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Japanese literature is the body of written works created by Japanese authors in Japanese or, in its earliest days, in the Chinese classical language, when Japan had no written language. Japanese literature is thought to have emerged over two millennia, during which time the first literary expressions can be seen and a strong impact from Chinese literature can be discerned.

Until the entrance of Chinese ideograms, instruments that would allow the recognition of the first recorded manifestations of Japanese literature that came via oral transmission, Japanese was a language with no defined or ungrammatical form of writing. Because hanzi had previously been employed as the Chinese writing system and manyogana, a derivative of the first model used in Japanese land, kanji became the official form of writing. The Heian period is the classic stage of literary growth in Japan, a time when interest in foreign cultures, particularly China, waned and the focus shifted back to Japanese culture, prompting writers to abandon the use of previously employed characters in their works. The participation of both male and female writers was evident throughout this time. Women dedicated themselves to writing from their personal environments and were known for producing compositions with a wide range of material, including love, humor, and other emotions. Later, Japan suffered through one of its most difficult times, from the 12th century until the beginning of the 17th century, when it was plagued by several factors that hampered artistic development, including frequent battles, famine, and the nation's descent into poverty. As a result of these circumstances, only monks were able to devote themselves to writing, at a time when other monks' writings were becoming known. Despite this, theater performances began to appear, with the primary goal of patriotic exaltation as well as religious propaganda, thanks to the writings of Buddhist monks.

The following are some of the most essential characteristics of Japanese literature:

Writing system: one of the most important features, particularly in terms of the development of Japanese literature, is the writing system that is beginning to be used, as they use the kanji as the official form of writing, as they used the hanzi, a foreign writing system that belonged to China, where later appears the manyogana, which will be the first attempt by the Japanese to consolidate their own writing system.

Oral tradition: despite the effect of China on Japanese literature, indications of their cultural practices such as ceremonies, folklore, and, in general, the religion they followed will appear in its development. This, as well as the relevance and weight of the oral tradition in Japanese literature, reflects the importance and weight of the oral tradition in their region.

Artistic Variety: The range of artistic expressions that are emerging is another important part of Japanese literature and, in general, of the culture that is beginning to blossom in the region. Among these, the written creation in many subgenres and formats, such as theater, novels, essays, and poetry, as well as popular dances and other practices associated with them, occurs in the section of literature.

Kataribe Variety: In Japanese literature, a kataribe is a person who is in charge of reciting the people's stories, thus playing a crucial role in the preservation of primitive oral narratives, because he not only transmits important facts and events, but also all kinds of content related to the region's myths and legends. Women were the ones who carried out this job, forging crucial ties between what would become oral and written literature.

External influence: Although foreign cultures such as China and the West greatly influenced Japanese literature, this was not a determining factor for the production of literature in the area as a whole, as Japan produced important works and formats that have made it one of the most important reference points in world literature today. This is partly owing to the cultural richness of its works, which include observations of population customs, behaviors, traditions, and habits.

Nostalgic Tinge: Another important aspect of Japanese literature is its expressive inclination, which is because, in the case of novels in particular, the themes dealt with by Japanese authors are somber, melancholic, nostalgic, and sad, which is why Japanese literature is often associated with a sensitive and moving panorama.

Female participation: in addition to the foregoing, we must not overlook female engagement in Japanese literature, which is possibly the most important and one of the areas in which women have received the most respect, both as writers and as promoters of their traditions. Women have an essential role in Japanese literature because, despite the male figure's submissive and subjugating behavior, they manage to create acknowledged literary works and acquire a high degree of culture.

Classical Japanese literature

The term "classical Japanese literature" refers to works written during the Heian Period. This period is regarded by some as a golden age of art and literature. Murasaki Shikibu's The Tale of Genji (early 11th century) is regarded as the greatest work of fiction from this period.


Every country needs its own founding tale, and the Kojiki (Records of Ancient Matters), Japan's oldest historical document, tells the story of Japanese civilization's beginnings through myths and folk songs.

Nihon Shoki (Japanese: )

Nihon Shoki (Japanese Chronicles) appeared on the scene a decade later with more historically accurate literature, particularly about the reigns of Emperors Tenji, Tenmu, and Jito.

Don't worry if these seem tedious; the Heian period is just around the corner, and it will usher in a flourishing of all things fiction, including the first novel and first sci-fi(-ish) short story.

The Heian court's badass poets and inventive imaginations

The Pillow Book and The Tale of Genji

Murasaki Shikubu and Sei Shonagon were undoubtedly the Heian period's two biggest stars. The Tale of Genji, probably the earliest novel ever written, and The Pillow Book (Makura no Sshi), an invaluable depiction of the trials and tribulations of courtly life, was penned by the former.

