Reading about Japan is one of the best ways to get excited for your trip, and we’ve put together a comprehensive Japan reading list for serious book lovers and light readers alike.

Japan guidebooks can be a great resource for research and travel planning, but it’s also incredibly fun — and often enlightening — to read fiction and non-fiction books from and about Japan.

So we’ve compiled a wide-spanning recommended reading list for Japan, including books on Japanese food, culture, history, a variety of fiction and literature, and more!

If we missed a great book you think we should include, please let us know – happy reading!

Originally written June 22, 2017, this post was updated and republished on March 20, 2020.

A temple in Arashiyama, Kyoto, Japan

Books on Japanese Culture

Japan’s unique and diverse culture, from the traditional to the modern, is one of the things we love most about Japan. The books below — which span topics ranging from gardens to Zen, and fashion to anime — provide an immersive introduction to a breadth of fascinating topics related to Japanese culture.

Locals enjoy dinner at a restaurant on the streets of Osaka, Japan
Locals enjoy a late dinner at a restaurant in Osaka

Culinary Books on Japan

If it’s your first trip to Japan, our guess is that Japanese food will be even more delicious and varied than you can imagine. Below are our favorite books on Japanese food and drink, to simultaneously whet your appetite and give you great insight into Japan’s incredible culinary culture.

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, Hiroshima, Japan
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum

Books about Japanese History

A basic understanding of Japanese history is essential to making sense of contemporary Japan, and the books below provide insight into some of the country’s most crucial historical periods.

Arashiyama bamboo grove, Kyoto, Japan
Arashiyama bamboo grove, Kyoto

Travelogues, Guides, and Memoirs

These varied and colorful firsthand accounts are an invaluable way to vicariously experience Japan through the keen eyes of an eclectic collection of observers.

Two maiko walking down a street in Gion, Kyoto, Japan
Maiko (apprentice geisha) walking down a street in Gion, Kyoto

Japanese Literature & Fiction

Japan is blessed with an incredible wealth of classic and modern literature. The sampling below will help get you started, and we recommend diving more deeply into the works of several of the authors below.

Large library of books to read about Japan travel and culture

So whether you relish the feel and smell of paper in your hands, or prefer the convenience and portability of a Kindle or your mobile device, we hope our recommended Japan reading list helps you prepare for your adventures!

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About Andres Zuleta

Andres founded Boutique Japan to share his passion and enthusiasm for Japan, and over the years he has had the opportunity to help hundreds of wonderful travelers from around the world experience Japan in a truly personal and immersive way.