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69 Contemporary Japanese Novels is nothing like snuggling up with a nice hot cup of Milo and good read as a way to relax during ones’ nights away from the bars and clubs of Roppongi, Kawabata and Ame-mura.

If you are in Japan, or are interested in this country you will probably want to read some of the delightful fiction produced on these isles. Top of your list would have to be Haruki Murakami and Banana Yoshimoto who offer deep and revealing perspectives on contemporary life in Japan. Ryu Murakami is a good place to start if you are looking for Japan’s darker side. For crime and detective fans, Seichi Matsumoto and Miyuki Miyabe will leave you turning pages till late into the night and for fans of horror fiction the eery works of Koji Suzuki will send a shiver down your spine.

Here is the list of 69 contemporary Japanese novels:

Haruki Murakami

1. Pinball, 1973
2. A Wild Sheep Chase
3. Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World
4. In a Norwegian Wood
5. Dance Dance Dance
6. South of the Border, West of the Sun
7. The Wind-up Bird Chronicle
8. Sputnik Sweetheart
9. Kafka on the Shore
10. After Dark
11. The Elephant Vanishes

Banana Yoshimoto

12. Kitchen
13. Asleep
14. Goodbye Tsugumi
15. NP
16. Lizard
17. Amrita
18. Moonlight Shadow
19. Hardboiled & Hard Luck

Genichiro Takahashi

20. Sayonara Gangsters

Kenzo Kitakata

21. Ashes
22. Winter Sleep
23. The Cage
24. City of Refuge (forthcoming)

Taichi Yamada

25. Strangers
26. In Search of a Distant Voice

Kaori Ekuni

27. Twinkle Twinkle

Keigo Higashino

28. Naoko
29. Malice (forthcoming)

Mari Akasaka

30: Vibrator: A Novel

Natsuo Kirino

31. Out: A Novel
32. Grotesque

Miyuki Miyabe

33. The Devil’s Whisper
34. Brave Story
35. Shadow Family
36. Crossfire
37. All She was Worth

Mariko Hayashi

38. Green Green Grapes of Home

Akimitsu Takagi

39. The Informer
40. The Tattoo Murder Case (Soho Crime)
41. Honeymoon to Nowhere (Soho Crime)
42. No Patent on Murder

Randy Taguchi

43. Outlet

Seicho Matsumoto

44. Inspector Imanishi Investigates (Soho Crime)
45. Pro Bono
46. Points and Lines

Asa Nonami

47. The Hunter
48. Now You’re One of Us

Ami Sakurai

49. Innocent World

Seishi Yokomizo

50. The Inugamui Clan (Stone Bridge Fiction)

Yusuke Kishi

51. The Crimson Labyrinth

Hitomi Kanehara

52. Snakes and Earrings

Koji Suzuki

53. Birthday
54. Dark Water
55. Death and the Flower
56. Paradise
57. Ring: The Ring Trilogy – 1
58. Spiral: The Ring Trilogy – 2
59. Loop: The Ring Trilogy – 3

Kenzaburo Oe

60. Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids
61. The Silent Cry
62. Somersault
63. The Changeling
64. A Quiet Life

Ryu Murakami

65. In the Miso Soup
66. Coin Locker Babies
67. A Paler Shade of Blue
68. Piercing
69. Sixty-Nine

The list is in no particular order, although I started with my favourite Japanese author Haruki Murakami and worked my way down to his namesake Ryu Murakami with his novel Sixty-Nine being a nice place to end a list of 69 Japanese contemporary novels. I would say I have read about half of the books on the list – and it was quite nice to find some new names while I was researching this list – Mari Akasaka and Hitomi Kanehara being two new finds I will have to track down.

I wonder if I missed any contemporary Japanese authors? Japan does have a huge publishing industry – and those authors who make it to translation into English are the cream of the crop. I left off authors such as Konno Abe, whose work, despite being post-modern in nature doesn’t fit into the realm of the contemporary.

This list was inspired by upstairsforthinking‘s list of books from the Guardian’s List of Top 100 Books of All Time that he hasn’t read.

