From Japanese Sneakers to Supernatural Cats: Ten New Japanese Books

Utsukushigahara Highland ©Yasufumi Nishi

Now that the winter nights are well and truly drawing in and the mercury outside staying low, what better way to spend the long winter nights than reading a book (or ten)?

Here we present ten of the latest and most interesting Japan-related books. From Tokyo street food and a guide to Asian manga to Japanese sneaker culture and supernatural cats (yes, you read that correctly), the books cover a wide range of aspects of Japanese culture.

So settle down and have a browse - you’ll surely find a tome or two to help you while away the long winter evenings, and even if you don’t you may still stumble across the perfect Christmas gift for that tricky-to-buy-for Japanophile among your family or friends!

1) Kakebo: The Japanese Art of Saving Money

Kakebo book cover

Declutter your finances with the latest trend in Japanese minimalism. This book promises to help readers “discover the path to balance and calm” through the Japanese art of saving money - and what could be better for your blood pressure than getting on top of your finances?

‘Kakebo’ - household account books or budgeting journals - were pioneered by Motoko Hani, considered to be Japan’s first female journalist, at the turn of the twentieth century, and have been beloved of thrifty Japanese housewives ever since.  Keeping a kakebo is easy. Create a budget at the start of each month, note down your spending every day or week, and see how it all tallies up at the end of the month.

The book allows space for you to personalise the pages according to your own spending habits, as well as room to reflect and make changes as you go along.  Keeping a record of what you are spending allows you to take control of it, breaking bad habits and making new ones that will improve your life. Start today - and discover the life-changing magic of money mindfulness with Kakebo... 


Buy Kakebo: The Japanese Art of Saving Money for £6.99 from WH Smith or Amazon.

2) Sushi Made Simple by Atsuko Ikeda

Sushi Made Simple book cover

The word ‘sushi' refers to ‘vinegared rice', and is used for sushi accompanied by any kind of raw, pickled, smoked, grilled or seared ingredients. From classic and familiar wraps and rolls to modern sushi burgers, bombs and deconstructed salad bowls, London-based teacher Atsuko presents an approachable, diverse and colourful selection of 60 recipes for rolls, wraps, moulded and deconstructed sushi. 

Atsuko covers the essential ingredients any sushi chef should keep in their pantry, basic cooking methods and step-by-step techniques - including methods for brown rice, quinoa and pink beetroot rice - before moving onto the recipes themselves. 

The recipes are divided by category, including sushi rolls, moulded sushi - including classic sushi as nigiri and oshi-sushi (pressed sushi) but also pretty chakin-sushi parcels - creative moulded sushi - including sushi bombs, burgers and even cakes - deconstructed sushi - including chirashi sushi, Poke bowls, and jarred salads - and vegetarian and vegan sushi.

Buy Sushi Made Simple for £11.89 from WH Smith.

3) 111 Places in Tokyo That You Shouldn’t Miss by Bjorn Neumann and Christine Izeki

11 Places in Tokyo book cover

Tokyo is a city that enshrines the past and the future, constantly changing and renewing itself throughout its history. In this exceptional travel guide by Christine Izeki, a journalist who has lived in Japan since 1998, and Bjorn Neumann, a photographer in Tokyo since 2004, you can easily explore the Tokyo metropolis from unusual vantage points, far away from the usual bustling tourist tracks. 

The authors take you to unknown nooks and green oases in the middle of the concrete desert, revealing where Japanese teens meet up and where the hippest cafes can be found. This guidebook is for anyone who wants to explore Tokyo from a different perspective, making unique discoveries while enjoying the authentic culture of this international city.

Buy 111 Places in Tokyo That You Shouldn't Miss for £8.39 from WH Smith

4) The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa (trans. Philip Gabriel)

Travelling Cat Chronicles book cover

Nana is on a road trip, but he’s not sure where he’s going…  Nana’s owner Satoru is keen to visit three old friends from his youth, but Nana doesn't know why and Satoru won't say. All that matters is that he can sit beside his beloved owner in the front seat of his silver van. Recommended by thousands of readers and including specially commissioned line drawings, this is the tender feelgood story of one man’s journey across Japan accompanied by his streetcat. 

Set against the backdrop of Japan's changing seasons and narrated with a rare gentleness and humour, Nana's story explores the wonder and thrill of life's unexpected detours, the value of friendship and solitude, and knowing when to give and when to take. With its powerful message of kindness and truth, Travelling Cat shows how acts of love, both great and small, can transform our lives. It's not the journey that counts, but who's at your side. 

Buy The Travelling Cat Chronicles for £6.29 from WH Smith or Amazon.

5) Memoirs of a Polar Bear by Yoko Tawada (trans. Susan Bernofsky)

Memoirs of a Polar Bear book cover

This is the enchanting story of three extraordinary bears, brought to life by one of Japan's most inventive and dazzling novelists. The first bear is a diligent memoirist whose unlikely success forces her to flee Soviet Russia. The second, her daughter, is a skilled dancer in an East Berlin circus. The third, Knut, is born and raised in Berlin Zoo at the beginning of the 21st century. 

