Books are well-known for tackling social and cultural inequalities and relating transformative personal experiences. The books we’ve chosen for this list are no different. From mysteries to love stories to heartbreak, Japanese authors have been chronicling the struggles and triumphs of the LGBTQ+ community for decades. Keep reading to discover some of our favorite books to read (or re-read!) during Pride Month.
Confessions of a Mask by Yukio Mishima
Confessions of a Mask was Mishima’s second novel and launched him into the spotlight as a young author. Although he was only in his early twenties when he wrote it, it’s considered a semi-autobiographical novel that draws inspiration from his coming of age experience in post-war Japan.
Confessions of a Mask follows the story of Kochan, an adolescent who feels left out from his peers, especially due to his meek physique and inability to participate in athletic activities. His desire to be ‘normal’ is overshadowed by his growing attraction to men. He tries to hide his new feelings by dating a woman but soon the news of the war reaches Japan and he finds himself questioning his future and his place in the world.
Forbidden Colors by Yukio Mishima
This is another great novel from Mishima and is also considered to be somewhat autobiographical. In this story, we meet a bitter, well-known novelist who wants to seek revenge on the women who have betrayed him in his life. He uses Yuichi, a handsome young man who is just discovering his attraction to men, as a pawn in his game. Forbidden Colors gives us an interesting look into a hidden society and the gay underworld of postwar Japan.
Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto
Like many of Yoshimoto’s books, and as you can probably guess from the title, food is an important theme in Kitchen. In this novel, Yoshimoto tells the story of Mikage, a culinary teacher’s assistant who has just lost her last living relative, her grandmother. She decides to move in with Yuichi, a young man from a flower shop and his transgender mother, Eriko. Love, loss, murder, and food come together to tell this beautiful and tragic story.
Twinkle Twinkle by Kaori Ekuni
Twinkle, Twinkle is the story of a very quirky relationship. Mutsuki is a gay doctor who recently married Shoko who has been diagnosed as emotionally unstable. They both are perfectly content with the sham marriage they’ve entered into - at least it gets their parents off their backs - but like any marriage, the happiness doesn’t last long.
Mutsuki has been described as the female Murakami in Japan. But we think she’s in a class all of her own!
Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami
Sputnik Sweetheart is the story of a love triangle and a disappearance. Sumire is a frumpy aspiring writer who falls in love with a glamorous older woman, Miu. Her best friend, K, who is actually in love with her, has to hear all about her secret desires. Until one day when he receives a call from Miu that Sumire has disappeared.
As Murakami himself stated, Sputnik Sweetheart is "the story of abnormal things happening to normal people.”
- - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Looking for more book recommendations? Check out our Japanese Book Subscription Package and let us help you find your next favorite read.