15 Best Japanese Children’s Books In English 2023

by Erika Shinomoto
Top English Children's Books from Japan

Are you looking for Best Japanese children’s books in English? Well, you’re in the right place.

Covid lockdown must have made me try all aspects of amusement to keep your children entertained and occupied, am I right? 

Best Japanese Children’s Books in English: Summary

Best Japanese Children’s Books in EnglishView on AmazonView on Amazon Japan
Hi, butterfly!View on AmazonView on Amazon Japan
It Might Be An AppleView on AmazonView on Amazon Japan
Gracie Meets a Ghost (A Gracie Wears Glasses Book)View on AmazonView on Amazon Japan
Blackie, the CrayonN/AView on Amazon Japan
Little Daruma & Little Tangu: A Japanese Children’s TaleView on AmazonView on Amazon Japan
Guri and GuraView on AmazonView on Amazon Japan
You Look Yummy! (Tyrannosaurus Series)View on AmazonView on Amazon Japan
The 14 Forest Mice and the Harvest Moon WatchView on AmazonView on Amazon Japan

So consider this time to be a blessing in disguise and introduce your kids to the never-ending and ever-expanding world of books and knowledge.

Make sure you are reading your kids good stories before they hit the hay. This will broaden their horizon of imagination. Your children will surely have a fine time hearing out the bedtime tales. 

Which is the best Japanese Children’s Book?

I have read tons of Japanese children’s books in English. They are simply amazing and gripping and great with the plot.

However, if there was one book that you absolutely need to give to your child is It Might Be An Apple

It Might Be An Apple is a story that revolves around the imaginative thinking of a child who looks at something as mundane and common as an apple in a different light. Mind challenging work for innovative minds It Might Be An Apple is full of fantasy and unreal thinking. It is great for both children and adults. It is available on Amazon for $14.66.

I have gone through a lot of children’s books and novels personally and made a list of the best amongst the lot! Continue reading to find out the best Japanese Children’s Books in English.

Top Japanese Children’s Books in English

I Am a Cat By Natsume Sōseki, 1905–1906

“I Am a Cat” by Natsume Sōseki is a charming and humorous children’s book that beautifully captures the essence of feline curiosity and mischief.

Originally published in 1905-1906, this classic Japanese novel has captivated readers of all ages for over a century.

 Sōseki’s unique perspective as a renowned author of adult literature adds depth and sophistication to the narrative, making it a delightful read for both children and adults alike.

The story follows the misadventures of an unnamed cat living in the home of an eccentric and often bumbling Japanese schoolteacher. As the feline observer, the cat offers witty and insightful commentary on the quirks and foibles of human nature. 

Best Japanese Children's Books In English

Through the cat’s lens, readers gain a fresh perspective on the world and its inhabitants, discovering the absurdity and complexities of human behavior.

One of the book’s greatest strengths is Sōseki’s ability to imbue the cat with a distinct personality and voice. The feline protagonist is simultaneously aloof and observant, often providing sly commentary on the absurdities of human behavior. 

The cat’s wry observations and musings inject humor into the narrative, keeping readers entertained and engaged throughout.

Sōseki’s writing style is both eloquent and accessible, making “I Am a Cat” a perfect introduction to Japanese literature for young readers. 

The author’s vivid descriptions bring the cat’s world to life, from the tantalizing scents of fish to the cozy warmth of a sunlit windowsill. The prose flows seamlessly, effortlessly transporting readers into the cat’s whimsical world of everyday adventures.

While “I Am a Cat” primarily explores the feline protagonist’s observations and interactions, it also provides an insightful portrayal of human nature. Sōseki cleverly uses the cat’s perspectives to comment on societal norms, human relationships, and the complexities of the human psyche. 

The juxtaposition of the cat’s simplicity and innocence with the flaws and idiosyncrasies of the human characters creates a thought-provoking contrast.

