10 Locations from Famous Japanese Literature in Japan

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Mao Goto is a Japanese freelancer who was born in Hayama, Kanagawa prefecture, and raised in Tokyo. Since 2016 she lives in the Taito Ward, home to a lot of Japanese culture hotspots such as Asakusa, Akihabara, and Ueno. She has been interested in the field of English education in Japan and got her Master’s degree in March 2020. A lover of photography, travel, sweets, and cross-stitch. Contact her via Facebook.

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Japan is a country that has produced a great deal of excellent literature. Whether it is suspense, romance, or realism, Japan’s literary giants have produced many dignified gems. Japanese literature is cherished all around the world for its deep emotion and unique aesthetic. Numerous Japanese novels take place in authentic Japanese settings, allowing readers to immerse themselves in the distinct charm of these locations within the pages of these works. This article takes you on a tour of the landscapes and emotional places that have been the setting for famous Japanese literary works.

1. Tochigi (Iwafune Station)- 5 Centimeters Per Second, One more side

We recommend Iwafune Station, famous for being the setting of “5 Centimeters per Second”. This station is depicted in the story as the nearest station to the main character, Akari, who moves to Tochigi. Its tranquil and nostalgic ambiance will linger in your memory. The station was manned in the past, but since 2006 it is now unmanned and quietly retains its original atmosphere. Passing through the ticket gate, you will find the waiting room where Akari once waited for Takaki. The atmosphere here is like stepping back in time, with the nostalgia of the Showa period in the air. Scenes from the story projected on the walls and old benches will bring visitors back to the excitement of the story.

5 Centimeters Per Second, One more side: Available on Amazon

i_yudai, CC BY 2.0 Deed, via Flickr

2. Matsushima Bay-The Narrow Road to the Deep North

Matsushima is famous for its spectacular scenery and is hailed as a tourist destination with much to see and do, consisting of more than 260 small islands. This beautiful area is proudly listed as one of the “Three Great Views of Japan,” and its scenic beauty, which changes from season to season, attracts many visitors. Author Basho and his two attendants left Shiogama by boat on June 25, 1689, and arrived in Matsushima. On this trip, Basho was so impressed by the beauty of Matsushima that he included it in his writings. His passionate descriptions of the pine-clad islands still invite us to travel to the beautiful scenery of Matsushima.

The Narrow Road to the Deep North: Available on Amazon

Nakae, CC BY 2.0 Deed, via Flickr

3. Kamakura- Kokoro

“Kokoro” by Soseki Natsume is an excellent literary work that has been adopted as a Japanese language textbook for high schools in Japan, and is set in Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture. “I”, the protagonist of the story, takes advantage of a summer vacation to go swimming in Kamakura, where the story unfolds through an encounter with a mysterious character named Sensei. Kamakura, also known as the capital of Buddhist temples, is one of the most famous tourist destinations in Japan, where the calm sea and austere atmosphere are in harmony. As depicted in the novel, Kamakura’s beautiful coastline and historic Buddhist temples add depth to the story, and the unique atmosphere of this region colors the entire work.

Kokoro: Available on Amazon

Diego Delso, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

4. Izu- Dancing Girl of Izu 

“Izu no Odoriko” is a beautiful story by Yasunari Kawabata set in the Taisho period. The narrative follows the journey of a university student on his final days of summer break across the Izu Peninsula. Along the way the story portrays the difficulties of lower class dancers in Japanese society, exploring their quest for love, life, and art amidst conflict and emotional turmoil. The area has a historical flavor, much like the landscape depicted in the story. It is also a famous hot spring resort in Japan. Soaking your body and soul in Izu’s hot water while overlooking Shizuoka’s ocean is a worthwhile experience. A trip to enjoy the luxury of historical landscapes and hot springs while experiencing the world of literature will allow you to feel the excitement of the story even more deeply.

Dancing Girl of Izu: Available on Amazon

Alpsdake, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

5. Takamatsu -Kafka On the Shore

Takamatsu, located in Kagawa is renowned as the backdrop for novelist Haruki Murakami’s masterpiece, “Kafka On the Shore.” Within the city lies “Oshima Island” faithfully recreating the novel’s vivid scenes. The beauty of the scenery depicted in the novel is still alive and well in the streets of Takamatsu, creating a moving experience for visitors. There are many attractive places for families to enjoy in Takamatsu City. For example, Sanuki Kodomo no Kuni is especially popular with families. Ritsurin Park, one of the most famous parks in Shikoku, is a widely famous garden. These spots offer a perfect blend of tradition, natural beauty, and fun activities that are sure to provide visitors with a pleasant experience.

