Popular Contemporary Japanese Literature Authors

Chinese literature significantly influenced early Japanese literature. Over time, Japanese literature came into its own as Japanese writers developed their own identities and started writing about Japan. When Japan opened its ports to Western trading after the sakoku years, both Western and Eastern literature greatly influenced Japanese literature until today.

Japanese writers embraced free verse and incorporated it in the traditional poetic repertoire through the introduction of European literature. This allowed Japanese artists a fresh approach in creating longer works and alternative themes. Many young Japanese writers were allowed a broader range of ideas and styles that they quickly embraced. Some of the more popular contemporary Japanese writers include:

Kenzaburō Ōe (born January 31, 1935) – his writing is heavily influenced by American and French literature. He writes mostly about social, political, existential, social non-conforming, and philosophical issues. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1994. Some of his latest works available in English include the Kaifuku suru kazoku, 1995 – A Healing Family (trans. by Stephen Snyder, ill. by Yukari Oe),Chugaeri, 1999 – Somersault (trans. by Philip Gabriel)  and Torikae ko (Chenjiringu), 2000 – The Changeling (trans. by Deborah Boehm).

Kenzaburō Ōe. | Thesupermat



Haruki Murakami (born January 12, 1949) – his works have gained critical acclaim and awards in Japan and internationally. His writings have been translated into 50 languages and have sold millions of copies.

Haruki Murakami.| wakarimasita

Haruki Murakami’s writing style usually makes use of the first-person narrative in the tradition of the Japanese style I-Novel (literary genre in Japanese literature used to describe a type of confessional literature where the events in the story correspond to events in the author’s life). Some of his more popular writings include The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (1994-1995), Kafka on the Shore (2002), and 1Q84 (2009–2010). Murakami has also translated a number of English novels into Japanese such as those from authors J.D. Salinger and Raymond Carver.

Banana Yoshimoto (born 24 July 1964) – an influence on her early works was American author Stephen King, particularly his non-horror stories. As she further developed her writing, she admired the works of Isaac Bashevis Singer and Truman Capote.

Banana Yoshimoto. | screengrab from www.goodreads.com

Banana Yoshimoto says that the main themes of her writings are “the exhaustion of young Japanese in contemporary Japan” and “the way in which terrible experiences shape a person’s life.” The Lake, her latest work, was longlisted for the 2011 Man Asian Literary Prize (an annual literary award given to the best novel by an Asian writer, either written in English or translated into English).