What Is Your Favourite Japanese Book?

A tough questions but I’m curious, what is your favourite book (or books) that you read in Japanese?

What novel(s), non-fiction, or manga did you absolutely love to read? One that you would recommend everyone tries. Why was it so good?

And is it on Natively so other people can check it out? :grin:

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I’ll start.

わたし、定時で帰ります。 “I Will Go Home on Time”

As someone working in Japan this novel hit way too close to home.

The protagonist is marred by her father and then her ex-fiance ALMOST killing themselves from overwork and swears she will never, ever work overtime. But she has to combat other people in her company who embody Japanese societal norms and expectations for working overtime. Because if she doesn’t she might be dragged to stay at work herself.

Honestly this was a roller coaster of a read and it had me feeling intense frustration and intense joy as the protagonist combatted the various aspects of Japanese overtime culture.

Great for: N2/N1 level Japanese with lots of business terminology.

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Oh, that sounds pretty neat! I just added it to my wishlist.


In my case, my favorite light novel series is 本好きの下剋上 (series) | L31. It’s hard to get into the details of why I like it so much without spoilers. It’s an isekai series and the main character was an absolute bookworm in her previous life, which gave her knowledge of many things™. In her new life, she starts pretty much at the bottom of the social ladder and a lifetime of work would probably not be enough to afford a single book. Based on that, she swears she will manage to get surrounded by books eventually anyway (her dream job is to be a librarian), which prompts her on a quest to climb said social ladder (as the title of the series implies).


Some of my favorite manga series are NANA―ナナ― (series) | L29 and 風の谷のナウシカ (コミック) 1 | L35. Nana for the drama and ナウシカ for the world building and design.
In terms of things I have read more recently that I enjoyed a lot, I guess I can also mention ホテル・メッツァペウラへようこそ 1巻 | L23 (because of the atmosphere and good looking men cough the atmosphere, yes), ダンジョン飯 (series) | L29, とんがり帽子のアトリエ (series) | L28 (both fantasy), ゆるキャン△ (series) | L26, ヨコハマ買い出し紀行 (series) | L23, 宝石の国 (series) | L27, and ARIA (series) | L21 (for the atmosphere)

There are a couple thrillers I liked as well: PLUTO (series) | L35 and 寄生獣 (series) | L26

… and there’s still more that I liked or felt strongly interested in, but at this point, I feel like I’m going to end up posting half my manga library…


In terms of actual novel, it’s hard to pick up a single one, since there’s usually always something that I don’t like, or I like it but it’s borderline a light novel, or there’s some controversial content, etc…
I guess I would go with 天冥の標 (series) | L36. It’s basically a hard SF series that won the Japanese SF prize a couple of years ago. I really enjoyed the first part, but then there’s a huge time skip between parts (500 years, then 200~300 years) which made me lose interest a bit, and I am currently putting that series on hold. I am planning to get back to it at some point, though (and hopefully the series will get back to characters I already know).

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I’ve got three favorites, for different reasons and audiences.

64 | L36 I absolutely loved. If you like cop dramas, specifically ones where the drama is coming from inside the house then this is for you. Great atmosphere, great characterizations, and a writing style I just adored. :heart_eyes:

おやすみ、夢なき子 | L30 is for anyone who likes trashy novels with lots of sex, murder, and tangled relationships. I recommend reading the thematic warnings in my review if you have anything you’re squeamish about, but it’s pure :popcorn: I can’t remember reading another Japanese book of the same length (500+ pages) so quickly. I just didn’t want to put it down.

and finally, すべての神様の十月 | L26 which I keep hoping someone else will read :joy: I’m a little leery on whether I graded the difficulty appropriately or not and so far have not had anyone even attempt it :sweat_smile: It’s a series of lightly connected short stories about Japanese gods interacting with regular humans. I loved the writing style, the mood, the characters. It’s not the deepest book but it’s gosh darn enjoyable and I also read it super quickly,
Unfortunately I picked up the sequel and just couldn’t get that into it, will probably revisit that another time.

@Naphthalene I’m going to try to finish 2 books (心霊探偵八雲 and 硝子の塔の殺人) that I have started and then finally begin on 本好き. I can probably knock out the rest of 心霊探偵 tonight but I have probably ~2 weeks left of reading for 硝子の塔の殺人 as I’m balancing it against WK book club books :sweat_smile:

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That sounds like something I might enjoy, indeed :eyes: My unread pile is getting unreal though (30 books and counting), sooooo it might take a while for me to get to it.

