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A Cup of Salt Tears

3.49  ·  Rating Details ·  235 Ratings  ·  41 Reviews
Makino’s mother taught her caution, showed her how to carve her name into cucumbers, and insisted that she never let a kappa touch her. But when she grows up and her husband Tetsuya falls deathly ill, a kappa that claims to know her comes calling with a barbed promise. “A Cup of Salt Tears” is a dark fantasy leaning towards horror that asks how much someone should ...more
Kindle Edition, 32 pages
Published August 27th 2014 by Tor Books
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Jan 31, 2015 karen rated it liked it
Someone once told Makino that women in grief are more beautiful. So I must be the most beautiful woman in the world right now

after reading Midway Relics and Dying Breeds and In the Sight of Akresa back-to-back, it would have been too much to ask to read another perfect free tor short right away. this one is perfectly fine, but doesn't have the density-of-story as midway or the "i will kill your heart" shock of akresa.

it's definitely still a sorrowful tale, which i love, but it's a more measured
Simona Bartolotta
It's extremely atmospheric, and I appreciated that; but all in all, I found it rather empty and somehow devoid of any kind of meaning. It left me wondering "All very pretty, but what for?". The writing is delicious, but the dialogues lack bite.

The truly wonderful thing is that you can read it for free here:
Aug 28, 2014 Melki rated it really liked it
Makino's husband is dying. She sits by his bedside and reads fairy tales aloud. But belief in fairy tales can be trouble. They are full of witches and tricksters who don't always keep their promises.

One day, Makino is visited by a kappa, a Japanese river spirit.


“I will tell you a fairytale,” the kappa says, “Because I know you love fairytales. A girl falls into a river—”
“Stop,” she says, “I don’t want to hear it.” She holds out her hands, to keep it from moving closer. “My husband is dying.”

ᴥ Irena ᴥ
Makino's husband is dying. She can only sit next to his bed and watch him stare out the window hoping he won't die.
She remembers how they met.
She remembers her mother's advice not to let water creature touch her. Ever.
She doesn't listen.


The tone of A Cup of Salt Tears is both profoundly sad, chilling and erotic at times. One of the strangest stories I've ever read.
Karly *The Vampire Ninja, Luminescent Monster & Wendigo Nerd Goddess of Canada (according to The Hulk)*
That cover..... it reminds me of this really cheesy movie:

(Which I do not expect anyone else to have seen because cheesy)

That being said I know not a thing about Japanese mythology so the term Kappa meant nothing to me..... I was thinking like a Kelpie with a bowl balanced on it's head (?!) and a beak.... this may explain why I didn't like this more than I did.

This is a Kappa:

(According to google....)

As I said I know nothing about Japanese Mythology.... so, basically I found this story interest
Sep 02, 2014 Keyreads rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2014
This was a good story, but I felt it was missing something. I would have enjoy a bit more description on the folklore of the "a kappa" and not just some bedtime story a mother tells her children.
The cover illustration is awesome-so I gave it an extra star.
Oct 21, 2014 Ron rated it it was ok
Shelves: fantasy, ebook, short
An interesting, but contrived piece. Well-written but not much to commend the story itself.

It was okay.
Jun 29, 2016 Tosh rated it liked it
I read this short on Tor's website. It was slightly strange, but well written and beautifully sad. And bonus for me - I learned a bit of folklore.
Nov 11, 2015 Punk rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Melancholy, beautiful, and heartless—the way that a heart too full can sometimes feel numb.

Read it at
Such beautiful imagery in the language of this short story.
You can find it online at Tor's site here:
I loved the writing and tone! It was a beautifully told story, though I wasn't wowed by the content.
Elizabeth Brenner
Jan 18, 2016 Elizabeth Brenner rated it really liked it
A mysterious, floating story that asks more questions than it answers, which is the beauty of it. I'll have to read it again sometime to understand what Yap is doing. Really enjoyed it.
Feb 02, 2015 Nicole rated it it was ok
2.5 stars? I liked the cultural references though the story itself felt a little empty.
Sep 30, 2016 Geri rated it it was ok
Shelves: short-stories
Jul 26, 2016 Melody added it
If you’re not familiar with the kappa legend, I urge you to read up on this Japanese folklore before reading this short story for a better perspective of what’s going on here. Don’t be like me and start reading without a single clue, lost for a moment longer than you’d like to be. Context is important.

That said, coming from a Westerner, I thought that this was a great take on the kappa legend. It expressed the malevolence that is present here and how kappa use kindness to reel in their helpless
Tasya Dita
Sep 11, 2016 Tasya Dita rated it liked it
Shelves: mythology, tor
3.5/5 stars

I really like the atmosphere and the japanese culture, but I don't really understand what is actually happening :/
Dec 24, 2015 Maki rated it really liked it
This is not a fairytale, Makino knows, and she is no princess, and the moon hanging in the sky is only a moon, not a jewel hanging on a queen’s neck, not the spun silk on a weaver’s loom. The man she loves is dying, snowfall is filling her ears, and she is going to come apart unless somebody saves him.

