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 comprehensive recommended reading list for Japan, including books on Japanese food, culture, history, a variety of fiction and literature, and more!

For travelers who prefer visual content, we’ve also included a short list of films and shows to watch before your trip.

Note: These are not affiliate links and we don’t earn commissions (or referral fees, etc.) if you buy any of them. If you purchase, try and request the books through your local bookstore (most local bookshops can get most books), or borrow from your library.

Originally written in 2017, this post was updated and republished on March 01, 2024.

Wa Japanese Design

Best 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.

Okonomiyaki Osaka Japan

Books about Japanese Food and Drink

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.

Best Books on 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.

Fushimi Inari Taisha Kyoto Japan

Japanese Literature and Fiction

Japan is blessed with an incredible wealth of classic and modern literature. The sampling below will help get you started with some of the greatest Japanese novels, prose, and poetry. 

We recommend diving more deeply into the works of several of the authors below.

Travelogues 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.

Kokyo Higashi Gyoen Imperial Palace East Gardens Tokyo Japan

Recommended Japanese Films and TV Shows

Below you’ll find several of our favorite Japanese filmmakers and a selection of the best Japanese films, along with a couple of shows:

Traditional shop Hongo Bunkyo Tokyo Japan

Experience Japan’s Culture Before You Travel

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

While Amazon may be the easiest way to order books online, we recommend making the extra effort to order from your local bookstore (or support your local library)!

Free Japan Trip-Planning Resources

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 countless wonderful travelers from around the world experience Japan in a truly personal and immersive way.