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11 Heartwarming Asian Fiction Books

The cozy Asian fiction craze is the latest trend in publishing, with translated versions of bestselling Japanese and Korean books seeing a massive uptick in popularity. Commonly featuring books, cats, good food and coffee, these books are soul soothers. If you liked Before The Coffee Gets Cold and Days at the Morisaki Bookshop, then you’ll love the list we’ve put together of the best current and upcoming cozy Asian fiction to warm your heart.

Hwang Bo-Reum

There was only one thing on her mind.

I must start a bookshop.

Yeongju did everything she was supposed to, go to university, marry a decent man, get a respectable job. Then it all fell apart. Burned out, Yeongju abandons her old life, quits her high-flying career, divorces her husband, and follows her dream. She opens a bookshop.

In a quaint neighbourhood in Seoul, surrounded by books, Yeongju and her customers take refuge. From the lonely barista to the unhappily married housewife, and the writer who sees something special in Yeongju – they all have disappointments in= their past. The Hyunam-dong Bookshop becomes the place where they all learn how to truly live.

Welcome to the Hyunam-dong Bookshop is a heart-warming story about finding comfort and acceptance in your life – and the healing power of books.

Durian Sukegawa

A charming tale of friendship, love and loneliness in contemporary Japan

Sentaro has failed. He has a criminal record, drinks too much, and his dream of becoming a writer is just a distant memory. With only the blossoming of the cherry trees to mark the passing of time, he spends his days in a tiny confectionery shop selling dorayaki, a type of pancake filled with sweet bean paste.

But everything is about to change.

Into his life comes Tokue, an elderly woman with disfigured hands and a troubled past. Tokue makes the best sweet bean paste Sentaro has ever tasted. She begins to teach him her craft, but as their friendship flourishes, social pressures become impossible to escape and Tokue’s dark secret is revealed, with devastating consequences.

Sweet Bean Paste is a moving novel about the burden of the past and the redemptive power of friendship. Translated into English for the first time, Durian Sukegawa’s beautiful prose is capturing hearts all over the world.

Nanae Aoyama

It was raining when I arrived at the house. The walls of my room were lined with cat photos, set in fancy frames just below the ceiling.

When her mother emigrates to China for work, twenty-year-old Chizu moves in with 71- year-old Ginko, an eccentric distant relative, taking a room in her ramshackle Tokyo home, with its two resident cats and the persistent rattle of passing trains.

Living their lives in imperfect symmetry, they establish an uneasy alliance, stress tested by Chizu’s flashes of youthful spite. As the four seasons pass, Chizu navigates a series of tedious part-time jobs and unsatisfying relationships, before eventually finding her feet and salvaging a fierce independence from her solitude.

A Perfect Day to be Alone is a moving, microscopic examination of loneliness and heartbreak. With flashes of deadpan humour and a keen eye for poignant detail, Aoyama chronicles the painful process of breaking free from the moorings of youth.

Nanako Hanada

Nanako Hanada’s life is in crisis. Recently separated from her husband, living in youth hostels and internet cafes, her work is going no better. Book sales at the eccentric Village Vanguard bookstore in Tokyo, which Nanako manages, are dwindling. Fallen out of love in all aspects of her life, Nanako realises how narrow her life has become, with no friends outside of her colleagues, and no hobbies apart from reading and arranging books.

That’s when Nanako, in a bid to inject some excitement into her life, joins a meet-up site where people meet for 30-minute bursts to find romance, build a network, or just share ideas. She describes herself as a sexy bookseller who will give you a personalised book recommendation. In the year that follows, Nanako meets an eclectic range of strangers, some of whom wanted more than just a book, others she became real friends with.

Written with a subtle but sharp sense of humour, The Bookshop Woman is a heartwarming book about a bookseller’s self discovery. It offers a glimpse into bookselling in Japan and the quirky side of Tokyo and its people. Books, once again, offer inspiration and serve as channels for human communication.

Miye Lee

In a mysterious town hidden in our collective subconscious there’s a department store that sells dreams. Day and night, visitors both human and animal shuffle in to purchase their latest adventure. Each floor specializes in a specific type of dream: childhood memories, food dreams, ice skating, dreams of stardom. Flying dreams are almost always sold out. Some seek dreams of loved ones who have died.

For Penny, an enthusiastic new hire, working at the store is the opportunity of a lifetime. As she uncovers the workings of this whimsical world, she bonds with a cast of unforgettable characters, including DallerGut, the flamboyant and wise owner, Babynap Rockabye, a famous dream designer, Maxim, a nightmare producer, and the many customers who dream to heal, dream to grow, and dream to flourish.

