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Japanese Tales

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Here are two hundred and twenty dazzling tales from medieval Japan, tales that welcome us into a fabulous, faraway world populated by saints and scoundrels, ghosts and magical healers, and a vast assortment of deities and demons. Stories of miracles, visions of hell, jokes, fables, and legends, these tales reflect the Japanese worldview during a classic period in Japanese civilization. Masterfully edited and translated by the acclaimed translator of The Tale of Genji, these stories ably balance the lyrical and the dramatic, the ribald and the profound, offering a window into a long-vanished though perennially fascinating culture.

341 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1980

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About the author

Royall Tyler

26 books34 followers
Born in England in 1936, I was educated in the US and France. During my academic career I specialized in Japanese literature. My last teaching position, after stints in Canada, the US, and Norway, was at the Australian National University in Canberra. After that I retired with my wife to a farm in in New South Wales. We've bred alpacas here for over twenty years, although our herd is smaller than it used to be. And I've continued to publish books. In summer we see blue-tongue skinks--a big, slow lizard that really does have a blue tongue. So I named my own book imprint (Blue-Tongue Books) after one that scrabbled at my window, wanting to come in.

I'm descended from two other authors named Royall Tyler, both listed on Goodreads and Amazon. The first (1757-1826) was the American jurist and playwright best known as the author of The Contrast. The second (1884-1953) was my grandfather.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 65 reviews
Profile Image for Eadweard.
602 reviews493 followers
May 21, 2020
Things I've learned from reading chinese and japanese folk stories:

- Never trust a beautiful young widow, it's probably a fox spirit.
- Never go inside dilapidated places, they're probably haunted.
- Never spend the night in dilapidated places.
- That animal you saved / rescued is probably a god.
- Always pay attention to any messages or orders you receive from beings in your dreams.
- Always chant the Heart Sutra
- A dragon lives in the nearest lake
Profile Image for Dj.
583 reviews22 followers
May 29, 2022
A collection of Japanese Fairy Tales. Like most collections some are great and some aren't. All of them have a different view of the world than what I am used to growing up in the US. It was refreshing to have a new look at what makes us different and what makes us the same.
Profile Image for Blow Pop.
641 reviews55 followers
September 1, 2015
Ok so for those who know me well, you all know that I LOVE folklore, cultural tales, and tales of religions. By all means that should mean that I would moderately like this book. I didn't. This is the first book in a while I've actually rage quit and did not finish. I got 26 pages in. But from doing further research I can't continue with this book.

I definitely DO want to read more of Japanese culture and their folklore and tales and such. But from talking to Japanese people and from seeing American/English idioms that wouldn't have been used in Japan I couldn't bring myself to finish this. Which sucks as it's the only book my library has so I will continue to scour the internet for decent books translated into English.

I knew going in that the tales wouldn't be like German fairytales (like most fairytales in Western culture are from) so I didn't expect that (and from what I read I didn't get that) but the collection isn't put together well. The intro was boring as shit and I had to force myself to keep reading it to finish it. It's a very dry read (which I know, a lot of history and culture books tend to be dry but they're mostly palatable at least which this wasn't). The tales range from very short to 2 pages long (and by very short I mean a paragraph or two) and they kind of run into each other the way they're presented. And that started making my eyes feel like they were glazing over. And from what I hear from Japanese people (friends and people I only know online) most of the stories aren't even in full. They're summarized versions. Which kind of angers me. Not to mention American/English idioms in some of the stories.
Profile Image for Rhoddi.
155 reviews11 followers
April 27, 2020
Some cool stories, but a lot of them are pretty ho hum and don't have a good kick at the end.
Profile Image for Kylie.
1,065 reviews10 followers
October 29, 2014
I loved this collection. Definitely read the introduction first--it provides much needed context. These tales are great--many are short, only one to two pages. Some are haunting, others disturbing, some are raunchy, and others romantic, quite a few are funny. You'll find emperors, monks, princesses, foxes and snakes, all kinds of demons, warriors and gods. The scholarship that went into this volume is impressive--there are extensive source notes and the tales are really well organized. As others have noted, you may find more literary/romantic versions of stories elsewhere but probably not more authentic. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this.
Profile Image for Philip of Macedon.
255 reviews59 followers
April 16, 2021
This collection of 220 medieval Japanese folktales, or more accurately, setsuwa bungaku, which apparently means “tale literature”, and is distinct from folktales, spans an impressive assortment of topics and a great number of years. The stories here come from a dozen or so old collections, put together between 822 AD to about 1350 AD, and often tell of events much older.

