11 Best Japanese Novels 2022

Are you looking for the best Japanese Novels to kill your boredom with some good reading? You’re at the right place. 

I’d say that the books are a storehouse of knowledge and information and they have always rescued me by helping keep the ominous thoughts at bay. Authors write in such a way that something always holds me back to complete it as soon as possible. 

Best Japanese Novels: Summary

Best Japanese NovelsAuthorView on Amazon
The Tale of Genji Royall TylerView on Amazon
Snow Country Yasunari KawabataView on Amazon
The Silent Cry Kenzaburo OeView on Amazon
Kokora Natsume SosekiView on Amazon
The Narrow Road to the Deep North and Other Travel Sketches Matsuo Basho View on Amazon
The Sailor Who Fell From Grace with the Sea Yukio MishimaView on Amazon
Out: A Thriller Natsuo KirinoView on Amazon
The Wind up a Bird Chronicle: A Novel Haruki MurakamiView on Amazon

Are you an avid reader? If so, you should definitely add some Japanese novels in your to be read list. Japanese Novels are one of the best language novels I’ve ever read. 

I love reading Japanese novels and today, I have brought to you the best Japanese novels that you definitely need to read. Continue reading to find out the best titles that you need to get.

Top Japanese Novels

The Tale of Genji

famous japanese novels

Here is one of the top known Japanese novels that you will enjoy reading because of its subject and construction. First of all, this novel is known as the first novel of Japan and it talks about the son of an emperor who is denied succession.

 The novel has beautiful and artistic descriptions that will lead you to learn about medieval Japan and the courtly life of that period. The prince, who is denied of succession, is an intellectual and crafty man with a great personality.

 The author, Royall Tyler had used his poetic capabilities to write about contemporary Japan and has truly justified it. Readers are absolutely going to love the novel and will definitely relate to the old and contemporary life. 

If you are somebody who loves reading books that have an epic and ancient history, then for sure this is a great choice for you! It is definitely the best classic Japanese literature and also one of the best Japanese novels.

This was on my list of Japanese novels to read for a long time and I recently completed it. I got to know a lot about the history of medieval Japan and also it’s written very beautifully.

Key Features:

  • An ancient tale of contemporary Japan
  • The artistic nature of the novel is amazing
  • Beautiful and poetic descriptions 
  • Events described chronologically 


  • Easy to read: 8.5/10
  • Plotline: 10/10


list of japanese novels

Kitchen is one of the best Japanese novels of all time that I read very recently. I instantly fell in love with the plot and how the characters develop with each passing page. 

Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto is a novel that tells the story of two women who are coping with loss. One woman, Mikuni, is coping with the death of her mother, while the other woman, Yoji, is coping with the death of her brother. The novel follows their lives as they try to find themselves in a world without their loved ones. 

It is a story about grief, love, loss, and about how we cope with tragedy and how we find our way in the aftermath of grief. I read it during my tough times and it was extremely comforting. The kitchen in this novel becomes a metaphor for snuggling up with a cup of tea for warmth after a bad day. 

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Key features:

  • Easy to read
  • Comforting book
  • beautiful character development


  • Easy to read: 9/10
  • Plotline: 9.5/10

Kafka On The Shore

japanese novels to read

This is one of the famous Japanese novels of Murakami that literally blew my mind. I still think about this novel very often. While I found this novel a little tough to read but the process was fun.  

Kafka on the Shore is a novel by Japanese author Haruki Murakami. On one level, it is the story of Kafka Tamura, a 15-year-old boy who runs away from home to escape his father’s suffocating love and finds himself living in a strange world where he meets talking cats and spirit women.

But at a deeper level, the novel also explores some of the most fundamental questions about life and meaning.

 What is our purpose in life? What happens when we die? Is there an afterlife? Murakami asks these questions in a way that is both deeply philosophical and also full of humor and surrealism. The end result is a thought-provoking, mind-bending read that will leave you in a different state after reading it. 

