20 Remarkable Books Set in Japan to Inspire Wanderlust

Books set in Japan

The July reading challenge prompt is to read books set in Japan. Why? Because this year the Summer Olympics will be set in Tokyo!

With the Summer Olympics finally approaching, it seems like we have been waiting forever. The last year and a half are almost surreal but, the Tokyo Olympics are approaching quickly and are sure to bring a bright spot to our year.

Since I cannot travel to Japan, I wanted to read books set in Japan to take me away. Before this year, I had not read many books about Japanese culture so this month’s reading challenge was a particularly fun one for me.

There are so many books set in Japan for me to choose from and obviously, I could not read them all. Here is a short list of books that I have read and another list of books still on my TBR.

Since our Olympics hysteria has reached a fever pitch, we also rounded up our favorite Olympic apparel for Team USA. I’ve been having to talk Kirsten out of purchasing all the things!

If the Olympic feeling is in you too, check out these books about sports. Many of them are about the Olympics!

*Post contains affiliate links. Purchases made through links result in a small commission to us at no cost to you. Some books have been gifted. All opinions are our own.

This post fulfills a prompt for the 2024 reading challenge! It’s not too late to join!

Our Closet In Your Neighborhood clients are participating in this year’s reading challenge. Please consider donating books through our independent bookstore partner.

Contemporary Books Set in Japan

Tokyo Ueno Station and other books set in Japan


Tokyo Ueno Station by Miri Yu

This book was incredibly well-written, utterly captivating, and rather depressing. Kazu is dead, but he can’t find peace in the afterlife so he haunts Tokyo’s Ueno Station.

We learn about his life, his family, and how they faired during some of Japan’s most important moments in modern history from the Tokyo Olympics to the recent tsunami.

Rainbirds and other books set in Japan

Rainbirds by Clarissa Goenowen

After learning of his sister’s brutal murder, Ren heads to a small town outside Tokyo to wrap up his sisters affairs.

Instead, he ends up taking over her job and her apartment as he tries to piece together what was happening with his sister in the years leading up to her death. In the process, he finds himself.

Convenience Store Woman and other books set in Japan

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata and Ginny Tapley Takemori (Translator)

The quirky character in this novel reminded me of Eleanor Oliphant. I loved being inside Keiko’s unique mind.

Keiko has been working at the same convenience store for 18 years. Listening to her inner monologue as she tries to conform with society is at times humorous and at other times sad. I would gladly have spent another 100 pages with Keiko in this delightful contemporary fiction book.

The Housekeeper and the Professor

The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa and Stephan Snyder (translator)

The housekeeper and the professor is a lovely story about a retired mathematics professor who has amnesia and can only remember the last 80 minutes.

He hires a housekeeper who must introduce herself to him every day. When the professor finds out that her son must be home without her after school, the professor immediately insists that the son come to his house every day and thus begins a beautiful relationship.

This is a beautifully written contemporary fiction book and an absolute must-read for anyone wanting to read about Japan.

Romance Books Set in Japan

The Little teashop in Tokyo

The Little Teashop in Tokyo by Julie Caplin

This book was so much fun to read. Fiona is a travel blogger who wins a competition and finds herself in Tokyo on an all expense paid trip.

When her mentor is unexpectedly changed to the man who broke her heart years ago, Fiona is embarrassed and needs to pretend nothing is amiss.

This book is adorable and fun and took me on a virtual trip to Japan.

Tokyo Ever After and other books set in Japan

Tokyo Ever After by Emiko Jean

This is like the Princess Diaries meets What A Girl Wants but set in Japan…and Ya’ll know I LOVED it.

I’m hoping this is the first in a new series about the Japanese royal family. I adored learning about the Imperial family and the customs surrounding them.

I’m so thrilled that Reese chose it as a YA pick. It’s a perfect summer read.

Historical Fiction Set in Japan

50 words for Rain

Fifty Words for Rain by Asha Lemmie

Let me start by saying that this is a beautifully written book that follows Noriko Kamiza from the time she is dropped off at her grandparent’s house and through her life. The story examines Japanese culture in a world after WWII.

Nothing good happens in this book. Nothing. If I had known this before I read it, I may have liked it more. This saga follows Nori through hardship and loss. It is a beautiful book but it is not uplifting.

memoirs of a geisha

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

This is another book I read years ago that has stayed with me. I had never read anything like it and I have never read anything like it since.

Shinju and other books set in Japan

Shinju by Laura Joh Rowland

Do you like historical mysteries? Then this series is for you. I first read Laura Joh Rowland’s Shinju years ago after my dad shoved it into my hands!

It’s set in the 1600s, where a Samurai is investigating a double murder disguised as a joint suicide. It’s fascinating to dive into the customs and traditions of the era.

Want to Read

Team USA Olympic Apparel

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