8 Books to learn more about Japanese culture

Reading is an act capable of changing lives. It is also the driving force behind the good education of a country. You books, when read, are stored in the minds of those who read them, so that the reader's personality changes as the reading goes deeper and deeper. Books are also a tool to better understand the nuances of certain cultures. THE Japanese culture can be better understood from good texts and, above all, good books.

In this article, I will recommend a few. For those who don't like to read, I recommend that you try to start creating this habit, considering that knowledge makes us better people. To those who already like it, I hope you enjoy the suggestions that I will comment below. In Brazil, unfortunately, a solid reading habit has not yet been created. But who knows, maybe one day, right?

Study guide for learning Japanese

Read our article with the best books to learn the Japanese language by clicking here!

If you have a book suggestion and it doesn't appear here on this list, feel free to let us know in the comments. Any suggestion will be welcome.

That said, let's get to the list!

1. The Japanese – Célia Sakurai

One of the best books to learn about Japanese culture. This is how I define The Japanese, by Celia Sakurai; a compendium that brings together the most diverse aspects of Japan – Mythology, Agriculture, Economy, Society, Family, History, Politics and Pop Culture are some of the topics covered. Easy to understand, the chapters summarize with quality and vigor each of the main elements related to the Land of the Rising Sun.

For those who want an overview of what makes Japan Japan, through an easy and fun read (loaded with photos, graphics and illustrations), The Japanese (2007), published by Contexto, is undoubtedly the best choice.

Below, excerpts from the author's interview on Jô's program:

Os Japoneses – Célia Sakurai in Programa do Jô 1/2 – YouTube

Os Japoneses – Célia Sakurai in Programa do Jô 2/2 – YouTube

2. A Concise History of Japan – Brett L. Walker

The history of Japan is full of wars, disputes between clans, feudal lords, samurai, ninjas, emperors, shoguns and economic transformations. To encompass such a rich and ancient history, a specific book is needed.

Concise History of Japan, by the American Brett L. Walker, is precisely what we are looking for. Approaching from Japanese prehistory, when the country was still treated by the Chinese and Koreans as kingdom of wa (Kingdom “dwarf”, in free translation), until the present time, the book is guided by the importance of learning, too, about natural disasters and the environmental consequences of the globalized capitalist world, in which Japan and other world powers are inserted. .

Great for history lovers in general!

3. Time and Space in Japanese Culture – Shuichi Kato

Philosophical book that talks about the question of time (and space) in Japanese culture. Characterized as a “culture of the present”, that is, focused on the moment in which things are lived, Japanese society carries with it a constant fear of the future, justified by the uncertainties of nature (tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, typhoons and future nuclear disasters) territorial.

Even in language we see a constant tendency to express the present, given the grammatical form ます (but u) that impels action both in the present and in the future. The future in the Japanese language is something quite obscure and often overlooked. we have a grammatical structure for the completed past and for the present/future. In this sense, it is worth asking ourselves why this is so.

On the back cover of the book, we have the following quote, which sums up well what this theme is about:

“At all levels of Japanese society, there is a strong tendency
of living in the present, letting the past be carried away by the waters and
entrusting the future to the direction of the wind. The meaning of present events defines itself, independently of the relationship between past history and future purpose.

4. Introduction to Japanese Culture: Essay on Reciprocal Anthropology – Hisayasu Nakagawa

Short, with about 128 pages, prepared from a set of essays/collections, published in Brazil by Martin Fontes, Introduction to Japanese Culture: Essay in Reciprocal Anthropology is an anthropological book that approaches Japanese culture from a western point of view, more specifically French, through a fluid writing and that contributes a lot to the increase of knowledge about the country and its culture.

The book can be purchased at Amazon and other online stores. In physical stores, it is difficult to find it, especially in more remote regions of the country (outside the Rio-São Paulo axis).

5. The Book of Tea – Kakuzo Okakura

Contrary to what the title says, “The Tea Book”, written by Okakura Kakuzō, is not a book about teas, but an essay that tries to relate aspects of Japanese culture with the tradition of the tea ceremony, working on the issue of tea. antagonism between antiquity and modernity, an aspect so present in contemporary Japan.

Other subjects are addressed, such as the question of the influence of Zen-Buddhism, Taoism and architecture on Japanese culture and on the experience of the tea ceremony.

A very rich book, well worth it!

6. The Analects - Confucius

Confucius, an important Chinese thinker, influenced countless panoramas of social life in the East. From the ideals of loyalty, wisdom, obedience and authority to family, governmental and psychological issues, Confucius is one of the fathers of the eastern world, giving name to what is called "Confucianism", the political, philosophical, religious and social doctrine that dominated China for centuries and still has strength when it comes to Japanese culture and its determining influences.

The Analects is the most famous and most important book on Confucianism. For those who want to read, know that not everything applies to modern Japan, but many of the verses were teachings that spanned generations.

7. Psychology and Oriental Religion – Carl G. Jung

to the lovers of psychology we also have an excellent option for those who want to better understand Japanese culture and the oriental mentality.

Psychology and Eastern Religion, by the famous Swiss psychiatrist and physician Carl Jung (creator of Analytical Psychology or Psychology of Archetypes), is a dense, complex book, rich in information and philosophical reflections.

Here, Jung addresses the difference between Western and Eastern thought, bringing up themes such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Chinese Culture, Tao te ching and History to trace the issue of oriental monism that opposes western dualistic thinking (rationalism).

8. Pre-industrial Japanese Culture: Socioeconomic Aspects – Nobue Myazaki

It addresses the coexistence between two fundamental aspects of Japanese culture: high technology and pre-industrial traditions. A society that mixes the old and the new, the modern and the old, urban technology and rural nature. The book is divided into parts dealing with Anthropology, Economics and Technology, totaling just over 144 pages.

Tsundoku - the art of buying books and not reading

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