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The Wonderful Words of Japanese Literature

Haruki Murakami used to take all the spotlight on the Japanese literary stage. But no longer. An army of award-winning authors – almost exclusively women – have set the stage alight.

Japanese Literature is booming across the globe in English translation. Here are a few of our favourite quotes from Japan's top (female) authors to show you why. It's time to feel the magic.

Pictured: Mieko Kawakami (left) with Yoko Tawada (right), in 2016.


Mieko Kawakami

Light spilled off every surface. The light of day. I meditated on this phrase and stared into the radiance. 

How much it hurts to be a woman. If you say that, though, people look at you like you're throwing a pity party. They'll tell you men have a lot of pain to deal with, too.

Sometimes I felt like I had left myself behind.

Breasts and Eggs


Hiromi Kawakami


Would you like consider a relationship with me, based on a premise of love.

Even a cracked pot has lid that fits.

That’s why I left the flat. Out on the street, I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t the only one here, that I wasn’t the only one feeling lonely. 

- Strange Weather in Tokyo


    Yoko Ogawa

    Still, being alone doesn't mean you have to be miserable. In that sense it's different from losing something. You've still got yourself, even if you lose everything else. - Diving Pool

    Maybe there’s a place out there where people whose hearts aren’t empty can go on living. - The Memory Police 

    Hiroko Oyamada

    All I could see was a meaningless arrangement of squiggles and dots, symbols and patterns, running on endlessly. Words are such unstable things. - The Factory

    A male and a female, if you will. They mate, and why? To leave children behind. And what are the children supposed to do? Turn around and do the whole thing over again? Well, what do you do when what you’ve got isn’t worth carrying on?The Hole

    Read about the Absurd World of Hiroko Oyamada


    Yoko Tawada

    As a child he had assumed the goal of medicine was to keep bodies alive forever; he had never considered the pain of not being able to die.  - The Emissary

    Mold started to grow in my ears because no one ever spoke to me. - Memoirs of a Polar Bear

    Read about The Curious Surrealism of Yoko Tawada.


    Banana Yoshimoto

    I have my life, I’m living it. It’s twisted, exhausting, uncertain, and full of guilt, but nonetheless, there’s something there.’ - The Lake

    Truly happy memories always live on, shining. Over time, one by one, they come back to life. - Kitchen

    This world of ours is piled high with farewells and goodbyes of so many different kinds, like the evening sky renewing itself again and again from one instant to the next – and I didn't want to forget a single one. - Goodbye Tsugumi

    Read about Grief and Longing in Banana Yoshimoto.


    Sayaka Murata

    You eliminate the parts of your life that others find strange – maybe that’s what everyone means when they say they want to ‘cure' me. - Convenience Store Woman

    The normal world has no room for exceptions and always quietly eliminates foreign objects. Anyone who is lacking is disposed of. - Convenience Store Woman

    What I'm really scared of is believing the words society makes me speak are my own. - Earthlings


    Kanae Minato

    If the place in which you find yourself is too painful, I say you should be free to seek another, less painful place of refuge. There is no shame in seeking a safe place. I want you to believe that somewhere in this wide world there is a place for you, a safe haven.

    If you’re always worrying about what other people think, you’ll never get any tougher.

    - Confessions

    Kaori Ekuni

    Love alone helped us get through life. Without it, life was simply too haphazard. - Twinkle Twinkle


    Natsuo Kirino


    It wasn't so much that I was afraid of the place itself, but I was afraid of the creatures who masqueraded as people. - Real World

    Strange that she’d never known she had such cruelty inside. - Out


    We could go on... there are countless entrancing writers to pick. But no spoilers. Keen to discover and more Japanese authors? Click here. We send readers one every month that they'll fall in love with.

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