Books on Japanese Culture You Should Read Before You Go
Whether you’re planning a trip to Japan or simply wish to learn more about the country, there are tons of resources and guides available. Reading books on Japanese culture and history are important for providing context and etiquette cues if you plan to visit the country.
Our list includes recommended Japanese books for children, nonfiction and fiction novels, and even a book of illustrated city maps. Traveling to Japan from the West can bring forth quite a culture shock; be prepared!
Children’s Books on Japanese Culture
by Willamarie Moore
Travel along with two friends, a boy from the country and a girl from the city, as they tour their homeland. Learn interesting details about their homes, families, favorite places, and holiday traditions.
by Misti Kenison
Part of the ‘Tiny Traveler’ series, this book invites toddlers on a journey through Japan. Cherry blossoms, bamboo, and volcanoes are illustrated in beautiful detail and color to keep little ones intrigued.
by Mari Takabayashi
Follow along with seven-year-old Mimiko’s year – learn how she dresses, eats, and celebrates holidays. Learn Mimiko’s ten favorite Japanese meals and how she lives her life in Tokyo.
by Tim Egan
Dodsworth and the duck are headed to the ‘Land of the Rising Sun’ where customs and manners are a large part of the culture. How long the duo will last traveling together in Japan is anyone’s guess!
Japanese Books for Grown Ups
by Matthew Amster-Burton
Learn the ins and outs of visiting Tokyo as three Americans vacation in a tiny apartment and learn to navigate the bustling city. Burton widely explores the often-misunderstood city of Tokyo through his humorous memoir, leaving few culinary stones unturned.
by Yasunari Kawabata
Nobel Prize Winning author Kawabata writes a riveting tale of wasted love set along the backdrop of Western Japan. A doomed love story about Shimamura, a weathy dilettante and Komako, a lowly geisha, is said to be Kawabata’s literary masterpiece.
by Arthur Golden
Read the exquisite tale of Sayuri, one of Japan’s most celebrated geisha working in Kyoto, Japan before and after World War II. The historical novel is told in the first person perspective and has been adapted to a highly successful movie.
by Karin Muller
Karin Muller, a documentary filmmaker, spent a year in Japan on a personal quest to deepen her appreciation for ideals like commitment and devotion. Muller reveals the complexities of modern Japanese culture through her lens as a brilliant storyteller.
by Florent Chavouet
Chavouet, a graphic artist, spent six months exploring and sketching Tokyo. His creation, a personal and gritty guidebook of the city, includes hand-drawn maps and commentary about the local scene.
Japan, Funny Side Up
by Amy Chavez
Veteran Japan Times columnist, Amy Chavez provides a useful and witty guide to navigating Japanese culture. She shares cultural tips, thoughtful essays, and advice on what experiences you should go for and ones to avoid.