Royall Tyler selected and translated the stories for this collection, and his introduction is excellent, giving substantial background for these stories, as well as their place in Japanese culture and history. The stories are more meaningful and interesting after having read the lengthy but worthwhile intro. He provides a terrific overview of the relevant geography and historical figures and places to inform us on the settings, and many pages of explanation of the religious, cultural, and superstitious lore that will fill the stories.

By his own admission, some of the tales are dry, either in how they are told or in their overall quality. Some, for example, barely seem like stories and are instead brief vignettes or anticlimactic occurrences that are only interesting for the insight they offer into the character or history of a culture, but not as stories. Others are good, many are funny, or gross, some are delightfully perverted and weird, and most are filled with magic and mysticism and oddness and spirits and dreams, providing a pleasant look at medieval Japanese culture and their folk traditions, beliefs, and legends.

Since there are so many here, I won’t talk about any story in particular. The book is organized into sections, roughly categorized by topic, but these categories are a little arbitrary as many stories cover a lot of subjects and could fall into a dozen different sections at once. But this organization makes for enjoyable reading, and sets a good rhythm, since each section is typically five stories, the first two being pretty short, often times half a page each, the next two tend to be longer, up to a few pages, and the final story of the section is short again. This is a good pattern when you’re reading the book before bed each night, a few stories at a time.

These tales cover such topics as fox spirits, tengu, dragons, magic, mountains, music, Yin-Yang wizardry, demons, distant or forbidden lands, dreams and nightmares, Buddhist teachings, monks, love, lust, sex, salvation, haunted places, ghosts, and wild animals.

Buddhism and Shinto religious aspects run through many of the tales, and the Lotus Sutra makes a lot of appearances, seemingly being imbued with all sorts of powers, like aiding those into the next life or offering salvation from the fires of the many hells. Shapeshifting animals play a big part as well, often tricking humans into falling in love or going somewhere they shouldn’t or trusting someone they shouldn’t. Often these shapeshifting animals are friendly instead of mischievous, and take human form to come back and thank or reward a kind person for having saved their life. Thieves and murderers crawl through the pages, too, along with the strange and awful demons and ghosts who have some mysterious purpose for being here. Sexual perversion is a rare but welcome treat in these tales, always funny and sometimes gross. Baffling magic and sorcery and transformations abound in many stories, along with monsters and entities of unknown origins. A bunch of people are communicated with through their dreams, as though the medieval Japanese dream space was a mystical place of premonitions and animal speech and connection with the dearly departed. Pilgrimages are commonplace, here, with many a monk traveling for spiritual purposes, or to escape society, or to seek some esoteric knowledge and clarity.

Many tales are clever or allegorical, some are full on morality tales, often from a Buddhist angle or simply the angle of parent to child. Others have no allegorical or morality intended, but are purported to have actually occurred to someone the medieval scholar once knew, or to someone he heard about from a reliable source. A few tales involve real historical figures, like emperors or monks or military leaders, and yet the things that occur have been beautifully transformed through the oral retellings and the legend-blending that happens in this kind of storytelling.

As mentioned, some tales are dry and boring. Almost all are told in a simple and colloquial style that focuses more on relating the events than on dressing them up as something more elaborate. This makes for easy but sometimes dull reading.

Royall Tyler notes that some of the collections his stories come from were not written with much art, but instead seem to be straight forward tellings of events as though they really happened and were being recorded for posterity. This can make for a few dull tales, and Tyler has tried to preserve them as they were. Yet, at times he admits to changing certain things around to be more palatable to a modern English reader. Some of this seemed like a good idea, like clarifying the prose or leaving out parts that are only of specialized interest. Some of the translation decisions seemed questionable to me, like changing the titles of these stories to be shorter and more general, or like referring to all who devote themselves to Buddhist activity as monks, instead of distinguishing between the various ranks and types of religious acolytes, which Tyler said would be too confusing for many readers.