Wakashu Kokin

If you've read anything about the life of a Heian aristocrat, you'll know that poetry was their top priority. The popular forms at the time, such as waka, are incredibly brief and were the typical mode of communication – essentially neatly constructed Tindr Uda commissioned the Kokin Wakashu, which was One of the first collections of poetry. one of the first collections of poetry. Over 1,111 pieces of poetry penned by court luminaries of the time makes up this substantial book.

Monogatari Taketori

Taketori Monogatari, also known as The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, is a strange story that dates back to the tenth century. Princess Kaguya, the protagonist, was born on the moon but was transported to Earth (sounds a little like Sailor Moon) to flee the chaos of a heavenly war. She is discovered nestled inside a glowing bamboo stalk by a loving bamboo cutter, who takes her home to his wife and raises her as their own. This candidate for the first science fiction story has also been nominated.

Epic wars, monks, and frolicking frogs are all on the menu.

The Heike's Story is a fictionalized version of a true story.

There are a lot of warriors.

It's no wonder that the most well-known literary works from this period are battle and death stories.

A good example is The Tale of the Heike. It presents a significant view of society at the time by detailing the conflict between two warring clans, the Minamoto and Taira, as they fought for control of Japan at the end of the 12th century.


Monks, too, were putting pen to paper and producing some of the best Buddhist literature. Sei Shonagon's The Pillow Book created a genre known as zuihitsu, which is generally a mix of personal essays, tales, and loosely linked ideas. With the release of H0joki, written by Kamo no Chomei and focusing on the Buddhist theme of transience, this became popular. On Mount Hino in Shiga Prefecture, the court poet-turned-monk is famous for residing in a 10-square-foot hut.


Yoshida Kenko's Tsurezuregusa followed in its footsteps a century later, detailing anything from amusing anecdotes to in-depth talks concerning -nembutsu-giga is a Choju-nembutsu-giga (Choju-j

There was also non-traditional literature being produced.

The Choju-jinbutsu-giga, which is a contender for the title of the first manga, began in the 12th century and was completed in the 13th. The three scrolls show foxes, monkeys, and frogs (among others) impersonating people in a variety of scenarios. Parts of this satirical piece are on show at the Kyushu National Museum exhibition from October 4 to November 20 and are quite entertaining.

In the 14th century, the traditional theatrical style of Noh was gaining popularity alongside renga, a sort of collaborative poetry that would pave the way for haiku in the Edo era.

The Sonezaki Love Suicides

As a result of the sakoku (closed country) closing off the outside world, both physically and culturally, a bourgeoisie class with the time and money to invest in the arts arose. The plays of Chikamatsu Monzaemon, whose work concentrated on the lives and struggles of common people, helped kabuki and the puppet theater, bunraku, develop. The Love Suicides in Sonezaki, for example, relates the narrative of two lovers who are pushed to suicide. His tragedies were on par with Shakespeare's.

Onna Koshoku Ichidai

Unprecedented numbers of travel guides, articles, and satires were being published. Many a writer found inspiration in the Yoshiwara, or pleasure area. With his work Koshoku Ichidai Onna, Iharu Saikaku dived headfirst into this realm (The Life of An Amorous Woman). An old woman recounts her past as the daughter of a nobleman, courtesan, and prostitute in this sarcastic perspective on the world of love and lust.

21st-Century Japanese Literature

01. Fault Lines 

Fault lines is a love story that isn't actually about love. Emily Itami's extremely readable debut, set in Tokyo, explores parenting, cultural pressure, and the end of youth via infidelity.

The novel is short (just over 200 pages), but it packs a punch in terms of its issues and the maturity with which it examines them, such as how love intersects with or clashes with duty, and the feeling of having lost a piece of oneself.

Even though Itami places these ideas in a very specific social setting, she manages to make them universal.

02. The Book-Saving Cat

Rintaro Natsuki is about to close his secondhand bookshop and move away after his grandfather, the founder, passes away, when a tabby cat named Tiger saunters into the business and whisks Rintaro away on a peculiar mission to rescue "imprisoned" books from a series of labyrinths.

03. Receive the Coffee Before It Gets Cold

Toshikazu Kawaguchi's novel Before the Coffee Gets Cold was published in 2015. It relates the story of a Tokyo café that permits patrons to travel back in time if they return before their coffee turns cold.

04. Kafka at the Beach

Haruki Murakami's novel Kafka on the Shore was published in 2002. It was named one of The New York Times "10 Best Books of 2005" in 2005, and it won the World Fantasy Award for 2006.

05. Woman in a Convenience Store

The eerie "Convenience Store Woman" by Sayaka Murata is a love story between a misfit and a store. Convenience might have a fragrance of moral virtue in our late-capitalist trance. It connotes frugality, flexibility, and helpfulness. Women bring convenience—the "lovely woman" behind the desk, the hardworking wife.

