It was only by accident that I discovered and rediscovered Japanese writings. The first Japanese book that I read was Amrita. I picked it up randomly from the collection of my houseowner in Bangalore. She had never got around to reading this book which had been apparently thrust upon her by her granddaughter. The book was by a Japanese woman called Banana Yoshimoto - a name I did not know then and did not remember untill recently. I was immediately captured by the surreal quality of the book. Only a few writers actually delve into surrealism and weave ghosts into a story without actually making it a mystery/thriller writing. And even fewer can create the charm of making surreal a part of definitive reality and make the joint seamless. Amrita was one of those books. However, even though the book stayed with me in some vague recess, I remembered neither the author nor the book's name, untill I saw it in Landmark recently (a place which has rapidly become my favorite for its amazing collection by the way). It was then that I picked up another book by the same author - Asleep. Three stories of different women either having trouble sleeping or enchanted in an endless sleep. This time however, the surrealism was not hanging in the background, but was there in the front - and yet like before, there was no mystery shrouding it. It was taken as naturally a part of life as a broken relationship or something similiar and awfully commonplace.
However, between these two books, there have been a string of other Japanese writings that I have read, and though not all of them have been good, there is a different experience in reading them - as compared to reading a British and American author. On some level, most of these books have a haunting quality - either a past too dearly held, or a present that is almost impossible to deal with.
I have fallen in love with the works of Kazuo Ishiguro whose writings carry this element of Japanese work and thought in them, even though he has spent the longest part of his life away from his country. I specially like "Never let me go" - a book I am still in the middle of. It is a book of memory, of remembering an era past gone. And though you may tire of the plot sometime, its hard to miss the fondness with which the memories are related. And again, there is a fantasy angle to it that holds fast without snapping. The book creates no hype around the fantasy angle - does not even harp on it for once, but lets it go in that careless seamless fashion.
I think I will certainly recommend the two authors above to anyone who likes a reading which can experiment with a different world once in a while, without making it a complete fiction.