanathan, Meera. “In Pursuit of the Yamamaba: The Question of Female Resistance” in The Woman’s Hand: Gender and Theory in Japanese Women’s Writing, ed. Paul Gordon Schaler and Janet A. Walker. Stanford UP, 1996.

Wilson, Michiko Niikuni. Gender Is Fair Game: (Re)Thinking the (Fe)Male in the Works of Ōba Minako. M. E. Sharpe, 1999.

–. “Introduction” in Of Birds Crying (translated by Michael K. Wilson and Michiko N. Wilson). Cornell UP, 2011.

“Yamamba (Mountain Crone” at The-Noh.com. (free)

Episode 16: Writing about Japan’s “Have-Nots”

Tokyo Ueno Station by Yu Miri

Check out Episode 16 of the Read Literature podcast.

In this episode…

Post-bubble Japan.

The history of socially-conscious Japanese literature.

And Yu Miri’s Tokyo Ueno Station, a powerful examination of Tokyo by one of the most invisible people imaginable—the ghost of a homeless day laborer.

Donate to RJL’s Patreon.

Support this podcast by buying from Bookshop.org.

Tokyo Ueno Station by Yu Miri (translated by Morgan Giles)

Read Miri for Free:

This episode also recommends:

Find Out More

Unseen Japan. Among many topics, Unseen Japan provides English-language news coverage about under-represented communities in Japan, including Zainichi Koreans and the homeless.

ETHOS Typology on Homelessness and Housing Exclusion

The Japan Foundation New York Literary Series: Yu Miri and Morgan Giles. Yu Miri and her translator Morgan Giles talk about Tokyo Ueno Station. Other guests include moderator Stephen Snyder, interpreter Bethan Jones, and Strong Women, Soft Power member Allison Markin Powell.

“Marxist Literary Criticism: An Introductory Reading Guide” at HistoricalMaterialism.org.

JFNY Literary Series: Yu Miri x Morgan Giles. An hour-long video interview and discussion about Yu Miri’s work and Tokyo Ueno Station, hosted by the Japan Foundation of New York.

The National Book Award Page for Tokyo Ueno Station. This pages includes the judges’ citation:

This deft translation by Morgan Giles of Korean-Japanese writer Yu Miri’s Tokyo Ueno Station is a welcome and necessary addition to the translated Japanese canon, which unfolds in the memories of a deceased narrator occupying the eponymous train station. The book is an observation of Japan at the gateway of its capital, at multiple thresholds of shifting eras, told in the bardo of a mourning father and compatriot, reciting his surroundings and circumstances as if a prayer, a mantra.

“Her Antenna Is Tuned to the Quietest Voices” in The New York Times. This article, written after the English translation of Tokyo Ueno Station won the National Book Award, contains more information about Miri’s biography.

“Why the World Needs Literature” in Metropolis. Morgan Giles talks about Tokyo Ueno Station and translating Yu Miri.

“Literature” at Japanese Wiki Corpus

Japanese Literature at Facebook

Japanese Literature at Goodreads

Sources

Eagleton, Terry. Literary Theory: An Introduction. U of MN, 2008.

–. Marxism and Literary Criticism. U of CA, 1976.

“ETHOS—European Typology on Homelessness and Housing Exclusion” at Feantsa.org, 2005. (free)

Goto Hiroshi, et al. “Why Street Homelessness Has Decreased in Japan: A Comparison of Public Assistance in Japan and the US” in Selected Works of Dennis P. Culhane, 2022. (free)

Harris, Thalia. “Metalist DaiGo and Anti-Homeless Sentiment in Japan” at UnseenJapan.com, 2021. (free)

“JFNY Literary Series: Yu Miri x Morgan Giles” at Jfny.org, 2021. (free)

Keene, Donald. 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.

Rich, Motoko. “Her Antenna Is Tuned to the Quietest Voices” at NYTimes.com, 2020. (free)

Scott, Simon. “Ball and Chain: Gambling’s Darker Side” in The Japan Times Online, 2014.

Weickgenannt, Kristina. “The Deemphasis of Ethnicity: Images of Koreanness in the Works of the Japanese-Korean Author Yū Miri” in Electronic Journal of Contemporary Japanese Studies, Conference and Seminar Papers: Images of Asia in Mass Media, Popular Culture and Literature, 2001. (free)

Wender, Melissa L. “Introduction” in Into the Light: An Anthology of Literature by Koreans in Japan, U of HI, 2011.

