My top 10 favourite books

... see what else I like and dislike ...  

(In no particular order)

Special mention in Children's Category (also for adults):

The runners up

The Non-Fiction Winners

Useful and useless Japanese books

The Land of the Rising Yen, George Mikes
- lovingly pointing our the foibles of this nation too

Zeit für Japan, Gert Anhalt
- the non-standard guide to Japan

A History of Japan: From Stone Age to Superpower, Kenneth Henshall
- the standard text on Japan's history - some boring bits (it's history) but many fascinating insights

Things Japanese, Basil Hall Chamberlain
- "Dictionary" explaining customs in Japan just after opening up. Also revealing on what Victorians thought about women ("silly")

KIE - Kateigaho International
- lovely mag for Japan's arts & culture

Tokyo, Monocle Travel Guide
- great hints on areas, food, shopping - really different to the standard guides

Tokyo Now & Then - an explorer's guide, Paul Waley
- history of all districts - not only bordellos are fascinating

Noh adaptation of Shakespeare - Kuniyoshi Ueda
- really wacky: Hamlet as Noh (two or five scene version, or as one man play), Othello as English&Japanese Haiku - with instructions where to dance and stomp foot on traditional stage, what Noh mask Desdemona wears and how she holds her fan, at what syllable to beat the taiko drum in “to be or not to be is *not* the question” and much more.
“Hamlet exits via the the hashigakari, doing komawari and ashibyoshi movement as a final display of his decisiveness”

Unuseless Japanese Inventions, Kenji Kawakami
- Cindogu - elaborate or unconventional solutions to non-pressing problems

Die 101 wichtigsten Fragen - Japan, Coulmas/Stalpers
- amazingly informative - even if you think you know a bit about Japan

Japan - zwischen Tradition und Moderne, National Geographic
- wonderful pictures, als always from NG

Design of NOH, Seigensha Art
- lovely handbook of costumes, masks etc

Mokusei! Eine Liebesgeschichte, Cees Nooteboom
- lovely short sad love story and description of foreigners who think they know (or want to see) the real Japan

Rashomon and seventeen other stories, Ryunosuke Akutagawa
- some nice, but mostly overrated (and a bit boring ...). Life of the author in appendix is the best bit

Der Dieb, Fuminori Nakamura
- quite nice story about pickpocket in what i tjought was crime free Japan

Kanji Pictographix, Michael Rowley
- mnemonics for jap. characters - which are harder to remember than the character

70 Japanese Gestures
- how to say "your underwear is showing" without speaking japanese

Mokusei !, Cees Nooteboom
- love story showing insider knowledge of jap. society - but slow

Weltgeschichte - Das Japanische Kaisserreich
- history of Japan from Jomo to the 1960s. All the facts and history the boring way

Forms of Japan, Michael Kenna, Prestel
- beautifull black and white (not even grey) photos of Japan with Haiku

Fear and Trembling, Amélie Nothomb
- beautifully written inside view of jap. corporations and role of women

Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan, Lafcadio Hearn (1850-1904)
- born in Greece, illegally married a black woman in US, influenced creole cooking, translated Maupassant, quoted in James Bond film, became Japanese citizen. Delights in all things Japanese and does not want them Westernised. Enchanted by traditional houses, customs etc. as seen just after Japan opened up. Many of his findings can still be observed today - but how much longer ...

Hiroshige: 100 Famous Views of Edo, Melanie Trede and Lorenz Bichler
- beautiful pictures with helpful academic text by our friends Melanie and Lorenz

Oishinbo, Tetsu Kariya, Akira Hansaki
- manga about quest for perfect meal - translated but still turn pages right to left

Empire of Signs, Roland Barthes
- famous book by Frenchman who never went to Japan - pretentious twaddle

The Makioka Sisters, J. Tanizaki
- very famous but quite turgid novel about Japanese tradition

World Food - Japan, lonely planet
- especially good on local variations and practical tips

Haiku, Reclam e.g. On a withered branch/a crow has settled.../autumn nightfall
- interesting introduction to provenance and understanding and translation of 17 syllables

Japanische Jahreszeiten, Tanka und Haiku aus 13 Jahrhunderten, Coudenhove, Manesse
- alternative translation for poems on the 5 (including New Year!) Japanese seasons

Japan, lonely planet
- ditto, well researched and masses on every area

The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick
- brilliant social/political utopia of world if Japan and Germany had won the war

Japan, Dorling-Kindersley Eyewitness Travel Guide
- the standard, but beautifully illustrated, guide to Japan

Dashi and Umami - the heart of Japanese cuisine, foreword by Heston Blumenthal et al
- 150 pages on how to make the perfect broth, brilliant

Japan, Bucher Verlag
- beautiful pictures of ancient and modern Japan

Ando by Masao Furuyama, Taschen
- the only architect who really knows how to do concrete

Architecture in Japan by Philip Jodidio, Taschen
- Spooky, square buildings in Omotesando, Roppongi etc. and why Japanese cities are the way they are

Araki, Stern Fotografie
- beautiful Kaori, with ropes and without

TimeOut: Tokyo
- excellent guide by insiders

Kunst aus Japan, Museum für Ostasiatische Kunst, Berlin/New York
- dig those Kimonos with Mickey Mouse

Japanische Farbholzschnitte, Taschen Verlag
- poor quality pictures and long boring texts on fascinating subject

Darum Nerven Japaner, Christoph Neumann
- thing you wish you didn't know about the Japanese

Mobile Suit Gundam, Kazuhisa Kondo
- classic Manga comic

At Home with Japanese Cooking, Elizabeth Andoh
- excellent manual for all Japanese staples