Nice! I wanted to like your post for that, but it turns out I have somehow managed to reach the daily limit already :sweat_smile:

Edit: just as I said that, my trust level got upgraded through direct divine intervention :sweat_smile: so have the like, then.

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My favorite manga is 不機嫌なモノノケ庵 (series) | L25. It’s about two human high school boys - one who has just started to see youkai and one who has been living with them and been on their side for most of his life - helping youkai with various requests. There’s also a mystery linked to both of them that slowly unfolds in the background until it becomes the main plot. I really like the growth of trust between the main characters, the worldbuilding, the mostly adorable and occasionally scary youkai designs (including the titular tearoom youkai that loves kaomoji), and how it never quite loses it lightness but also has surprisingly serious and dark moments as the plot progresses.

(@cat I have すべての神様の十月 | L26 on my Kobo wishlist to check out when I finish one of my current books - it looks interesting!)

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I have it on my list, but generally I don’t enjoy short story collections, so I’m reluctant to give it a try. Maybe someday though…

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Ok I will take on this challenge. Just bought it used from Amazon.jp. It seems like a pretty easy read.

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I’m gonna be :mag: :male_detective: :eyes: snooping through this thread because it’s gonna be a goldmine…I can’t wait to find some good reads! Thanks for starting this

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Great thread! I really like reading other people’s favourites as a way of getting to know them better. Or, well, I at least like the idea of it.

If manga counts, since I am still reading my first novel, then it’s between MONSTER (series) | L34 and バガボンド (series) | L28. I am incapable of choosing.

There are a few others that I think have the potential to be good candidates, but that I’ve only read a small part of, such as Berserk and 不滅のあなたへ.


Monster

Monster (edit: the following section spoils the beginning of the story, but since it is the premise for the actual story, it’s arguable whether it’s within spoiler territory or not) tells the story of a Japanese neurosurgeon working in late 20th century Germany, while the Berlin wall was still standing. One night, he gets an emergency call and needs to head into the hospital straight away to undertake a surgery on a young boy who’s sustained a gunshot wound to the head. Just as he’s about to start, the chief of the surgery department rushes into the operation room. The mayor has suffered a heart attack and is being brought to the hospital at this moment. Because of our MC’s skills, the department head wants to pull him out of the room and have him prepare to operate on the mayor instead. After all, he’s an important person, and the implications it would have on their hospital if they were to save the mayor’s life… well, priorities and all that. But who will take care of the boy? Oh, this other team will deal with him, don’t worry about that. Seeing who the other team consists of, our MC knows that the boy will not survive. He’s a neurosurgeon, specially trained to perform surgery on people’s brain. They are not. So he refuses. A life is a life, and the boy came into the hospital first. So he operates on the boy. The boy lives, the mayor dies.

This got a bit longer than I expected. I got carried away, sorry. But, the boy turns out to be a serial killer, or so it would seem. A few of the hospital staff, including our MC’s closest ‘competitor’ for promotion, conveniently die, the boy disappears, and the suspicion naturally falls on our MC. He decides to run away, making it his mission to find the boy and ‘right his wrong’, feeling responsible for what he has done, and that’s what the entire series is about. As he is hunting the boy that seems to leave corpses in his wake, the series explores themes of morality, what makes a person good, what makes them bad, and dances along that very grey, fuzzy line between the two, where things get really interesting, and does so while we watch how far our MC is willing to go to correct something he feels responsible for. It is thought-provoking, to say the least. Since the particulars of the plot are never explicitly stated, the reader is left to put together the narrative on their own. I had a lot of fun with this, coming up with several theories, some pretty insane, about what was actually going on.

Monster has stellar writing, and arguably the most realistic characters I have ever seen. The art is also really good. It’s very expressive, and the backdrops are great, with lots of detail, setting the scene.

Vagabond

Vagabond is the story of arguably the most famous Japanese swordsman in history, Miyamoto Musashi. Most people that know about him, know him as a wise old man who wrote the famous work The Book of Five Rings, but in his youth, he appears to have been aggressive, hotheaded, and wild, which is the era that the series explores. The series is based on 宮本武蔵 (series) | L45 by Eiji Yoshikawa from the 30s. It obviously mixes in quite a bit of fiction, but it draws a lot of inspiration from real events, and figures.

