Journey Through Literary Japan

Picture taken at the Snow Country Museum in Echigo-Yuzawa
The train came out of the long border tunnel - and there was the snow country. The night had turned white.

I began reading my first novel by a Japanese author (in translation) on the Joetsu Shinkansen several years ago: The bullet train screamed through the long tunnel and emerged into the Snow Country of Kawabata Yasunari's classic novel.

Judging by the travel book sections of your local book store I am not alone. Travellers love to delve into something that sets the scene or provides a cultural or historical context to their trip. Since that first journey to Japan, on every subsequent ski trip I have read more Japanese literature in translation.

Kawabata's novel is unique for me in that it is one of the few I have found that is set in the winter snows of Western Japan. Snow skiers and boarders will struggle to find a lot of Japanese books that are snow-based! But this is a huge nation that has a massive body of literature in a peculiar style that has undergone such a fascinating, radical change over the last 120 years in parallel with its amazing history. Its richness has generated two Nobel prizewinners and popular contemporary writers in the West like Murakami Haruki.

For some (geeky) reason I have started compiling this map while I have been reading these books ... while I have been travelling these journeys. The map locates events in Japanese books by their setting. If you're travelling Japan, these books may be fine companions on your journeys and add a touch or magic, history or colour to your adventure.

View Journey through Literary Japan in a larger map

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