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Akutagawa Ryunosuke
Japanese Short Stories
Translated by Takashi Kojima
Tuttle 1981
A collection of ten stories covering a variety of subjects and periods.

Ariyoshi Sawako
The River Ki
Kodansha International 1981
The story of three women from successive generations of the same family, all linked by the River Ki. It reflects the social changes and historical events from the late 19th century until after the Occupation following WWII. Very readable.

Basho Matsuo
The Narrow Road to the Deep North and other Travel Sketches
Penguin Classics 1966
014 044 1859
Basho was the master of the haiku - the 3 line poem unique to Japan, which has fascinated poets from other cultures. Perhaps his most well-known: "An ancient pond: A frog jumps in, Splash." A pleasant trifle? Or an enigma containing the answer to Life, the Universe etc? The scholars can discuss such questions for ever, but this book gives a taste of his best-known works so that you can decide for yourself.

Bower & Miner Robert H & Earl
Japanese Court Poetry
The Cresset Press London 1962
Covers the period 550 to 1350 with many examples of poems analysed in detail. The style is pedantic and makes heavy reading - for specialists only!

Buck Pearl S
All Men are Brothers
in 2 volumes
Methuen & Co 1957
A translation from the Chinese Shui Hu Chuan by Shih Nai-An of Tung-Tu, usually known as 'The Water Margin', a work which enormously influenced Japanese literature in the Edo period.

Carter Steven D
Traditional Japanese Poetry
An Anthology
Stanford University Press Stanford CA 1993
Good range of material, translations not inspired.

Chiyo Uno
Confessions of Love
Peter Owen 1990

Chiyo Uno
The story of a single woman
Translator Rebecca Copeland
Peter Owen 1992
Semi-autobiographical novel by a leading Japanese woman novelist

Cranston (translator) Edwin A
The Izumi Shikibu Diary
Harvard University Press
(Distributed in UK by Oxford University Press) 1969
The translation of the Diary takes just 60 of the more than 300 pages in this book, which shows the scholarly approach with a detailed introduction and abundance of notes. Recommended for specialists only. To get a taste of the period a far gentler introduction is the "Diaries of Court Ladies" q.v.

Doppo Kunikida
River Mist & Other Stories
Trans: David G Chibbett
Paul Norbury 1983
Doppo (1871-1908) is widely admired in Japan as a short story writer and this collection gives Western readers a taste of the Japanese approach to this genre.

Dorson Richard M
Folk Legends of Japan
Charles E Tuttle Company 1962
Collection of folk legends with notes. Illustrations by Yoshie Noguchi. Good for acquiring an appreciation of Japanese mythology, but not particularly readable.

Enchi Fumiko
The Waiting Years
Flamingo 1992
0 00 654452 5
Winner of two Japanese literary prizes, this is nevertheless a depressing book to read. Based in the late 19th century, it centres on the wife of a government official and her management of the household - including finding a suitable mistress for her husband.

Endo Shusaku
Peter Owen 1988
Rather unpleasant novel about an ageing Christian writer, concerned with the mixture of good and evil in people, but concentrating more on the evil.

Endo Shusaku
Stained Glass Elegies
Peter Owen 1984
Collection of short stories, strongly influenced by the author's dilemmas as a Christian and showing aspects of Japan less frequently seen.

Endo Shusaku
The Samurai
Peter Owen Ltd 1982
07206 0559 8
Fascinating story told from the view point of one of the first Japanese to come to the West.

Endo Shusaku
When I Whistle
Sceptre Books 1992
A story of pre- and post-war Japan, told as a series of reminiscences by an unambitious businessman

Gardner Kenneth B
Descriptive Catalogue of Japanese Books
in the British Library published before 1700
The British Library & Tenri Central Library 1993
0 7123 0243 3
Contains small illustrations of pages from many of the books, followed by a detailed list which gives details of location, condition, related works, and only a short note of the contents. For research purposes only.

Hibbett Howard
The Floating World in Japanese Fiction
Charles E Tuttle Company Inc 1975
Notes by the author on the floating world and on the writers Saikoku and Kiseki, followed by extracts from their works. Illustrated in monochrome with reproductions of wood block prints.

