Every time David Karashima took a Japanese author to New York or London to do a reading, the local audiences would ask two questions: "Who's the next Haruki Murakami?" and "Why isn't there an international literary festival in Tokyo?"

"Finally I thought, OK, let's make this happen," Karashima says.

He can't predict the next breakout Japanese novelist, but Karashima is uniquely positioned to address Tokyo's lack of literary events. He is the manager of international projects at Read Japan, a division of the Nippon Foundation dedicated to promoting Japanese literature abroad. Now, as the director of the first Tokyo International Literary Festival, to be held March 1-3, he is bringing to Japan a dozen English-language authors. They will participate in three days of readings, conversations and workshops alongside some 30 Japanese authors at venues ranging from coffee shops to universities, and even a nightclub.