What You Should Know About Japanese Literature – Why It Is Amazing

Every country approaches its own culture differently. This doesn’t mean that a country has a specific style of art, but that the artists typically tackle similar subjects, most of which are culturally and historically dominant in that part of the world.

Every country is rather specific about its art, but the artists, given freedom of expression, can take that another couple of steps in any direction.

Japan is known for its interesting culture, particularly to the West. Japan has an amazing culture and here are some particularities about its literature, and why it is amazing.

Narratives Are Different

In the West, clear beginnings and ends are very much normal and expected. Nobody likes it when a story ends on a cliffhanger, or if it seems unfinished if there is a lot on the plate, a lot that we should unravel. However, in Japan, a narrative doesn’t have to have a defined start or an end, which makes stories a lot more interesting, especially to a Western reader, who has been trained to expect a beginning and an end. 

Interacting with any specifically non-European/American literature tends to be a rather interesting experience and the same can be said for Japanese literature when we first get into it.

Japanese Themes

Among the more popular works of literature that hail from Japan, the themes that we often find are either love, women, or more often, a Kafkaesque life. The latter is particularly true for any setting which takes place in a large city, typically Tokyo. A person is struggling with their life and they cannot find meaning in it, while the currents take them here and there. The themes can be many, depending on the author, of course, but these are the prevalent ones.

Another common topic in Japan is its societal system which is very rigid and can be cumbersome for everyone. It is often the topic of critique through various means.

Women Authors

This is something that differs a lot from the literature of the West, where women authors were seen from the 19th century and onwards. Japan has always had quite a huge number of women authors. 

A reason for this is that women were taught to write as often as men were and that they had the same literacy skills. Women were typically taught the hiragana, which was used for both private and public writing. While women did not use only hiragana and it wasn’t the only writing system taught to them, they were all literate and had many roles within the imperial family.

As such, women writers have been present since the middle ages and are still quite impactful. 

Japanese literature is great for many reasons, these being some of them. The others, you can find on your own, by reading.