Kafka On the Shore: Available on Amazon

Miss Sunalee, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 Deed, via Flickr

6. Uji-The Tale of Genji

Uji in Kyoto is a place full of charm, where the Tale of Genji, one of Japan’s most colorful literary treasures, comes to life. The novel’s depiction of Hikaru Genji’s love story shines especially bright in the scenic setting of Uji. The streets of Uji, which flourished during the Heian period and are steeped in history, are so magical that the world in the novel seems to unfold in reality. When walking through Uji, you will feel the emotion of the ancient city, where the sentiments of Hikaru Genji remain strong, and the charm of The Tale of Genji will only deepen. Furthermore, fans of this story will be charmed by the Tale of Genji-themed museum.
Uji in Kyoto is a place full of charm, where the Tale of Genji, one of Japan’s most colorful literary treasures, comes to life. The novel’s depiction of Hikaru Genji’s love story shines especially bright in the scenic setting of Uji. The streets of Uji, which flourished during the Heian period and are steeped in history, are so magical that the world in the novel seems to unfold in reality. When walking through Uji, you will feel the emotion of the ancient city, where the sentiments of Hikaru Genji remain strong, and the charm of The Tale of Genji will only deepen. Furthermore, fans of this story will be charmed by the Tale of Genji-themed museum.

The Tale of Genji: Available on Amazon

Adrian, CC BY-NC 2.0 Deed, via Flickr

7. Sendai-A Tale for the Time Being

 Ruth Ozeki’s “A Tale of a Time Being” is narrated by two characters, Nao, a Japanese-American teen living in Tokyo who documents her life in a diary, and Ruth, a writer who discovers Nao’s diary washed ashore on a beach in North America. In Nao’s diary, we see Sendai shines as the place where Nao’s inspirational elderly grandmother lives. Sendai is a beautiful city in the Tohoku region that is well worth a visit. The scenery of Sendai as seen in the novel is a real-life example of the beauty of the combination of history and nature that can be experienced by actually visiting the place and seeing its abundant greenery, often referred to as the “City of Trees”. 

A Tale for the Time Being: Available on Amazon

Sendai Blog, CC BY 2.0 Deed, via Flickr

8. Yokohama Harbour – The Sailor who Fell from Grace with the Sea

Yukio Mishima’s “The Sailor who fell from Grace with the Sea” is the story of a boy with prodigious sensitivity who struggles over the complicated love between his widowed mother and a sailor man. It depicts a deep wave of emotions, exploring desire, dread, and familial bonds. Set in the suburbs of the port city of Yokohama, the story unfolds during the postwar years. The port town-like atmosphere of Yokohama is even more harmonious with the tension of the story. In addition, Yokohama is close to Tokyo and offers a wide variety of sightseeing spots that can be enjoyed on a day trip.

The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea: Available on Amazon


Maxima, via GooodFon

9. Kinkaku-ji (Kyoto)- The Temple of the Golden Pavilion

“Kinkaju-ji” is a masterpiece novel by Yukio Mishima, based on the actual 1950 “Kinkakuji Temple Arson Incident.” This story is a novel about how a school monk, suffering from a stutter and bullying, ends up torching the shining Kinkakuji Temple in Kyoto. The Golden Pavilion is one of Kyoto’s most famous temples for its golden beauty, and it blends perfectly with the story of the novel. When visiting Kinkakuji, the temple’s mystical atmosphere and historical flavor will add a deep emotional dimension to the story and draw the readers in.

The Temple of the Golden Pavilion: Available on Amazon

. Ray in Manila, CC BY 2.0 Deed, via Flickr

10. Yuzawa (Niigata)-Snow Country

“Snow Country”, the wonderful work for which Kawabata Yasunari won the Nobel Prize for Literature, is a love story about Shimamura, a writer with a wife and child, and his deepening relationship with Komako, a geisha at a hot spring inn in Snow Country. Yuzawa, Niigata, the setting of the story, is known as a hot spring resort where tourists can relax after a long day of sightseeing in the beautiful, silvery white world. Yuzawa is also famous for its skiing, with snowy landscapes and skiing fun awaiting visitors in winter.

A monument inscribed with a passage from “Snow Country” has been erected in Yuzawa, symbolizing the fame of Kawabata Yasunari’s novel.

Snow Country: Available on Amazon

m-s-y, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 Deed, via Flickr

In this article, we have specialized on famous locations mentioned in Japanese novels, have any caught your eye? These places combine literature and travel, giving visitors the sensation of being lost in a story. You will experience the wonder of Japanese literature while simultaneously getting a taste of the history and culture behind the works. Why not read a Japanese novel and actually visit the place where it takes place in Japan?

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There’s no better way to explore an area than taking a tour with a knowledgeable local guide. You will have the chance to learn about the history and interesting background stories of Tokyo, as well as discover some hidden gems which can be hard to do without a guide.

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Mt. Fuji Day Trip Bus Tour from Tokyo
Experience the breathtaking views of Mt. Fuji by visiting the highlights of the area on our guided sightseeing bus tour! Departing from Shinjuku in central Tokyo, you can travel comfortably to all of the best spots in the area by bus.

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