Ishiguro Kazuo
A Pale View of Hills
Penguin 1983
Novel about a Japanese widow living in England who looks back on her life in Nagasaki just after the war. Eventually past and present fuse.

Ishiguro Kazuo
An Artist of the Floating World
Faber & Faber 1987
Set in the years just after World War II, an elderly painter looks back over his life and the changes in attitudes which have occurred in Japan. Rambling, but very readable.

Ishiguro Kazuo
The Remains of the Day
Faber & Faber Ltd 1989
An impressive work by a Japanese author who has adopted England. Written in English and set in England, it records the reminiscences of an ageing butler who goes on a six-day motoring trip through the West Country in the summer of 1956 - now the subject of a film starring Anthony Hopkins.

Jippensha Ikku
Hizakurige (Travel by Shank's Mare)
Translated by Thomas Satchell
Charles E Tuttle Co 1960
Famous Edo-period comic novel of a journey along the Tokaido (from Edo to Kyoto). Although the humour is either low slapstick or almost incomprehensible puns, it still makes a pleasant read and gives a wonderfully detailed picture of life at the time.

Kato Shuichi
A History of Japanese Literature
The First Thousand Years (Vol 1)
Macmillan Press 1979
Rather heavy going without saying much about actual literary works

Kawabata Yasunari
House of the Sleeping Beauties
Fontana/Kodansha 1989
3 stories by a famous modern novelist - 'a poetic meditation on the twin themes of sexuality and death'- distinctly weird!

Kawabata Yasunari
Snow Country and Thousand Cranes
translated by Edward G Seidensticker
Penguin Books 1971
The first is the story of a geisha in a mountain village who is in love with a man from Tokyo. Their love and eventual parting are described against a background of the seasons. The second is the story of the relationships between a young man, his late father's two mistresses and the daughter of one of them. The theme of the tea ceremony runs through the novel.

Keene Donald
Anthology of Japanese Literature
to the Nineteenth Century
Penguin Books 1968

Keene Donald (Trans)
A Puppet Play by Takeda Izumo, Miyoshi Shoraku & Namiki Senryu
Columbia University Press 1971
Very readable translation of the famous play, with historical notes.

Keene (Trans) Donald
Essays in Idleness
The Tsurezuregusa of Kenko
Columbia University Press 1967
Delightful collection of very short essays written around 1330 by a Buddhist priest who had a few worldly leanings. Comparable to Sei Shonagon's Pillow Book.

Keene (Translator) Donald
Major Plays of Chikamatsu
Columbia University Press 1961
Chikamatsu Monzaemon was famous for the plays he wrote for the bunraku (puppet theatre) and kabuki stages. The translation is very well done, allowing you to read them easily and get a taste, not only of Edo period entertainment, but also a glimpse of daily life and the values of those times.

Keene Donald
Some Japanese Portraits
Kodansha International 1978
Descriptions of the lives and works of some lesser known figures in Japanese literature to give broad picture of developments.

Keene Donald
The Pleasures of Japanese Literature
Columbia University Press 1988
Based on a series of lectures covering aesthetics, poetry, the uses of Japanese poetry, fiction and theatre, it makes a short (120pp) and easily read introduction to Japanese literature.

Keene Donald
World within walls
Japanese literature of the pre-modern era 1600-1867
Secker & Warburg 1976
436 23266 9
Thorough coverage of the development of literature in the Edo period with plenty of examples

Kuroyanagi Tetsuko
Totto-Chan - the Little Girl at the Window
Translated by Dorothy Britton
Kodansha International 1984 - Fifth Printing 1989
A delightful semi-autobiographical story by a woman who is one of Japan's leading TV personalities, it tells of her education in a innovative school at the beginning of WWII. Over 7 million copies have been sold!

Mackenzie (translator) Lewis
The Autumn Wind
A selection from the poems of Issa
Kodansha International
0-87011-657-6 (also quotes ISBN 4-7700-1157-1)
Issa, surnamed Kobayashi, was a master of haiku who lived from 1763-1827. (Haiku are Japanese poems which endeavour to convey a wealth of meaning and impressions in a 3 line format). He produced haiku noted for their down-to-earth quality, scorning contact with the aristocracy. This book contains a selection of his work with text in both English and Japanese. Anyone with an interest in haiku normally starts with the works of Matsuo Basho, and this book would be a useful follow-on for developing the study.

