Children’s literature has many notable options when it comes to Japan. To help you find the right books for you and your young reader, we’ve compiled a list of the best kids books about Japan.
Our list includes board books, picture books, and chapter books. Board books are best for babies and toddlers from ages newborn to 2 or 3. Picture books are generally great options for toddlers and for preschool and kindergarten age children. Picture books are especially enjoyable for adults to read aloud with young kids. The chapter books on our list are generally best for elementary through early middle school age tween kids. You can filter to sort by the best book type for your kid.
We hope this list of kids books about Japan can be a helpful resource for parents, teachers, and others searching for a new book! As you explore the list, please comment below to let us know what books you would add.
Lyrical, breathtaking, splendid—words used to describe Allen Say’s Grandfather’s Journey when it was first published. At once deeply personal yet expressing universally held emotions, this tale of one man’s love for two countries and his constant desire to be in both places captured readers’ attention and hearts. Winner of the 1994 Caldecott Medal, it remains as historically relevant and emotionally engaging as ever.
In this Caldecott Medal-winning tale set in Old Japan, a lively little woman who loves to laugh pursues her runaway dumpling—and must outwit the wicked three-eyed oni when she lands in their clutches.
“The pictures are in perfect harmony with the humorous mood of the story. . . . It’s all done with a commendable amount of taste, imagination, and style.”—School Library Journal (starred review)
“A beautifully convincing tale.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Using elements of traditional Japanese art, the illustrator has made marvelously imaginative pictures.”—The Horn Book
“Lent’s pictures are a lively blend of finely detailed, delicate drawings and rip-roaring good humor.”—The Boston Globe
“A good read-aloud with lots of suspense.”—Learning
Awards: ALA Notable Children’s Book Child Study Association Book of the Year The Horn Book Fanfare
On her first day of first grade, despite the objections of her older sisters, Suki chooses to wear her beloved Japanese kimono to school because it holds special memories of her grandmother’s visit last summer.
Miso in my sippy cup, tofu in my bowl! From tekka maki to wasabi, tasty treats await young readers in this colorful, rhyming ode to Japanese cuisine. With pages full of tummy-tempting foods, the books in the World Snacks series are a delicious way to introduce even the littlest eaters to cuisines from all around the globe.
The great poet Basho lives in the woods and shares the cherries from his cherry tree with the local foxes. But one tricky fox becomes greedy––He uses his magic to turn three river stones into gold coins, and then tricks Basho into giving up all of the cherries. When the fox returns to gloat over his victory, he discovers that Basho is content. Wiser than the fox, Basho knows that a poem inspired by the beauty of the river stones is more valuable than gold. Oki S. Han’s watercolors evoke ancient Japan in this sequel to the New York Times bestseller Basho and the Fox.
Basho and the Fox - There are important lessons to be learned, even by proud poets, in this innovative tale of a fox who thinks he’s a great poet and a great poet who thinks he can outdo a fox! It is the 1600s in Japan. Basho is writing the lovely haiku for which he is famous to this day. Given three chances by the fox, he must write a poem that “needn’t be great—only good.” Confident of his skill, he’s sure he can win the challenge and its prize, the sweet cherries from the tree near his hut. But not all is what it seems as a newly humble Basho discovers! Delicate watercolors convey a truly Eastern sensibility that takes young readers back in time to feudal Japan while their playful perspectives reinforce the mischievous tone of the text.
Take Me Out to the Yakyu - You may know that baseball is the Great American Pastime, but did you know that it is also a beloved sport in Japan? Come along with one little boy and his grandfathers, one in America and one in Japan, as he learns about baseball and its rich, varying cultural traditions. This debut picture book from Aaron Meshon is a home run—don’t be surprised if the vivid illustrations and energetic text leave you shouting, “LET’S PLAY YAKYU!”
