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I have seen a lot of Youtubers and Bloggers take part in something called “Japanese June” before, they only read Japanese Lit books throughout the month. I am going to be doing it this year but first, I am going to tell you about my Top 5 Japanese Literature books. I basically love anything Japanese, books, culture, food, anime etc etc. I first got into reading Japanese literature a few years ago and have loved reading it ever since-these books are NOT in order, that would be impossible.
A TALE FOR THE TIME BEING BY RUTH OZEKI
This book is about Nao, a 16 year old, Japanese American girl living in Tokyo. She has decided that there is only one escape from her depression but before she ends it all she decides to document the life of her great-grandmother. This book is from 2 different viewpoints, Nao and a American writer Ruth living in America who finds Nao’s diary in a Hello Kitty lunchbox washed up on the beach, after the tsunami that struck Japan is 2011. Ruth becomes extremely interested in reading about Nao’s life. Nao struggles socially, she gets bullied a lot, her father has lost his job, they are quite poor, things like this are hard to read about but reflect what is actually happening in the world. My favourite parts of this book is the fact that you learn SO much about Japanese contemporary culture like maid cafes for example. I also loved every part when Nao talks about her grandmother and how she is a Buddhist Monk, these parts of the book are so spiritual and inspiring. There are a some words in this book that are in Japanese and at the bottom of each page it will explain what it means and translate it into English. This adds to an AMAZING reading experience, especially if you are interested in Japanese culture. Overall such a lovely lovely book.
BATTLE ROYALE BY KOUSHUN TAKAMI
A lot of you might know the story of this book, it is the book that inspired The Hunger Games but let me tell you, this book is BRUTAL. A class of junior high school students get taken to a deserted island where as part of a program they have to kill each other until there is only one survivor. You find out which students are willing to kill their classmates to survive and who is not and just how far these students will go to survive. There is character development so you will have your favourites which will keep you on edge because you never know what will happen to them. Battle Royale has themes of brutal violence and death. It is a very dark and twisted book with 650 pages that you will be turning so fast to find out what happens next. Much better than The Hunger Games in so many ways. I would honestly read it again-for a full view of this book go here.
IN THE MISO SOUP BY RYU MURAKAMI
Just under 200 pages, this book is a unique dark, twisted unique read. It is about a American tourist called Frank who has hired Kenji a Japanese student to take him around the nightlife in Toyko, more specifically the “red light district”. Kenji starts to think that Frank’s behaviour is odd and he thinks he has murderous desires. He thinks that Frank is in fact the serial killer currently terrorising the city they are in. The conversations between these two main characters are really something else, almost uncomfortable to read but you cannot stop reading. I love this book because I had never read anything like it before. You will read this so fast because you will want to know what happens next. Whilst reading this book, your heart will beat fast, you will feel adrenaline and if that isn’t a good book than what is? Not only is it a unique interesting read but it also teaches you a lot about contemporary Japanese culture beyond sushi, comics, manga, anime and video games etc. It has been described as a “savage thriller” which I 100% agree with. I mean look at the front cover of this book, do I need to say anything else?
COIN LOCKER BABIES BY RYU MURAKAMI
Okay, so another Ryu Murakami book. Can you tell I like him? Coin Locker Babies is about two boys called Kiku and Hashi who were abandoned in coin lockers as babies, they are taken to the same orphanage and raised as brothers. I honestly do not know how to describe this book, this is what it says on the back of it,
“Toxitown, where the freaks and hustlers of Tokyo live and the chemicals can melt your face off; an explosively violent reunion live on camera; an otherworldly beauty with a gigantic crocodile; volatile rock stardom; competitive pole vaulting and a substance that could end the world” .
This book is full of random things but that is what makes it so brilliant, much like In The Miso Soup this book is BIZARRE and BRUTAL. Kiku and Hashi are such unique characters, you will fall in love with the them. Described as “deliciously grotesque” you will be hooked once reading the first few lines which I cannot repeat online because it is so shocking. Almost dystopian like and this book massively reminded of anime, as I was reading this, I imagined it to be an anime series which I LOVED. I never wanted this book to end.
NORWEGIAN WOOD BY HARUKI MURAKAMI
Norwegian Wood is the first book by this very famous author that I read. It is one of the most popular books by him and is absolutely brilliant. It is about a man called Toru Watanabe who hears a version of the Beatles’ Norwegian Wood, and the music transports him back 18 years to his college days where he was in love with a girl called Naoko, the girlfriend of his best friend. The rest of the book tells you all about his college days and his romantic relationships and his unique friendships. It is also about how he copes with love, sex, tragedy, and loss. It is interesting to read about what Toru gets up to during these years and the unique friends he made and many parts of this book had me laughing. I love Murakami’s writing style and how he goes into lots of little detail but still keeps you interested. Lots of unique characters makes this book such an enjoyable read. For a full review of Norwegian Book click here.
(TRIGGER WARNING: all of these books contains themes of either sex, r*pe, drugs, death, mental health, depression, suicide, self harm, bullying, violence, crime). Do not let this put you off they are all BRILLIANT books.
Have you read any of these? Do you like the sound of any of them?
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Thanks for reading xxx