Markus Andrew Lawrence
The Willow in Autumn
Rytei Tanehiko, 1783-1842
Harvard University Press 1992
Rytei is mainly known as the author of Inaka Genji (the Rustic Genji) a melodramatic popularisation of the famous Heian novel which became Japan's first bestseller. Fairly dry but with some good extracts from popular works of the time and insights into life in the late Edo period.

Matsubara Hisako
The Bodley Head Ltd 1980
Novel set in early part of this century illustrating the inappropriateness of the samurai code when taken to extremes in modern times.

Morris Ivan (translator)
As I crossed a Bridge of Dreams
Recollections of a Woman in Eleventh-Century Japan
Oxford University Press 1971
Translation of the Heian period Sarashina Nikki, a sort of literary diary, with very helpful notes. Gives insight into life of the time, but the writer is a sadder character than the lively Sei Shonagon (see the Pillow Book)

Morris (Ed) Ivan
Modern Japanese Short Stories
Eyre & Spottiswoode 1961
Stories from a wide range of modern writers, some strange but generally interesting and shows how Japanese writers have been influenced by the West.

Morris (translator) Ivan
The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon
Penguin Books (Penguin Classics) 1971
This book lets you hear the voice of a Heian Court lady speaking to you from the opposite side of the world and a thousand years ago! A delightful work, full of lively humour, which is our best source of information on Heian life. Her lists of things which attract, displease or interest her can still strike a chord today. If you only read one book from this section this is the one!

Murray Paul
A Fantastic Journey
The Life and Literature of Lafcadio Hearn
Japan Library (Curzon Press) 1993
A biography and study of the writings of the man who did so much to make Japan known to the West

Musashi Miyamoto
A Book of Five Rings
Translated by Victor Harris
WH Allen & Co 1987
Written in 1645 by the master swordsman Musashi, it explains the strategy and tactics of swordsmanship and relates them to wider issues in life. Having been described as the secret recipe for the success of Japanese businessmen, hundreds of American managers have spent time poring over its cryptic pages to find the magic solution!

Nakayama Chinatsu
Behind the Waterfall
Virago Press 1990
Three short stories based in modern Japan which raise a number of questions about society.

Omori & Doi (translators) Annie Shepley & Kochi
Diaries of Court Ladies of Old Japan
Constable & Co London
A delightful book, well illustrated, which gives a personal picture of Heian times from three diaries: The Sarashina Diary, by the daughter of a provincial governor; The Diary of Murasaki Shikibu (Court Lady and author of the "Tale of Genji"); The Diary of Izumi Shikibu (Court Lady and famous poet) which tells of her love affair with a Prince. All cultured people of the age were expected to be able to compose poems and the diaries contain many examples.

Ozaki Kazuo
Rosy Glasses & Other Stories
Trans: Robert Epp
Paul Norbury/UNESCO 1988
Fictional short stories but with an autobiographical element drawn from the author's life, which sets this book apart from the normal Japanese short story tradition.

Saikaku Ihara
The Japanese Family Storehouse (Nippon Eitai-Gura)
Translated by G W Sargent
Cambridge University Press 1969
521 06182 2
Subtitled The Millionaires' Gospel Revisited it contains semi-humorous advice on how to become rich.

Saikaku Ihara
The Life of an Amorous Man
A story of erotic adventure by one of Japan's most celebrated and outspoken novelists
Charles E Tuttle Company Inc 1964

Saikaku Ihara
The Life of an Amorous Woman
and other writings
CORGI/Transworld 1964

Saikaku Ihara
This Scheming World
Trans: Masanori Takatsuka & David C Stubbs
Charles E Tuttle Co Inc 1965
Humorous stories based around the New Year - many relating to merchants and the custom of settling debts, or trying to dodge debt collectors. Lots of detailed financial matters give an insight into trade.

Seidensticker Edward G
Genji Days
Kodansha International 1977
The author produced a well-known translation of "Genji Monogatari" (The Tale of Genji). This book is a diary of the time when he was working on the translation. He has a pleasant informal style when describing his daily life - largely in Japan - and his discussion of the characters in "Genji" helps bring them to life. Anyone interested in the Heian period needs to read (at least an abbreviated version of) "Genji" and this book provides a useful background, as well as giving an insight into the problems of the translator.