A captivating story that will leave a lingering magical feeling in readers’ minds, this is the first book in a bestselling duology for anyone exhausted from the reality of their daily life.

Hiromi Kawakami

From the best-selling author of Strange Weather in Tokyo, here is a collection of playful, delightful, delectable Japanese micro-fiction

Take a story and shrink it. Make it tiny, so small it can fit in the palm of your hand. Carry the story with you everywhere, let it sit with you while you eat, let it watch you while you sleep. Keep it safe, you never know when you might need it.

In Kawakami’s super short ‘palm of the hand’ stories the world is never quite as it should be: a small child lives under a sheet near his neighbour’s house for thirty years; an apartment block leaves its visitors with strange afflictions, from fast-growing beards to an ability to channel the voices of the dead; an old man has two shadows, one docile, the other rebellious; two girls named Yoko are locked in a bitter rivalry to the death.

Small but great, you’ll find great delight spending time with the people in this neighbourhood.

Coming Soon:

Mai Mochizuki

Based on the Japanese myth of cats returning favours to humans who are kind to them, “The Full Moon Coffee Shop” is the name of a peculiar cake cafe that is run by talking cats, which has no fixed location and instead materialises unpredictably on the night of a full moon.

The protagonists of this story – a successful female scriptwriter in crisis, a heartbroken tv director, and two male entrepreneurs – all end up there in the middle of the night, in a semi-dream-like state, and receive life-changing advice on love, work, and relationships from a charismatic tortoiseshell cat who interprets his guests’ astrological chart.

The Western horoscope comes into play, as well as the life phases, one for each planet, that guide what lessons we have or haven’t allowed ourselves to learn. Meanwhile, the customers are served a selection of drinks and sweet treats tailored perfectly to their needs: a Lunar Chocolate Fondant for Aching Hearts, a Planetary Ice Affogato, an Ice Coffee with Sunrise Syrup, or a Bitter Coffee for Mature Souls.

Kim Jiyun

Yeonnam-Dong’s Smiley Laundromat is a place where the extraordinary stories of ordinary residents unfold. Situated at the heart of rapidly gentrifying district of Seoul, it’s a haven of peace and reflection for many locals.

And when a notebook is left behind there, it becomes a place that brings people together. One by one, customers start jotting down candid diary entries, opening their hearts and inviting acts of kindness from neighbours who were once just faces in the crowd.

But there is a darker story behind the notebook, and before long the laundromat’s regulars are teaming up to solve the mystery and put the world to rights.

Instantly capturing the hearts of Korean readers, this is a novel about the preciousness of human relationships and the power of solidarity in a world that is increasingly cold, fastpaced, and virtual.

Kiyoshi Shigematsu

Is three days with a cat enough to change your life?

The troubled and anxious of Tokyo are desperate to find out. They all have their problems and they all want to believe that a temporary feline companion from a unique pet shop can help them find a solution. Or at least provide a few days’ relief and distraction.

But, like all their kind, the Blanket Cats are mysterious creatures with their own unknowable agendas, who delight in confounding expectations. And perhaps what their hosts are looking for isn’t what they really need. Three days may not be enough to change your life. But it can be enough to change how you see it.

Translated from the Japanese by Jesse Kirkwood

Sonoko Machida

Located in a quiet port called Kitakyushu Moji Port, the Tenderness convenience store is always noisy. Women who claim to be fans of the handsome store manager, Mitsuhiko Shiba, swoon over every word and gesture. Only Mitsuri Nakao, another employee, seems immune to his charms, allowing her to watch his interactions with customers of all ages with interest.

The story is set in a convenience store, a friendly and ordinary place where the lights are always on 24 hours a day. It tells the pleasant and warm stories of the convenience store’s customers and employees.

Yuta Takahashi

Follow the bank of the Koitogawa river until you reach the beach. From there a path of white seashells will lead you to the Chibineko Kitchen. Step inside, they’ll be expecting you.

These are the directions Kotoko has been given. She arrives at the tiny restaurant, perched right by the water, early in the morning. Still reeling from the sudden death of her brother, she’s been promised that the food served there will bring him back to her, for one last time.

Taking a seat in the small, wood-panelled room, she waits as Kai, the restaurant’s young chef, brings out steaming bowls of simmered fish, rice and miso soup. Though she hadn’t ordered anything, Kai had somehow known the exact dish her brother always used to cook for her. And as she takes her first delicious bite, the gulls outside fall silent and the air grows hazy . . .

Soul-nourishing and comforting, The Chibineko Kitchen will help you remember what matters most in life.

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