Although “I Am a Cat” is a children’s book, readers of all ages will appreciate its themes and subtle social commentary. The book encourages empathy and understanding, promoting a deeper awareness of our own behavior and the consequences it may have on those around us. 

It serves as a gentle reminder that sometimes the simplest of creatures can offer the most profound insights into the human condition.

However, it’s worth noting that due to the book’s age and cultural context, some of the humor and references may be more challenging for young readers to grasp. 

Translating the nuances of Sōseki’s writing into English can present occasional difficulties, but the overall charm and wit of the narrative shine through.

In conclusion, “I Am a Cat” by Natsume Sōseki is a timeless gem of Japanese children’s literature that transcends age and cultural boundaries. 

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With its witty observations, endearing characters, and thought-provoking insights, the book provides a delightful reading experience for children and adults alike. 

Whether you’re a feline enthusiast or simply seeking a heartwarming tale, this classic work is sure to captivate and entertain.

Totto-Chan: The Little Girl at the Window By Tetsuko Kuroyanagi, 1981

Tetsuko Kuroyanagi’s “Totto-Chan: The Little Girl at the Window” is a delightful and heartwarming Japanese children’s book that has captured the hearts of readers around the world. 

First published in 1981, this autobiographical novel offers a charming glimpse into the author’s childhood and her experiences at a unique and unconventional school.

The story revolves around the spirited and curious Totto-Chan, a young girl who struggles to fit into traditional schools due to her energetic nature and free-spirited personality. 

However, her life takes a dramatic turn when she is enrolled in Tomoe Gakuen, a school unlike any other. Located in a railway car, this alternative school provides a nurturing environment where children are encouraged to embrace their individuality, curiosity, and creativity.

Totto Chan

Kuroyanagi’s storytelling is simple yet captivating, making the book accessible to both children and adults alike. The narrative is infused with vivid descriptions and vividly brings to life the characters and settings, transporting the reader into Totto-Chan’s world. 

The author’s fondness for her childhood experiences shines through her words, creating a heartfelt connection with the readers.

One of the most endearing aspects of “Totto-Chan” is its emphasis on the importance of embracing uniqueness and diversity. Through Totto-Chan’s encounters with her classmates, teachers, and the eccentric headmaster, readers are reminded of the beauty in embracing differences and celebrating individual strengths. 

The book showcases the power of education that nurtures a child’s potential and allows them to blossom into confident individuals.

Moreover, “Totto-Chan” also explores essential themes such as friendship, compassion, and the value of unconventional teaching methods. 

The author highlights the significance of creating a warm and supportive community within the school, where children feel safe to express themselves and develop their own interests. 

It is an uplifting portrayal of the positive impact that nurturing and inclusive environments can have on a child’s growth and development.

The book’s illustrations, by Chihiro Iwasaki, beautifully complement the narrative. With their delicate and expressive style, they enhance the reading experience, capturing the essence of the story and the emotions of the characters.

In conclusion, “Totto-Chan: The Little Girl at the Window” is a heartwarming tale that resonates with readers of all ages. Tetsuko Kuroyanagi’s storytelling captures the essence of childhood and the transformative power of education. 

It encourages young readers to embrace their uniqueness, follow their passions, and appreciate the joy of learning. This book stands as a timeless reminder that education should not stifle a child’s spirit but rather nurture it. 

It is a must-read for children, parents, and educators who believe in the power of imagination and the importance of fostering a love for learning.

Penguin Highway By Tomihiko Morimi, 2010

Penguin Highway presents an imaginative world where the laws of nature are sometimes bent, inviting readers to embrace the wonder and mystery that lie just beyond our everyday experiences. 

The story centers around Aoyama, a bright and curious ten-year-old who lives in a small town. 

A series of peculiar events unfold when penguins start appearing in unexpected places throughout the town, sparking Aoyama’s scientific curiosity and setting him on a thrilling investigation to uncover the truth behind this inexplicable phenomenon.

Morimi’s writing style is both whimsical and evocative, drawing readers into Aoyama’s world with vivid descriptions and lively dialogue. 

