As we all know, autumn is for reading. So here are chapter books for kids and teens related to Japan! Yeah, I know you are an adult. They are for adults too. Who said we can’t read kids’ books?
The Cat who Went to Heaven by Elizabeth Coatsworth. (winner of the Newbery award in 1930) Set in Japan
Gadget Girl: The Art of Being Invisible by Suzanne Kamata (writer is American mom living in Japan, her husband is Japanese) Set in America and France with Japanese-American protagonist. More YA than for a child.
The Ghost at the Tokaido Inn by Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler Set in Japan with Japanese protagonist.
Jet Black and the Ninja Wind by Leza Lowitz and Shogo Oketani (writers are American mom and Japanese dad team) Set in Japan with Japanese-American protagonist. More YA than for a child.
Heart of a Samurai by Margi Preuss (winner of Newbery Honor in 2011) Story of the first Japanese person to make it to America and back. It’s fiction, but based on the true story and it seems the author did a lot of research to get the facts straight. The Japanese boy’s story is extremely famous in Japan, known by everybody here, although this particular book is not known by everybody here.
Kira Kira by Cynthia Kadohata (winner of Newbery Award in 2005) Set in the U.S. with Japanese American protagonist.
Kensuke’s Kingdom by Michael Mopurgo. Set on an island with western child protagonist who meets a Japanese man.
Sadako and the One Thousand Paper cranes by Eleanor Coerr Set in Japan with Japanese progtagonist.
The Sign of the Chrysanthemum by Katherine Paterson. Japanese protagonist in Japan.
Miss Happiness and Miss Flower by Rumer Godden. Dolls from Japan, set in England with English children.
My favorite: (I have not read all the books, by the way.) Of the books I have read, I am going to say “The Cat Who Went to Heaven” is my favorite. It’s short and sweet, and really retains the feel of Japan.
One thing that I think is interesting. In the nineties, my husband and I went to Guam for our honeymoon. At the time, I read up on the islands and I learned that a Japanese soldier stayed hidden in the jungle (of Saipan?) for years and years and YEARS because he didn’t realize the war was over. He was finally discovered. Poor guy! I thought, “That would make a great book!” Lo and behold, around that time, “Kensuke’s Kingdom” came out, with a similar storyline.
You may be wondering about books that were written in Japanese by Japanese authors and translated to English for a western audience. Well, I don’t know of any such chapter books. Many western books get translated into Japanese, but the reverse is not true.
free images from this site.
If you know any others, please share in the comments! Thank you!