When I first discovered Juza Unno’s “Eighteen O’Clock Music Bath” (now published as part of the compilation “Fast Forward Japan”), I was really excited to find a Japanese dystopian novel. At the time, I felt like there was very few Japanese dystopian works, however after doing a little research I discovered there is quite a large number of fiction novels by Japanese writers with a dystopian setting. It’s just that much of the information about these novels is only in Japanese, especially the Japanese Wikipedia site about Dystopian novels.
So I decided to make a English list of Japanese dystopian novels, some of which have English translations, some not. This includes literature (of various lengths including short stories), light novels, and some manga works. The lighter/manga ones are near the bottom of the list.
The date is the publishing date of the Japanese work. “ET” means the book has an English translation. After listing each work in English I will give the original name of the work and author in Japanese on the next line. Whenever possible I used translated titles I found online, but in a few cases I had to do the translations myself. In the case of series, I’ve only used one entry, but given a date range.
There is some subjectivity as to what can be considered as “dystopian”, and even given a firm definition I think this list may not be exhaustive. There are surely other great works out there. If you know anything not on this list, let me know and I’ll add it.
(This book is another good resource for information about Japanese dystopian works.)
- The Box Man, Abe Kobo (1973, ET)
- The Woman in the Dunes, Abe Kobo (1962, ET)
- Beyond the Curve, Abe Kobo (1951, ET)
- Inter Ice Age 4, Abe Kobo (1956, ET)
- 第四間氷期, 安部公房
- Inventions by No. R62, Abe Kobo (1959, ET)
- R62号の発明, 安部公房
- 1Q84, Murakami Haruki (2009-2010, ET)
- Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, Haruki Murakami (1985, ET)
- 世界の終りとハードボイルド・ワンダーランド, 村上春樹
- Fascism of Love and Fantasy, Ryu Murakami (1987)
- 愛と幻想のファシズム, 村上龍
- Singing Whale, Ryu Murakami (2006)
- 歌うクジラ, 村上龍
- The World in Five Minutes From Now, Ryu Murakami (1994)
- 五分後の世界, 村上龍
- Eighteen O’Clock Music Bath, Juza Unno (1937, ET)
- 十八時の音楽浴, 海野十三
- From the New World, Yusuke Kishi (2008, ET)
- 新世界より, 貴志祐介
- Harmony, Keikaku Ito (2008, ET)
- ハーモニー, 伊藤計劃
- Genocidal Organ, Keikaku Ito (2007, ET)
- 虐殺器官, 伊藤計劃
- The World of Hokusai, Sakyo Komatsu (1998)
- ホクサイの世界, 小松 左京
- Battle Royale, Koshun Takami (1999, ET)
- バトル・ロワイアル, 高見広春
- Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Isiguro (2006, Originally written in English, but has been translated into Japanese)
- わたしを離さないで, カズオ・イシグロ
- The Last Smoker, Yasutaka Tsutsui (1987, ?)
- 最後の喫煙者, 筒井康隆
- Standing Woman, Yasutaka Tsutsui (1974)
- 佇む人, 筒井康隆
- Shangri-La, Eiichi Ikegami (2004-2005)
- シャングリ・ラ, 池上永一
- Department of Lifestlye Maintence, Shin’ichi Hoshi (1960, ?)
- 生活維持省, 星新一
- Yapoo, the Human Cattle, Shozo Numa (1956)
- 家畜人ヤプー, 沼正三
- Loups-Garous, Natsuhiko Kyogoku (2001, ET) [This is both a novel and a manga]
- ルー=ガルー 忌避すべき狼, 京極夏彦
（Manga starts here)
- Leviathan War Chronicles, Masataka Natsumi (1994-1996)
- レヴァイアサン戦記, 夏見正隆
- My Falcon, Masataka Natsumi (1995-1996)
- わたしのファルコン, 夏見正隆
- Real Tag, Yusuke Yamada (2001)
- リアル鬼ごっこ, 山田悠介
- No. 6, Atsuko Asano (2006)
- No. 6, あさのあつこ
- Library Wars, Hiro Aikawa (2006)
- 図書館戦争, 有川浩
- First of the North Star: Cursed City, Buronson (1996)
- 小説・北斗の拳-呪縛の街-, 武論尊
- Akira, Katsuhiro Otomo (1982-1990, ET)
- Heian Zankoku Monogatari, Akira (2011)
- 平安残酷物語, 日日日
- Magical Girl Raising Project, Endo Asari (2011)
- 魔法少女育成計画, 遠藤浅蜊
- SHIMONETA: A Boring World Where the Concept of Dirty Jokes Doesn’t Exist, Hirotaka Akagi (2012)
- 下ネタという概念が存在しない退屈な世界, 赤城大空
- Attack on Titan: Harsh Mistress of the City, Ryō Kawakami (2014-2015, ET)
- 進撃の巨人 隔絶都市の女王, 川上亮
- Magical Warfare, Hisahi Suzuki (2011-2015)
- 魔法戦争, スズキヒサシ
- Ousama Game, Nobuaki Kanazawa (2009)
- 王様ゲーム, 金沢伸明
(Note: As a result of making this list, I realized that “Eighteen O’Clock Music Bath” was not only the oldest work on the list, but it was one of the few literary pieces that had not been translated into English yet.)
I didn’t know that Loups-Garous was a manga, but it’s also a novel ( https://www.amazon.com/Loups-Garous-Novel-Natsuhiko-Kyogoku/dp/1421532336 ) so you may want to double list it or something.
Good point! I just moved it to the upper part and marked it as both novel and manga.
This list made me realize the dystopian genre is broader than I thought. I read “Woman in the Dunes” but didn’t consider it a dystopian novel at the time.
I was thinking a dystopian novel is usually set in the future and features a large oppressive government, but in “Woman in the Dunes”, the setting is present day, for when it was written, and the oppressive government is that of a remote village. Considering it dystopian provides another way to analyze the story. Thanks for the list.
Thanks for the comment!
I agree, the genre is definitely broader I thought before I did some research. I think I had the “dystopia” = “future + extreme oppressive government” definition after reading several books in that (sub) genre. But when I saw “Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World” was supposedly a Dystopian work it caught me off guard, since even though I had read it, it didn’t fit into my internal concept of “dystopia”.
I’d love to read more of Abe Kobo’s works, but it’s hard since I would probably just want to translate them even more (which I can’t realistically do, since they are already translated (: )