–. “Yū Miri” in Into the Light: An Anthology of Literature by Koreans in Japan, U of HI, 2011.

Episode 15: Translating Japanese Women

The Japanese cover of Convenience Store Woman

Check out Episode 15 of the Read Literature podcast.

In all our episodes so far, we’ve talked almost exclusively about what Japanese literature looks like in Japan.

But we’re English-speakers and English-readers on an English-language podcast about Japanese literature in English.

In honor of Women in Translation Month, we’re talking about why there is such a wealth of contemporary books by Japanese women available in English.

Donate to RJL’s Patreon.

Support this podcast by buying from Bookshop.org.

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata (translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori)

Japanese Women Translated by Strong Women, Soft Power Translators:

Translated by Allison Markin Powell

Translated by Lucy North

Translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori

Ginny Tapley Takemori on “Strong Women, Soft Power” at Global Literature in Libraries Initiative

Strong Women, Soft Power’s list of “10 Japanese Books by Women We’d Love to See in English”

Allison Markin Power on why “Translating Women in Essential”

The Three Percent Database

Women in Translation. The project’s official website.

The Warwick Prize for Women in Translation

RJL’s List of 2022 Upcoming Japanese Fiction Releases

Sayaka Murata talks about her life and work at Wired.com.

The Japan Foundation New York hosts a conversation with Sayaka Murata. (YouTube)

More about the work of Sayaka Murata on Read Japanese Literature:

My review of Sayaka Murata’s latest in English, Life Ceremony: Stories

“Literature” at Japanese Wiki Corpus

Japanese Literature at Facebook

Japanese Literature at Goodreads

Sources

Birnbaum, Phyllis, trans. and ed. Rabbits, Crabs, Etc.: Stories by Japanese Women. U of HI, 1982.

Copeland, Rebecca. “Intercultural Sisters: Translation and the Creation of Feminist Social Networks” in The Journal of Comparative Media and Women Studies, 2020.

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

Coutts, Angela. “Gender and Literary Production in Modern Japan: The Role of Female-Run Journals in Promoting Writing by Women During the Interwar Years” in Signs, 2006.

Doppo Kunikida. “On Women and Translation” in Women Critiqued: Translated Essays on Japanese Women’s Writing. Rebecca Copeland, ed. U of HI Press, 2006.

Ericson, Joan E. “The Origins of the Concept of ‘Women’s Literature’” in The Woman’s Hand: Gender and Theory in Japanese Women’s Writing, Stanford, 1996.

Fincher, Alison. “Review: Life Ceremony by Sayaka Murata” at AsianReviewofBooks.com, 2022. (free)

Ha, Thu-Huong. “Sayaka Murata Inhabits a Planet of Her Own” at Wired.com, 2022. (free)

Keene, Donald. 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.

Namkung, Victoria. “Move Over, Murakami: Female Authors Drive Growing Interest in Japanese Novels” at NBCNews.com, 2021. (free)

Powell, Allison Markin. “10 Japanese Books by Women We’d Love to See in English” at Lithub.com, 2016. (free)

–. “Translation Women in Essential: Allison Markin Powell on Translating Kaoru Takamura’s Groundbreaking Japanese Crime Epic” at Soho.com, 2022. (free)

Takemori, Ginny Tapley. “Strong Women, Soft Power” at Glli.org, 2018. (free)

Episode 14: Banana and the Bubble

“White Fox Mirror” by Yoshimi Okamoto, 1980 (via Ukiyo-e.org)

Check out Episode 14 of the Read Literature podcast.

In this episode, we’re talking about Japan’s bubble economy of the 1980s and the work of Banana Yoshimoto.

Runaway consumer spending.

Everything kawaii.

A Nobel laureate’s contempt.

And a young author whose career challenged the publishing powers that be.

Content warning: This episode addresses transphobia as well as hate crimes against Asian Americans and trans women.

Support this podcast by buying from Bookshop.org.

Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto (translated by Megan Backus)

Lizard (translated by Ann Sherif). Includes the story “Newlywed”.

Dead-End Memories by Banana Yoshimoto (translated by Asa Yoneda)

More by Banana Yoshimoto:

This episode also recommends:

I Think Our Son Is Gay by (translated by Leo McDonagh)

Find Out More

The History of Japan Podcast, hosted by Isaac Meyer

Ichimon Japan Podcast, Episode 39: What Should I Know about Japan’s Bubble Era?—An irreverent and funny look at 1980s pop culture in Japan.