The narrative effortlessly balances the awe-inspiring moments of penguin sightings with the everyday realities of school life, family dynamics, and the challenges of growing up. 

This creates a relatable and endearing protagonist whose thoughts and actions will resonate with young readers.

One of the book’s strengths is its ability to seamlessly blend elements of science and fantasy. Aoyama’s determination to understand the penguins’ origins and his use of scientific principles to unravel the mystery add a layer of educational value to the story. 

However, Morimi never loses sight of the book’s fantastical core, ensuring that the reader remains engaged and enchanted throughout.

The supporting characters in Penguin Highway are equally memorable and contribute to the story’s charm. From Aoyama’s enigmatic and eccentric mentor, Lady, to his friends who join him on his adventure, each character adds depth and complexity to the narrative. 

The friendships that develop between the characters are heartwarming and emphasize the importance of teamwork and trust.

Morimi’s exploration of childhood innocence and the transition into adolescence is another noteworthy aspect of Penguin Highway. Through Aoyama’s eyes, readers are reminded of the boundless imagination and resilience of children, as well as their ability to adapt and accept the unknown. 

The book beautifully captures the bittersweet nature of growing up, with Aoyama’s experiences and discoveries shaping his understanding of the world around him.

While Penguin Highway is primarily targeted at children, it possesses a universal appeal that extends to readers of all ages. 

Morimi’s masterful storytelling and the book’s underlying themes make it a compelling read for both young readers and adults who appreciate imaginative storytelling.

The Secret of the Blue Glass By Tomiko Inui, 1959

“The Secret of the Blue Glass” is a beautifully written and masterfully crafted children’s book that seamlessly weaves history, fantasy, and a coming-of-age narrative into its pages. 

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Tomiko Inui’s elegant prose creates an immersive world that sparks the imagination and evokes a sense of wonder in readers of all ages.

One of the book’s strengths lies in its ability to tackle weighty themes while maintaining an accessible and engaging storytelling style. Inui skillfully explores the impact of war on individuals and society, emphasizing the importance of learning from history to shape a better future. 

Through Tatsuo’s time-traveling experiences, young readers are encouraged to reflect on the consequences of past actions and the value of compassion, empathy, and understanding.

The characters in “The Secret of the Blue Glass” are endearing and relatable, drawing readers into their lives and struggles. Tatsuo, in particular, undergoes a significant personal transformation throughout the story, maturing as he gains a broader perspective on the world. 

The Secret of the Blue Glass

His journey resonates with young readers as they witness his growth, grappling with universal themes of identity, friendship, and the power of self-discovery.

Inui’s attention to detail and her ability to vividly describe settings and historical periods enhance the immersive experience of the story. 

Readers are transported through time alongside Tatsuo, experiencing pivotal moments in Japanese history firsthand. 

From ancient battles to the modern era, the author’s meticulous research and descriptive language bring these moments to life, allowing readers to develop a deeper appreciation for the rich tapestry of Japan’s cultural heritage.

“The Secret of the Blue Glass” is a timeless tale that transcends cultural boundaries. While it offers a glimpse into Japan’s history, it also celebrates the universal values of curiosity, resilience, and the potential for personal growth. 

Inui’s storytelling prowess, combined with the book’s well-rounded themes and relatable characters, ensures that readers of all backgrounds will find meaning and joy within its pages.

Hi, butterfly!

preschool books in japanese

Hi, butterfly! is a beautiful novel written by famous children’s writer, Taro Gomi. Gomi’s style of writing with innovative drawing and perfect humor makes this novel lovable.

 If you are looking for a novel with these characteristics then you must go for this one. In this work, The plot is simple and absolutely happy as a young boy goes around the country, city streets, and everywhere to chase a butterfly. 

Get this novel and enjoy reading. Japanese books for beginners pdf is also available. It’s one of the best Japanese children’s books in English.