The story follows a young Musashi as he becomes consumed by his quest for the right to call himself ‘unparalleled under the skies’, the ultimate swordsman. He gets so consumed by it, in fact, that we end up with interesting commentary on the meaning of winning (or being right), especially to the exclusion of all else, such as how that in itself can be an obstacle to getting there.

It’s almost unreal how good the art in Vagabond is. It’s so good that almost any panel is worth framing in and hanging on the wall. The author will from time to time also experiment with brushes and watercolour, especially for his coloured chapter panels. He is also a master of expressing motion, blowing life into the images. He also has a knack for framing his drawings in an interesting way. Combined, it’s no wonder I often found myself staring at panels, mesmerised.

Also:

The series has unfortunately been on hiatus since 2015, but the last book that has been released thankfully finishes the arc it is a part of, and so it doesn’t feel like it stops in the middle of things.


Is that perchance a reference to the old name for October … ?

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I don’t remember 神無月 coming up but it has been awhile since I read the book :sweat_smile:

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So I can’t say I’ve read enough (light/) novels in Japanese to recommend any, sad to say; I’m working on correcting that now. But I can give a shout-out to my two favorite manga!

  1. SILVER DIAMOND 1 | L24??
    The manga that started it all for me, literally in Japanese’s case. This is the sole reason I started learning Japanese, and while it’s no longer my only reason, this series and its mangaka 杉浦志保 still hold a special place in my heart. My avatar here is from SD, in fact!
SD Blurb

This is a shoujo series with some BL vibes. It stars a young man named Rakan; he comes home from school one day and finds a mysterious man collapsed in his garden. A creature attacks them, and after killing it, the man tells Rakan about the dying world he’s from, and how he wants Rakan to go back with him to save it.

SD different Blurb

Rakan lives alone, and the plants in his garden grow so thick and fast that it seems like a jungle. One day a man, holding a gun made of wood, falls right down into his garden. He seems to come from another world, and he’s searching for someone who can bring back the green into his own dark and inhospitable world.

  1. D.Gray-man 1 | L24??
    This one is pretty much my go-to when people ask me for my favorite series, mostly because it’s far more likely they’ve heard of this one than SD. ^_^; There may be some here familiar with the series; it was popular back in the naughts, but entered a period of hiatus in the teens due to the mangaka’s medical issues. It now has a stable, albeit slow, release schedule.
DGM Blurb

(I was going to copy-paste a summary here, but I don’t really like the ones I found, so…) This one is a shounen series; our protagonist is the young Allen Walker. The time is the 19th century. Allen hopes to become an Exorcist, a member of the Black Order, who’s mission is to destroy creatures called Akuma (literally written as アクマ/AKUMA in the Japanese), machines fueled by the souls of the dead, as well as their creator, The Millennium Earl. There’s plenty of action here, as you might expect of a shounen title, but it also delves deep into some pretty heavy themes, both on the side of the bad guys as well as the good.

DGM’s also got a set of light novels of its own (D.Gray-man reverse 1 旅立ちの聖職者 | L29??) of which I can at least say the first one is pretty fun. They cover side stories to the manga, and while I’m not 100% of how canon they are, I do know the last LN was been/is being adapted in the manga right now.

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I recommend Crystal Hunters to everyone. It’s a manga that teaches Japanese and is meant to be used right after someone has learned their Hiragana and Katakana so it’s very beginner friendly. It also gives the reader confidence in reading a whole story in Japanese too. The story has a lot of action and interesting characters so I find it more fun to read then a typical graded reader.

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It made me cry so much. If you like sad but kinda feel-good slice of life, I highly recommend this. Especially, if you have ever been owned by a cat.
It starts a bit slow, but I could barely put it down after a while.

Also this: 禎子の千羽鶴 戦争ノンフィクション | L29

Read it recently, also made me cry. I knew the story but it’s always heartbreaking again and I think everyone should know it.

(I seem to enjoy books that make me cry… that assumption is not wrong… but I do also read happy stuff ;))

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I’ve added so many new books to my reading list now! So many great suggestions.