The Japan Foundation of New York’s lecture on Shojo Manga: The Power and Influence of Girls’ Comics

Kawaii 101 at Best of Kawaii

Banana Yoshimoto’s Official Website (English)

Book critic Willow Heath on “The Genius of Banana Yoshimoto” at Books & Bao.

Book critic Willow Heath on Kitchen at Books & Bao. Includes a discussion of Eriko’s role in the novel.

My review of Dead-End Memories at Asian Review of Books

IMDB page for 1989’s Kitchen

IMDB page for 1997’s Kitchen (Wo ai chu fang)

Lindsay Ellis’s YouTube video on Tracing the Roots of Pop Culture Transphobia. Ellis’s 60-minute video traces the problematic history of transgender representation in English-language media.

Siobhan Donegan on “Trans Representation in Cinema and TV” at LGBTHealth.org.uk.

Alexander Cross on Kitchen and “The Coming of Age of Transgender Representation in Japan” at An Injustice!

Translator Leo McDonagh on “Translating Gender from Japanese to English” at his site, Leocalization.wordpress.com.

“Literature” at Japanese Wiki Corpus

Japanese Literature at Facebook

Sources

Aoyama Tomoko. Reading Food in Modern Japanese Literature. U Hawaii, 2008.

Chilton, Myles. “Realist Magic and the Invented Tokyos of Murakami Haruki and Yoshimoto Banana” in Journal of Narrative Theory, 2009.

Cross, Alexander. “The Coming of Age in Transgender Representation in Japan: An Analysis of Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto” at An Injustice!, 2021. (free)

Fincher, Alison. “‘Dead-End Memories’ by Banana Yoshimoto” at AsianReviewofBooks.com. (free)

Fukushima Yoshiko. “Japanese Literature, or ‘J-Literature,’ in the 1990s” in World Literature Today, 2003.

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

Heath, Willow. “Review: Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto” at Books & Bao, 2021. (free)

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

Margolis, Eric. “How the English Language Failed Banana Yoshimoto” at Metropolis, 2021. (free)

Olson, Lawrence. “Intellectuals and ‘The People’; On Yoshimoto Takaaki” in The Journal of Japanese Studies, 1978.

Roquet, Paul. “Ambient Literature and the Aesthetics of Calm: Mood Regulation in Contemporary Japanese Fiction” in The Journal of Japanese Studies, 2009.

Saito Satomi. “Narrative in the Digital Age: From Light Novels to Web Serials” in Routledge Handbook of Modern Japanese Literature, ed. Rachael Hutchinson and Leith Morton, 2016.

Seaman, Amanda C. “Inner Pieces: Isolation, Inclusion, and Interiority in Modern Women’s Fiction” in Routledge Handbook of Modern Japanese Literature, ed. Rachael Hutchinson and Leith Morton, 2016.

Sherif, Ann. “Japanese without Apology: Yoshimoto Banana and Healing” in Ōe and Beyond: Fiction in Contemporary Japan, ed. Stephen Synder and Philip Gabriel, U Hawaii, 1999.

Treat, John Whittier. “Yoshimoto Banana Writes Home: Shojo Culture and the Nostalgic Subject” in The Journal of Japanese Studies, 1993.

Episode 13: Literature of Change in the 1960s—Mishima and Oe

“Ukiyo-e Today, No. 7” by Okamoto Ryusei, 1974 (via Ukiyo-e.org)

Check out Episode 13 of the Read Literature podcast.

Today, we’re talking about the literature of change in the 1960s—how writers took on questions about what it meant to be Japanese in the post-war era and what was the continuing role of Japanese tradition.

We’re looking especially at Yukio Mishima and Kenzaburo Oe.

Content warning: This episode addresses fascism and suicide.

Support this podcast by buying from Bookshop.org.

