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Headline

The Voice of Tokyo for over 50 Years

JAPAN’S NO.1 ENGLISH LIFESTYLE MAGAZINE

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Latest Issue
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8 Horrifying Japanese Novels You Should Read This Halloween

By Nora Westgeest

Whether you’re a thriller fanatic or just want to cuddle up under a blanket with a scary book and a cup of tea, you need to start adding these J-horror novels to your list. Ranging from some modern classics to more contemporary reads, and from suspense to gore, you’ll find the perfect Japanese chilling novel to read this Halloween. 

My Annihilation Fuminori Nakamura
Penguin Random House

1. My Annihilation by Fuminori Nakamura (Translated by Sam Bett)

My Annihilation is a disturbing labyrinth of unreliable narration with unnerving questions asked, making it a crime novel unlike any other as it reveals the mind of a killer in layers of meaning that keeps you guessing at what is going on exactly. It’s a dark psychological novel that questions the reality of the self and what it means to be human. Prepare for a feverish reading session with this one.

2. Three Assassins by Kotaro Isaka (Translated by Sam Malissa)

Unusual and gripping, this novel tells the tale of a man seeking revenge for the death of his wife and finds himself in the underground criminal network of Tokyo facing three assassins. As the novel changes between all of their points of view, it offers a relatable and fleshed out narrative written with wit and lyricism. The author, known for his novel Maria Beetle (titled Bullet Train in its UK and US version) that was recently adapted to the screen, writes stories with an intensity of a thrilling ride.

3. Terminal Boredom by Izumi Suzuki (Translated by Polly Barton, Sam Bett, David Boyd, Daniel Joseph, Aiko Masubuchi and Helen O’Horan)

Izumi Suzuki is an author of great intrigue, having found fame as an actress, to then becoming a novelist in the 1980s in reaction to her husband’s death of an overdose. Writing being her creative outlet for the tragedy, her oeuvre has a feverishly haunting nature. This collection of short stories is science-fiction dystopia at its best, dealing with daily struggles in a radically innovative and thought-provoking way.

4. Out by Natsuo Kirino (Translated by Stephen Snyder)

What’s more thrilling than the premise of a fed-up housewife working at a boxed lunch factory brutally murdering her husband and trying to dispose of the body with help from her female co-workers? This gritty, dark and violent piece of fiction on the brutality of humanity is the perfect companion to a scary night in.

Ryu Murakami In the Miso Soup
Penguin Random House

5. In The Miso Soup by Ryu Murakami (Translated by Ralph McCarthy)

Not for the faint of heart is the infamously gory In The Miso Soup, a neon-noir thriller about a Japanese man growing increasingly suspicious of the American tourist he’s guiding around Tokyo hostess clubs. Murakami’s writing style is captivating and the adeptly built-up suspense leads to an all but unforgettable scene of urban-set horror.

Japanese horror novels
Bitter Lemon Press

6. Fish Swimming in Dappled Sunlight by Riku Onda (Translated by Alison Watts)

Set over the course of a single night in Tokyo, a man and a woman seek closure over the death of a man, each suspecting the other to have been the killer. Shrouded in mystery, this psychological thriller is simple yet unnerving with plot twists here and there, slowly unravelling a chain of events to keep you on the edge of your seat.

confessions minato kanae cover
Little, Brown and Company

7. Confessions by Kanae Minato (Translated by Stephen Snyder)

The premise of Confessions is a teacher taking revenge following the death of her daughter. She gives her final lecture to a group of students revealing that she believes two of them killed her child, prompting the whole plot of the novel. Minato weaves an elaborate web of confessions from multiple perspectives on the death, each divulging a portion of their truth, creating an unputdownable novel with a surprise ending. Was later made into a movie directed by Tetsuya Nakashima.

8. The Summer of the Ubume by Natsuhiko Kyogoku (Translated by Alexander O. Smith)

A few years after the end of World War II, The Summer of the Ubume explores the discovery of a mysterious family drama when a freelance writer and his exorcist friend investigate the uncanny event of a pregnant woman who hasn’t given birth after 21 months. Her husband, meanwhile, disappeared a few months prior to the pregnancy. A clever and enthralling story that relies on traditional Japanese lore that is sure to induce an all-nighter.