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Resurrecting an old thread for an excuse to share some of my favorites:

This is a relatively short novel by 夏目漱石 about a proud 江戸っ子 who gets a job as a teacher in rural Shikoku, and immediately clashes with nearly everyone and everything there. It’s a comedy, where you laugh at the pigheaded protagonist’s inability to read a room (ever) and at his exaggerated, self-victimizing interpretations of every situation. You learn to hate the guy, but also occasionally feel just a little bad for him. The writing style reminded me of Huck Finn by Mark Twain, not because of excessive slang (thankfully) but in the sense that it’s a very personal, unreliable narration by the protagonist. It’s a difficult book, but I was still able to enjoy it at the slow pace I had to take.

I’ve read こころ | L39 since reading this, and I definitely prefer the more comedic tone of 坊っちゃん. If you read a more grounded Soseki and found it interesting but not entirely engaging, this might be worth checking out.

This one is an unusual pick; a book written by the YouTube comedy video creator kouichitv. If you don’t know the channel, I highly recommend it if you like fast-paced absurdist comedy (think Vine video energy, but a bit longer) - A FewOf MyFavoriteVideos. This book is two things: a collection of very short comedy stories that sometimes tie into specific classic videos from the channel, and some true stories about the creator and his friends over their time making videos. However, those two things aren’t always kept separate, and there are times when it does a bit of both at once, blurring the line between fact and fiction. I really loved reading this and having no idea what was coming next, but knowing that it would be interesting and/or funny somehow.

I read this series in English, and it’s one of the reasons I decided to learn Japanese. The economics-based plots are a great framing device for classic mystery intrigue, and it’s concrete enough that you could often deduce the answer before Lawrence & Co. do (not that I was able to very often, lol). The two main characters have a really good dynamic, especially in the second part (books 6 and up) of the series. It’s rare for me to actively enjoy romance in stories, but I felt like I could honestly believe these two people were learning to appreciate each other. Don’t expect things to move fast though, it’s a 17 book series that makes use of all of that time.

Some last mentions:

ビブリア古書堂の事件手帖 (1) ~栞子さんと奇妙な客人たち~ | L31 low-stakes (usually) book mysteries. I find the writing style to be fairly straightforward and easy to read quickly.

本好きの下剋上 (series) | L32 is fantastic, but since everyone probably knows that already, I’ll recommend the manga version 【マンガ】本好きの下剋上 (series) | L25 instead. The art is way too adorable to pass up.

And now that we’re talking manga, I can’t not recommend 魔法少女事変 1 | L28. Salaryman becomes magical girl. Impeccable comedic timing and reaction faces. Not sold yet? Book 1 has both of the funniest おまけ漫画 I’ve ever read.

And for one more manga you probably haven’t heard of, 二ノ国 光の後継者と猫の王子 (series) | L24. This is only a 2-volume series, and it tells a very solid story in that time. No prior 二ノ国 knowledge required (I’ve never finished any other media in the series). I feel like almost anything I say about what makes the story interesting would be a spoiler, but… there’s a cool cat boy! The art is also really high quality.

If you’ve read this far, thank you for engaging my desire to tell people about the things I like.
: )

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It’s quite hard to pick one but I’ll say ツバキ文具店. I don’t really think in terms of JLPT levels when I read, but Natively has this book flagged as L34.

It’s about a young woman named Hatoko in Kamakura who inherits her grandmother’s stationery shop and the job of a ghostwriter, sending out letters on behalf of people who can’t seem to put pen to paper. There are description of stationery of course but my favorite thing is when we get to see the letters she writes. Each letter is written on paper that’s meaningful to her client and the intended recipient. She also chooses writing utensils based on that. She uses a different writing style for each one. There’s nothing earth shattering about these letters that she writes, but they’re just comforting to read.

Then there’s another side of the story where we see her get to know her estranged grandmother who has already passed on. She was single-handedly raised by this woman but feels like she doesn’t know her at all. We explore her relationship with her grandmother as well as discovering who this woman was as well as herself.

There are other characters in the book who join in on Hatoko’s journey to exploring her identity and her grandmother’s past. There are no villains, just a bunch of neighborly people who were her grandmother’s friends and confidants. Everyone is supportive of Hatoko in their own way.

Again, nothing earth shattering. I just tend to like books that are like soup on a cold day, I guess?

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