Key Features:

  • The perfect novel for children
  • Decent humor and lovable plot
  • Amazing story with innovative style and techniques
  • Beautiful reading experience

Related: Check out these Japanese Authors that you’d love to read!

It Might Be An Apple

japanese books for beginners pdf

You will love reading this amazing book! This novel written by famous Japanese children’s writer Shinsuke Yoshitake is something that is not just great for children but also for adults. You can call it the real and actual fantasy story of what a little child can think of.

In this novel, the story revolves around a child’s innovative and unreal imagination with regard to an apple’s appearance. This novel truly justifies the thinking of a child when they are not influenced by the casual thoughts of the world.

 It is not just funny and hilarious but also a challenge to the mainstream thoughts of the world. Get this novel as it is the best Japanese children’s books in English

Key Features:

  • Mind challenging work for innovative minds
  • Full of fantasy and unreal thinking
  • A story about the appearance of an apple
  • Great for both children and adults

Gracie Meets a Ghost (A Gracie Wears Glasses Book)

childrens books by japanese authors

You might love reading this cute and funny story written by Keiko Sena. The aim of this novel is to deliver beautiful and amusing logics that Gracie applies in the plot. 

Gracie is a cute bunny who has glasses but she realizes that she has lost them, which is itself a funny thing to digest. Surprisingly, she believed that she could find her glasses! Another element of the story is about the ghost. 

The ghost comes to scare Gracie but fails as Gracie doesn’t have her glasses on so the ghost helps her in finding them so that he can scare her. All these events in the story make it a perfect piece to read by your children. 

Key Features:

  • Funny and cute story
  • Amusing elements to cheer up the children
  • Simple and subtle construction
  • Great for the younger generation

Related: Watch these cute cartoon movies with your kids!

Blackie, the Crayon

best japanese baby books

Keeping fun and humor aside, it is very important that the work should have something to learn. In the same way, this book, Blackie, the Crayon, is a work that teaches you how you are important as an individual personality and how you can modify or beautify anything else with your involvement. 

In the plot story, blackie’s crayon is neglected but later on, it is used with other mechanical pencils to deliver a beautiful sketch. Books with such golden lessons are always a must-read for children to make them understand little things about life. 

Children book set in Japan are very famous. It counts as one of the best Japanese children’s books in English. Do get this work for your child as well!

Key Features:

  • Book with an important lesson
  • Helps in developing a child’s mind
  • Structured in a simple and creative way
  • Appropriate for youngsters

Little Daruma & Little Tengu: A Japanese Children’s Tale

childrens books set in japan

This story is written by famous author Satoshi Kako and has become popular among the Japanese audience. This work highlights imagination and creativity in the world with the characters that have become famous.

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 In this story, two characters, Little Daruma and Little Tenga use each other’s clothes and other things in a more creative way. Your child will also get to know about many different games after reading this book. 

Overall, it is a great choice for children to help them think whatever they want rather than just believing what they are surrounded with. With beautiful and eye-catching drawings, this book is a must to have.  

Key Features:

  • One of the most popular books of Japan
  • Highlights creativeness and imagination
  • Great for children to develop their mind
  • Japanese popular characters

Guri And Gura

japanese english bilingual books pdf

Friendship is a beautiful relation in the world that also works as a great support to the person. This novel is about how you can enjoy the beauty of this world with a friend. The story revolves around two mice who just love cooking. 

While they were forest, they came across an egg which is absolutely giant. They decide to use this egg in making a sponge cake. With this beautiful story, you can have your child understand the meaning of friendship in a positive way.

 In your entire life, you always have a person, a friend, who always enjoys you in adventurous and funny moments. So get this beautiful piece of work right away!

Key Features:

  • A happy novel centered around friendship
  • Great way to understand the meaning of friendship
  • Positive novel that is great for children
  • Work with a lesson for life

You Look Yummy! (Tyrannosaurus Series)

classic japanese childrens books

Get this beautiful novel that talks about the relationship between a father and a son. This book highlights the importance of family love that many of us do not get. It is not a normal book because the relationship is not actually biologically but more than that. 