Key features:

  • Bestseller
  • psychological thriller
  • Humour with surrealism


  • Easy to read: 7.5/10
  • Plotline: 9.5/10

Snow Country 

Japanese novels pdf

Snow Country is a famous Japanese novel written by Yasunari Kawabata who is a Nobel prize winner. He is one of the beloved authors known for his creative ways of writing. 

Although he has penned many great works, to choose one, Snow Country is one of the best of all. In this novel, he has made descriptions extremely lovable by the readers. 

Basically, it is about a love tale between a man from Tokyo who loves a girl from the mountains. Although both these lovers know the outcome of their affair, still they continue their romance. The author has used poetic descriptions for love and sadness.

Key features:

  • A love story of western Japan 
  • Written by famous Japanese novelist 
  • Love, sadness, and doomed romance
  • Creative descriptions with a poetic touch 

The Silent Cry

classic japanese novels

The Silent Cry is written by Kenzaburo Oe who is also a Nobel Prize winner. He often writes novels on topics that are all about family matters. We all have seen issues in family relations and that is what this novel beautifully explains.

 In the plot story, two brothers, one who lives in Tokyo and another in the USA, reunite again at their old ancestral place. Over there, they face many problems because of the secrets revealed by others and a lot of politics takes place.

 Since both the brothers live in a different environment, a change in lifestyle and personality is visible. This novel is all about reflecting the change that takes place with time in relationships. It is amongst the best Japanese novels of all times.

Key features:

  • Novel related to family affairs
  • Describes the change of lifestyle 
  • Amazing description of characters 
  • Family politics that comes with pain


best classic japanese literature

Here is another novel that is written by Japan’s beloved author Natsume Soseki. This novel is introspective and spiritual. In the novel, there are stories about the change that took place when people were shifting from traditional to western Japan. 

The story revolves around a relationship between a student and an anti-feminist old man who is away from his own relations. It has good character development and the themes of loneliness and guilt are highlighted appropriately. 

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It is a great novel to understand the change taking place in society. This is amongst the top 50 novels in Japan 

Key features:

  • Novel that reflects society appropriately 
  • Themes like guilt and loneliness talked about
  • Revolves around the balance of relationships
  • Talks about the change for old to new norms of society

The Narrow Road to the Deep North 

This novel is a masterpiece of writer Basho because he has used both styles of prose and poetry in writing about beautiful nature. He is one of the known writers who has represented the Japanese period in his poetry in the most unique way. 

In this novel, Basho is travelling and writes what he is exploring. He describes nature, seasons, rain, waterfall, forest, etc. This novel is meant to make people realize the beauty of nature as compared to the materialistic world.  Best Japanese novels will definitely have this in its count.

Key Features:

  • Realization of the natural world
  • Talks about the transformation of people’s choice
  • Poetry and prose style to describe nature
  • Immortalizing the beauty of nature

The Sailor Who Fell From Grace with the Sea

sample of Japanese Literature

This novel can be highly beneficial to read because it talks about a very genuine topic that is going on in today’s world. It targets the youth that does wrong without finding the logic behind the thing.

 A boy, who is friends with a group of people who are against the adult world because according to them it is highly sentimental, sanctimonious, and false. 

This novel is one of the known ones from Japanese literature and highlights political metaphor. It is one of the best Japanese novels by Yukio Mishima.

Key features:

  • Targets the vicious youth 
  • Hypocrisy and self-righteousness 
  • Political metaphor in the world
  • A known novel of Japanese literature 

Out: A Thriller

japanese novels online

Another masterpiece of Japanese literature that brings out the problems that women face in reality. Situations that drive them crazy and make them take steps that are not suitable. 

In this novel, a woman, who works late nights in making boxed lunches kills her husband who doesn’t behave nicely towards her. 

This is one of the best japanese novels in English that will actually blow your mind.

This novel is about this brutal murder and the brutal reality of society. You will surely be able to relate to this novel as we ourselves see and face situations like this. Out is definitely one of the best Japanese novels.

