50 Non-Fiction Books About Japan

The other day I was sorting through my book cupboard and getting things organised and I began leafing through some of the books about Japan I have read over the years.  As I am always looking for new books about Japan, I thought maybe others  would be, too. So here’s a list of 50 that were in my collection – mostly paper, but a couple of ebooks thrown in, too. Most I enjoyed, a few not so much, but included them anyway as we all have different tastes. I hope maybe you find something you didn’t know about and fancy reading. If you have any other non-fiction books about Japan you would recommend feel free to leave their titles in the comments. So here they are, in no particular order: 50 non-fiction books about Japan:

1. Hokkaido Highway Blues – Will Ferguson

2. The Blue-Eyed Salaryman – Niall Murtagh

3. The Accidental Office Lady – Laura J. Kriska

4. The Inland Sea – Donald Richie

5. Village Japan – Malcolm Ritchie

6. Looking For The Lost – Alan Booth

7. Geisha of Gion – Mineko Iwasaki

8. Speed Tribes – Karl Greenfield

9. A Ride In The Neon Sun – Josie Dew

10. The Sun In My Eyes – Josie Dew

11. The Japan Journals – Donald Richie

12. Pictures From the Water Trade – John David Morley

13. Kicking – Following the Fans To The Orient – David Willem

14. Wrong About Japan – Peter Carey

15. Lost Japan – Alex Kerr

16. Dogs and Demons – Alex Kerr

17. The Land Of the Rising Yen – George Mikes

18. The Roads To Sata – Alan Booth

19. Four Pairs of Boots – Craig Mclachlan

20. Underground – Haruki Murakami

21. Angry White Pyjamas – Robert Twigger

22. Getting Wet: Adventures In The Japanese Bath – Eric Talmadge

23. Tales Of A Summer Henro – Craig McLachlan

24. Against The Wind: Pedalling For a Pint From Japan to Ireland – Yasuyuki Ozeki

25. 6,000 Miles On A Bicycle – Leigh Norrie

26. Learning To Bow – Bruce Feiler

27. Turning Japanese – David Galef

28. Tokyo Vice – Jake Adelstein

29. Sushi and Beyond – Michael Booth

30. 2:46 Aftershocks – Various (compiled by Our Man In Abiko)

31. Confessions of a Yakuza – Junichi Saga

32. For Fukui’s Sake – Sam Baldwin

33. Unbeaten Tracks in Japan – Isabella Lucy Bird

34. My Name Is Loco and I am a Racist – Baye McNeil

35. Welcome To Sawanoya – Isao Sawa

36. Teaching in Asia: Tales and the real deal – Kevin O’Shea

37. The Teas That Bind -J.C. Greenway

38. Reconstructing 311 – Various

39. The People That Eat Darkness – Richard Lloyd Parry

40. 36 Views of Mount Fuji – Cathy N. Davidson

41. Long Road Hard Lessons – Mark Swain

42. Loco In Yokohama – Baye McNeil

43. Chasing the Cherry Blossoms – Lowell Sheppard

44. Marshmallow-Go – Matt Keighley

45. Deep Kyoto Walks – Various (Edited by Michael Lambe)

46. Bending Adversity – David Pilling

47. Gaijin Story – Michael Gillan Peckitt

48. Running The Shikoku Pilgrimage – Amy Chavez

49. Children of the Tsunami – Patrick Sherriff

50. Sado – Japan’s Island in Exile – Angus Waycott

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5 Responses to 50 Non-Fiction Books About Japan

  1. Oh man, this is a great resource! Glad to see that Hokkaidou Highway Blues (published in Canada as “Hitching Rides with Buddha”) was right there at the top of the list, as it is an informative and entertaining read by a fellow Canadian. 🙂

    The only other book on there that I’ve read is Wrong About Japan, which Mutantfrog actually did a little post on explaining that it was heavily fictionalized. Even if it hadn’t been I wouldn’t recommend it, but as you say, that’s personal taste.

    Two others that I have heard good things about: “Dave Barry does Japan,” which is self-explanatory, and “Banzai Babe Ruth,” detailing some American baseball players’ trip to Japan a few short years before WW2.

    Definitely some others on there I’ve heard of, some I’ll have to look into more! Thanks a lot for throwing this up, I’ll be making good use of it and I’m sure others will too 🙂

    • Cheers. I actually almost didn’t put Wrong About Japan on the list and it is actually the book I liked least on there. Mostly, i suppose because he sold it as non-fiction when anybody who had been to Japan could tell that the Japanese teenager had been made up or was very, very unrealistic. As I said at the time it was published, he got the name right for the book! But he is a well-known writer and maybe some might get something from it.
      Forgot about the Dave Barry book – read that a long time ago but don’t know Banzai Babe Ruth. There are lots more out there, too, but I would recommend the Alan Booth books and the Donald Richie ones.

  2. kamo says:

    Nice list. I’ll join in with the love for Hokkaido Highway Blues (which I read ages ago on my final year of JET, so suspect I’d react differently to it now) and the general annoyance at Wrong About Japan, which as far as I can tell is a largely pointless book.

    If I could suggest some omissions, both Dower’s Embracing Defeat and Bix’s biography of Hirohito are excellent and are almost required reading. Hersey’s Hiroshima also seems to be missing, but shamefully I’ve not read that yet either, so can’t judge too harshly 😉

    How was the Chavez? I’m not the greatest fan of her stuff at JT or Rocket News, but it does seem an intriguing book.

    • Thanks for the recommendations. I have meant to read Embracing Defeat for so long and somehow never have. The Amy Chavez book was quite good – better than her columns – but then again I am constantly dreaming of going on big adventures and am a sucker for books where people go off on a journey!

  3. Pingback: 50 Non-Fiction Books About Japan | tinderboxpublishing

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