Must-read Japanese fiction of 2024

Must-read Japanese fiction of 2024

Japanese fiction has gained immense amount of attention since past few years, bringing forth new narratives from the country and making a dent in the realm of literary popularity and recognition. 2024 again brings a vibrant array of stories that are hard to miss. From gripping thrillers to heartwarming tales of love and loss, these fiction offer a window into the diverse voices and narratives that define contemporary Japanese literature.

Butter: A Novel of Food and Murder by Asako Yuzuki; Translated by Polly Barton
In Butter, a cult Japanese bestseller, culinary artistry intertwines with a chilling tale of a female gourmet cook turned serial killer. Journalist Rika Machida's pursuit of the truth about her crimes leads to an unexpected culinary exchange. Inspired by a true story, Asako Yuzuki's novel delves into misogyny, obsession, and the transformative power of gastronomy in Japan. As Rika delves deeper, she discovers unsettling parallels between herself and the enigmatic killer. Can the shared love of food bridge the chasm between them, or will it only deepen the darkness within?      

Harlequin Butterfly by Toh Enjoe; Translated by David Boyd
In this delightfully surreal novella, an enigmatic writer known as Tomoyuki Tomoyuki evades capture by affluent entrepreneur A.A. Abrams, who obsessively pursues him across the globe. With a knack for writing in numerous languages, Tomoyuki remains a mystery, leaving agents of the Abrams Institute perplexed. As they unravel the puzzle of his movements and writing habits, they discover layers of complexity and intrigue, each leading to another enigma. 

Mittens and Pity by Banana Yoshimoto
Set across Kanazawa, Helsinki, Taipei, Rome, Hong Kong, and Hachijo-jima, these six stories delve into the struggles of individuals grappling with recent loss and the challenge of embracing life's realities while carrying memories. In Mittens and Pity, women confront their pain with introspection, discovering glimmers of hope in the present. Yoshimoto's signature exploration of loss shines through, culminating in a wise, compassionate, and hopeful collection that reflects her thirty-year literary journey. As always, food serves as a healing force, making "Mittens and Pity" quintessential Banana Yoshimoto book.      

Set My Heart on Fire By Izumi Suzuki; Translated by Helen O’Horan
In Set My Heart on Fire, Izumi, a young woman, chronicles her tumultuous twenties through thirteen candid vignettes, unfolding against the backdrop of Tokyo's underground bar and club scene in the 1970s. With a blend of ennui, snark, and tragedy, Izumi navigates the complexities of young womanhood amidst missteps, miscommunications, and the trinity of music, men, and meds. Each chapter, named after tracks from iconic bands like The Zombies, The Supremes, and the Rolling Stones, immerses readers in the vibrant music culture of the 1960s and 1970s, enriching Izumi's narrative with its nostalgic resonance.

A Woman of Pleasure by Kiyoko Murata; Translated by Helen Juliet Winters Carpenter 
In her riveting novel, Kiyoko Murata vividly portrays the harsh yet vibrant world of women in Meiji-era Japan's red-light district, drawing from real-life events. Follow fifteen-year-old Ichi Aoi's journey from a humble fishing village to the esteemed confines of a Kumamoto brothel, where she becomes the protege of the top courtesan, Shinonome. Guided by Shinonome and her writing instructor, Tetsuko, Ichi learns the intricacies of power, sex, and expression. Together, these women forge a bond strong enough to defy convention, orchestrating a strike that leads them toward newfound possibilities and independence.

Words Platform Desk
Date 09.05.2024