Tokyo

Tokyo: the capital city of Japan, the center of commerce and government since 1683, and a gigantic, electrifying metropolis containing everything from shrines to cat cafes. It would be hard to capture the many sides of Tokyo in an entire library of volumes, let alone a short collection. But we've done our best to select a range of fiction and non-fiction that illustrates the dramatic, bizarre and beautiful facets of contemporary and historical Tokyo.

History

A Brief History Of The Samurai

Jonathan Clements

In less than 300 pages, this book lays out a comprehensive and enthralling account of the samurai, one of the most important influences on Japanese history and culture.

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Literary Fiction

A Tale For The Time Being

Ruth Ozeki

A funny and thought-provoking tale about a precocious, troubled girl in Tokyo and a writer on the other side of the ocean who gets to know her in an unexpected way. Rich and resonant from a thematic point of view -- the book covers the past and present, religion and secular trends, technology and magic -- but at its core a moving story about getting better and growing up.

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Literary Fiction

Coin Locker Babies

Ryu Murakami

Not as well known outside his homeland as another writer who shares his surname, Ryu Murakami is nevertheless one of Japan's finest contemporary novelists. This story is an exploration of Tokyo's grittier side, as told during a surreal quest for revenge by a pair of twins abandoned at birth in the depths of the Tokyo subway system. Not for everyone, but these frenetic characters capture the full range of wild, cyberpunk energy that characterized late 20th century Japan.

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Literary Fiction

Kokoro

Natsume Soseki

A short and moving novel from a writer often considered to be the greatest in modern Japanese history. Kokoro, which can be roughly translated as "the heart of things," explores the friendship between a young narrator and the man he considers to be his mentor, Sensei. In doing so, the book exposes the social and cultural issues at stake during Japan's transition from the imperial Meiji period to the modern era. Heavily featured are the landscape and landmarks of pre-industrial Tokyo -- some of which still stand today.

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Historical Fiction

Shogun

James Clavell

Perhaps the most quintessential Western novel about Japan, Shogun is an epic work of historical fiction set in the 1600s. You can think of it as Game of Thrones with samurai -- based on true events, the novel follows the experience of a marooned English navigator during the greatest battles in Japanese history. The world described in Shogun is far from the sparkling skyscrapers of Tokyo, but the book is enthralling, educational and the perfect read for a long international flight.

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Literary Fiction

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

Haruki Murakami

Perhaps the best known modern Japanese novelist, Haruki Murakami is well deserving of a mention on our list, and the Wind Up Bird Chronicle is the way to do it. Considered one of Murakami's best works, the novel is a surreal mystery set in contemporary Tokyo, exploring topics as diverse as WWII history and the quest for a missing cat. All the while, the narrator wanders through tony neighborhoods like Shinjuku and Asakusa. For those looking for a shorter read, Norwegian Wood, South of the Border/West of the Sun, and Sputnick Sweetheart are fantastic Murakami works also set in Tokyo.

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