A baby Ankylosaurus thinks that Tyrannosaurus is his father and to respect this emotion, even the Tyrannosaurus goes with the flow. Later the plot develops with their strong bonding love. But one day, reality has to come out!

 Read this novel and find out what happens next and make your child understand the importance of love that can also come from a stranger. This will always be included in the best Japanese children’s books in English of all times.

Key Features:

  • Heart touching novel about a father and a son
  • Importance of relationship
  • A good way to teach your child about love
  • Famous Japanese novel 

The 14 Forest Mice and the Harvest Moon Watch

Best Japanese Children's Books In English

This is another novel that is going to teach you about family and traditions. In this novel, there is a family of fourteen mice where there are parents, grandparents, and others. This is one of the best Japanese children’s books in English.

They climb up a tree to do a Japanese practice of moon viewing and describe many beautiful old stories of individual characters. It is a knowledgeable book as it highlights both strands of life, that is, family and tradition.

Key Features:

  • A book to keep the reader busy with interesting stories
  • Highlights Japanese tradition of moon-viewing
  • About family and culture
  • Funny and interesting at the same time

Everyone Poops

best japanese book

Everyone Poops is one of the best Japanese children’s books in English. It’s such a hilarious book with so many pictures and illustrations. You’ll find different pictures of animals and their poops which is literally the most adorable yet funniest thing about this book. It’s written by Taro Gomi. 

This book was first published in 1977 and was about potty training. I remember this to be my favourite book as a child because it made me laugh endlessly. It’s pretty straight forward and can be used to amuse kids below 4 years of age. 

The use of bold colours, fonts and weirdly attractive images is what makes this book perfect. 

Key features

  • Uses bold colours, font and images
  • Hilarious illustrations
  • Straight forward book
  • Learn about different types of animals from this book

Kiki’s Delivery Service

japanese children book

Kiki’s Delivery Service by Eiko Kadono is one of the books I loved as a child because it was quite a horror story that I was deeply interested in. This story is about a witch who moves to a new place and starts a new business of flying couriers. 

She also had a black cat called Jiji which is another interesting thing about the story. This book was also made into a motion picture but with some aspects changed. This book is quite a big read for children but they’re surely gonna enjoy it. 

Key features

  • Story of witch 
  • Meant for elementary children
  • Interesting and engaging story

Where’s My Little Dog?

best book for kids japanese

Where’s my little Dog is a children’s book that’s loved by all kids. This book will teach preposition, animal’s name, places and is extremely educational with elements of fun. As a kid, this book helped me with learning prepositions very easily. It’s a beginner’s book that has a lot to teach. 

You’ll also find a lot of picture illustrations that will make learning interesting and fun. The story is however very simple and is quite a seek and find story.

Key features

  • Beginner’s book 
  • Fun pictures and illustrations
  • Seek and find story
  • Helps with learning prepositions, animal’s name, places etc.  

Your children’s favourite companions!

Books are the light in the darkness. They introduce you to the vast world of knowledge and understanding. Japanese children’s books are an amazing way to inculcate the habit of reading among children. 

Japanese literature has covered a long path back from the 8th Century. The Japanese children’s books mainly include pictures that will enable the children to enter a fantasy world of their own.

 Some of the works are so eminent that they have been adapted into series across continents and the characters are loved globally. Through these books, the children will develop an understanding of the Japanese culture at the same time aid in learning new words and enhancing their reading speed.

Though the books are mostly picture-based, they still manage to explain themselves wholly. It is the pictures that attract the children initially and manage to keep them intrigued. They’re introduced to new sounds and words. They assist in the overall development of the children. 

It Might Be An Apple
Top English Childrens Books from Japan

Are you looking for Best Japanese children's books in English? Well, you’re in the right place.

URL: https://amzn.to/2MBH4tN

Author: Shinsuke Yoshitake

Editor's Rating:
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