Hello travelers! Bayram started Team Red's world tour off in the USA, so welcome to the second stop, Japan! I've been in love with Japan and Japanese culture since I was a little girl, and I was lucky enough to spend two months there this summer. It only stands to reason that I like books set in Japan, so, I thought I would share some of my favorites with you.
The Samurai Detective Series by Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler
I decided to start my list off with one of the earliest book series set in Japan that I have read; The Samurai Detective Series by Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler. There are seven books in this series; the first, The Ghost in the Tokaido Inn, was published in 1999 and the latest (which I only learned about when I was writing this post), The Red-Headed Demon, was published in 2014. Set in the 1700's, this middle grade series follows Seikei, a merchant's son turned Samurai, through misadventures and mysteries. I would definitely recommend this book for readers of all ages, but I would especially recommend this for middle grade boys who are looking for a good read!
Kazunomiya by Kathryn Lasky
Similar to the first series, Kazunomiya by Kathryn Lasky is a middle grade book set in historical Japan. The book, written like a diary, is the chronicle of a year in Princess Kazunomiya's life. We follow along as Princess Kazunomiya's life takes twists and turns, and she learns about life, love, family, and herself. Once again, this book is great for readers of all ages, but I think it would appeal more to young girls.
Young Samurai Series by Chris Bradford
Another historical, middle grade series (I think there might be a theme here) is the Young Samurai Series by Chris Bradford. Unlike the others, this series follows a young British boy, Jack, who is shipwrecked in Japan. We watch as he adjusts to life in a country that is very different from his own, learns a new language, and discovers his place. With lots of intrigue and action, a diverse variety of settings, and strong male and female characters, this book is great for everyone!
Samurai Shortstop by Alan Gratz
Okay, there is definitely a theme here. Samurai Shortstop is a historical middle grade standalone set during the Meiji Restoration (1890's). Similar to Kazunomiya, this book has a distinctly realistic feel that makes it seem like you are reading someone's autobiography. Told from 15-year-old Toyo's point of view, this book is an often times stark, honest depiction of Japanese high school in the late 19th, early 20th century, and how western culture influenced this ancient culture in a time of great change. There are some topics (suicide, hazing) that should be considered when recommending this book to younger teens, but, overall, it is a great book for a variety of readers.
Paper Gods Series by Amanda Sun
Now we come to the contemporary/paranormal YA! ~ecstatic clapping~ When I initially picked up Ink by Amanda Sun, the first book in the Paper Gods series, I honestly wasn't sure if I was going to like it. As you can probably tell by the series' presence on this list, I ended up liking it a lot. The story follows Katie, an American girl who goes to live with her Aunt in Japan, and her discovery of love and that there is more in this world than humans could imagine. Due to the age of the characters, and some of the plot points, I think this series would mostly appeal to the YA/New Adult lovers.
Gai-Jin by James Clavell
First, I have to say that you don't spell gaijin like that. Beyond that, Gai-Jin by James Clavell is a really great book! It is book number 6 in the Asian Saga, and one of only two that are set in Japan. I read it out of order (I read this one first and then moved on to book number 3, Shogun, which is the other one set in Japan). I also read it at a much, much, much younger age than it was intended for. Oops? This book is an adult, historical fiction novel and it deals with some very serious topics (STDs, Rape, Suicide) in a very frank and adult way. This book does not have a single main character but instead follows several different characters and how their lives diverge and intersect. Even though I read it when I was 14, I absolutely loved it! There is a realness to it that pulled me in and held me until the story was over! I would, however, only recommend this book to teens that are mature and adults.
The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa
If you've been around my blog, you'll know that I actually posted a review for The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa. Some of my favorite parts of this book were; the focus on platonic relationships, the integration of math into the story, and how natural the progression of the story felt. This book is also an adult novel, but I feel that the subject matter makes the story easily accessible to YA readers as well.
Shinobi Mystery Series by Susan Spann
With that, our adventure in Japan has come to an end. Give some of these books a chance to transport you to Japan and take this opportunity to find books set in other countries too! I also hope you'll join Xander on the next leg of our tour; Greece and the Mediterranean!