Born in Tokyo in 1960, author Yoko Tawada moved to Germany when she was twenty-two and has since lived in Hamburg and Berlin. She writes in both Japanese and German, and has published several books of stories, novels, poems, plays, and essays in both languages, receiving numerous awards for her writing.

Buy Memoirs of a Polar Bear for £6.29 from WH Smith

6) Kaibyo: the Supernatural Cats of Japan by Zack Davisson

Kaibyo Supernatural Cats book cover

Translator, writer, and scholar of Japanese folklore and ghosts Zack Davisson explores the world of ‘kaibyo’, or Japan’s supernatural cats. This title will strongly appeal to cat lovers of all kinds, while folklore buffs will enjoy the newly translated tales and art collectors will appreciate the rarely-seen woodblock prints.

The book includes a short history of Japanese cats, writings on supernatural Japanese cats such as bake-neko (the shape-shifting cat), kasha (the cat demon), neko-musume (the cat daughter), gotoko-neko (the trivet cat), and Iriomote oyama-neko (Iriomote the great mountain cat). These are complemented by several short stories about supernatural Japanese cats, including The Vampire Cat of Nabeshima, The Cat’s Grave, and The Boy Who Drew Cats.

Buy Kaibyo: the Supernatural Cats of Japan for £11.16 from Amazon.

7) Mangasia: the Definitive Guide to Asian Comics by Paul Gravett

Mangasia book cover

This beautiful and engaging volume by world authority on comic art Paul Gravett charts the evolution of manga from its roots in late 19th-century Japan through the many and varied forms of comics, cartoons and animation created throughout Asia for more than 100 years to the kaleidoscope of creativity apparent in the digital age today.

Gravett’s sophisticated and far-ranging discussion encompasses topics such as the ever-changing meanings of manga stories, the exchange of ideas between manga artists across Asia, the creative explosion in manga after the Second World War with the emergence of artists such as Osamu Tezuka, and the ways in which artists have responded to political events since 1950 using propaganda, criticism and commentary.

Finally, Gravett brings the discussion up to date with a look at the influence of censorship on manga, current multi-platform manga offerings in Asia, and the transition from cut-price rental libraries to today’s booming specialist emporia and comic conventions. This book is a must-have for any serious manga- or anime-loving fan!

Buy Mangasia: the Definitive Guide to Asian Comics for £20.36 from WH Smith.

8) Cook with Ami: Japanese Home-style Dishes by Ami Yamashita

Cook with Ami book cover

Together with her husband Chef Masataka Yamashita, Tsunemi (Ami) Yamashita runs a busy and successful Japanese artisan patisserie. Despite the long hours Ami spends at the patisserie, she always prepares a proper meal for dinner when she gets home. The meals usually consist of a soup, a staple, three to four side dishes and a dessert, but the key is that they never take very long to put together. 

In this book, Ami reveals her secrets to whipping up scrumptious yet healthy dishes on a daily basis and in double quick time. She shares more than 50 easy-to-follow recipes that can be scaled up or down, tips on preparing dishes ahead to save time, and even a guide on how to cut vegetables quickly and efficiently. Plan, cook and enjoy Japanese home-style dishes with Ami!

Buy Cook with Ami: Japanese Home-style Dishes for £12.91 from WH Smith.

9) Creative Sole: Japanese Sneaker Culture by Manami Okazaki

Creative Sole book cover

Creative, covetable and cool, Japanese sneakers are some of the most highly sought after in the world today. This book looks at Japan’s prolific presence in global sneaker culture and its multi-billion pound industry, with profiles on hundreds of sneakers and collaborations from the hottest Japanese designers ranging from crazy and chic to vintage, rare and Japan exclusive items. 

The book includes over 350 sneaker photos, including collaboration sneakers from a wide range of creators, from streetwear label BAPE and designers such as Comme des Garçons to Nintendo game characters, artist Takashi Murakami, and the ultimate Japanese pop culture icon Hello Kitty. Interviews with famous designers, artists, creative directors, athletes and ad agencies provide additional contextual information on the world of kicks.

From Asics / Onitsuka Tiger’s Olympic archival items, to the mita sneakers collabs portfolio, to historic Japan-made sneakers sourced from the vaults of Tokyo’s super collectors, this comprehensive book will thrill all lovers of Japanese design, fashion, and shoes. 

Buy Creative Sole: Japanese Sneaker Culture for £21.07 from WH Smith.

10) Tokyo Street Food by Tom Vanderberghe and Luk Thys

Tokyo Street Food book cover

This dazzling culinary travel guide about Japanese street food is the latest episode in the adventures of culinary explorer Tom Vandenberghe and food photographer Luk Thys. Their newest adventure sees the duo accompanied by two well-known Japanese cooking personalities: Miho Shibuya and Tomoko Kaji.

With an eye for authenticity and a nose for delicious dishes, the four famous foodies stroll the streets of the Japanese capital in search of new culinary discoveries, tasting as many dishes as humanly possible and sharing their exciting, delicious and just plain surprising experiences with the reader.

Buy Tokyo Street Food for £16.96 from WH Smith.

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