Top 10 Books by Japanese Authors that Every Cat-Lover Should Read
Fascinating, elegant, unpredictable, fierce, sometimes even quirky… cats are certainly some of the most mysterious creatures on Earth. These animals have an undeniable charm for human beings, but if there is one country where cats are particularly revered and respected as sacred creatures, it is Japan. Cats are real superstars in the Land of the Rising Sun: you can find them in paintings, food packaging, clothing, cartoons, comic books, video games, all sorts of gadgets… as you can see from this picture, cats are even worshiped in many temples.
(source: KCP International)
The popular Japanese cat figurine maneki-neko (招き猫, “beckoning cat”) can be found in many shops and business establishments, and is typically believed to bring good fortune and money to those who cross their path. Thanks to many folkloric myths spread in Japan, cats became embedded within Japanese culture as symbols of protection and good luck. For their mysterious and unpredictable nature, cats are also considered evil spirits, ghosts – creepy creatures that can suddenly appear and scare humans to death.
Throughout the centuries, many Japanese writers have centered their works on these fascinating creatures. In this article we have collected the best books (novel, manga) written by Japanese authors which have cats as a protagonist.
1) I am a Cat (1905), by Natsume Soseki.
Considered by many a classic of Japanese literature, I am a Cat is a satirical novel written by Soseki Natsume and set in the Meiji period (1868-1912). The main character is a housecat who lives with his owner, the English teacher Mr. Sneaze. The author adopts the point of view of the cat to criticize the middle-class Japanese society of the time.
In 2021 a manga adaptation of the novel was published, beautifully illustrated by the talented Japanese artist Chiroru Kobato. If you are looking for a classic, unconventional, wonderfully written novel about cats, this is the perfect title for you!
2) A Cat, A Man, And Two Women (1936), by Junichiro Tanizaki.
The main character of this novel is Shozo, a recently divorced and extremely lazy man who lives together with his beloved tortoiseshell cat Lily. Their idyll ends when the ex-wife Shinako confronts Shozo and demands Lily as compensation for her loneliness. Suddenly, as the cat becomes part of a very strange love triangle, the feelings of the main characters start to come out in unexpected ways…
3) The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (1994), by Haruki Murakami.
Toru is a young, lazy, ambitionless young man in his thirties who leads a pretty conventional existence together with his wife. When his cat and his wife go missing, he embarks on a bizarre journey that brings him to a mysterious netherworld below the surface of Tokyo. In this novel we encounter the magic element and the parallel universe, recurring themes in Murakami’s work.
For this novel, Murakami received the Yomiuri Literary Award, one of the most important literary awards in Japan.
4) The Guest Cat (2001), by Takashi Hiraide.
Can the unexpected visit of a cat solve a couple’s problems? Well, believe it or not – it can!
In this novel the author describes the boring, predictable life of a couple in their thirties who live in a small cottage in Tokyo. They both work from home as writers, and they have nothing to say to each other anymore. Things change when a ‘guest‘ cat comes and visits them from the window every day. The couple start to communicate again and to rediscover that special love that they once shared. This book will keep you glued to its pages, until the mysterious and unexpected finale.
The book won Japan’s Kiyama Shohei Literary Award and was a bestseller in France and America.
5) Kafka on the Shore (2002), by Haruki Murakami.
This novel is composed of two distinct but interrelated plots. The odd-numbered chapters follow the 15-year-old Kafka’s quest to find his missing sister and mother. The even-numbered chapters describe the life of Satoru, an old man who, in spite of having lost almost all his mental faculties, can communicate with cats.
Kafka on the Shore was listed among “The 10 Best Books of 2005” from The New York Times and received the World Fantasy Award in 2006.
6) If Cats Disappeared from the World (2012), by Genki Kawamura.
A postman lives a relatively calm and lonely life with his beloved cat Cabbage until one day he receives an unexpected diagnosis from his doctor: he has only a few months left to live. At that point, the Devil appears to the postman, and the two make a pact: In exchange for making one thing in the world disappear, the Devil grants him one extra day of life. With each object that disappears, our hero reflects on his life, his joys and regrets, the people he’s loved and lost…
7) The Travelling Cat Chronicles (2012), by Hiro Arikawa
Our own Simone is a big fan of this book!
Let’s find out what she has to say about it:
‘’This debut novel by Japanese author Hiro Arikawa is a lovely, sweet and endearing story.
Satoru, owner of the cat Nana, is looking for a new owner for her. They travel the country together visiting old friends who might be suitable and willing to adopt Nana. They reminisce about their time together at school, or their friendship later in life.
Nana, the cat with a tail shaped like a 7, adds her own perspective on things, and is quite a personality.
Their road trip together proves to be a very important experience, and both look back on it with great affection for each other’’.
8) The Cat Who Saved Books (2021), by Sosuke Natsukawa
Rintaro Natsuki loves to spend time in the small, crammed bookshop owned by his grandpa. There he can read his favorite books in solitude and fantasize about other, distant worlds. After the death of his grandpa, Rintaro is devastated, alone and desperate to save the shop from failure. Suddenly, a talking tabby cat called Tiger appears and asks Rintaro to help him on his mission to save books from people who have forsaken them.
This international bestseller is a heartwarming tale that celebrates the ‘tremendous power’ of books and of friendship as well.
9) A Man and His Cat (2017), by Umi Sakurai
In the pet shop he calls home, the chubby, homely, lazy cat Fukumaru spends his time watching potential owners who seem to prefer younger and smaller kittens. As days go by, no one seems interested in the poor Fukumaru. Things suddenly change when Kanda, an older gentleman, comes into the shop and decides to take him home.
This manga series follows the daily life of this bizarre duo as their bond grows.
10) Cat Diary: Yon & Mu (2008), by Junji Ito
A humorous memoir manga from the horror specialist himself who, behold, is scared of cats himself! The manga is about how he and his wife adopt two cats and how he slowly grows to love them.
Have you found the purrrfect cat-read in this list? Check out our blog for more book-tips and visit our website to browse our selection! And if you have read other Japanese titles with cats, let us know!
**Remember to contact our stores directly to check the real-time availability of these titles. ***