What book to read: Japan

February 24, 2020

Jason Lamb

Are you a traveler looking for destinations, attractions or new vacation ideas? Are you curious about Japan? I try to research the history and culture about a country before I go there. You might have read some of my fun facts posts about countries which I put together after my research. So, we put together a selection of what books to read. If you are looking for what movies to watch, I even have another post about that. Here are some books about Japan that I think you would enjoy.

We've spent much time in living and traveling in Japan. Here are some of our best reads and watches for Japan.

Travel Guides

Lonely Planet Japan

We love Lonely Planet and rely on it for the best in travel guides. Their book on Japan is no exception. Information presents easy to digest and includes lots of photos.

[Editor Jason: I use Lonely Planet, too. It's my go-to when planning travel or when I want concise, useful information about a city, country or region.]

Japan Travel Guide: Things I Wish I Knew Before Going to Japan

by Ken Fukuyama and Yuki Fukuyama

Overwhelmed by large travel guides with tons of information? This book can help. Ken Fukuyama and Yuki Fukuyama present vital information for your first trip to this exciting, complex place. Get insider tips on transportation, eating, places to stay and attractions. And maps and lists make the information easy to consume.

Fodor's Essential Japan

In addition to Lonely Planet, we like Fodor's travel guides. And we like them for the same reasons: short, concise, vital information with lots of pictures. You'll want to carry one of these while touring Japan.

DK Eyewitness Tokyo

DK Eyewitness books are always informative and packed with photos, illustrations and charts and graphs. You get through snapshots of subjects and places. This book on Tokyo serves as a great travel guide and a good reference book to keep at home.

Must-See Japan: The Complete Insider's Guide to Seeing the Best of Japan in One Trip

by Tom Fay

When traveling it can be an awesome task to narrow down what you want to see. With many guides you get tons of information on sites to see. But what should you go visit first? Or at all? Must-See Japan helps you decide what to see and how to see it.

14 Days in Japan: A First-timer’s Ultimate Japan Travel Guide Including Tours, Food, Japanese Culture and History

Japan has lots to see and experience. Here's another guide book to help you narrow down what you might want see and how to see it. By distilling Japan's experiences into a 14-day trip, the book shows you how you can do the same.

Culture Smart!: Japan

by Paul Norbury

Japan is a nation of customs that are very important to its people. Culture Smart presents a guide to customs and culture so you can be respectful and learn how other cultures live their lives and interact between each other and others from outside their nation.


Japan: An Illustrated History

by Shelton Woods

History opens up a unique understanding of a place. And if you want to visit and learn more, it helps to build a foundation knowledge of that place's history. This book presents Japan's history, from the earliest settlement to the establishment of the empire to the devastation of World War II to Japan's recovery. Throughout are illustrations and photos to give added emphasis and excitement to Japan's story.


Be More Japan: The Art of Japanese Living

Japan's culture carries a tradition with beautiful ceremonies and art. And Japan frequently leads in new technology. With this DK Eyewitness book, learn about those traditions, whether they're old or new. This is a great way to learn about the people of Japan and how they live and live with each other.

Cool Japan Guide: Fun in the Land of Manga, Lucky Cats and Ramen

by Abby Denson

This is a unique look at Japanese culture. Denson, a comic artist and food blogger, presents food, otaku (Japanese geek culture), shopping in Japan and manga, anime and cosplay, which are uniquely Japanese. For a quick, fun and funny look into Japanese culture, this is it.

A Geek in Japan: Discovering the Land of Manga, Anime, Zen, and the Tea Ceremony

by Héctor García

Otaku is a Japanese term for geek. It's getting geeky over something, especially manga (graphic novels) and anime (animation). But García goes further into Japanese culture but with the same enthusiasm and excitement of otaku. A fun and different way to learn—and enjoy—Japanese culture.

The Book of Tea: Beauty, Simplicity and the Zen Aesthetic

by Okakura Kakuzo

Originally published in 1906, Okakura Kakuzo wrote it to read a loud at a literary salon. But it caught on and grew in popularity and helped bond Westerners to Japanese. It's not just about tea ceremonies, but uses the ceremony to illustrate Japanese culture and aesthetics. This latest edition has new photos and a forward by Liza Dalby, the first American woman to be fully trained as a geisha.

Japan: The Cookbook

by Nancy Singleton Hachisu

Food writer, Nancy Singleton Hachisu, presents more than 400 recipes for cooking Japanese food. The recipes are simple and easy to prepare. And the best part: they're delicious!


The Penguin Book of Japanese Short Stories

by Haruki Murakami; Jay Rubin

Jay Rubin edits this varied collection of Japanese short stories. The stories range from the nineteenth century to today. And authors include well known names like Murakami (who also wrote the introduction) to new up-and-comers. The best way to learn about a culture is immerse yourself in its literature. This is a great start.

Tales of Japan: Traditional Stories of Monsters and Magic

by Kotaro Chiba

Another way to learn about a culture is to experience its fairy tales. These traditional tales tell the story of art and people's experience within the realm of fantasy and imagination. The volume adds a graphic interaction with plenty of pictures.

Japan: As Viewed by 17 Creators

by Vanessa Champion; Elizabeth Tiernan; Shizuka Shimoyama; Moyoko Anno; et al

A graphic book of 17 stories from Japan. But with a twist: eight stories written by Japanese and nine by French authors. What is the Japanese experience? What is a Westerners experience of Japan? Read on.

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