I should have known it was only a matter of time before I found a love story that involved a kappa.

Finally - the kappa romance I've been dying for since I found out that you can marry the Kappa i
Apr 26, 2016 Ranforingus rated it liked it
Shelves: 2016-reads, reviewed
A very short tale, but very much worth reading.

There are stories that leave you with more questions than answers, and this is one of them.
I loved the melancholic tone of the story, yet couldn't help but feel that there was something missing.

Against all odds, despite being wary of (okay creeped out) by the Kappa at first, I kinda felt like he'd been cheated by Makino at the end.
Maybe I understood the story wrong, but I had more 'feels' for the Kappa than our main character.

Nevertheless, this is s
Yolanda Sfetsos
Sep 14, 2014 Yolanda Sfetsos rated it really liked it
This is another short story that sounded interesting.

Makino's husband, Tetsuya, is sick. Her life is filled with sadness and she spends her life at work or in the hospital. The only place that gives her solace is the hot bath, where she's approached by a kappa. A kappa who claims to know and love her, even saved her life once upon a time. This time, the kappa might be able to help her save her husband.

But you're not supposed to let a kappa touch you...

I really enjoyed this haunting sto
Jan 12, 2016 Fae rated it really liked it
So many other people said it, but I'll say it again with vehement passion: this was exquisitely beautiful, haunting and cold. It was so well written that I could smell the kappa, I could feel the steam of the hot baths, and I could feel the heartbreak grounding in. The tone of this was dark, chilling and above all, mesmerizing. This was so, so good that it made my chest ache.

(view spoiler)
Mar 12, 2016 Florina rated it liked it
Hmm. Some really wonderful turns of phrase here and there. The atmosphere, too, is rich and eerie, but this is, ultimately, a tame and underwhelming (fairy) tale. If this had been a short novella instead of a rather short short story, I think it would have fared better. There was a lack of substance that was easily concealed by good writing. I still need a bit more meat and bite from my short stories, but it was still a pleasant read.
Apr 10, 2015 Dory rated it really liked it
The story is short. The description is great. You get a feeling of the Japanese public baths. Which are actually pretty cool, and still very commonly used. The short had a down-feeling to it.. i was expecting a plot twist that the kappa was actually just fooling Makino. I liked this short. The description was great.
Jun 27, 2016 Leoni rated it liked it
A well-written short story, though at times uncomfortably erotic. This book is clearly about love, regret and grief. Grief on both Makino and the Kappa's part. But whose grief and need for love, ring true?
I enjoyed the short while it lasted but I felt like there was a lot repetitive details and filler that didn't need to consume the story.
Apr 23, 2016 Sarah rated it liked it
I don't know much about the mythology this story incorporated, but I don't think that really lessened my enjoyment of it. I was able to figure out enough from context without the story having to be all telling and no showing. Very sad but also strangely erotic - a confusing mix of emotions to feel, for sure! Definitely engaging. I'd be interested in more by this author.
CW (Read Think Ponder)
A Cup of Salt Tears is a haunting, slightly melancholic, and unnervingly sensual story about the unusual connection between a kappa and a human girl.

Thank you Aentee for sharing this short story with me!

Dec 13, 2014 Marco rated it liked it
Shelves: supernatural
This is the story of Makino, raised by her mother to avoid kappas (supernatural monsters of the Japanese folklore) and to follow the proper rites to keep them away. But when she grows up and her husband Tetsuya falls deathly ill, a kappa that claims to know her comes calling.
Aug 27, 2014 Linh rated it liked it
It's good, and the cover quite beautiful. Tender and calm. I love the story how Makino fell in love with Tetsuya, but not the rest. Maybe because it lacks something I do not have a name for, or maybe just simply because it's too short for my taste.
Zachariah Carlson
Nov 10, 2015 Zachariah Carlson rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015
Poignant. The layering of Makino's interactions with Tetsuya and Kawataro worked well, and there was a sort of nervously happy ending.
Feb 16, 2015 Kerri rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: everyone
Excellent interpretation. The writing was fluid and beautiful. Even the Kappa was made more interesting by the author's storytelling and clear, lyrical prose. I really liked this story.
Apr 20, 2016 Shroog rated it liked it
I like it , beautiful and well written It's just the plot feels flat and missing something. But as short story it's defiantly a good one.
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Isabel Yap writes fiction and poetry, works in the tech industry, and drinks lots of tea. She grew up in the Philippines, and spent the last few years in the California Bay Area.

In 2013 she received her degree in Marketing from Santa Clara University, and also attended the Clarion Writers Workshop. Other interests include manga, ugly dogs, sweet food, videogames, art, and travel.
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