Lost in literature
Haruki Murakami is one of the most popular Japanese authors across the globe, with multiple translations of his work.
Japanese authors have been highly successful with their works, taking the English-speaking world by storm
Japanese literature enjoys a rich and varied history of growth and transformation, from early writings in the medieval era up to the modern, contemporary style. Japanese literature has grown over the years to develop their own style of prose and poetry.
In contemporary times, popular Japanese literature has grown to include fiction and manga (comics), where both adults and children are able to enjoy literature in new art forms. Japanese novels are famous for their slice-of-life approach, placing character development over narrative progression; the focus is on knowing oneself and recognizing the impermanence of the world around you.
In this manner, contemporary novels tend to be socially critical, providing a deep analysis of the current society, though the plot itself may not have much substance.
One immensely popular example of this style is Haruki Murakami, a Japanese author whose works have been translated to over 50 languages across the world. Born in 1949 in Kyoto, he attended the Waseda University and opened a small jazz bar with his wife during his early adult years.
His first novel, Hear the Wind Sing (1979) was awarded the Gunzou Literature Prize. Over the years, he has won multiple awards, including the Hans Christian Andersen Literature Award, the Yomiuri Prize for The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, the Tanizaki Prize for Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, and more. One popular recommendation is Kafka on the Shore (2002).
Banana Yoshimoto, the pen-name of Japanese author Mahoko Yoshimoto, is a popular author whose themes revolve around the ideas of love, friendship, family, and loss. She was born in Tokyo in 1964, and began her writing career while she worked as a waitress in a golf club in 1987.
Her first novel, Kitchen (1987) is about the lives of three people - a mother, her son, and their neighbour. A popular novel of hers is Moshi Moshi (2014); the protagonist struggles in a new city and tackles the loss of his father, and develops a relationship with his mother when she moves into the cramped apartment with him. The novel is in turns hilarious, dark, sad, and poignant; making this a must-read.
A rising Japanese novelist is Hideo Furukawa, born in 1966 in Fukushima, and his stories are rich and experimental; he does not have one particular style but constantly changes with every novel he releases.
His novel Horses, Horses, in the End the Light Remains Pure (2011), revolves around the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdowns that took place in Fukushima, Japan, In March, 2011. The novel begins as a memoir, later slides into metafiction, pivoting to Japanese military history, and turns back into a memoir. He highlights the effects of human society on animals, and depicts an accurate reality via the eyes of animals.
Hiromi Kawakami first started writing after graduating from Ochanomizu Women's College in 1980, beginning with short stories in science fiction magazines. She published her first work, Kamisama in 1994.
She won the Akutagawa Prize for Hebi wo fumi (Record of a Night Too Brief) (1996), and later received the Tanizaki Prize for Sensei no kaban (Strange Weather in Tokyo) (2001). Her works have been adapted into films and translated into over 15 languages. One recommendation is Furudogu nakano shoten (The Nakano Thrift Shop) (2005), a story set in a city about retail workers in a thrift shop. She shows us the beauties of a small world, inviting wonder into the everyday.
Banana Yoshimoto, pen-name of Mahoko Yoshimoto, writes about love, loss, friendship, and family.
Hideo Furukawa's works are heavily experimental, and cannot be confined to one style or genre.
Hiromi Kawakami's novels show us the beauty behind the everyday.