Reading List for Japanese Culture!

All of the books below I have read in part or whole (some I have written about) and highly recommend if you are studying Japanese literature or even the language, after all, language is culture.



Joe's Top Ten Must Reads:
  1. Ki no Tsurayuki's Tosa Nikki (土佐日記) 935
  1. Murasaki Shikibu's The Tale of Genji Translated by Royall Tyler (源氏物語) 11th century
  1. Mori Ogai's The Dancing Girl (舞姫) 1890
  1. Natsume Soseki's Kokoro (心) 1914
  1. Tanizaki Junichiro's Naomi (痴人の愛) 1924-1947
  1. Kawabata Yasunari's Snow County (雪国) 1935-1937
  1. Mishima Yukio's Confessions of a Mask (仮面の告白) 1948
  1. Dazai Osamu's No Longer Human (人間失格) 1948
  1. Oe Kenzaburo's The Catch (飼育) 1957
  1. Murakami Haruki's A Wild Sheep Chase (羊をめぐる冒険) 1982
Supplementary Material
  • Donald Keene: Donald Keene the godfather of Japanese literary criticism. Arguably, there is no one who has contributed more to the interpretation of Japanese literature than this man.
  • Tanizaki Junichiro: Not only was he a talented writer, but Tanizaki also had a very good understanding of Japanese aesthetics. The book below is a great book to read in order to further understand many of the subtle aesthetics of Japanese culture, which will in turn help you understand many of the deeper meanings of the themes in the works above.
  • Theodore W. Goossen: He has written extensively on the matter of short stories. In, arguably, his most popular book you will find a great selection and interpretation of Japanese short stories. He also has a great book he wrote with Ryusaku Tsunoda about Japanese literary traditions.
  • Shirane Haruo: Shirane has a well-respected amount of published works. One of his works offers an excellent literary criticism of Tale of Genji.
Readings on Japanese History
Readings on Language/Culture
  • Roger Davies & Osamu Ikeno's The Japanese Mind (2010) - This is book offers a number a essays that attempt to define some of Japanese most culturally rich terms.
  • Senko K. Maynard's Japanese Communication: Language and Thought in Context (1997) - A great read that attempts to explain much of the Japanese culture through language. She has song sharp criticism of Nakane (see below) but overall a great perspective on Japanese communication.
  • Chie Nakane's Japanese Society (1972) - A foundational work, for sure, on Japanese societal practices and the reasons behind them.

This was a difficult list to come up with as there is so much missing from it. But this should give you a good start.
Especially with regard to the earlier works I have listed above, it's very important you supplement your reading of these works with literary criticism and interpretation. I cannot emphasis how important this is especially with Japanese literature as there are so many hidden meanings within each of these powerful texts.

Enjoy, and let me know what you think if you have read or will read any of these, thanks!

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