Japan’s best-selling fiction of 2017

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2018/02/02 News

Japan’s best-selling fiction of 2017

The ten best-selling works of fiction* in Japan from November 26, 2016 through November 25, 2017 were:

1. Mitsubachi to enrai (Honeybees and Distant Thunder)
by Riku Onda (Gentosha, 2016) ISBN 978-4344030039
A Grand Hotel–style novel portraying the young prodigies and virtuosos who battle it out for top honors at a fictitious international piano competition that takes place every three years in a regional Japanese city. The work drew attention for its marketing claims of “12 years in the making, with 11 years of research and 7 years of writing,” and went on to become the first title ever to win both the Naoki Prize and the Booksellers Award, propelling it to an uncontested first place in the annual bestseller rankings. A tour de force that stands as the author’s supreme achievement to date.
2. Kishidanchō goroshi (Killing Commendatore)
by Haruki Murakami (Shinchosha, 2017) ISBN 978-4103534327 (Vol. 1: “Emerging Idea”), 978-4103534334 (Vol. 2: “Changing Metaphor”)
This is the first new novel in four years for the internationally acclaimed best-selling author. The first-person narrator is a 36-year-old portrait artist whose wife suddenly asks for a divorce. After a period of drifting, the narrator finds his way to a studio cum residence built in the mountains outside Tokyo by a well-known nihonga painter, the late Tomohiko Amada, who was the father of a friend. There he discovers an unfinished painting titled Kishidanchō goroshi . . . 

3. Kōhī ga samenai uchi ni (Before the Coffee Gets Cold)
by Toshikazu Kawaguchi (Sanmaku Shuppan, 2015) ISBN 978-4763135070
This collection of four stories by a playwright making his fiction debut has sold over 580,000 copies. When you sit at a certain table in the coffee shop Funiculì Funiculà, you can travel back in time to any point you choose in the past—but only for as long as your coffee is still warm. Four stirring miracles take place in this special shop. The sequel Kono uso ga barenai uchi ni (Before the Lies are Revealed) has also been a hit with readers, with over 140,000 copies in print.

4. Kimi no suizō o tabetai (I Want to Eat Your Pancreas)
by Yoru Sumino (Futabasha, 2015) ISBN 978-4575239058
After topping the 2016 bestseller rankings with this debut work, the author has continued to launch one new hit after another in short order (see below). The book started out as an upload to the self-publishing site Shōsetsuka ni narō (Become a Novelist) before being picked up by a publisher and turned into a sensation, with over 800,000 copies now in print. It was runner-up in the annual Booksellers Award balloting for 2016, was adapted to a live action film in 2017 with an animated film in the works for 2018, has been reissued in paperback, and continues its juggernaut-like run. A socially awkward high-school boy and the most popular girl in his class find a connection, and in the course of events, an indissoluble bond develops between them.

5. Gekijō (Theater)
by Naoki Matayoshi (Shinchosha, 2017) ISBN 978-4103509516
The much-anticipated second work by a popular comedian who made his fiction debut in 2015 with Hibana (Sparks), a megahit that sold more than 2.5 million copies. A young playwright yet to be recognized for his talent, who barely eats and can’t make a living, meets a woman who falls in love with him and labors to support him. In classic boy-meets-girl style, the story follows the two from their initial encounter to their ultimate parting. The author continues to delve deeply into the nature of the performing artist’s life.

6. Ka ku shi go to (S-e-c-r-e-t-s)
by Yoru Sumino (Shinchosha, 2017) ISBN 978-4103508311
This fourth work by the best-selling author of Kimi no suizō o tabetai (#4 above) centers on five high-school classmates—three girls and two boys—each of whom has a special ability to “read” just a little of the inner thoughts and feelings of their counterparts. The work has struck a chord for the way it picks up on subtle movements of the adolescent heart.

7. Konbini ningen (Convenience Store Woman)
by Sayaka Murata (Bungeishunju, 2016) ISBN 978-4163906188
Winner of the Akutagawa Prize for the first half of 2016. Numerous media appearances in which the author talked about her own experiences paralleling those of the protagonist stoked public interest in this story about a woman who has held onto the same part-time convenience store job for 18 years, since first starting college. Having always been considered a little bit odd as she grew up, the woman finds both comfort and purpose in the clearly prescribed interactions of her job as a clerk, and the store becomes her own personal “door to the world.” The work presents a vivid slice of contemporary Japan through the lens of the ubiquitous convenience store.

8. Masukarēdo naito (Masquerade Night)
by Keigo Higashino (Shueisha, 2017) ISBN 978-4087754384
The third installment in the author’s Masquerade series, which has sold a combined 2.65 million copies to date. Central Tokyo hotel receptionist Yamagishi and young Tokyo Metropolitan Police detective Nitta team up to solve a knotty case. A young woman is murdered under mysterious circumstances, and the MPD receives an anonymous note claiming that the killer will attend the annual masquerade ball held on New Year’s Eve at Yamagishi’s hotel.

9. Yoru no bakemono (Night Monster)
by Yoru Sumino (Futabasha, 2016) ISBN 978-4575240078
This third work by the best-selling author of Kimi no suizō o tabetai (#4 above) has been another smash hit, repeating the success of her second work (#10 below) by surpassing the 200,000-copy mark. The narrator, a middle-school boy, at night turns into a monster with six legs, eight eyes, and a body covered with black bumps. When classmate Satsuki comes upon this monster in their classroom one night, she recognizes who it is and accepts him. As it happens, Satsuki is being bullied in the class . . .

10. Mata, onaji yume o miteita (I Had the Same Dream Again)
by Yoru Sumino (Futabasha, 2016) ISBN 978-4575239454
This second work by the best-selling author of Kimi no suizō o tabetai (#4 above) became another big hit and continues to sell well, with over 200,000 copies now in print. The story centers on a girl who has no friends at school but has three perfectly good friends and a beloved cat away from school. It traces her formative years and her search for happiness with heartwarming detail. What is happiness? she asks, and her efforts to find the answer resonate.

* As reported by Japan’s largest book distributor, Tohan Corporation