While Japanese authors and Japanese literature are all great ways to start learning about Japanese culture and history - magazine sales have been steadily declining. While great ways to learn about everything from Heian history facts or the Heian period to the latest in Kabuki fashion - magazine sales represent only 1% of media sales.
The great thing about magazines, and not just those geared for Japanese people, is that everyone can appreciate and get taken in by their content: form the sober novelist to the busy 5th grader. Whether you’ll be moving to Japan, dream to visit one day or simply want to build up to reading your first novel in Japanese - picking from the dozens of genres of magazines can be an overwhelming venture. From comedy and sports magazines to those focusing on news or culture, the options are endless.
If you're looking for some of the best literature written in Japan, here are some of the most popular magazines in Japan, as well as autobiographical novels, prolific authors and books that have won the Nobel Prize for literature.
Manga Publication Magazines
With poets like Basho, best-selling authors like Haruki Murakami and books about the history of japan, focusing on subjects such as feudal culture or Taisho, there is no shortage of diverse Japanese books. From Japanese history and Japanese poetry to literary works by women writers, there are plenty of publications to read.
One of the most popular mediums of entertainment come in the form of manga magazines. Before being published as a manga, or graphic novel, they are generally published in magazines. There many different types of revues focused on pre-publishing mangas based on their target audience. From mangas inspired by French literature to those that read like short fiction, here are some of the best magazines to check out.
Kodomo Manga Magazine
In Japanese, Kodomo means child; naturally, this magazine is made up of comics that are designed with children from 1 to 13 years of age. If you’re looking for great books by Japanese comics and graphic designers for children, start with Kodomo.
Monthly Coro Coro Comic is a monthly magazine without specific numbered editions. This magazine is notorious for launching the now ubiquitous manga Pokémon.
In Japanese, Shojo means little girl or young girl. Shojo manga is, naturally, a comic book aimed at young adults. These Japanese writers and illustrators usually touch upon themes on romance, especially those that happen in school.
While mangas are typically distorted when they enter into the context of Western culture, Shojo mangas don’t feature any sort of drugs, sex or violence. The topics are light-hearted and suitable for children of all backgrounds. Here are the different types of magazines where you can find shojo manga:
- Bessatsu Friend
- Bessatsu Margaret
- Hana to Yume
Each of these comics come out either monthly or bi-monthly.
Whether it be an import from classical Chinese literature, a female playwright Hasegawa Shigure or narratives about the Korean or Japanese government, there are plenty of adult themes that are typically dealt with in literature aimed at the young adult audience in Japan.
Form Shikoku to Tokyo and Osaka, female authors, stories with Chinese characters, or historical accounts of the Edo period are consumed on everything from eBook readers like Kobo to newspapers. Josei manga are graphic novels and comics aimed at young adult females aged 15 to 30 years old. The subject matters in Josei manga tend to cover more mature themes, including violence, sex, drugs, infidelity, rape, the mafia and more.
The characters are less one-dimensional, with fully fleshed out story lines and more sombre personalities. These Kafka-esque mangas include:
- Feel Good
- Monthly Flowers
Written under a pseudonym, about the Meiji era, dealing with patriotism or exploring the living conditions or pressures of Japanese women from Japanese society - these comics offer young adults a lot to learn and can be a great way to discovering the culture alongside seeing some of the best Japanese TV series!
Shonen manga is aimed at boys from 8 to 18 years old. The themes that this type of manga covers are generally friendship, team or group work, and self-expression. These stories are usually set in middle school or high school. You definitely won’t see topics such as Seppuku or stories about a pilgrimage in these mangas.
Here are some of the most popular shonen manga:
- Comic Earth Star
- Jump Square
- Monthly Comic Garden
- Monthly Comic Rush
Last but not least are seinen manga, targeted to men aged 15 to 30 years old. The style of writing in Seinen is definitely more in the style of realism then shonen with the utilization of motifs like defined grids, well-worked out layouts and more. While the artistic style is distinct form shonen, the two do borrow a lot from each other. The types of topics covered in these mangas are: sport, science fiction, historical fiction and comedy.
There are tons of pre-publication magazines for seinen manga; here are some of the most popular ones:
- Weekly Young Magazine
- Weekly Young Jump
- Big Comic Original
- Big Comic
- Weekly Morning
- Big Comic Spirits
If you’re interested in learning more about any of the previous mangas, make sure to check out Kodansha. This manga publisher is one of the biggest in the world and actually jump-started the now infamous Sailor Moon and many other forms of Japanese entertainment.
Popular Japanese Literature and Magazines
From famous directors and films like Kurosawa’s Rashomon to various authors that have won the Nobel Prize in literature like Kazuo Ishiguro - Nihons, or Japan’s, entertainment capitals of Kyoto, Tokyo and more have put Japanese entertainment and media on the world map.
However, mangas and Nobel Prize novels aren’t the only thing on the market these days. Here are some of the other Japanese language magazines you should check out if you’re interested in learning more.
The advantage of picking up a beauty-oriented magazine is that you don’t necessarily even have to read Japanese fluently in order to follow the style tips and beauty tutorials available within these magazines.
Japanese style is, of course, infamous for fixating itself on the kawaii, or cute - however, the reality of the country’s fashion is much more diverse. Japanese magazines in general are around 150 pages long and tend to have very little advertisement - apart from the products already being used in the editorials. Here are some of the most popular beauty magazines on in Japan:
- Elle Japan
You don’t have to live in Japan to get a peek up the latest trends in Japanese society. If you’re interested in discovering Japanese music, there are plenty of magazines available to get you started. Most notably, Music Magazine is full of interesting music selections and information.
One of the most popular magazines on the subject in Japan, Music Magazine is comprised of articles that place Japan’s contemporary musical works in a political and social context. Records Collectors’ Magazine, or Recocole, is also a great place to start.
Society and Culture Magazines
If you’re curious about Japanese society and culture, not just in the capital but in the whole of the country, starting with Japanese entertainment is one of the best ways to start learning. With topics covering sports, news and politics - Japanese magazines offer a glimpse at what living in Japan is like.
Bungeishunju is a great example of a society and culture magazine. Created by Japanese writer Kan Kikuchi in 1923, it covered topics from a more conservative angle and its tone greatly supported the emperor. Dozens of articles written by journalists, writers, researchers and essayists have made the magazine not only popular but also subject to a number of literary prizes.
Shukan Shincho and Shukan Gendai are also great magazines to start reading about sports, politics or celebrity drama!
Find Japanese Anthologies, Postwar Novels and More in the UK!
If you want to start reading more Japanese series or novels in the UK, here are some of the books you should pick up at your local bookstore.
- Tale of Genji, or Genji, is a classic work written by the noblewoman Murasaki Shikibu in the 11th century
- Monogatari is a Japanese series written by Nisio Isin and illustrated by Taiwanese Vofan
- Mishima, the pen name of actor, author and model Kimitake Hiraoka
- Confessions, written by Kanae Minato, is a contemporary bestseller
- Wind Up Bird Chronicle, or Wind Up, is a novel written by Haruki Murakami and set in Tokyo
- Spring Snow, written by Yukio Mishima, is another classic Japanese novel and the first in the Sea of Fertility tetralogy
- Snow Country was written through 1937 and is one of those Post-war, regional classics