Generally, the tales seem well translated, and the translation does not feel too modernized to maintain the tales’ original character and simplicity. Most stories are amusing or reflective or adventurous. Some stories in this collection are really good, particularly some of the longer ones that take us into strange places with bizarre goings on and dazzling, highly imaginative qualities, letting us get to know the characters or the settings a little bit more, or savor the experience a little longer. These stories are able to stretch out, breathe a little bit, and take neat forms, with a lot of surprises hidden under layers of lore and magic and ancient history.
Profile Image for Jose Caldwell.
37 reviews
April 29, 2020
I read this solely for research purposes, and it came my way widely recommended after a decent amount of time spent investigating. Although I enjoyed many of the stories, overall, I was not overly thrilled, and had to trudge through stretches just for the sake of getting it done. One of the drawbacks for me was that my expectations were geared for at least a dose of samurai era influences; this because the description mentions medieval Japan. However, the focus precedes the Sengoku Period, and seems to be based instead primarily in the earlier Heian Period. Regardless, it is worth noting that there is a vast collection of tales (two-hundred and twenty) crammed into several hundred pages. This is possible because nearly all these tales are simple and concise, a page or so long, with others merely several paragraphs. So don’t expect anything akin to a saga or epic here. One of the values of such a quantity is that it provides a larger window into an ancient past. I had the feeling these stories could have been common knowledge among the general populace of the day.

My chief disillusionment though, is that the format of tales grows repetitive. A lot arise of the same mold, and the similarities become a little ponderous. Religion is a very central theme that plays out again and again. The protagonist is usually a male monk, and by the end a moral is generally delivered. I did appreciate the frequency of plot twists, and unexpected final outcomes. Humor also had its place here and there, while on the other hand elements of horror balanced things out further. Surrealism was definitely prevalent, with demons, spirits, monsters, dreams, visions, gods, intersecting with the lives of commoners, and emperors.

The last hundred or so pages of the book was my favorite section. These contained what I considered the most interesting unique tales, surprisingly creative, about dragons, water spirits, hell, heaven, and other realms. Often I felt I was reading iconic sources of Japanese culture, and at times was reminded of elements I’ve seen in certain Japanese movies and animations over the years. All in all, my need to read this book superseded my enthusiasm to do so. Thankfully in the process I discovered quite a few gems, some very beautiful.
Profile Image for Windy.
38 reviews
February 23, 2019

Royall Tyler's Japanese Tales boasts a wide array of folktales from medieval Japan. First, Tyler provides a helpful pronunciation guide that gives less familiar readers an understanding of how names are pronounced within the texts. Next, the editor presents a detailed introduction, which explains how the world of the tales differed dramatically from the contemporary world. In fact, Tyler's introduction is the most helpful and illuminating due to its careful emphasis of the ways that these two world differ, such as the fact that servants were a constant presence for the most classes in medieval Japan: "The writers of the time did not insist on this since it was obvious to them...but we need to be reminded" (xxviii). Tyler's introduction also offers a brief historical contextualization with a wide variety of details on the many themes covered within the texts. Finally, Tyler gives his explanation of the patterns of the book and the arrangement of the tales.

There is a wide range of "types" of tales present within Royall Tyler's Japanese Tales. The tales range from those concerning the laity to the esoteric. Similarly, the collection of tales illuminate a spectrum of the supernatural realm of magic, demons, and paradise to the mundane world of desire, gender, and diarrhea. Of course, many of these tales also blur the lines of these supposed binaries, highlighting how "Medieval Japan was as steeped in religion as medieval Europe, and [how] people thought in religious terms far more often than nowadays" (xxix). As a translator, Royall Tyler skillfully and subtly provides context by emphasizing key facets of the medieval world so that modern readers are able to effortlessly enjoy these texts.