The Sea of Fertility Tetralogy by Yukio Mishima

Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids by Kenzaburo Oe (translated by Paul St. John MacKintosh and Maki Sugiyama)

Other Books Mentioned in This Episode:

Beautiful Star by Yukio Mishima (translated by Steven Dodd, available in UK markets only)

“Patriotism” by Yukio Mishima (translated by Geoffrey W. Sargent) in The Penguin Book of Japanese Short Stories

“The Day He Himself Shall Wipe My Tears Away” (translated by John Nathan) in Teach Us to Outgrow Our Madness 

Find Out More

The Constitution of Japan (English)

Read Japanese Literature’s Review of Yukio Mishima’s Novel Life for Sale

Ruminations on America, 1965. A translation by Hiroaki Sato of a part of Ōe’s essay, including his thoughts about Huckleberry Finn. (CW: Quotes Twain’s use of a racial slur)

The Swedish Academy’s 1994 Press Release about Kenzaburo Oe’s Nobel Prize for Literature

Kenzaburo Oe’s 1994 Nobel Lecture, “Japan, the Ambiguous, and Myself”

The History of Japan Podcast, hosted by Isaac Meyer

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

  • 22: Japan’s Economic Miracle

“Literature” at Japanese Wiki Corpus

Japanese Literature at Facebook

Sources

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

Iwamoto Yoshio. “The Nobel Prize in Literature, 1967-1987: A Japanese View” in World Literature Today, 1988.

Keene, Donald. Dawn to the West: Japanese Literature of the Modern Era—Fiction, 4th ed., 1999.

Kersten, Rikki. “The Intellectual Culture of Postwar Japan and the 1968-1969 University of Tokyo Struggles: Repositioning the Self in Postwar Thought” in Social Science Japan Journal, 2009.

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

Napier, Susan J. “Death and the Emperor: Mishima, Ōe, and the Politics of Betrayal” in The Journal of Asian Studies, 1989.

–. Escape from the Wasteland: Romanticism and Realism in the Fiction of Mishima Yukio and Oe Kenzaburo. Harvard, 1991.

Nathan, John. “Introduction” in Teach Us to Outgrow Our Madness. Grove, 1994.

Oe Kenzaburo. “Japan’s Dual Identity: A Writer’s Dilemma” in World Literature Today, 1988.

–. “Nobel Lecture: Japan, the Ambiguous, and Myself” at NobelPrize.org, 1994.

Remnick, David. “Reading Japan” at The New York Yorker Online, 1995. (free)

Sakurai Emiko. “Kenzaburo Ōe: the Early Years” in World Literature Today, 1984.
Schieder, Chelsea Szendi. Coed Revolution: The Female Student in the Japanese New Left. Duke, 2021.

31 Days of Listening and Watching for Women in Translation Month

“A woman looking over the shoulder of a young man who is smoking a pipe and reading a book” by Utamaro (via Picryl)

Just in time for August and Women in Translation Month, here’s a list of resources about Japanese women writers for listening and watching.

The texts mentioned on this list are in more-or-less chronological order by publication. Descriptions are adapted from episode descriptions.

Support Read Japanese Literature by buying your #witmonth books through our Bookshop.org bookstore.


Historian Isaac Meyer talks about Ono no Komachi, a mysterious poet from the 800s whose poems were used to construct a fictional persona entirely separate from who she actually was.

Historian Isaac Meyer talks about the social position of women in the Heian Era, especially the story of one “particularly badass woman”: the poet and “femme fatale” Izumi Shikibu.

Read Japanese Literature covers Japan’s oldest novel, The Tale of Genji. A hero who is a paragon of beauty with an extreme Oedipus complex.

More about Murasaki Shikibu from historian Isaac Meyer. Why do we know so little about who she was? What inspired her to write Genji? Why does he dislike her work so viscerally? And how did it become so famous?

On the New Books East Asia podcast Jingyi Li talks to Dr. Takeshi Watanabe about A Tale of Flowering Fortunes, which covers about 150 years of births, deaths, & happenings in late Heian society. Dr. Watanabe the book is an exorcism of embittered spirits whose stories needed to be retold to ensure peace.

Historian Isaac Meyer covers the fascinating tale of Sei Shonagon and the Makura no Soushi, or Pillow Book. Why is a collection of anecdotes considered to be one of Japan’s greatest literary classics?

On the New Books East Asia podcast Carla Nappi talks to Dr. Christina Laffin about Nun Abutsu, a 13th-century poet, scholar, teacher, and prolific writer. Laffin’s book is Rewriting Medieval Japanese Women: Politics, Personality, and Literary Production in the Life of Nun Abutsu.

Historian Isaac Meyer covers the life and career of Tokugawa-era poet Kaga no Chiyo, a shopkeeper’s daughter-turned-nun-turned-haiku master.

