Patricia Belyea’s favorite books about Japan

my JP book list

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By Patricia Belyea

WAUCONDA WA  Many of the books in my library are old and out-of-print. I collect them from used bookstores and online websites like And, occasionally, I receive books about Japan from folks who are downsizing their homes.

Here are some of my most useful, memorable, or favorite reads:

JP Guidebooks recommended by Patricia Belyea of Okan Arts

Old Kyoto: A Guide to Traditional Shops, Restaurants, and Inns | Diane Durston
This essential guidebook reveals what’s behind the noren hanging in the doorways of Kyoto’s traditional businesses. Durston tours you around fascinating neighborhoods to find 100-year-old confection shops, antique doll dealers, lantern makers, and more—to discover the real Kyoto.

Japan At A Glance | International Internship Programs
Here’s a book that gives you a full understanding of Japan in bite-size bits of info with lots of simple yet effective illustrations. This book is an invaluable introduction to a country rich in culture, tradition, and unique customs.

Books about Japan in the library of Patricia Belyea

Midnight in Broad Daylight: A Japanese American Family Caught Between Two Worlds | Pamela Rotner Sakamoto
A true epic about a Japanese American family during World War II — with two brothers on either side of the Pacific. It was the first time I had read about civilian life in Japan during the conflict. Highly detailed and mind-provoking.

A Boy Called H: A Childhood in Wartime Japan | Kappa Senoh
Senoh paints a gripping story of civilian life during World War II in Japan. Seen through the eyes of a precocious child, the propaganda and daily deprivations are revealed with a questioning intelligence at a time when no one questioned anything. My top read in a long time.    

Books about Japan from the library of Patricia Belyea

Learning To Bow: Inside the Heart of Japan | Bruce Feiler
Feiler, a NYT best-selling author, knows how to spin a compelling story. This book relates Feiler’s one-year of teaching in a small town in Japan. The details of his experiences and his authentic responses to the people around him make Feiler’s everyday life engrossing.

Memories of Silk and Straw: A Self-Portrait of Small-Town Japan | Dr. Junichi Saga
Dr. Saga, a country doctor, interviewed his elderly patients in his off hours. The stories of farmers, fishermen, a geisha, soldiers, students, and so many more come together to build a portrait of Japan in the early 20th century—so different from today’s modern Japan. (I have read this book twice!)

Books about Geisha in the library of Patricia Belyea

Geisha | Liza Dalby
I got on a jag, for about six months, reading any book I could find about the flower and willow world. The personal story of Liza Dalby, a graduate student who traveled to Kyoto to learn from geisha captured my attention. Before her visit was over, Liza trained as a geisha and became the first “American Geisha”.

I Am A Cat, a classic Japanese book

I Am A Cat | Sōseki Natsume
Written by one of Japan’s literary giants early in the 20th century, I Am A Cat chronicles a wandering kitten who observes the foibles of humans around him. Set in the late-Meiji period when Japan experienced rapid social change, this classic work was written with great insight and sardonic humor.

Books about Japan in the library of Patricia Belyea

The Kimono Mind | Bernard Rudofsky
An Austrian writer and thinker, Rudofsky traveled extensively. In the 1960s, he lived in Japan for two years. His impressions of the Japanese and their ways show a depth of perception that is totally captivating. Regretfully much of what he wrote about has already been lost in the last 60 years.

At Home In Japan: A Foreign Woman’s Journey of Discovery | Rebecca Otowa
In the beginning of this memoir the author, a young American student, marries her Japanese boyfriend. Otowa presents short vignettes that weave together memories of her 30 years living in a 350-year old family home in the countryside outside Kyoto. By the end of the book, you just want to meet Otowa and have a cup of tea in her home!

Books by Amy Katoh in the library of Patricia Belyea

Books by Amy Katoh
Katoh, a champion of traditional Japanese arts and crafts, has authored many lifestyle books filled with gorgeous photos. Her hand-crafted mini-books and self-published calendars are my favorite—available through Blue & White, her iconic shop in Tokyo. 

Patricia Belyea’s library of books on quilting and JapanPatricia Belyea’s library of books on Japan

ABOUT US: Okan Arts, a petite family business, is co-owned by mother-daughter duo Patricia Belyea and Victoria Stone. Patricia and Victoria sell Japanese textiles online, host creative quilting experiences, and lead quilting & textile tours to Japan.