Profile Image for Nicki Markus.
Author 63 books262 followers
January 26, 2020
Japanese Tales is another delightful collection from the Pantheon folklore and myth series. Within these 400 pages are a wonderful mix of tales, separated into sets of six or so by topic. There is plenty of humour and drama, with, surely, a tale or two to please everyone. This was my first proper foray into Japanese folklore and I really enjoyed reading these diverse stories. Recommended for folklore fans and those interested in Japanese culture.
Profile Image for Mati.
987 reviews1 follower
July 10, 2018
Here are two hundred and twenty tales from medieval Japan which are so stunning that this book was re-read several times.
Profile Image for Ben.
615 reviews
July 15, 2018
Tyler is one of the premiere translators of Japanese into English. His book of Japanese No dramas (1992) and his translation of Genji (2003) are ground-breaking works, deftly blending great scholarship and learning with lucid yet faithful translations. His book of No plays opened my eyes to the beauty of Japanese art, literature and culture 11 years ago, and though I find the late Seidensticker's 1970s translation of Genji more readable and beautiful, I can still recognise Tyler's translation for its great scholarly merits.

This anthology collects a wide range of Japanese tales from a period roughly spanning from about the C8 to the C16. You will find many of the tales in this collection scattered about in different versions in other collections, for example in Mitford's Tales of Old Japan from the end of the C19, and collections of Akutagawa's (English translations available) work. However, the versions in this book may be the most faithful you will find in English. Sometimes the more freely translated versions (Mitford) or the more freely re-told versions (Akutagawa) have more literary merit, but I'm inclined to believe that the versions in this book are the real thing. On the whole, the stories are often not as evocative or as beautiful as their freer counterparts, or of other similar tales based on old Japanese tales (the most evocative and beautiful probably being Lafcadio Hearn's stories, published at the beginning of the C20, though Hearn never mastered Japanese and his tales are dubious in their faithfulness to their varying sources). Tyler's introduction is, as you would expect, scholarly and illuminating.

The stories in this book demonstrate the enormous range of Japanese literature from the period. There are some genuinely scary ones about ghosts and demons. The Lotus Sutra, the all-pervading text in Japanese Buddhism, crops up again and again. There are lots of animal tales too - foxes (kitsune), badgers (tanuki), snakes (hebi).

Most memorable, though, are the tale of desire and carnal activity. In one story a monk falls asleep and has a dream that a beautiful girl comes along and performs felatio on him. He wakes up with his trousers undone and a dead snake in front of him with its mouth open and a white liquid dribbling out! In another story a monk fondles the body of a beautiful stature of Kannon every day when the other monks aren't looking. One night he dreams that the statue comes to him as a real woman, even more beautiful than she is as a statue. She tells him to meet her. He wakes up and meets her at the appointed place and time and she is there, waiting. He throws temple life in and becomes a farmer, marrying her, and becomes prosperous. She tells him that he must never be unfaithful to her. He assures her he won't. One day, however, on a business trip, he sleeps with a prostitute. When he gets home his wife immediately makes it clear to him that she knows. She tells him she has been saving something up for him. She brings him two buckets of white gloopy liquid. This turns out to be all that he has ejaculated into her (his "heavenly wife") since they married. The man is very upset, but the story ends with him becoming more and more prosperous. He doesn't consider what happens to him to be that odd. And what's the moral, if any, of this story?

Some of the stories, with their disappearing women, and ghosts (or demons) that appear to be women, remind me very much of modern Japanese literature, especially the work of Haruki Murakami. Murakami may be known as one of the most 'Western' of Japanese writers, but reading these old tales you can see where a lot of his ideas are inherited from.
Profile Image for Brendan Coster.
268 reviews10 followers
March 19, 2015
The translation and layout gets a solid 4.5 stars. I personally like a foot note or two, some of these tales are pretty remote...

The content is ~ 3 stars. Much of it is from the "Konjaku", and so they're Buddhist sermons thinly veiled as stories. The rest are pulled from miscellaeneous source materials, pieces of anthologies, and letters. And I think I ran into some of the same issues as I had reading the 'Manyoshu' - namely that these works are just floating in time and space, unattached to anything I can readily pull from - and that's after now 15 books of source material, plus essays, the Lotus Sutra, and having taken a class in Japanese History in college.

I'm not taking a class here though, nor do I expect Tyler to have written a text book on pre-tokugawan short fiction or the early buddhist traditions of Japan, but it also doesn't change the fact that these stories can be very hard to access. Even the "Manyoshu" and the "Kokinshu" (which I enjoyed immensely) both offered up poetry which spoke of more timeless themes that tend to transcend space and time, they also offered up a great deal more art and, for me at least, enjoyment.