On the Books on Asia podcast, Dr. Judith Pascoe discusses the popularity of Emily Brontë in Japan.

Read Japanese Literature covers Ichiyo Higuchi and Meiji Women writers.

More about Ichiyo Higuchi from historian Isaac Meyer. Meyer talks about her story, her writing, her legacy, and her tragically short career.

Meiji at 150 hosts Dr. Deborah Shamoon on shōjo (adolescent women) in the Meiji and Taishō period, including the work of Miyake Kaho and Misora Hibari.

On the Books on Asia podcast, Drs. Rebecca Copeland and Linda Ehrlich talk about their anthology Yamamba: In Search of the Japanese Mountain Witch, including author Minako Oba‘s story “Smile of the Mountain Witch”.

The Japan Foundation of New York’s Literary Series hosts author Yoko Ogawa and translator Stephen Snyder discussing the novel The Memory Police.

Books and Bao discusses An I-Novel by Minae Mizumura, translated by Juliet Winters Carpenter. An I-Novel is regarded as the first bilingual novel: a book that blends memoir and fiction, tracing the life of a Japanese writer growing up in New York City.

The Japan Foundation of New York’s Literary Series hosts author Sachiko Kashiwaba and translator Avery Fischer Udagawa discussing Temple Alley Summer—a magnificent middle grade novel about the power of stories.

The Japan Foundation of New York’s Literary Series hosts author Yu Miri and translator Morgan Giles discussing the novel Tokyo Ueno Station, which won the 2020 National Book Award for Translated Literature.

The Japan Foundation New York’s Literary Series hosts author Hiroko Oyamada and translator David Boyd discussing the novel The Hole.

Books and Boba discusses Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata, translated by by Ginny Tapley Takemori. A short novel about woman who finds it hard to interact with people, who finds contentment in the routines of working at a convenience store.

The Japan Foundation of New York’s Literary Series hosts author Aoko Matsuda and translator Polly Barton discussing Where the Wild Ladies Are, Japanese folk stories retold as feminist fables.

More about Aoko Matsuda from the National Centre for Writing. Translator Polly Barton and Voices from Japan host a 2-part conversation about “one of Japan’s most promising young writers”.

Books and Bao discusses Solo Dance by Li Kotomi, translated by Arthur Reiji Morris. Willow Heath describes, “A beautiful and difficult novel about depression, queerness, trauma, and fear.”

The Japan Foundation of New York’s Literary Series hosts author Sayaka Murata and translator Ginny Tapley Takemori discussing the novel Earthlings.

More about Sayaka Murata, “the queen of punk literature”, from Books and Bao.

Books and Bao discusses The Woman in the Purple Skirt by Natsuko Imamura, translated by Lucy North. Willow Heath describes, “a Japanese novel that explores our relationships to one another as strangers, as well as the relationship between character, narrator, and reader.”

The Japan Foundation of New York’s Literary Series hosts author Kyoko Nakajima and translators Ian McDonald and Ginny Tapley Takemori discussing the short story collection Things Remembered and Things Forgotten.

Books and Bao on The Easy Life in Kamusari by Shion Miura, translated by Juliet Winters Carpenter, “a relaxing and satisfying coming-of-age Japanese novel” and “a perfect rainy day read on a chill Sunday afternoon.”

Meiji at 150 hosts Dr. Rebecca Copeland discussing “unruly women”: the goddess Izanami, popular activists and female writers in the Meiji and Taishō Periods, and contemporary writer Kirino Natsuo.

The Japan Station podcast and translator Allison Markin Powell discuss the story of Shiori Ito and her book Black Box: The Memoir That Sparked Japan’s #MeToo Movement.

Special thank you to people and organizations that work so hard to make these resources available:

Episode 12: Japanese Literature in WWII

“Flag Merchant” by Sanzo Wada, 1940 (via Ukiyo-e.org)

Check out Episode 12 of the Read Literature podcast.

Today we’re talking about the 1930s and 40s in Japan—fascism, World War Two, and the American Occupation.

In particular, how did 20 years of censorship shape Japanese literature?

We’re also taking a look at the life and work of Akiyuki Nosaka, whose novella, “Grave of the Fireflies” inspired the classic anime film. We’ll discuss his short story, “The Cake Tree in the Ruins”.

Support this podcast by buying from Bookshop.org.

