5 Japanese authors who aren’t Murakami
Yes, there is such a thing...
The Earth isn’t flat and there are Japanese authors in the world other than Haruki Murakami. These are just two statements that shook society at the time of their announcement, but the fact that they’re absolutely true doesn’t change.
Murakami is probably the most well-known Japanese author around the world. Namedropping his work is definitely the unofficial litmus test to prove if you’re well-read in 2017, employed by everyone from your Chetan Bhagat-allergic friend to the random man on the train peeping over your shoulder to see what you’re reading. If you’ve loved, or pretended to love, Murakami’s much talked-about work, and are attracted to literature which offers insight into other cultures, peruse our selection of the other Japanese authors you can add to your reading list. Their works might belong to different genres, but there’s the underlying theme of taking ordinary, every day situations and transforming them into something sublime, a trait most commonly associated with Japanese literature.
5 Japanese authors to read now
Mohoko Yashimoto uses the pen name ‘Banana’ Yashimoto owing to her love for banana leaves and the fact that the name sounds fun. This is one of the examples of her quirky way of thinking that reflects in her work. She writes about disenchanted young people who are trapped between reality and dreams. While there are strong Japanese cultural influences throughout her work, the themes in her stories are universal.
Young-adult fiction lovers, you might want to give Veronica Roth and Susanne Collins a break and give Miyuki Miyabe a try. Brave Story by Miyabe became a YA sensation in Japan, before being translated into English and other languages. Her expertise lies in her commentary on the societal structure in Japan, whether in the form of a fantasy novel (like Brave Story) or a thriller (like All She Was Worth).
Credited for introducing ‘Tokyo Noir’ to the world, Fuminori Nakamura is one of the most popular crime novelists in the whole world. His special brand of macabre thinking paired with the fast-paced narrative of a well-written thriller has won him many accolades over the years. His work has shades of Kafka and Dostoevsky, especially in his award-winning novel, The Thief. It’s the story of a pick-pocket who only steals from the rich, and how he gets embroiled with a shady but powerful gangster. He, self-admittedly, likes to explore the human psyche but doesn’t like to weigh the story down with philosophy.
If you love your mysteries to be more about the characters rather than the actual act itself, then Kiego Higashino is your man. His books explore the motivation behind the crime, giving readers an insight into the complicated mind of a criminal. His words quietly sink their hooks into you and before you know it, you’ve spent an entire weekend without putting the book down. One of his most popular works, The Devotion of Suspect X, might be adapted into a Bollywood film soon. According to reports, Kangana Ranaut, Saif Ali Khan and Nawazuddin Siddiqui will star in key roles.
OK, so before you type out a strongly worded comment pointing out that he, in fact, is a Murakami, he is not THE Murakami. Often cheekily referred to as the ‘other Murakami’, he writes about crime, drugs and war set against a dark, often dystopian, Japan. His novels, though critically acclaimed, have created controversy over the dark themes and representation of drug abuse.