Japanese Translated Fiction recommendations

August might be over but that doesn't mean we should stop reading translated work if it's not Women in Translation Month.


August might be over but that doesn’t mean we should stop reading translated work if it’s not Women in Translation Month. Hence, today we are delighted to recommend 10 Japanese translated fiction. We are also highlighting the books that are written by a female author and books that are translated by a female translator.

What you are looking for is in the library by Michiko Aoyama
translated by Alison Watts

  • Female writer and female translator!

First of all, 100% agreement with the title — if you want a lighthearted fiction that will bring your spirits up, or if you want a reference book that will solve your problem, the library always has something for you. The librarian in real life might not give you a frying pan to go along with your books (read the book) but you get the point. Following 5 people who venture into a special library where the librarian knows just the perfect recommendations, plus some other obscure recommendation that might not be apparent as well, this book has just the perfect touch of magical realism that defines Japanese fiction.


Life Ceremony by Sayaka Murata
translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori

  • Female writer and female translator!

Life Ceremony is a collection of brilliant short stories that are so creepy and extraordinary that you will definitely be amazed by Sayaka Murata’s brain. From the title story that explores a type of funeral / life ceremony where you cook the deceased in order to honour them, to a story that explores peculiar eating habits, Life Ceremony manages to start brilliant conversations about social norms and the society. You should also check out Convenience Store Woman and Earthlings. 


Breasts and Eggs by Mieko Kawakami
translated by Sam Bett and David Boyd

  • Female writer!

Barbie might be the summer movie for beauty standards, and being a woman in a patriarchal society but Breasts and Eggs is the book for this topic. This is a particularly important issue in Japan as the views are more traditional compared to the Western society. In Breasts and Eggs, Mieko Kawakami covers a lot of the female experiences and explores thoroughly different opinions in this complex conversation. You should also check out her other book, Heaven, and her interviews done on related issues to understand her brilliant mind.


Lonely Castle in the Mirror by Mizuki Tsujimura
translated by Philip Gabriel

  • Female writer!

Lonely Castle in the Mirror feels like a YA retelling of The Breakfast Club, especially one that tailors to Japan’s bullying and suicide problem. The story is set in a very interesting setup — 7 teenagers get pulled into a magical castle, where they have one year to find a key and make a wish. With just the hint of magical realism, the book touches upon loneliness, the pressure teenagers face in Japan, and human connection. You should also definitely check out the manga and anime film adaption that came out in 2022.


Weasels in the Attic by Hiroko Oyamada
translated by David Boyd

  • Female writer!

Weasels in the Attic features 3 short stories that centre around the theme of motherhood in the patriarchal society. Following a narrator who has been unable to have kids with his wife, Hiroko Oyamada cleverly highlights how motherhood, which is supposed to be mainly a woman’s issue, often becomes some issue that is discussed by outsiders.



She and her Cat by Makoto Shinkai and Naruki Nagakawa
translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori

  • Female translator!

Written by the filmmaker that produced Your Name, She and her Cat was originally a 5 minute animation short from 1999 that followed a cat’s perspective from living in her owner. The story led to anime and manga spinoffs in 2016, and is now finally captured in book form. The book switches perspectives between cats and their humans and their stories are linked cleverly. It is particularly interesting to read from the cats’ perspective and it definitely demonstrates the creativity of Makoto Shinkai. A must for cat lovers.


Finger Bone by Hiroki Takahashi
translated by Takami Nieda

  • Female translator!

This book might be short, but it has a much heavier tone compared to the rest of the books on this list. Named after the fact that deceased soldier’s family only gets the finger instead of the whole body back, this book is a book about World War II. You might have read many books about the World Wars already but it is much rarer to read from the perspective of a Japanese. This book explores friendship and comradery, which, with the War, often come with loneliness and grief.


Rental Person Who Does Nothing by Shoji Morimoto
translated by Don Knotting

This is a fairly short and easy read about Shoji Morimoto, a Japanese who rents out his time to do whatever you request. Be it just someone who is there for you, or someone who joins you to do a difficult task, Shoji Morimoto is ready to be the person you need. The memoir reads like an interview so you get to understand what prompted his ‘career’. What’s more important is that from reading this book, you will understand why sometimes we seek out conversations and supports from strangers instead of close friends and family members. You will also understand that sometimes why the best thing we can offer to our friends is just our presence, and not (unsolicited) advice.


Before the coffee gets cold by Toshihazu Kawaguchi
translated by 
Geoffrey Trousselot

Before the coffee gets cold is book 1 of a growing Japanese series. The 4th book in the series, Before we say goodbye, just got released. Another perfect example showcasing magical realism in Japanese literature, this series is centered around a café that sends its patrons to the past, albeit with a set of rules.




The Decagon House Murders by Yukito Ayatsu
translated by Ho-Ling Wong

Book 1 of a murder mystery series, this is a classic in the Japanese detective fiction scene. First published in 1987, The Decagon House Murders follows the tricks seen in Agatha Christie’s And Then There Was None. Aimed to be a murder mystery that readers can solve as they read, this book is gripping and has fun bits such as characters having nicknames based on American and European mystery writers, and of course, maps! Book 2, The Mill House Murders, is now available as well.




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