Japanese Literature: Nihon Bungaku
When I was around ten years old my cousin and her family moved to Japan as part of her husband’s job. Every so often I would get a postcard in the mail from various places they visited. It didn’t take long before I threw myself into the culture. I became the typical US anime/manga otaku (geek). In high school (when I started my own bank account and discovered the wonderful world of Amazon) I started reading translated novels- starting with fairytales and Japanese lore until I worked up to modern novels.
When you start to read Japanese literature, you can’t go in thinking it’s going to be the same as the books you are used to reading just because it’s translated into english. Besides the cultural differences Japanese literature uses different writing techniques and different styles of novels. Here’s three novel types that’s closely related to Japanese Literature:
Light novels are Novellas (short novels) that mainly target junior high and high school age readers. Most of them have manga quality pictures within the book, but not so many that it reminds you of reading a picture book. The Book Girl series by Mizuki Nomura is a good example.
I novels are written by the author, either about the author or the author’s point of view. It’s written in first person POV and the main focus is to portray the ‘real world’ as seen by the author. Some authors use I-Novels as a confessional to a darker part of themselves or society. Osamu Dazai’s No Longer Human is believed to be his will, as the book is closely related to events in his life and he committed suicide not long after it was published.
Cellphone novels are very popular novels in Japan. They are usually romance novels and are written on cellphones- each chapter only being around 100 words long- and are sometimes published as physical novels as well. Koizora (Love Sky aka Sky of Love) is one of the more popular novels and was also adapted into a manga, TV series, and a movie. Sadly there’s no english translated version of the original cellphone novel or printed novel. The US has their own version of cellphone novels, the most popular being Secondhand Memories by Takatsu.