Japans 99 irdische Paradise
- boring: grey texts, maps and pics - no paradise

Haruki Murakami e.g. A Wild Sheep Chase
- weird stories by the Japanese master

The last hour of the Bengal Tiger, Yoko Ogawa
- brings up weird moods like Murakami, but these are short stories and more in-your-face/brutal

Ryokan, Gabriele Fahr-Becker
- the concepts behind the traditional inns

The Hotel Book - Great Escapes Asia, Christiane Reiter
- these look so good it makes you want to go there

Sex and the Floating World, Timon Screech
- academic treatise on woodcuts used, ahem, "in conditions of solitary pleasure"

Pons, Japanisch Powerkurs fuer Anfänger
- you're not going to learn Japanese in a hurry

Gateway to Japan, Kinoshita & Palevsky
- encyclopaedic guide to Japan

Japanese Cooking A Simple Art, Tsuji
- don't be put-off by the fact that this book is over 25 years old, has few photographs, more than 500 pages and that it "takes 20 years to acquire enough experience to make truly perfect rice"!

Tsukiji, Ted Bestor
- the world's biggest fish market (described by boring academic)

Merian Japan 2010
- more useful hints for the traveller

Merian Tokyo und Japan Dezember 1992
- "enorme Schulden ... größte Spekualtion der Wirtschaftsgeschichte ... mittels Buchwertexplosion reicher gerechnet ... nun geplatzt ... Verzerrung der Einkommensverteilung dort Gesellschaft zu destabilisieren ...gewaltiges Kunstkapital ... Geld beliebig vermehrbar ... Finanazapparat über Nach zu einer Krisenbranche ... "Casino-Kapitalismus" ... der Steuerzahler wird die Zeche zahlen"
- sounds familiar ? The above is based on events "in der zweiten Hälfte der achtziger Jahre" - so 1987, not 2008 - but twenty years before: toujours la même chose with the bankers ...

Mondtränen, Bürohelden und Küchengerüchte, Schmitt
- less useful, longwinded articles

Wrong about Japan, Peter Carey
- a father discovers Japan through travels with his son

The Xenophobe's Guide to the Japanese, Sahoko Kaji
- what is likeable and less likeable

Taishita koto nai jinsei, Helga Sentivany
- talks with aged Japanese ladies

Railway Timetable, JR Group
- indespensable for the Rail Pass user

Inemuri - wie die Japaner schlafen, Brigitte Steger
- academic treatise on the instant nap/meditation at work

Zehn, Franka Potente
- nice, but not special (surprising author, though), short stories on everyday life in Japan

In Praise of Shadows, Junichiro Tanizaki
- 1886 author gently reminding that one should not emulate Westerns, that laquer should be seen in the dusk and that the Japanese toilet truly is a place of spiritual repose

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, David Mitchell
- delightful story of Dejima (the Dutch trading colony outside Japan before the country's opening)

Tokyo Tango, Uwe Schmitt
- German journalist gives perceptive insights into East/Western assimilation, role of state in society etc

The Chrysanthemum and the Sword, Ruth Benedict
- Classic on Japanese obligations/debts/favours owed/reciprocated etc (on, chu, ko, giri, jin - see table in p. 116)

The Hare with the Amber Eyes, Edmund de Waal
- Delightful book about the inheritance of a Nestuke collection through a Jewish/Viennese family. Observes the "obsessive search for perfection" that lies behind everything the Japanese do, including spending months on making a single Netsuke.

Shogun, James Clavell
- Classic so-so novel on how a Westerner became a Japanese warrior

Japan, David Michaud
- Beautiful pictures of Japan

Netsuke, in Japanology series, Komada
- Text in Japanese, but nice pictures of production process and some lovely pieces

Masatoshi Netsuke, Sagemonoya
- Beautiful images of Netsuke by Masatoshi (1915-2001)

Tokyo Vice, Jake Adelstein
- American reporter who worked with Japanese police so-so on Yakuza

Memoirs of a Geisha, Arthur Golden
- Fascinating insights into traditional world of Gion distric/Geisha and Japanese views (Japanese men feel about a woman's neck and throat the same way that Westeners feel about womens' legs - hence low kimono collars, neck paint "sanbon-ashi"), customs (e.g. obi tied in front = prostitute, because too much bother taking it off all night if tied at back. A proper Geisha instead has a Danna - a rich keeper), "en" is a lifetime karmic bond between two people etc

Netsuke - The Prince Takamado Collection, Tokyo National Museum
- Beautiful largely modern Netsuke

In the Miso Soup, Ryu Murakami
- An American gets taken on guided tour of Tokyo nightlife. Not much good

Manga Kochbuch, Angelina Paustian
- Sounds fun but the "Japanese" food looks pretty unpleasant and unhealthy - not like the real thing

The Buddha in the Attic, Julie Otsuka
- Delightful story of how Japanese women were lured across the Pacific to America - not their advantage. "Picture brides" clutching photos of their husbands-to-be are disappointed when they see the real thing and are lost in a strange land. Very sad but beautifully written.

When China Rules the World, Martin Jacques
- More on China than Japan, obviously. But very knowledgeable about Asian culture with many fascinating facts about the culture. Also on Japan: attitudes towards rules (should be followed - but not as much as in Germany, Fig. 9), every junction has traffic lights (where people wait), uniforms, swimming hats' timed appearance in supermarkets. And why China will - unlike Japan, as once was expected - conquer the world.

Japan, JPM Guides
- Nice compact guide book

Japan Style, Taschen
- Beautiful pictures of Japanese houses and ornaments, furnishings etc.