Books

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These 11 Japanese Children's Books Are Next-Level Adorable

With beautiful illustrations and captivating stories, these are sure to become favorites.

Expanding a child’s cultural understanding doesn’t have to wait until they enroll in high school foreign language courses. You can bring the world to them through literature. Take, for instance, Japanese children’s books. Whether you’re looking to share your Japanese heritage, introduce your child to the Japanese language, or simply want them to get to know other parts of the planet, there are tons of great books to choose from.

What makes these books so great is that they are tailor made for young children and early readers with vibrant illustrations to really draw the child in. Learning about a different culture can be a very abstract concept to a child, but these stories help explain and spark curiosity about Japan, its geography, language, traditions, and history. And some of these Japanese children’s books do all of the above without a kid even realizing it thanks to excellent storytelling.

Having recently cheered on competitors to the Tokyo Olympics, children might be especially keen to learn more about Japan right now. And if you have never been or don't have all the answers to their myriad questions, the best place to turn is to books. This list of Japanese children’s books can get their education started.

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1

A Japanese 101 Book

Kids are sponges for languages. So help them start soaking up Japanese by reading them this colorful book filled with “first words” that you can practice together.

2

A Cultural Exchange Book

In this sweet story, Natsumi’s cousin Jill arrives in Japan from America and Natsumi gets to show her relative her home. This includes everything from enjoying watermelon on the beach to introducing Jill to the obon festival where Natsumi’s family gives thanks to the spirits of their ancestors.

3

A Japanese Children’s Classic

Another great way to share Japanese culture is to read your child a translated Japanese children’s book. This one, Guri and Gura, is a perfect choice. It’s about two mice who find an egg in the forest and decide to make a wonderful cake. Filled with beautiful illustrations, it’s a kid favorite in Japan. Keep in mind the price reflects that the translated version is such a rare find.

4

A Japanese Dino Adventure Story

This book about a dinosaur was such a success in Japan, it’s been turned into an animated film. Perfect for ages 4 to 10, your child doesn’t have to live in Japan to appreciate the fun storyline.

5

A Tokyo Tour Book

Give your child a kid’s eye view of Japan through the guidance of Mimiko, a 7-year-old who lives in Tokyo. In this picture book, Mimiko showcases her favorite parts of the city month by month exploring things like learning Japanese calligraphy to carrying a bento box lunch to school.

6

A Japanese Nursery Rhyme Book

For auditory learners, picking up a new language requires listening to it. That’s why this book is such a find. It not only is filled with Japanese nursery rhymes, it comes with a CD so children can sing and rhyme along.

7

A Superhero Story

If you have a superhero fan in your home, they’ll love Sumo Boy. This book follows a sumo wrestler who fights for justice, like when he can hear the cries of help from a young girl. Bright bold illustrations will grab your young reader while the storyline will have them asking to hear this tale again and again.

8

A Zen Garden Tale

A beautifully illustrated story about a granddaughter and grandfather’s love, this tale is about Mayumi who lives in the U.S. but goes to see her grandad in Japan every summer. There they spend time in a garden he created for her, but not one of flowers but of rocks, a zen garden. When Mayumi’s granddad has to move due to age, Mayumi must find a way to preserve the memory of their special garden.

9

An Exploration of Japanese Ways of Life

Kids thrive on routine, so moving to a new place can cause a bit of whiplash. This book explores that sensation for Gregory, a boy whose family moves to Japan. As Gregory quickly learns, many things are different about his new home, but that’s OK because, as the title suggests, “that’s the way they do it in Japan.”

10

A Japanese Folktale Collection

Folktales are the foundation of so many cultures and a great way to begin to understand a place. That’s why this compendium is a great choice for your child’s Japanese library. It includes six classic Japanese folktales — like the Tale of the Bamboo Cutter and the Gratitude of the Crane — translated into English.

Cheaper than a plane ticket to Tokyo, but just as exciting, these books will get your little one started on their love of Japan.