06. Men in the Absence of Women

Haruki Murakami's 2014 collection of short tales, Men Without Women, was translated and published in English in 2017. Men who have lost women in their life, generally to other men or death, are the subjects of the stories. The collection is named after Ernest Hemingway's second collection of short stories.


1Q84 is a novel by Haruki Murakami, which was first released in three volumes in Japan in 2009–10. It alternates between a fictitious 1984 and an "actual" 1984. The novel tells the narrative of Aomame, a lady who begins to notice unexpected changes in the environment.

The Memory Police, No. 8

Yoko Ogawa's science fiction novel The Memory Police were published in 1994. The story takes place on an island with a setting evocative of George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four and has a dream-like and melancholic tone influenced by modernist writer Franz Kafka.

09. Singular First Person

The eight stories in this new collection are all recounted by a standard Murakami narrator in the first person. From childhood memories, musical meditations, and a passionate love of baseball to dreamy scenarios and made-up jazz records, these stories all push the limits between our thoughts and the outside world.

10. The Chronicles of the Traveling Cat

The Travelling Cat Chronicles is a life-affirming song about generosity and self-sacrifice that reveals how the tiniest things can bring the greatest delight. We go on vacations to visit old friends and make new ones, as well as to discover exotic new locations and return to the comforts of home.

21st-century Japanese literature novel

01. Frame of an Ancient Girl

Ancient Girl's Frame is a Japanese-Chinese original net animation series that ran in Chinese on streaming platforms from October 11 to December 27, 2021, as well as on Japanese television the next day on Tokyo MX. Funimation has the North American rights to the series.

02. Gimai Seikatsu

Ghost Mikawa's Gimai Seikatsu (lit. "Days with my Step Sister") is a Japanese mixed-media project. It began with the creation of a YouTube channel in April 2020, with the first video uploaded on May 1, 2020. Ghost Mikawa and Hiten have collaborated on a light novel series.

03. Shine a light

This is a narrative about you and the girls becoming "absolute idols" by shining brightly. Here is where the best idol entertainment begins! (Image courtesy of Crunchyroll.)

04. Night Head 2041

Night Head 2041 is a Japanese anime television series based on the Japanese drama series Night Head, which premiered in 1992. Shirogumi animated the series, which was directed by Takamitsu Hirakawa and written by George Iida, the original drama's director.

The Kirihara brothers, who were imprisoned in a guarded scientific facility since they were children because of their magical abilities, have escaped after the barrier that was keeping them in malfunctions. The Kuroki brothers, who are attempting to track down the Kirihara brothers, are also included in the plot. 

Some famous Japanese literature is given below:

1. Ryu Murakami's Almost Transparent Blue (1976)

While still a student at Musashino Art University, Ryu Murakami penned Almost Transparent Blue, which earned him the famous Akutagawa Prize. The novel is set in the mid-1970s and follows a gang of dissolute Japanese youngsters. It includes themes of sex, drugs, and rock'n'roll. Murakami takes the reader on an unsettling trip into the brains and bodies of a group of pals whose primary worry is finding their next drug fix. Some reviewers have accused Murakami of being vulgar and overindulgent, but he doesn't shy away from detailed depictions of mescaline-induced hallucinations and abrupt acts of savagery, which serve to make his protagonists' lives appear even more hollow and commonplace. The Doors' soundtrack and the urban soundscape of 1970s Japan set the tone for Almost Transparent Blue, which unfolds in a cloud of decadence.

2. Yoko Ogawa's film The Diving Pool was released in 1990.

The Diving Pool, Pregnancy Diary, and The Dormitory are three novellas that strive to immerse the reader in the story's primary characters. The focus is on female protagonists who observe from very isolated locations. The Diving Pool depicts Aya, a young woman whose parents run an orphanage, making her the only child in her close vicinity to be raised by her biological parents. As if observing her life through a tunnel or a telescope, Aya narrates her actions of love and cruelty in a detached, uninterested tone. Ogawa is known for his ability to twist a term like a dagger, thanks to his superb writing and razor-sharp observations.

3. Yukio Mishima's Death in Midsummer and Other Stories was published in 1953.

Death in Midsummer and Other Stories is a strong collection of short stories by Yukio Mishima, full of dark humor and tense relationships. The main narrative, "Death in Midsummer," is about exactly that, and the oppressive heat and lethargic slowness of a long summer day contrast sharply with the immediacy of a catastrophic catastrophe. Mishima was a poet, playwright, and actor who was rumored to be a serious contender for the Nobel Prize for Literature. A monk on the verge of enlightenment and transcendence is brought back into the mortal world by the sight of a royal consort, a modern adaptation of a Noh drama, and a visceral account of a Japanese lieutenant's ritual suicide, known as seppuku, are among the stories. The similarity between Mishima's death by seppuku at the age of 45 and the highly detailed story of suicide makes it all the more unsettling.

