Wrap-up of Japanese literature read in the past months

A quick and dirty flashback on Japanese literature I read so far this year (since J-lit reviews are what most people are here for, I think?). I’ve been a bit out of the loop, but this is partly for the Japanese Literature Challenge 7, which has been going since May? June? and I only found out about today (that’s how inactive I’ve been online!) thanks to Tony.

Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami 5/5
I was so scared to start this book because everyone loves it and from what I read about it, I suspected I would love it too. But what if I didn’t? Well, this definitely wasn’t a quick read for me like some of Murakami’s other works, but I really loved it. My sole comment while reading was “This is so gorgeous T_T”. It is, it is. I don’t know what it is about Murakami, but every time I finish a book I need time to think about it and I can’t just read another book by him. This one apparently weighs so heavily that I haven’t picked up a full Murakami novel ever since.

Een stoomfluit midden in de nacht by Haruki Murakami 3/5
Okay so I lied, I read this small book of short stories not too long after Kafka on the Shore, but it doesn’t really count because they are short stories. This nice little book was published as New Year’s gift for 2005-2006 and wasn’t for sale.

I still can’t forget about Kafka on the Shore.

Kokoro by Natsume Soseki 5/5
This was for a group-read in Goodreads Japanese Literature group. Typically one of those books I loved (5 stars) but can’t actually say anything sensible about.

No Longer Human by Dazai Osamu 3/5
Ugh. I didn’t hate it, some parts were quite brilliant, but ugh these type of main characters. The only comment I wrote down while reading was “this book is making me really gloomy ugh”. I have no positive memories of this.

The Apprenticeship of Big Toe P by Rieko Matsuura 2/5
Let me sum up the plot: the protagonist’s big toe changes into a penis. There. My blog just went up in the search engine rankings. It wasn’t a good book, but it wasn’t too bad either. It could have been much better. One way or another, I will definitely remember it.

The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino 2/5
I didn’t dislike this one but it was definitely a disappointment. This book was a nice read with an interesting approach. From the start of the book you know exactly who perpetrators are and how the victim died, but the question is: how did the body disappear and how will the perpetrators get away with it? Nonetheless, no part of this book really surprised me and moreover I didn’t feel any connection with any of the characters at all. Everyone was just sort of bland.

The Lake by Banana Yoshimoto 3/5
I didn’t take any notes, but I remember liking it and being touched by it.

The Housekeeper + The Professor by Yoko Ogawa 5/5
Loved this. Didn’t take any other notes, but I loved this. Very touching, great characters, and so sad!

The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu 2/5
By September I decided that life was too short and I gave up on reading all of The Tale of Genji. I recognise the historical significance of the work (hence the two stars). However, the translation and style make for a tedious read (and I simply don’t have the willpower to keep going for another 1000+ pages). And Genji is a complete creep.

Samsa in Love by Haruki Murakami 3/5
Short story (see, still no full novel) that appeared in the New Yorker. Without having read anything by Kafka (yet)… this is very The Metamorphosis. Short stories like this mostly serve to leave me frustrated. Alas, that’s what makes it so good.


  1. A few good books here 🙂 I liked the Ogawa, but it’s a very tame choice compared with her other books (other readers have said that the ones which haven’t yet been translated into English are even darker…). I enjoyed ‘The Lake’ too, much more so than some of her other work. I reread ‘Lizard’ and ‘Kitchen’ a while back, and they just didn’t stand up to a second reading. And, of course, ‘Kafka on the Shore’ and ‘Kokoro’ are great too 🙂

    • C.

      This was the first book I read by Ogawa so I definitely plan to read more. Kitchen was the first book I read by Yoshimoto and I loved that, but it’s been a while. It’s interesting to look back on books and realise you now don’t like them as much, or actually love them more. I’m not much of a rereader (apart from, sorry, Harry Potter XD)… so many books, so little time…

  2. It seems that you love the very same books I have, namely Kafka on the Shore and The Housekeeper and the Professor. Although I own Kokoro and The Lake and The Devotion of Suspect X I haven’t yet read them. I need to devote December and January to Japanese literature, not only as the hostess of the challenge, but as I so adore the genre. Glad you found your way to the JLC7!

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