Key Features:

  • A novel that reflects the reality of Japan
  • About the murder of a husband
  • Terribly treated women
  • Tension-filled plot

The Wind up a Bird Chronicle: A Novel

Japanese novels for beginners

This one is a Japanese literature novel as it talks about existential crises and anxieties deeply while bringing out an amazing story with it. This novel is the crowning achievement of the author.

 This novel has many themes and also has menace and comedy elements to keep the flow. In the story, set in Tokyo, a young man is searching for his wife and her cat.

 The author has used his imagination and creative genius to make this novel a great masterpiece. Murakami is one of the best Japanese novels author of all times.

This is one of the famous Japanese novels to read if you’re an avid reader.

Key Features:

  • Magnum opus work
  • Talks about existential crisis and different other themes
  • A creative and imaginative story
  • Comedy and menace elements

Rashomon by Ryunosuke Akutagawa

The theme in this beautiful Japanese novel highlights the core of Japanese honor. Rashomon by Akutagawa is about a servant who is contemplating to continue fighting or give up when he meets a girl who has already made her choice.

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This Japanese novel truly brings forward the Japanese spirit of fighting till the end. This Japanese book is usually sold along with a collection of other Japanese novels which is also written by Akutagawa!

Which is the best Japanese novel?

I am a voracious reader and so, I have read numerous Japanese novels. These novels keep me addicted and hooked to the plot. However, out of all the books, the best one is Out by Natsuo Kirino.

Out: A Thriller is written by Natsuo Kirino. Out is a  novel that brings out the problems faced by women on a regular basis. Our novel reflects the reality of Japan. It is about the murder of a husband and how terribly women are treated. The plot of Out creates a Tension-filled scenario. You can find it on Amazon for $12.99 

Best Japanese Novels: FAQs

Who is the most popular Japanese novelist to be translated into English?

Haruki Murakami is the most celebrated Japanese novelist to be translated into English. Murakami’s work is translated into 50 other languages. Some of his popular works are: Kafka on the Shore, Norwegian Woods, 1Q84 etc.

What is Japan’s best-selling novel?

The best-selling novel in Japan is Natsume Soseki’s Kokoro, which has sold more than 2 million copies. Kokoro is a novel by Natsume Soseki written in 1914. It tells the story of a young man, Yonekura Kiyoaki, and his friendship with an older man, Matsumoto Senshin. The title Kokoro can be translated as either “heart” or “mind”.

Is Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata worth reading?

Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata is definitely worth reading! Set in the late 1920s to early 1930s, it tells the story of a love affair between a Tokyo man and a woman from a remote hot spring town in the mountains. It’s incredibly well-written, with beautiful prose that really captures the feeling of being in that particular place and time. Plus, it’s a great study of human relationships and how they can both sustain and ultimately destroy us.

Books for all your moods!

What is a better feeling than reading a good book all cuddled up in your quilt with a mug of coffee, such is the vibe that the Japanese novels have. The Japanese literature has managed to secure itself a loyal fan base in the world and that too for all the right reasons. 

I strongly believe that the books we invest our time in expand our sphere of knowledge and shape our opinions. They have a major impact on how we decide to conduct ourselves in this journey called life. 

Japanese literature has had a significant and noteworthy journey. These books at the very same time give you a major insight into the Japanese culture and customs. It will be hard for you to go to sleep midway, take that from me!

I personally believe books are the most thoughtful invention of mankind. They have the power to make you feel all the emotions at once which a human is capable of experiencing: anger, love, calmness, agony, and so on. I know you will agree!

During the pandemic, many people found themselves at the edge and turned to a good book for comfort.

Don’t worry if you don’t feel like reading these novels with a paperback, you can always look for these japanese novels online. Some japanese novels pdf versions are also available on the net. 

The Japanese authors have expressed themselves in such a profound manner that the readers cannot help but relate to the content matter. They will keep you enthralled no matter the genre.

Best Japanese novels

Out: A Thriller

Here are the best Japanese Novels for you to read! Do check out Out: Thriller which is the best Japanese novel in the list. Read further to know more.

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