10 Translated Japanese Novels to Read in 2021

reading Cultural tips

In 2021, many exciting translated Japanese novels will be released. From the long-awaited Haruki Murakami’s new book to the first English edition of the best selling book in Japan, let’s dive into the world of Japanese literature. Here we introduce 10 translated Japanese novels coming out this year which will keep you busy for a while! 

1. Heaven by Mieko Kawakami (Translated by Sam Bett and David Boyd)

Heaven is a short novel originally published in 2009 in Japan by the award-winning author Mieko Kawakami. A 14-year-old boy who has been bullied at school found a letter in his desk one day. It turned out letters were from another victim of the bullies, and they started forming a strong friendship. Through their friendship, important questions gradually came to their mind; why are they destined to be bullied? This beautifully written story leads to the idea of deeper causes of bullying and insights into humanity.

Publish Date: May 25, 2021 
Order Here: https://amzn.to/2NhH2HE

2. First Person Singular: Stories by Haruki Murakami  (Translated by Philip Gabriel)

This long-awaited new novel from Haruki Murakami comes with the collection of 8 short stories. As the title indicates, each story is told from the first person singular perspective. Stories walk between reality and fiction, and some stories are written like a memoir of Murakami himself. With his classic elements of Jazz music, surrealism and his signature twist, the stories will satisfy all the Murakami fans!

Publish Date: April 6, 2021
Order Here: https://amzn.to/2LNtFP0

3. Lonely Castle in the Mirror by Mizuki Tsujimura (Translated by Philip Gabriel)

A girl named Kokoro in the first year of junior high school stopped going to school due to bullying not long after she attended the school. While she can’t bring herself outside of the house, one day, the mirror in her room suddenly lights up. Curiosity caught her, she walks through the mirror, it’s a completely different world and a castle stands before her. And then, there she meets 6 other children who are going through personal problems like her, and they get involved with the game. If she wins, her wish will be granted, but if anyone fails, they will be killed ―For those who love to read a true tear-jerker with a satisfying plot twist, Mizuki Tsujimura’s novel is for you.

Publish Date: April 22, 2021
Order Here: https://amzn.to/3pmFDgl

4. Terminal Boredom by Izumi Suzuki (Translated by Daniel Joseph)

Terminal Boredom is the collection of 7 short science fiction stories written more than 30 years ago by Izumi Suzuki, and this is her first English translated book ever at last. Each story takes you to the bizarre, strange and dreamy world with very unique writing, and is connected to the deep social issues such as toxic relationships, mental health issues and drug addiction. 

Publish Date: April 20, 2021
Order Here: https://amzn.to/376NwQA

5. Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

Nobel Prize Winner, Kazuo Ishiguro’s new novel is the science fiction story featuring Klara, who is an Artificial Friend, a humanlike robot designed to be a child’s companion. She watches carefully the behavior of humans passing on the street outside of the window at the store, waiting for her future owner to choose her ―This beautifully written coming of age story of a robot explores what it means to be human, and what it means to love. 

Publish Date: March 2, 2021
Order Here: https://amzn.to/3jHyRAo

6. The Phone Booth at the Edge of the World by Laura Imai Messina

The story is inspired by a real phone booth in Iwate prefecture with its disconnected “wind” phone where people visit there to “call” their lost loved ones. Yui, the main character, loses her mother and daughter by the tsunami in 2011, struggles with sorrow, and decides to make her pilgrimage to the phone booth when she hears a rumor that the wind carries away people’s voices to the loved ones. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake, and this translated novel comes out just in time to take a journey from deep grief to a sense of healing and hope. 

Publish Date: March 9, 2021
Order Here: https://amzn.to/2NpdhEU

7. Bullet Train by Kotaro Isaka (Translated by Sam Malissa)

Kimura took a bullet train heading from Tokyo to Morioka planning revenge for his young son in a coma. He is following a vicious middle scholar who looks like a good boy but his true nature is actually a cunning psychopath. But soon turns out there are other killers on the same bullet train and without leaving any trace for other innocent passengers, they started their battle to kill each other in secret. For 2 hours 30 minutes, from Tokyo to Morioka, who will survive and get to the last stop? This best selling novel published in 2010 in Japan, finally comes out with English edition this year!

Publish Date: March 16, 2021
Order Here: https://amzn.to/3d3qduD

8. An I-NOVEL by Minae Mizumura (Translated by Juliet Winters Carpenter)

An I-NOVEL is a semi-autobiographical work that takes place over the course of a single day in the 1980s. It was originally published in 1995 in Japan. A graduate school student who moved to the United States when she was a child with her family struggles to adopt her life in the foreign country and devote herself to the Japanese classic literature to seek her identity. However, she can’t quite sure if she can fit into life in Japan either. Over the phone call with her sister who lives in New York, she throws back to her life in the United States, and takes readers to her struggles around identity, racism and loneliness she had to get through over the decades. 

Publish Date: March 2, 2021
Order Here: https://amzn.to/2OvkJPg

9. There’s No Such Thing as an Easy Job by Kikuko Tsumura (Translated by Polly Barton)

Fascinating story originally published in 2018, about a woman who got burnout and moved from job to job in short terms. These jobs are very unique and surreal, such as monitoring a novelist by hidden cameras, writing bus adverts, composing advice for rice cracker wrappers and so on. This funny, hilarious, fantastical book is for those who give themselves entirely to work, and nearly get to the point of burnout, and of course, for those who want to have some fun light reading. 

Publish Date: March 23, 2021
Order Here: https://amzn.to/3tTWU3F

10. Touring the Land of the Dead by Maki Kashimada (Translated by Trowell)

Even though the family fortune died out, her mother and little brother denied to accept their fate. Natsuko takes her sick husband to the spa, where she has to face her luxurious past and complicated history of her family. But this short trip ultimately helps her to overcome her past and leads to a reconciliation with her husband. There is another story in this book, Ninety-Nine Kisses which portrays the life of four sisters in the historical neighborhood of contemporary Tokyo. 

Publish Date: March 4, 2021
Order Here: https://amzn.to/379a4jB

Hope you find something you want to read this spring from our list. Add some to your TBR list of 2021 to enjoy Japanese culture through books at home!

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  1. Sarah says:

    You forgot to name the translators. If you had you would have found out that Klara and the Sun was originally written in English because Kazuo doesn’t speak Japanese. Name the translators.

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