My intention was to three star it, but it's not fair to the volume that I had just read the "Konjaku" previously, and so much of this volume was repetition (albeit in a superior translation). My last note, then, is that while the layout was interesting and thematic, the "Konjaku" gets spliced up in this volume, and so the stories lose their intended theme (which was india, china, japan, local, etc) and gets shoved into Tyler's own made-up themes (foxes, ying/yang, music, fairy's, foxes II...) - which is probably what made the stories feel like they were just floating out in no time, and place.

Also, Royall's translation for "The Tale of Heike" was phenomenal.... just thought I'd plug that for him....
26 reviews18 followers
October 30, 2012
This is one quirky book. I thought this would be like English folk tales, with the lessons and conclusions neatly laid out at the end, some of these stories end in the middle it seems. That is not to say they are bad and, if you want insight into early Japanese culture you could find less interesting ways to do so. Some are funny some do have lessons and some just show us what was important to a far away culture many centuries ago. You do need to come at this book the right way though, you should have an open mind and realize that Japan does not have the same value system you see in English history books. If you are reading this review you are curious already about Japan and I would say give this book a try, the stories are easy to read and most are only a few paragraphs long.
Profile Image for Eric.
55 reviews1 follower
February 12, 2013
Those looking for novel stories from Japan would do well to pick up this book. All the tales presented come from the era after the unification of Japan and are quite diverse. Moreover, though stories like Urashimataro and The Bamboo Cutter's Daughter (forgive my momentary lapse on the actual name of the story) are present, there are a number of tales here I have not read anywhere else. I'd also highly recommend anyone reading this book to read the introduction, as it provides invaluable information on the historical context of the stories as well as some remarks on the various religions of Japan that play a major role in several of the stories.
Profile Image for Nanci.
115 reviews1 follower
December 23, 2014
I couldn't bring myself to finish this collection because all of the tales are thoroughly male-centric -- the few women characters don't even have names! I know it's a sign of the eras in which they were written (many date back to the 700s), but still.... Also, many of the tales are very, very short, so there's literally not much to them (no character development, history, etc.).
I have many shelves full of fairy tale collections, but I won't be keeping this volume.
Profile Image for Maria.
84 reviews
August 11, 2015
Unfortunately I couldn't go on reading this book! The introduction was alright, but the selection + categorization of stories was poor. Many of them were too short to be engaging, and the few actually interesting stories were squished between several bland ones. Did not like it. Would love to find a better collection that presents a rich narrative...
Profile Image for Danelle.
673 reviews13 followers
May 6, 2020
This book consists of 220 tales divided into 42 sections (no I'm not going to list them). The tales are from medieval Japan (700's to 1500's), with most being from what's considered a "classic" period in Japanese civilization (850-1050). At the time of the stories, day and night consisted of just 6 hours, with the hours expanding or contracting according to seasonal variations. Seasons, in fact, didn't really exist, but time was marked according to 'moons' during different periods. Periods could last a year or more (for example, the Shotai period lasted from 898-901).

As one reads, it's important to keep in mind: that typically, in Japanese history, real power isn't always held by the person with the significant title, but usually by someone who is that person's subordinate; proper women stayed hidden (both physically and figuratively); and people most likely practiced one of two major religions: Buddhism or Shito.

This is the 14th book of world fairy/folktales that I've read and some of the stories were nightmarish, like # 75, 'The Dyeing Castle,' in which people are trapped and ...tied up and hung in mid-air, with jars below them to catch their dripping blood. (p.103) The story continues on as one of the captured writes to the protagonist, "This is the Dyeing Castle. People who come here are first given a drug which deprives them of speech, then fed another which fattens them. After that they are hung up and their skin slit all over so that their blood drips out. The blood is used to dye tie-dyed stuffs, which are sold. (p.103) Or how about the story (#13) 'The Grisly Box,' in which a man is asked to deliver a box, but not to look at its contents. He agrees, then forgets to deliver it, necessitating him to keep it hidden in his house until he is able to. His wife, suspecting he has a mistress, pulls the box out one night an opens it. She looks inside to see, "It was full of gouged out human eyes and severed male members with the hair still on them."