Gudetama’s Guide to Life - From Sanrio, who brought you Hello Kitty, Gudetama the Lazy Egg returns with a guidebook to living life to the almost fullest. In Japanese, when you’re lazy, you are referred to as gude gude. Gudetama (tama from “tamago,” egg in Japanese) is the lazy egg. Gudetama likes soy sauce and being left alone. Sometimes, Gudetama wonders if we are born only to suffer. Each page of this book is kind of packed with helpful lessons, inspiring quotes and mind-blowing advice that will have you laying around like an egg in no time! And all of it comes straight from the yolk of a Gudetama!
Sumokitty - A hungry cat gets a job hunting mice at a sumo training center (heya), but once the mice are gone he continues to stuff himself until he is too fat to chase the mice that have returned—so he decides to train with the sumo wrestlers, and SumoKitty becomes a scourge of mice and an inspiration to the wrestlers.
A noted children’s artist, Hoshino authors her first picture book, inspired by her own experiences as a mother to her son Sora: a growing boy enjoys the ultimate daydream - to soar like a cloud!
Once a baby, now Sora is a boy who explores the world around him. First crawling and then walking, Sora soon learns to how to climb a tree. Up there a friendly cloud awaits! Hopping aboard, Sora embarks on a fantastic trip.
Curious birds, squealing kites and whispering fireworks whirl by. This wonderful flight of fancy is created in Hoshino’s hallmark style: a unique combination of mixed media creates ethereal environments with subtle shading, and contemplative characters who invoke the innocence of youth.
Also included is a bilingual Japanese translation which highlights how Hoshino shares her heritage with her children and readers.
Nancy is asked to locate a stolen pearl necklace that is unusual and very valuable. She soon learns that strange and dangerous people are responsible for the theft. They harass her at home and intensify it when she and her father go to Japan, until they finally manage to kidnap Nancy and her friend Ned Nickerson when she returns to River Heights.
Through clever sleuthing, Nancy is able to penetrate the rites of an amazing group of pearl worshippers, some of whose members are far from devout, and she uncovers underhanded dealings of certain employees of World Wide Gems, Inc., a tremendous international jewelry company. Readers will love accompanying Nancy, disguised as a Japanese girl, in this adventure in Tokyo.
One by one, ten tiny oni, Japanese goblin-like creatures, grow larger and larger as they beat their drums on the sand, chasing away bad dreams. Includes the Japanese characters for the numbers from one to ten.
One winter, a priest takes in a furry tanuki and the two become friends, but when the tanuki tries to repay the priest, they both learn a lesson.
Breakfast varies from country to country, but it’s how all children begin their day. Explore the meals of twelve countries in this playful approach to the world!
From Australia to India to the USA, come travel around the world at dawn. Children everywhere are waking up to breakfast. In Japan, students eat soured soybeans called natto. In Brazil, even kids drink coffee—with lots of milk! With rhythm and rhymes and bold, graphic art, Pancakes to Parathas invites young readers to explore the world through the most important meal of the day.
The Furry-Legged Teapot - Yoshi the tanuki—a Japanese raccoon-dog—learns how to magically transform himself into anything, even a teapot. But what happens when he can’t change back? This is the tale of the teapot-tanuki’s adventures, from the day he leaves his family to the day he meets the Emperor himself. What will it take for this teapot to become a tanuki again? Only the Emperor’s grandson knows the answer. Asian-influenced illustrations using vibrant acrylic paints bring the mythical tanuki to life. An author’s note is included.
The Out-Foxed Fox - Hundreds of years ago in the mountains of Japan, there lived a hunter who trapped many foxes. People warned him that foxes were cunning creatures that possessed great magic, but he ignored them. One day, the bossy old fox leader declared they must stop the hunter and that he had the perfect plan. But a young fox with crooked whiskers knew that a simple plan is often best. To prove it, he showed both the hunter and the leader just how cunning a fox can be! Whimsical illustrations rendered in pencil, water-color, oil paint, and colored pencil by Ariel Ya-Wen Pang add to the charm of this Japanese tale based on a traditional kyogen. An author’s note is included.