Contemporary Japanese Literature: Must-Read Novels for Millennials | Rock & Art

Contemporary Japanese Literature: Must-Read Novels for Millennials

Navigating the vast world of literature can be daunting, especially when delving into the rich landscape of Japanese novels. Often seen as a genre, contemporary Japanese literature masterfully blends modern life with traditional elements, offering a reserved yet vivid depiction of everyday Japanese realities. Japanese writers capture a unique cultural essence that has captivated readers worldwide. Whether contemplating life choices or facing a millennial mid-life crisis, the philosophical questions woven into Japanese fiction will resonate deeply with many readers. But if some of you are still unconvinced, here are nine spotlighted Japanese novels to try.

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage

Haruki Murakami

Haruki Murakami, sometimes referred to as the Stephen King of Japanese literature, is a must-read on our literature list. Born in 1949 in Kyoto, Japan, Murakami is known for his distinctive blend of magical realism, surrealism, and deep psychological insight. His novels often explore themes of loneliness, alienation, and the search for identity, reflecting his own experiences of feeling disconnected from Japanese society.

His famous classic “Norwegian Wood” is a significant classic among readers. Yet, we wanted to add “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage” as a recommended book. Throughout the story, the protagonist embarks on a journey to unveil the mysteries behind the rejection by his closest friends during his college years and ultimately seeks resolution and healing.

Murakami’s exploration of the human psyche and his surreal, dreamlike style makes his work resonate with the unconventional and introspective nature of rock culture. If you enjoy exploring human connections and finding oneself in life, “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage” will be a memorable read.

Even If This Love Disappears Tonight

Ichijo Misaki

Ichijo Misaki is a contemporary Japanese author known for her emotionally charged and introspective writing. While not much is widely known about her personal life, her works often delve into the complexities of love, memory, and human relationships. A pure, old-school love story for one of those days when you need a good cry.

Contemporary Japanese Literature: Must-Read Novels for Millennials | Rock & Art

“Even If This Love Disappears Tonight” is a story about a girl who loses her memory every night and has to re-learn about herself every morning. Through the perspective of an amnesiac, we gain a broader understanding of the world and learn to cherish life’s small joys.

This narrative’s emotional depth and poignant exploration of memory can be likened to the haunting lyrics of a classic rock ballad. I highly recommend joining Maori and Toru on their poignant journey, as this book promises to leave a lasting imprint on your memory.

The Devotion of Suspect X

Keigo Higashino

Keigo Higashino was born in Osaka in 1958 and is one of Japan’s most popular mystery writers. Before becoming a full-time writer, he worked as an engineer, which significantly influenced his intricate and logical storytelling style. Higashino’s works often explore the darker aspects of human nature and the moral dilemmas faced by his characters.

Contemporary Japanese Literature: Must-Read Novels for Millennials | Rock & Art

This one is for the mystery story-lovers. “The Devotion of Suspect X” is an intriguing read that will keep you guessing till the very end. A masterpiece and one-of-a-kind story about the complexity of human relationships. The novel is set in contemporary Tokyo and centres on Ishigami, a brilliant mathematician drawn into a murder investigation when his neighbour Yasuko Hanaoka defends herself by killing her abusive ex-husband.

The story unfolds gradually, skillfully enhancing the mystery and deepening the plot’s complexity. The intricate plot and the themes of sacrifice and obsession resonate with the rebellious and analytical spirit of the rock and art world. This book will appeal to both crime fiction and everyday novel readers.

Before the Coffee Gets Cold

Toshikazu Kawaguchi

Toshikazu Kawaguchi is a playwright turned novelist, born in Osaka, Japan. His background in theatre is evident in his narrative style, which often features vivid dialogue and tightly woven plots. Kawaguchi’s works are imbued with a sense of nostalgia and a deep appreciation for the fleeting nature of time. A melancholic yet charming novel that explores the power of second chances.

The whole story revolves around a small coffee shop that allows certain customers to go back in time, but only after meeting certain tricky conditions, such as returning before the coffee gets cold. Throughout the story, you will encounter different characters with different regrets and longings for the past. Toshikazu Kawaguchi’s magical realism makes us realise the value of time and human connections, wishing there was a café like this in our city.

The surreal and wistful nature of this story mirrors the emotive and thought-provoking essence of abstract art.

There’s No Such Thing as an Easy Job

Kikuko Tsumura

Kikuko Tsumura was born in Osaka in 1978 and has won numerous literary awards in Japan. Her writing often explores the themes of work, identity, and mental health, drawing on her own experiences of burnout and recovery. Tsumura’s novels are characterised by their witty observations and empathetic portrayals of everyday struggles.

“There’s No Such Thing as an Easy Job” is a deeply complex and philosophical novel that dives into the different aspects of modern work culture. The protagonist of the story pursues a minimum effort job after being burned out at her previous job.

Only later does she realise that she has become a full-time spy. The novel is packed with the heroine’s observations on everyday life, adding witty insights till the last page. This story will resonate with anyone who has been let down by the dehumanising work culture. The protagonist’s journey of disillusionment and self-discovery aligns well with the themes of rebellion and individuality prominent in rock music.

Convenience Store Woman

Sayaka Murata

Sayaka Murata was born in 1979 in Inzai, Chiba, Japan. She has worked part-time in a convenience store for many years, an experience that significantly influenced her most famous work, “Convenience Store Woman.” Murata’s writing often challenges societal norms and explores themes of alienation and non-conformity.

Staying true to oneself or conforming to social norms? This is the dilemma of Keiko Furukura, the convenience store worker, who is trying to find a balance between belonging in society and staying authentic. After working for 18 years in the same store without being promoted, she started feeling the pressure from society.

The novel not only portrays the nuances of the everyday life of convenience store workers but also comments on a sense of belonging, individuality, and social expectations. Keiko’s struggle and steadfastness in remaining true to herself despite societal pressures echo the defiance and self-expression found in rock and art culture.

Keep the Vibe Alive with Japanese Novels

As you dive into these powerful narratives, remember that every page turned is a step into a world where the boundaries between reality and imagination blur, much like the electrifying riffs of a rock anthem or the bold strokes of a masterpiece. Each of these books offers a unique perspective that challenges norms, embraces individuality, and resonates with the rebellious spirit of rock and art.

Don’t just read—immerse yourself. Feel the pulse of each story, let the words paint vivid pictures in your mind, and draw inspiration from the rich tapestry of Japanese culture. Share your thoughts, discuss with fellow enthusiasts, and let these stories fuel your creativity and passion.

Join the Conversation!

We want to hear from you. Which book resonated the most? How did the characters inspire you? Share your reviews, artwork, or even your own stories inspired by these novels. Tag us on social media, join our online book club, and be part of a community that celebrates the fusion of literature, rock, and art.

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