Oy vey.

Lots of demons in these stories. And dragons. And gods (most often in disguise). Similar to other collections of fairy and folk tales, there are a few basic rules: 1. be nice to animals (especially those that talk), 2. give freely to those in need (you will be rewarded), and 3. honor your dead (an unhappy ghost could become a harmful god).

Some words of wisdom from this collection:
"Envy is something to avoid."
"Not everyone gets to be an immortal."
"Nothing lasts, no, all things pass..."

There were a few funny stories. But honestly, most of the stories scared me. Aside from what I've typed above, there were a few more. An excerpt from one: Nothing was left of her but her clothes and her hair. Later he learned that the storehouse was known to eat people. (Wha?) In #77, 'The Sacrifice,' there are shades of Snow White - if Snow White were to be a human sacrifice instead of a girl that bit into a poisoned apple. Another, 'The Catch,' (#104) reminded me of Jack and the Beanstalk, but instead of beans, a man came home with nothing after selling his wares for a turtle and then setting the turtle free - to the utter dismay of his wife.

Again, another fun and interesting view into another culture and that's exactly why I keep on with these.
Profile Image for Mary.
885 reviews14 followers
March 9, 2023
Prompts this fits for reading challenges: translated work, Japanese mythology, mythology, mythological creatures, animal on the cover, ocean on the cover, Dewey Decimal system 300s, has a dedication. Written before 1850s (while the book itself is a compilation, each of the compiled stories was written down between the 700s and 1500s).

Setting: 700s to 1500s. Japan.

I picked this book up from the local library because I participate in various reading challenges. For one, I needed a book with the subject of Japanese mythology. Well, here it is. The book has a LENGTHY introductory section, giving insight into Japanese pronunciation, and background into Japanese culture. I do feel like this section threw out quite a few minor spoilers for some of the stories to come, but if you were say, writing a research paper, these references to specific stories would come in quite handy. This introductory material is extensive and as a casual reader, rather than a scholar, I opted to read through it more casually. I am not concerned with committing details about say, specific geography, to memory. If the stories are good, they should speak for themselves.