4. Haruki Murakami's Kafka on the Shore was published in 2002.

Kafka on the Shore is a great way to get into Haruki Murakami's world of literature. Murakami was a strong contender for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2014, as an author who has captured the imagination of a large international readership. The novel contains everything that makes his stories instantly recognizable: cats who seem to know more than humans; classical music and pop culture references; lost, wandering protagonists; and, in the end, a gradual scratching away at the surface of existence to reveal the unanswerable metaphysical mysteries beneath. Only Murakami could put Johnnie Walker—the striding man painted by British painter Tom Browne on the world's most popular whisky—to life in such a terrifying way that you'll never look at another bottle of Johnnie Black the same way again.

5.Yasunari Kawabata's Snow Country (1937).

Yasunari Kawabata's famous story of isolation and indifference, set in a rural region of Japan where the snowfall is the highest, is called Snow Country. Shimamura, an indolent and disconnected middle-aged guy on a visit to a resort village filled with hot springs and a troupe of country geishas, tells the story. Shimamura begins a half-hearted relationship with one of the geishas and is generally unapologetic about ignoring his wife and child in Tokyo. The work catapulted Kawabata to international fame, and his tight, beautiful style earned him the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1968. Snow Country's prose is poetic and evocative, with emotional warmth earned against the backdrop of constant snowfall.

6. Tanizaki's Seven Japanese Tales (1963).

Seven Japanese Tales provides a detailed introduction to the author of The Makioka Sisters and A Cat, a Man, and Two Women, who are regarded as one of Japan's most talented authors. The book delves into national and personal identity, sexual desire, cruelty, and dominance and submission relationships. A little boy links himself for life to the musically skilled daughter of a family with a higher social status in one of the stories in the collection, "A Portrait of Shunkin." The Shimasen, a traditional Japanese stringed instrument that makes long, melancholy cries, is central to the plot. The Shimasen asks players to show the same unwavering dedication to Shunkin, our protagonist's love, as our protagonist does to her.

7.Natsume Soseki's Kokoro (1914).

Natsume Soseki is regarded as one of Japan's best writers, having worked as a scholar, poet, and novelist throughout the Meiji period. In 1914, a newspaper published Kokoro, which means heart in several English variants. The novel is a study of solitude and the search for identity, and it centers on a young man's friendship with an elderly gentleman whom he refers to as sensei. The author's narrative layers degrees of meaning through the characters' words and deeds, to the point where, by the end of the work, one feels compelled to read it back to see if there is anything more to be learned from the accumulation of his nuanced descriptions.

8. Fumiko Enchi's The Waiting Years (1957)

The Waiting Years is a brilliantly written story set in Meiji Japan about suffering. Tomo, the novel's female heroine, suffers with her life and marriage to an unfaithful husband, with each new woman she meets reinforcing her impotence to improve her position. Fumiko Enchi was a well-known novelist in Japan, and her works depict the predicament of women in a patriarchal culture. Even though the story is set during the Meiji period, the characters and their trials are still relevant to today's readers.

9. Tokyo Ueno Station by Yu Miri

Yu Miri is a Korean-born Japanese writer who is easily one of the country's most outspoken and confident political commentators. She is currently based in Fukushima, where she has aided in the recovery of the artist's community following the 2011 nuclear tragedy. One of the most scathing and stinging political novels to come out of Japan is her work Tokyo Ueno Station. The story's narrator is the ghost of a working man who died homeless in Ueno Park despite dedicating his life to the construction of Tokyo's modern metropolis in the twentieth century. He was born on the same day as the emperor, but he did not share the emperor's good fortune, and he died in obscurity. This is a brilliant work of socialist fiction depicting the plight of the working man.

10. Years of Waiting 

This is a beloved story set in post-Edo, pre-war Tokyo about loss and duty.

The Waiting Years is an often-overlooked classic of Japanese literature about a diplomat's wife who is tasked with traveling to Tokyo and choosing a new lover for her husband from a lineup of geisha. The topic of duty, both political and familial, is explored in this novel. It's a terrible story about rigidity and the cost of doing what's required of us.

11. Blue that is almost Transparent by Ryu Murakami

A hint of early genius from Japan's most raw and violent novelist of the contemporary era.

Ryu Murakami is frequently eclipsed by a writer with the same surname. Despite this, Ryu Murakami is a writer whose works have frequently exposed the filthy underbelly of Tokyo society that lies behind the spotlessly clean streets we are all familiar with. Almost Transparent Blue is a semi-autobiographical novel by Haruki Murakami that sold a million copies in its first six months. It tells the narrative of Murakami's childhood in 1970s Tokyo. It's a book about sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll, in classic Murakami fashion!


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