Japanese authors

It’s Time For The Japanese Literature Challenge

It’s been a few years since I joined the Japanese Literature Challenge hosted by Meredith at DolceBezzellla.net. It just so happens that this month’s book club read is by an author from Japan so the coincidence is too great to ignore.

The challenge runs for three months until 31st March and is the kind of reading event I like because it doesn’t involve any requirements to read a specific number of books. Plus it’s perfectly in line with my decision to have a more flexible approach to reading this year. I’m going to count it as one of the six reading events I take part in this year.

So what could I read? I’m restricting myself to books I already know but I found plenty of candidates when I did a rummage around the bookcases (physical and electronic) today. Here are my shortlisted candidates.

Three choices of books to read for Japanese Literature Challenge

The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa is a cert since that’s the book club choice. I’ve read two other books by Ogawa and had mixed reactions — Revenge which was quite a dark and macabre novel and I much preferred The Housekeeper and the Professor. Memory Police, which was shortlisted for the International Booker Prize in 2020, takes place on a mysterious island where the locals are afflicted with a strange phenomenon (objects drop out of their memories overnight. )

I’m less convinced that I’ll get to read Six Four by Hideo Yokoyama, a novel revolves around the disappearance of two teenage girls 14 years apart.. It was published with considerable buzz in 2016. But it’s a massively chunky book.

My only non fiction contender is A River in Darkness by Masaji Ishikawa, an account of how he fled North Korea. It might be stretching a point to include this -Ishikawa is of Japanese/Korean origins, born in Japan but taken to North Korea when he was five years old.

My e-reader has many more options which I’m shortlisting down to three books.

Three books to read as part of Japanese Literature Challenge

The Great Passage by Shion Miura chronicles the construction of a dictionary that will be a comprehensive catalog of the Japanese language but it’s theme is the way in which words affect the human experience.

I’m also drawn to A Man by Keiichiro Hirano. It has many of the elements of a detective story including a dead man, a lawyer and some strange coded letters. But the novel goes outside the genre to look at questions about identity, artistic creation and the very practice of novel writing. .

Until now I’ve avoided most of Haruki Murakami’s big title novels (like IQ84 and The Wind Up Bird Chronicle) because they have elements of magical realism which I don’t enjoy. But I do have a non fiction book that I bought thinking it would be good preparation for some new work responsibilities. But I never got around to reading Underground: The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche . It’s a series of interviews that Murakami conducted with victims and perpetrators of the sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway.

What do you think of my options for the Japanese Literature Challenge?. If you’ve read any of them would you recommend them? Are you planning to take part in this celebration of Japanese Literature?

You can also leave thoughts on social media using the hashtag #JapaneseLitChallenge14.


What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

11 thoughts on “It’s Time For The Japanese Literature Challenge

  • I really liked The Memory Police and you’ve just reminded me that I have Six Four on my Kindle and I’ve heard great things about it.

    • Thats the trouble I have with my e-reader – I completely forget the books are there

  • I did read The Wind Up Bird Chronicle a few years ago and did enjoy it but the magical realism was only a part of it. I peeferred his Norwegian Wood. The last Japanese book I read was The Convenience Store Woman which I loved. I don’t know why I don’t read more Japanese books as I do enjoy the settings and the people. I’m not doing the challenge but will follow it with interest.

  • TBH I tend to go mostly for 20th century Japanese literature – and my most recent foray into more modern writing wasn’t a success. I think I’ll stick to Mishima!!

  • I hope you’ll plump for The Great Passage which sounds right up my own street. Adding it to my list

  • I recently read Lonely Castle In The Mirror by Mizuki Tsujimura, but it wasn’t really for me. I’ve also read a memoir set in Japan, One Month In Tohoku: An Englishwoman’s Memoir on Life after the Japanese Tsunami by Caroline Pover, which I did enjoy. Good luck with the challenge.

  • I haven’t read any of the books you have on the list, but I heard only good impressions about The Memory Police! And I am also interested in Underground by Murakami – I’ve also only read fiction books by him, and his non-fiction novels are still to be discovered 🙂

    I am quite tempted to join the challenge, as I already read 3 books by Japanese authors in January 😀

  • Vishy

    Wonderful books you’re planning to read! I loved The Great Passage by Shion Miura. Happy reading!


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