The other day I was introduced to a wonderful site which contains a list of various works of Japanese literature throughout history: “20 Essential Works of Japanese Literature.”
Below is a link to the website as well as its own introduction:
“Japan’s ancient history has imbued it with a diverse literary heritage largely ignored by American literati and professors, save for a few notable exceptions. Anyone wanting to further explore the full range of the country’s written works should consider this list a primer of the highlights to hit before moving on to other poems, novels, plays, comics and short stories. Plenty of amazing writers and narratives exist beyond these, of course, and anyone who digs for them will dredge up a slew of literary treasures.”
The website is actually found on “bachelorsdegreeonline” along with many other informative blogs about various topics.
Spanning from the “Kokin Wakashu” written around 905 C.E. to Haruki Murakami’s, “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle” in 1995, a vast variety of Japanese works are presented including such traditional classics as “The Tale of Genji” and “The Tale of the Heike“, and those from modern award-winning novelists such as Yukio Mishima and Kenzaburo Oe. I recognized quite a few of the titles on the list, but I was surprised to find many I hadn’t heard of before. It particularly reminded me of all the modern classics I haven’t read yet. One work from ancient times which really caught my eye that I hadn’t heard of before was the “Taketori Monogatari“. (Description from the website below):
“Taketori Monogatari (10th Century) by Unknown: Known alternately as “The Tale of the Bamboo-Cutter” and “The Old Bamboo-Hewer’s Story,” folklorists believe this narrative is quite possibly the oldest in Japan. Because of the bizarre content, including glowing stalks of the eponymous plant, some even think of the story as one of the earliest science-fiction stories as well.”
With each description, a link is given to the stories where you can purchase them online. I can think of a few personal favorites from Japanese literature that are not on the list, and there are no references for works in the past fifteen years, I highly recommend this wonderful resource for those interested in a helpful resource to dive into the vast ocean of Japanese literature with.