Well, I'm glad I gave this a try and had the cultural experience of reading it. However, I also discovered that I do NOT enjoy these ancient Japanese myths and stories. Demons eating people's heads, and a box full of hairy dismembered um, parts, are not really something I want to read about for hundreds of pages. Some of the stories didn't even really seem to have much of a point. In several, a family member was harmed or punished for another's mistake. I realize that Grimms' tales aren't exactly lighthearted fancy, but this was next level. I don't see myself looking into this type of literature again. I'll stick to more modern day stories like "Six Crimson Cranes".
Profile Image for Michelle.
147 reviews21 followers
March 15, 2021
My only complaint about this book stems from its age. 30 years ago general Western readers weren't as familiar with yokai, Buddhism, and Shinto as they are today, and the translation is effected by that. Words that today would be left in Japanese get translated (like "oni" becoming "demon," "kami" becoming "god") and western religious terms are used that don't exactly map to Buddhist, Shinto, or Taoist thought. The intro even has a line about Buddhism's main purpose being about what happens to the "soul" after death, which is... a problematic statement, considering a big aspect of Buddhism is "anatman" (non-self). Since there is a substantial introduction I'd love to be told in more detail exactly what the medieval Japanese thought about their spirit/what reincarnates after death and how that related to their Buddhist and Shinto beliefs, but even just not translating the original Japanese religious terms and explaining them instead would be helpful. But beyond my pedantry this is a fun, interesting collection of tales. I find it's more interesting to me now, after having read Tono Monogatari and other Japanese folklore books, because I pick up on common tropes and themes. The stories of ghosts, buildings that eat people, strange women on bridges, and various types of yokai and demons are my favorites.
Profile Image for Pat MacEwen.
Author 18 books7 followers
December 12, 2021
This collection of 220 short pieces spans the length of medieval Japan's literary history. The vast majority come from the setsuwa bungaku or "tale literature," gathered up in tomes dating back as far as 822 A.D. and as far forward as 1350 A.D. While there are a few repeats of items also seen in Tales of Old Japan or Lafcadio Hearn's books, and some are variations on better known versions, the majority were new to me. These are tales of miracles and bodhisattvas as well as priestly failures and include visions of heaven and hell from more than one tradition. There are also lines of poetry and song lyrics strewn among fables and folklore, and legends concerning both emperors and samurai, with or without yokai in the middle. They are told in groups of five, each group centered on a common theme, making episodic reading convenient and coherent. There is also a useful introduction concerning the classic period in Japanese history and civilization which illuminates the period and the choices made in the course of the book's compilation. Recommended for general readers as well as scholars.
Profile Image for Mike White.
155 reviews
June 24, 2022
“The Buddha with Lots of Hands
“In the summer of 1278 an epidemic struck the East and many people died. A boy I knew well caught the sickness. As he lay there he cried out that some children were tormenting him and complained that he felt awful. Several monks then chanted the Darani of Thousand-Armed Kannon for him. They had only repeated it twenty times when he exclaimed, ‘A Buddha with lots of hands came out of the temple and hit those children on the head! They ran away to the north and they were angry and crying. The buddha chased them away!’ Then he was well again.
“I saw this with my own eyes.”
There are 220 Medieval stories of people, animals and monks, with an illuminating introduction and appendices. They aren’t stories in the Western sense, but anecdotes; the story quoted above is an example. However they provide a useful insight into the source material for later Japanese writers.
Profile Image for Mandy.
813 reviews11 followers
May 20, 2018
I liked these stories so much, I wish I had gotten them in a different form. I read this on my library's ebook app so it was a struggle to finish them all in time (I had to rent it out for at least 6 weeks total to finish it in between my other readings) and the quality of the text conversion went significantly down towards the end as well. This would be a really nice collection to get in hardcover and to read small groups of stories at a time. It was so interesting to get a feel from the 200+ stories for Japanese cultural morals and folklore. I read this book in preparation for a trip to Japan I was supposed to take, but it's inspired a lot of interest in more historical lore and myths and legends from other cultures as well.
Profile Image for J.souza.
180 reviews11 followers
September 28, 2022
I've been trying to read this book for 2 years, after looking for it for don't know how many. Today I throw in the towel.

As a lover of all things mythology, and appreciator of japanese culture, I was hoping to read something more, well: magical. Instead I found most of it short, dull, and basically cautionary tales by the eyes of buddhism.

Not to say that it was all bad. The book has the original tale that inspired Ghibli's "The Tale of Princess Kaguya". But even then, the animated version was better.
Profile Image for Cinnamingirl.
255 reviews2 followers
March 4, 2018
it took me a long time to finish this because I went through a spate of nit really reading much. this book was a but if a stretch for me since I spend most of my tine reading sci-fi or fantasy but it was really enjoyable. it's a good book to pick up and put down, since all of the stories are pretty short. it was an interesting look into Japanese history and culture, and I totally found myself excited Everytime they mentioned a part of Kyoto that I know. ^__^
6 reviews
October 29, 2016
A diverse collection of Japanese folktales and myths organized by themes. Some stories are morality tales and others, supernatural tragedies. There are ghost stories, religious fables, and some stories that are just down right weird.
26 reviews
December 28, 2017
Book was thorough and had good analysis. Stories themselves were not always interesting though their format was educational. Hiding review as Royall Taylor is the anthologist and translator not writer
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Author 1 book2 followers
March 6, 2018
Nothing speaks to a culture more clearly than folk tales and ghost stories. A great collection of stories that never disappoints, and always excites and entertains. Strange, beautiful and wonderful.
Profile Image for Gasmask Dandy.
40 reviews3 followers
March 28, 2019
Japanese folklore is really interesting and even valuable for understanding the culture of Japan. This, unfortunately, is not the book to seek out such information. It feels extremely shallow and is short in length. If anyone can suggest a better resource, please comment on this review.
Profile Image for Thomas Brassington.
103 reviews12 followers
December 1, 2022
I feel I can't really 'review' folklore but the collection itself was nice. I like the way stories are grouped into 5 of a similar theme. However, the font size is tiny and 220 folktales in one collection, read continuously, might be a bit too many.
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