10 Contemporary Japanese Writers You Should Know

Banana Yoshimoto’s new elliptical novel, The Lake, comes out tomorrow, and we thought we’d honor it by listing ten postwar Japanese writers whose work has been translated into English and are deserving of your attention. Also, Monkey Business: New Voices from Japan just came out, with a mind-blowingly good self-effacing short story by Yoko Ogawa titled, “The Tale of the House of Physics.” The following authors aren’t known for stories about samurai, schoolgirls, or animé, though these topics can, at times, figure into their work, but only peripherally. They tell stories that transcend easy attempts at classification, proving that Japanese literature is more than just Rashomon or The Pillow Book. These are the writers of postwar Japan, and they are a formidable group of misfits, outlaws, and introspective urban dwellers.

Kenzaburo Oe

Photo by Ulla Montan

Kenzaburo Oe hails from the forests of Shikoku, a quiet island in southern Japan. He began writing seriously in 1957, and won the Nobel Prize for Literature almost forty years later, in 1994. The Changling (2010) is his newest novel in translation, and it explores the relationship between two friends after one commits suicide.