Seidensticker (translator) Edward
The Gossamer Years (Kagero Nikki)
A Diary by a Noblewoman of Heian Japan
Charles E Tuttle Co. 1964 - revised edition 1973
A good picture of Heian life, as seen from a noblewoman's perspective. As such, it reflects the boredom of a cloistered life, neglected by her husband and is somewhat depressing in these passages. It is relieved by descriptions of festivals and journeys, and is worth reading to get a feeling for Heian times.

Shikibu Murasaki
Genji Monogatari
Trans Kencho Suematsu
Charles E Tuttle Company 1990
Rather stiff translation and abridged version of the novel, but gives a taste of it. The classic (complete) translation is by Arthur Waley, with a modern one by Edward Seidensticker.

Shikibu Murasaki
The Illustrated Tale of Genji
A Classic Japanese Romance
Shinjinbutsu Oraisha Inc 1989
The world's first novel, written by a court lady in the 10th century, edited and presented in comic book form.

Sugimoto Etsu Inagaki
A Daughter of the Narikin
Paternoster Library 1933 & 1937
A narikin is a self-made millionaire or nouveau-riche and this novel documents the family's attempt to gain social standing, ultimately at the expense of personal happiness. A delightfully told story, and a good picture of pre-war Japanese society.

Takuan Soho
The Unfettered Mind
Writings of the Zen Master to the Sword Master
Translated by William Scott Wilson
Kodansha International 1987
The Introduction and Part I give an insight into the Zen approach to a physical activity - in this case swordsmanship. Parts II and III become very esoteric but the whole book is short enough (90 pages) to be worth attempting if the topic appeals.

Tanizaki Junichiro
The Makioka Sisters
Trans Edward G Seidensticker
Secker & Warburg 1958
The story of four sisters from an old fashioned family in the years around the beginning of WWII. The two eldest are married and the plot revolves around attempts to arrange a suitable match for the third.

Ueda Akinari
Ugetsu Monogatari
translated by Leon Zolbrod
George Allen & Unwin 1974
0 04 823116 9
'Tales of moonlight and rain' - Nine supernatural tales, based on Chinese sources and earlier Japanese literary traditions, this book, written in 1768, is accounted one of the masterpieces of Edo fiction.

Ueda Makoto
Matsuo Basho
The Master Haiku Poet
Kodansha International
For those interested in haiku this book is an excellent introduction. It explains Basho's life and poetic development in an easy to read format and includes many examples of his poems, with English translations.

Weir David
The Water Margin
Weidenfeld and Nicholson 1978
0 297 77485 9
Tells the stories of the 1000 year old Chinese legends on which the BBC TV series was based. It gives easy access to the stories which were translated into Japanese (one version by Hayashi Kybei, Kyoto, 1728 - Ritakugo Sensei Hiten Chgi Suikoden) and had a great influence on Japanese literature in the Edo period. For translation from original Chinese see Pearl S Buck.

Whitehouse & Yanagisawa (trans) Wilfrid & Eizo
The Tale of the Lady Ochikubo
Arena/Arrow Books/Hutchinson 1985
0 09 935300 8
Translation of the tenth century Ochikubo Monogatari, which may have pre-dated and inspired Genji Monogatari, thus claiming the title of the world's first novel (which is usually reserved for Genji). Quite readable and a good insight into Heian life.

Wright (translator) Harold
Ten Thousand Leaves
Love Poems from the Manyshu
Shambhala Publications Inc 1979
Selections from the famous work, nicely translated and illustrated

Yamasaki Toyoki
A Novel of 20th Century Japan
Victor Gollancz Ltd 1982
Novel set mainly in Osaka about a rich Japanese merchant and his family and mistresses. Starts early in the century and, eventually shows the changes in customs and the disappearance of a lifestyle brought about by World War II.

Yoshimoto Banana
Translated by Megan Backus
Faber & Faber 1993
Interesting and unusual modern novel by young Japanese woman.

General (inc art, crafts, sumo) Japanese Literature Food, Drink and Cookery Ukiyo-e Return to Bibliography Index Return to SJS home page