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Recommended Japanese-based Books?

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 
I find myself obsessed with quite a bit of Japanese culture.. (anime.. pro wrestling.. video games, RPGs/fighters in particular.. samurai) and I'm looking for some interesting reading. I had one recommended to me; the title of which escapes me at the moment (in the middle of "Shantaram" currently). I thought I could go for more suggestions.
post #2 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by kronik
I find myself obsessed with quite a bit of Japanese culture.. (anime.. pro wrestling.. video games, RPGs/fighters in particular.. samurai) and I'm looking for some interesting reading.

I had one recommended to me; the title of which escapes me at the moment (in the middle of "Shantaram" currently). I thought I could go for more suggestions.

Kodansha has published some interesting books on Japan, with the left page in Japanese and the right page in English. I use it as a language-learning tool but most of the writing in there is ver interesting.
post #3 of 11
I can give you some recommendations on interesting books on koryu (pre-Meiji) martial arts: www.koryu.com has a listing of interesting articles as well as books on bushi and battlefield-based arts. Cannot help much with the anime; I can give you some recommendations on books that have to do with Japanese cinema though. Remembered a few: Dr Karl Friday's Legacies of the Sword: The Kashima-Shinryu and Samurai Martial Culture is an excellent book that while it concentrates on Kashima-Shinryu it provides a lot of information on the general history, how the lineages were maintained in these arts and also their methods of transmission. Recommended if you have some interest in samurai culture. Also, Musui's Story: The Autobiography of a Tokugawa Samurai by Katsu Kokichi is quite entertaining. The autobiography of someone who, if he were alive today and registered on SF his "how we roll" posts would have been the stuff of legends :-D.
post #4 of 11
If you like literature, check out Yukio Mishima and/or Kobo Abe

2 books related to pop culture/gangsterism that are very interesting are Kaplan's "Yakuza" and "Speed Tribes" (the author's name escapes me but it's a hoppa author)

there are others of the same ilk in my bookshelf but I can't even remember some of their titles as it's been 10+ years since I've read them.
post #5 of 11
Haruki Murakami has some good books such as Hardboiled Wonderland and End of the World, The Wind-up Bird Chronicle, and Norweigan Wood just to name a few.
post #6 of 11
I second Get Smart's recommendation of Kobo Abe (I translated and commented extensively on this author for my senior thesis in college). In particular, his Woman in the Dunes is one of the modern classics of Japanese literature. It was also made into a brilliant movie.

Mishima is also good but was a better critic than author. He wrote an excellent story about seppuku (ritual suicide by disembowelment) as aesthetic ideal. I don't recall the title at the moment.

Yasunari Kawabata's Snow Country is wonderful and subtle. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature for this, largely thanks to Edward Seidensticker's translation.

Jun'ichi Tanizaki is also outstanding and quite accessible. In particular, In Praise of Shadows is a wonderful short essay on Japanese aesthetics.

Ryunosuke Akutagawa is also worth reading, though I can't recommend one work in particular. His progressive madness culminating in suicide precipitated a kind of cultural crisis.

Anything by Natsume Soseki is worth reading. He is arguably the first Japanese author of the modern age.

The Book of Tea by Kakuzo Okakura was originally written in English and is a delightful read on the subject of Japanese aesthetics.

Ichiyo Higuchi was a Meiji period authoress who is definitely worth a read. I have only read her Thirteenth Night, which I don't believe has been translated. Her likeness now graces the 5000 yen note.

The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Matsuo Basho is the most read piece of classical Japanese literature and is a must-read if only because it was written by the father of haiku.

I also second Brian SD's recommendation of the Kodansha series with the facing-page translations.

For a medieval war story, The Tale of the Heike is a really amazing epic. This is the seminal samurai drama.

If you're feeling particularly ambitious, read The Tale of Genji all the way through. This is the mother of all Japanese liturature. I have not read the Seidensticker translation (shame on me!), but have read the more recent Royall Tyler translation, which is perhaps better for students of classical Japanese liturature, as Tyler has done his best to approximate the flavor the syntax of the original.
post #7 of 11
so after looking at my bookshelf I have some additions to my list

"Speed Tribes" was written by Karl Taro Greenfield

"The Gamblers Tale" is fascinating and written by Junichi Saga

"Yakuza Diary" is another good "real life" dramatized account written by Christopher Seymour

On the literary front, one of my favorite books in general is "Essays in Idleness" by the Tsurezuregusa of Kenko, translated by Donald Keene
post #8 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nantucket Red
...
If you're feeling particularly ambitious, read The Tale of Genji all the way through. This is the mother of all Japanese liturature. I have not read the Seidensticker translation (shame on me!), but have read the more recent Royall Tyler translation, which is perhaps better for students of classical Japanese liturature, as Tyler has done his best to approximate the flavor the syntax of the original.

I have seen it called the world's first psychological novel. Unfortunately I have not read it, but someday...
post #9 of 11
Yukio Mishima
Osamu Dazai

Prints: Utamaro
post #10 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by designprofessor
Prints: Utamaro

the print artist Yoshitoshi has a great book of his woodblock printwork called "Beauty and Violence". It's definitely edgy and sometimes gruesome but phenomenally beautiful, even when looking at an image of a pregnant woman hanging upside from inside a hut where an evil old woman is preparing to gut her open.

also, if you can find a copy, Kuniyoshi's printwork of the Suikoden warriors is amazing.
post #11 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gericaux
Haruki Murakami has some good books such as Hardboiled Wonderland and End of the World, The Wind-up Bird Chronicle, and Norweigan Wood just to name a few.

Wild Sheepchase is also very nice.
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