Historical Fiction in Japanese
Historical Fiction in Japanese has recently become more popular in the Western world. Several novels have been written, including Howl's Moving Castle by Welsh author Thomas Hardy. Other examples include Kitchen by Mikage Sakurai and Shike: Time of the Dragons by Robert Shea. These works offer a rich historical perspective on the period during which Japan was ruled by the Mongols. Read on to discover more. Here are some of the best historical fiction novels in Japanese today.
Across the Nightingale Floor
Across the Nightingale Floor is a fantasy novel in Japanese set in feudal Japan. It is set against the backdrop of secret alliances, warring clans, and high honour. In the first book, Takeo is born under the name Tomasu and is raised by his mother and stepfather in a small village. The story revolves around Takeo and Iida's friendship, and their conflicting loyalties and feelings for each other.
The first book in the Tales of Otori trilogy, Across the Nightingale Floor was published in 2002. It was written originally as one text, but was later divided into a trilogy. It is followed by two sequels and a prequel, Heaven's Net Is Wide. The story is set in a fantasy world, and it follows the lives of two teenagers - Tomasu, 16, and Kaede, fifteen.
In this first book in the acclaimed Tales of the Otori series, the main character, Takeo, must confront the murderous warlord, lida Sadamu. He must kill the man who murdered his family and burned his village. In order to escape from this dangerous situation, Takeo must cross the nightingale floor - a floor that sings at the step of a human's foot. Ultimately, the two men must work together to kill the assassin who has terrorized their people.
Kitchen by Mikage Sakurai
The first part of the novel starts with Mikage remembering her time with her grandmother, Eriko. The summer he spent with Eriko was her favorite part of the summer. Now she is working at a cooking school, and she tries to impress her boss, Yuichi, with her cooking. Her relationship with Yuichi is complicated and grows as she learns to prepare different dishes.
The setting of the novel is Tokyo, a sprawling city filled with industrial buildings, high-cost of living, and cramped living conditions. Mikage's former lover, Sotaro, has an odd relationship with nature, and is an eccentric character who loves green spaces. The characters are mostly concerned with human culture. Mikage feels isolated from nature, but she has a connection to it in the novel.
The book is set in urban Tokyo in the 1980s. Yoichi tells Mikage she will be picked up in Tokyo tomorrow. Kitchen is a popular novel in Japan, and the press dubbed it "bananamania." It is said that Yoshimoto chose her pen name because she liked banana flowers. However, it is not a guarantee of quality. Hence, the book's popularity is not due to its historical accuracy but rather its witty and readable style.
The Honjin Murders
The Honjin Murders is a 1946 novel written in Japanese by Seishi Yokomizo. In this novel, an amateur sleuth named Kosuke Kindaichi investigates a string of murders. A renowned Japanese detective novelist, Yokomizo created the popular character, and he first appeared in 1946. The book sold 55 million copies and spawned numerous television adaptations.
Although a short novel, The Honjin Murders possesses many of the qualities of a well-written mystery. The characters are interesting and the mystery is intriguing. The author creates a remarkably theatrical atmosphere through the use of a variety of settings and characters. The novel also boasts a weighty political theme that isn't diluted with too much plot or too little character development.
Although the novel was originally published in Japanese, The Honjin Murders was only recently translated into English. Its popularity in Japan has resulted in numerous small press US editions of the novel. Pushkin Vertigo, which published both translations, hopes to publish more of the author's novels in English. And since the author's novels have a strong international following, it will likely be a long time before his works are translated into English.
Robert Shea's Shike: Time of the Dragons
In this work of historical fiction, the protagonist, Jebu, belongs to a fictional society of warrior munks. Like ninja or Shaolin, this secret society is inspired by several historical religious/military groups. Shea also weaves a story of two fascinating characters in early Japan and China. He creates a rich and detailed world and makes it eerily believable.
Set in pre-war Japan, Shike is a two-volume historical novel that compresses the events of the genpei war and the Mongol invasion of Japan. Two characters play an important role in this story: Jebu, a warrior-monk of mixed parentage and a highly fictionalized version of Benkei, and Shima Taniko, a minor noblewoman who is escorted by her monk Jebu to her arranged marriage with Prince Horigawa, a wealthy and powerful nobleman.
Shea was born and raised in Manhattan and was a member of the editorial staff of Playboy. He was a friend of Robert Anton Wilson and collaborated with him on the Illuminatus! Trilogy. Their friendship and disagreements were mutually beneficial and contributed to the richness of the novel. The story is dialogic and allows multiple point of views. In Shike, the main character's fate is ambiguous, but the plot arc ties all the characters together.
Laura Joh Rowland's Red Chrysanthemum
The author of the Sano Ichiro mystery series, Laura Joh Rowland is best known for her series of novels featuring Sano Ichiro. Her Sano Ichiro books have been twice named Best Mysteries of the Year by Publishers Weekly. Laura Joh Rowland is originally from New Orleans and lives in New York City. Her novels are filled with mystery and intrigue.
The mystery in Laura Joh Rowland's latest novel is a well-constructed mystery. The protagonists Sano and Reiko use their skills to solve a murder mystery involving a rare martial art. The dead man also discovered a plot against the shogun, which means a civil war could ensue if the assassin is not stopped. Rowland portrays class distinctions well, and she is an excellent storyteller.
As an outsider, I found myself intrigued by the premise of a mystery novel. In this case, the author drew her inspiration from Rashomon, which focuses on a murder and an attempted coup. The plot involves the murder of a daimyo (ruling family member) and his pregnant wife. Both Sano and Reiko's wives are suspected of being involved.
The Buddha in the Attic
This novel is written in Japanese and challenges many of the shibboleths about American immigration and the experience of Asian immigrants. The book illustrates the troubling strands of Japanese-American history and culture. A Japanese woman emigrated to America as a picture bride, assuming that she will be able to marry handsome American men. Unfortunately, her husbands are old and insignificant, and she soon finds out that her new life in the U.S. isn't going to be as easy as she had dreamed.
Ostuka's novel The Buddha in the Attic explores the experiences of Japanese picture brides immigrating to the United States in the early 1900s. Written in first-person plural, this novel examines the challenges of discrimination and persecution. The underlying themes are human nature and the value of friendship and family, and the complexities of identity and history. While this novel is in Japanese, the language makes it accessible to many readers.
The book explores the lives of young picture brides who migrated to the U.S. during the early 1900s. These women were given the names of men from the photographs they had received. The book has won numerous awards, including the PEN/Faulkner Award, Prix Femina Etranger, and the Albatros Literaturpreis. It was shortlisted for the National Book Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. It has also been translated into 22 different languages, including Japanese.
Lian Hearn's Grass for His Pillow
Grass for His Pillow is the second novel of the Tales of the Otori trilogy written by Lian Hearn. This book covers a six-month period and follows Across the Nightingale Floor. As with the first novel, it will keep the reader on the edge of their seats with a compelling plot and memorable characters. A highly recommended read for fans of the Tales of the Otori series, Grass for His Pillow will appeal to fans of fantasy literature and science fiction.
The second book in Lian Hearn's Tales of the Otori series is a thrilling adventure that takes place in the ancient Oriental lands of the Otori. The novel features hidden shadows, famine, and treacherous alliances. Takeo Otori, a young lover, is on the run from the mysterious Otori family, while his life is in danger.
This third novel in Lian Hearn's Tales of the Otori trilogy takes place in a mythical medieval Japan. In Across the Nightingale Floor, Lian Hearn has created a fully realized fantasy world. The novel was also selected as a Notable Book of the Year by the New York Times and a Best Novel of the Year by Book magazine.