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Japanese Culture: Books For Kids

Looking for a list of the best children's books about Japanese culture?

As you can see, this list of kids books about Japanese culture is a work in progress! We’re currently exploring the best books available, and we’d love your input. If you have a title you’d suggest including on our list of kids books about Japanese culture, please share it with us!

We’ll be featuring a variety of titles on our list, from well known classics to popular bestsellers to lesser known titles that deserve a bigger audience. We’re also including books for a range of ages, from board books for babies and toddlers, to picture books for preschool and kindergarten age kids, to chapter books for early elementary age kids.

We’d love to hear any book suggestions you have—you can comment below or email us at [email protected].

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Wabi Sabi
Written by Mark Reibstein & illustrated by Ed Young
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8
The award-winning and New York Times bestselling book about a cat named Wabi Sabi who searches for the meaning of her name Wabi Sabi, a little cat in Kyoto, Japan, had never thought much about her name until friends visiting from another land asked her owner what it meant. At last, the master Says, "That's hard to explain." And That is all she says. This unsatisfying answer sets Wabi Sabi on a journey to uncover the meaning of her name, and on the way discovers what wabi sabi is: a Japanese philosophy of seeing beauty in simplicity, the ordinary, and the imperfect. Using spare text and haiku, Mark Reibstein weaves an extraordinary story about finding real beauty in unexpected places. Caldecott Medal-winning artist Ed Young complements the lyrical text with breathtaking collages. Together, they illustrate the unique world view that is wabi sabi.
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Yoko Writes Her Name
Written & illustrated by Rosemary Wells
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-6
Yoko is so excited for the first day of school. She’s just learned to write her name. But when Mrs. Jenkins asks Yoko to show everyone, Olive and Sylvia make fun of her Japanese writing. “Yoko can’t write. She’s only scribbling!” The teasing continues as Yoko shares her favorite book at show and tell, and reads it back to front. That evening, Yoko declares that she can’t go back to school. “How can I when my reading and writing are a failure?” she asks. Luckily a little wisdom from her Mama, a little cooperation from Mrs. Jenkins, and a lot of enthusiasm from her classmates teach Yoko the most important lesson of the year: that friendship can bridge cultural differences. Not only does Yoko learn to read and write in English and graduate Kindergarten with her classmates, but everyone’s name appears in two languages on their diploma—even Olive’s and Sylvia’s!

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