The Whale That Fell in Love with the Submarine by Akiyuki Nosaka. Illustrated.

The Cake Tree in the Ruins by Akiyuki Nosaka. Includes five stories not included in The Whale That Fell in Love with the Submarine.

These two books are both translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori and both include “The Cake Tree in the Ruins”.

Other Books Mentioned in This Episode:

The Makioka Sisters by Junichiro Tanizaki

The Pornagraphers by Akiyuki Nosaka

Soldiers Alive by Tatsuzo Ishikawa (also included in The Columbia Anthology of Modern Japanese Literature)

More to Read:

Showa: A History of Japan by Shigeru Mizuki. A multivolume, semi-autobiographical manga overview of Showa Japan.

An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguo. The fictional account of a Japanese artist who comes to grips with his complicity with the military regime.

Find Out More

All the Anime’s obituary for Akiyuki Nosaka

The LARB tribute to Akiyuki Nosaka.

Akiyuki Nosaka’s award-winning song, Omocha no Cha Cha Cha on YouTube

Akiyuki Nosaka advertises Suntory Gold Whiskey on YouTube

The Reporters without Borders World Press Freedom Index

The History of Japan Podcast, hosted by Isaac Meyer

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

  • 18: Three Visions of Prewar Japan
  • 19: War without a Master Plan: Japan, 1931-1945

“Literature” at Japanese Wiki Corpus

Japanese Literature at Facebook

Sources

Dower, John. Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II. Norton, 2000.

Fedman, David. “The Scorched-Earth Generation” at lareviewofbooks.org, 2016.

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

Keene, Donald. Dawn to the West: Japanese Literature of the Modern Era—Fiction, 4th ed., 1999.

–. “Japanese Literature and Politics in the 1930s” in The Journal of Japanese Studies, 1976.

Mitchell, Richard H. “Japan’s Peace Preservation Law of 1925: Its Origins and Significance” in Monumenta Nipponica, 1973.

Muraoka Eri. Anne’s Cradle: The Life & Works of Hanako Muraoka, Japanese Translator of Anne of Green Gables, trans. Cathy Hirano. Nimbus, 2021.

Rubin, Jay. “From Wholesomeness to Decadence: The Censorship of Literature under the Allied Occupation” in The Journal of Japanese Studies, 1985.

Episode 11: The I-Novel, Osamu Dazai, and No Longer Human

“Asakusa Park Casino Follies” by Sumio Kawakami, circa 1930 (via Wikimedia Commons)

Check out Episode 11 of the Read Japanese Literature podcast.

Today, we’re talking about the I-Novel—the highest form of literature in Japan in the 1910s and 20s.

It’s a genre one American scholar describes as “perhaps the most striking feature of modern Japanese literature.”

And it’s a genre Haruki Murakami claims to have an allergy to.

We’ll also be looking at the life and work of Osamu Dazai and asking, “What does it take to get disqualified as a human being?”

Content warning: This episode addresses addiction, rape, suicide, and misogyny.

Support this podcast by buying from Bookshop.org.

No Longer Human by Osamu Dazai, translated by Donald Keene

More by Dazai:

More to read:

An I-Novel by Minae Mizumura, translated by Juliet Winters Carpenter

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata, translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori

Life Ceremony by Sayaka Murata, translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori

Find Out More

A review of An I-Novel by Minae Mizumura

An interview with Sayaka Murata

Plans for a secondary-school literature class on the I-Novel

The History of Japan Podcast, hosted by Isaac Meyer

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

Sources

Fowler, Edward. The Rhetoric of Confession: Shishōsetsu in Early Twentieth-Century Japanese Fiction, U of CA, 1992. 

Hijiya-Kirschnereit. Rituals of Self-Revelation: Shishōsetsu as Literary Genre and Socio-Cultural Phenomenon. Harvard, 1996.

Keene, Donald. “Dazai Osamu and the Burai-Ha” in Dawn to the West: Japanese Literature of the Modern Era—Fiction, 4th ed., 1999.

–. “The I-Novel” in Dawn to the West: Japanese Literature of the Modern Era—Fiction, 4th ed., 1999.

Lyons, Phyllis I. “‘Art Is Me’: Dazai Osamu’s Narrative Voice as a Permeable Self” in Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, 1981.
Murakami Haruki. “Introduction” in The Penguin Book of Japanese Short Stories, ed. Jay Rubin, Penguin, 2020.