FICTION set in or related to Japan

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Boyle T Coraghessan
East is East
Jonathan Cape 1991
0-224-03012-4
Actually set in America, the protagonist is a Japanese and the (black) humour comes from the collision of the samurai life style with American society.

Chand Meira
Last Quadrant
John Murray 1981
0-09-952620-4
Story of an ageing prostitute and her daughter.

Chand Meira
The Bonsai Tree
John Murray 1983
0-7195-4007-0
Powerful novel highlighting contrast between Japan and the Western World and the difficulties of an Englishwoman marrying into a Japanese family.

Chand Meira
The Gossamer Fly
John Murray 1979
0-7195-3648-0

Charney David
Sensei
Panther Books, Granada Publishing 1984
0-586-06082-0
Supposedly set in Heian times, but seems to convey more flavour of the Edo period, 500 years later! Melodramatic and because of inaccuracies cannot even be recommended for colour.

Clavell James
Gai-jin
A Novel of Japan
Hodder & Stoughton 1993
0-340-58126-3
Long - over 1000 pages - and rambling, this novel covers the period immediately post-Perry. Events are seen through the eyes of many characters but many of their stories are not satisfactorily worked out and the sense of atmosphere not good enough to make up for these shortcomings. Not up to the standard of "Shogun". For the true feel of the period see "Japan through American Eyes" (Notehelfer ed) under History section of Bibliography.

Clavell James
Shogun
Coronet Books (Hodder & Stoughton)
Novel set in Japan of around 1600. Central character is based on the historical figure of Will Adams, a master pilot, who was the first Englishman to visit Japan and the first to settle in any Asian country. Contains some Japanese language and provides a very good feel for the political, religious and cultural climate of the time.

Crichton Michael
Rising Sun
Arrow 1992
0 09 933731 2
Novel by writer of Jurassic Park, set in America, showing influence of big Japanese Corporations in a less than favourable light. Apparently the film, starring Sean Connery, had a slightly different ending, but still upset the Japanese community. Rather a grim book, not a fun read!

Guest Lynn
Children of Hachiman
The Bodley Head 1980
0-370-30311-3
Fictional account of the life of Minamoto Yoshitsune. Good on detail and atmosphere.

Guest Lynn
Yedo
A Novel
1985
Novel about opening up of Japan in 1860's, with secondary characters loosely based on historical figures. Gives a feel of the atmosphere, attitudes and conflicts of the time.

Lathen Emma
East is East
Victor Gollancz 1991
0 575 05173 6
Mainly high finance, very convoluted and little Japanese detail or atmosphere.

Melville James
A Tarnished Phoenix
Barrie & Jenkins 1990
0-7126-3651-X
A story of the Occupation of Japan after WWII which, although fictional, may be uncomfortably near the truth in telling how it suited the USA to ignore war crimes by certain powerful Japanese in order that they should set up an anti-Communist government.

Melville James
Death of a Daimyo
J M Dent & Sons Ltd 1980
One of series of novels written in the 1980's and 1990's about a Japanese detective, Inspector Otani. Entertaining detective stories which are also excellent for giving the atmosphere of modern day Japan and highlighting the differences in culture and lifestyle between Japan and the West. Very readable. Other titles are: The Wages of Zen, The Chrysanthemum Chain, A Sort of Samurai, The Ninth Netsuke, Sayonara Sweet Amarylis, The Bogus Buddha, The Death Ceremony, The Reluctant Ronin, Go Gently Gaijin, etc - most published by Secker & Warburg.

Melville James
The Imperial Way
Novel about real events in 1930's in Japan when young army officers assassinated various political leaders. Also modern day Japan seen through eyes of a Japanese American journalist.

Rowland, Laura Joh
1 Shinju 2 Bundori
Mystery thrillers set in 17th century Japan. If you ignore the exaggerations for dramatic effect the sense of atmosphere and period is good. 2 is published by Headline Boos Publishing 1996 ISBN 0-7472-1717-3; not sure about publisher of 1 but guess it's probably the same.

Sheard Sarah
Almost Japanese
Richard Clay Ltd 1985
0-571-14996-0
Story of a young Canadian girl who falls in love with the Japanese conductor of the local symphony orchestra, and at the same time with Japanese culture.

St Clair Robson Lucia
Tokaido Road
Barrie & Jenkins 1991
0-7126-4638-8
Don't be put off by the cover of this book, with its "Mills & Boon"-style illustration, or the melodramatic story line, loosely connected with the tale of the 47 Ronin. The strength of this book is in its wealth of historical detail which is very successful in bringing to life a picture of the Edo period.

Stanley Guy
The Ivory Seal
Bantam Books 1992
0 553 40733 3
Rather melodramatic and patchy thriller, some aspects of local colour but many are unconvincing.

Yoshikawa Eiji
Musashi
Books 1 - 5
Corgi Books 1990
0 552 13385 X, 0552 13386 8, 0 552 13387 6, 0 552 13388 4, 0552 13389 2
Miyamoto Musashi was a historical character, famous for developing a style of swordsmanship (using two swords) and as the author of the treatise on swordsmanship The Book of Five Rings. He was influential as a symbol of bushido and his book is still read by Japanese businessmen. This is a lengthy but very entertaining fictional account of his life, initially serialised in a major Japanese newspaper and subsequently enormously popular as a novel.

Yoshikawa Eiji
The Heike Story
Charles E Tuttle 1963
A translation of Shin Heike Monogatari, which attempts to bring the Heike saga up to date in the form of a novel. The work is unfinished and we do not know whether the sequel has been written, published or translated. However, it is an entertaining and easily digestible way to get the flavour of the Heike story.

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