16 Comments, Comment or Ping

  1. Amy Yamada. She was reasonably popular in the 1990s and has had works translated into English. Hitomi Kanehara, who you mentioned, lists her as one of her inspirations. Her work generally falls into the “romance” category, which I can’t say I really enjoy. Snakes & Earrings is worth a read but doesn’t quite measure up to the two Murakamis in my humble opinion. Of the list you have above, I like Haruki Murakami’s Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World and Banana Yoshimoto’s Kitchen best. Nice one. Will check out some of the others…

  2. Robin Guest

    Yoko Ogawa (my fav Japanese author at the moment):
    The Diving Pool (three novellas) and
    The Professor and The Housekeeper

    Also Taichi Yamada – I Haven’t Dreamed of Flying For Quite A While (excellent)
    Yasutaka Tsutsui – Hell (didn’t like this one)

  3. George Miller

    Steven Gerard Farrell’s 2010 novel, “Zen Babe,” is a thriller set in Japan right before the outbreak of the war. It involves Buddhism, Baseball, Soviet Spies, terrorist groups and the Japanese secret police.

  4. Zen Babe sounds interesting so thanks for the comment and I will pick up a copy if I see one.

  5. Gracie Parker

    I practive both Tai-Chi and meditation on my spare time. It is really good for general health.::-

  6. Thanks for the recommendations. I just bought four books on your list! I’m currently reading Kafka on the Shore. Are there any other cultures or genres where you can find literature that’s reminiscent of the Murakamis? I know Rushdie writes pretty fantastic stories, but I’m not really a fan. His work doesn’t seem to carry the same weight. Thanks!


    Hello from Italy :-)
    I’ve just finished reading “Kafka on the shore” by Harumi Murakami and I’ve loved it! I’ve started “Norwegian Wood” … this author’s way of writing is addictive..
    These are the first Japanese novels I’ve ever read and I’m going to read plenty… thank you for this list, I’ll certainly read further from it! A big CIAO from Italy ;)

  8. Lyn

    I am thinking about reading Naoko :) . when i read the review, i find it quite interesting:). Have you read that book?:D

  9. 1.norweign wood – favourite
    2. Kafka on the shore- second favourite
    3. Out – cant stop reading.
    4. Grotesque ( not the best/ but still enjoyable and disturbing)
    5. After dark (not great)

    thanks for the list
    i will make sure to read more,
    and post more feedbacks.

  10. Ayush Raj

    Thanks. Your article has inspired me.

  11. kristine

    Hey, you didn’t include Kazuo Ishiguro.

    Never Let Me Go – favorite/2010 movie
    When We Were Orphans
    The Unconsoled
    A Pale View of the Hills
    Remains of the Day – already in a film

  12. Ayat Melhim

    Really thanks to this great list. It helped me ,as a curious girl from the Middle East ,to have a closer look at the japanese society. In fact, I have not finished reading all the novels that mentioned in this list ,but I feel I should tell that ‘In a Norwigan Wood’ was ,unfortunately,the worst! It was really boring and full of love story cliches . Anyway, I will continue reading indeed.

  13. symeg

    Yes, Norwegian Wood was a bit tough going – the one book of his I never finished. Thank you for your comment Ayat.

  14. sarah

    This is a very complete list of Contemporary Japanese Novels, so I was hoping that somehow this expertise could solve a riddle, of sorts. I’m desperately trying to remember the title of a book by a Japanese author. That seems to be the only tangible (searchable) thing I can remember about it. (And I’ve had such little luck I’m starting to doubt it IS by a Japanese author.) Anyway, basic plot, that I can remember, is the main character is writing to the reader in a journal-like, historical-account-type-way. He wears a mask, that he has made and is very elaborate, but it doesn’t quite pass for a real face. It’s creepy and psychological. Something about a neighbor kid giving the guy a yo-yo. Any help appreciated. You seem like THE internet expert. (Believe it or not.)

  15. Yolanda

    Thanks for your list – I will definitely delve into it!
    I just read ‘Out’ by Natsuo Kirino and it is a gripping, fascinating read. It is highly recommendable and I can’t stop thinking about it. A real gem…. I just ordered ‘Grotesque’ and ‘Real World’ from the same author (both available in English).

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