Greatest Literature banner

The 77 Greatest Works of Japanese Literature

This list of Japan's greatest literature is based on the same years of research and surveys carried out for our other lists (see "Creating the Greatest Literature of All Time list" for details of the process) with additional research on Japanese literature.

This list focuses on major creative works—such as novels, plays, epic poetry and story collections—although some shorter or nonfiction writing of literary significance may also be included.

As always, this list is expected to grow and evolve as research into older works continues and new works appear.

Latest update: September 15, 2023

c.759
Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves
by Kakinomoto no Hitomaro, Takahashi no Mushimaro, Lady Kasa and others, Japan
Poetry collection
c.900
The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter
by Anonymous, Japan
Novel
c.1000
The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon
by Sei Shonagon, Japan
Diary
c.1020
missing graphic
The Tale of Genji
Novel
c.1060
The Sarashina Diary
by LadySarashiina, Japan, Prose and poetry narrative
c.1220
The Tale of the Heike
by Anonymous, Japan
Novel
1330–1332
Essays in Idleness
by YoshidaKenkō, Japan, essay collection
c.1400
Atsumori
by Zeami Motokiyo, Japan
Play
c.1500
The Feather Mantle
by Anonymous (att. to Zeami Motokiyo), Japan
Play
1682
The Life of an Amorous Man
by Ihara Saikaku, Japan
Novel
1702
The Narrow Road to the Interior
by Matsuo Bashō, Japan
Prose and poetry collection
1703
The Love Suicides at Sonezaki
by Chikamatsu Monzaemon, Japan
Play
1721
The Love Suicides at Amijima
by Chikamatsu Monzaemon, Japan
Play
1748
The Treasury of Loyal Retainers
by Takeda Izumo, Miyoshi Shōraku, Namiki Senryū , Japan
Play
1776
Tales of Moonlight and Rain
by UedaAkinari, Japan
Story collection
1814–1842
Tale of the Eight Dogs
by Takizawa Bakin, Japan
Novel
1887
Drifting Cloud
by Futabatei Shimei, Japan
Novel
1895–1896
Growing Up
by IchiyōHiguchi, Japan
Novella
1906
The Broken Commandment
by Tōson Shimazaki, Japan
Novel
1907
Futon
by Katai Tayama, Japan
Novel
1911–1913
The Wild Geese
by Mori Ōgai, Japan
Novel
1913
A Woman Writer
by Toshiko Tamura, Japan
Novel
1914
Kokoro
by Sōseki Natsume, Japan
Novel
1917
Reconciliation
by Naoya Shiga, Japan
Novella
1921–1937
A Dark Night's Passing
by Naoya Shiga, Japan
Novel
1922
Rashōmon and Other Stories
by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa, Japan
Story collection
1924
The Restaurant of Many Orders
by Kenji Miyazawa, Japan
Story collection
1926
The Dancing Girl of Izu and Other Stories
by Yasunari Kawabata, Japan
Story collection
1929
Some Prefer Nettles
by Jun'ichiro Tanizaki, Japan
Novel
1930
Diary of a Vagabond
by Fumiko Hayashi, Japan
Novel
1936–1938
The Wind Has Risen
by Tatsuo Hori, Japan
Novel
1937
A Strange Tale From East of the River
by Kafū Nagai, Japan
Novella
1944
The Makioka Sisters
by Jun'ichirō Tanizaki, Japan
Novel
1947
The Setting Sun
by Osamu Dazai, Japan
Novel
1948
Snow Country
by Yasunari Kawabata, Japan
Novel
 
No Longer Human
by Osamu Dazai, Japan
Novel
1949
Confessions of a Mask
by Yukio Mishima, Japan
Novel
 
The Twilight Crane
by Junji Kinoshita, Japan
Play
 
The Hunting Gun
by Yasushi Inoue, Japan
Novella
1951
Forbidden Colors
by Yukio Mishima, Japan
Novel
1952
Thousand Cranes
by Yasunari Kawabata, Japan
Novel
1954
The Sound of Waves
by Yukio Mishima, Japan
Novel
 
The Sound of the Mountain
by Yasunari Kawabata, Japan
Novel
1956
The Temple of the Golden Pavilion
by Yukio Mishima, Japan
Novel
1958
Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids
by Kenzaburō Ōe, Japan
Novel
1962
The Woman in the Dunes
by Kōbō Abe, Japan
Novel
1964
A Personal Matter
by Kenzaburō Ōe, Japan
Novel
 
Beauty and Sadness
by Yasunari Kawabata, Japan
Novel
1965
Black Rain
by Masuji Ibuse, Japan
Novel
1965–1971
The Sea of Fertility
by Yukio Mishima, Japan
Novel series
1966
Silence
by Shūsaku Endō, Japan
Novel
1972
The Twilight Years
by Sawako Ariyoshi, Japan
Novel
1973
The Box Man
by Kōbō Abe, Japan
Novel
1976
Almost Transparent Blue
by Murakami Ryu, Japan
Novel
1977
Teach Us to Outgrow Our Madness
by Kenzaburō Ōe, Japan
Novel
1979
Territory of Light
by Yūko Tsushima, Japan
Novel
1981
The Totto-chan, the Little Girl at the Window
by Tetsuko Kuroyanagi, Japan
Novel
1982
A, Wild Sheep Chase
by Haruki Murakami, Japan
Novel
1985
Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World
by Haruki Murakami, Japan
Novel
1987
Norwegian Wood
by Haruki Murakami, Japan
Novel
1988
Kitchen
by Banana Yoshimoto, Japan
Novel
1990
The Diving Pool
by Yoko Ogawa, Japan
Novella
1991
Ring
by Koji Suzuki, Japan
Novel
1992
South of the Border, West of the Sun
by Haruki Murakami, Japan
Novel
1993
Deep River
by Shūsaku Endō, Japan
Novel
1994–1995
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
by Haruki Murakami, Japan
Novel
1998
Crossfire
by Miyuki Miyabi, Japan
Novel
1999
Somersault
by Kenzaburō Ōe, Japan
Novel
2000
After the Quake
by Haruki Murakami, Japan
Story collection
2002
Kafka on the Shore
by Haruki Murakami, Japan
Novel
2002–2008
Sword Art Online
by Reki Kawahara, Japan
Novel series
2003
The Housekeeper and the Professor
by Yoko Ogawa, Japan
Novel
2005
The Elephant Vanishes
by Haruki Murakami, Japan
Story collection
2006
Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman
by Haruki Murakami, Japan
Story collection
2009–2010
IQ84
by Haruki Murakami, Japan
Novel
2014
Men Without Women
by Haruki Murakami, Japan
Story collection
2016
Convenience Store Woman
by Sayaka Murata, Japan
Novella

Back to top of page