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Japanese Tales (Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library)

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3.91  ·  Rating Details ·  892 Ratings  ·  46 Reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 341 pages
Published August 13th 2002 by Pantheon (first published 1980)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Eadweard
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
Carson
Jan 08, 2009 Carson rated it really liked it
Yeah so I'm reading 7 books at once, what's the problem?

Robert Darnton wrote in the Great Cat Massacre that if you read a joke from another country and another era and you are not laughing, then you know you need to do more research into that culture.

This book of folktales will bring you right up to ancient Japan. The stories in it are bizarre, sad, funny, incongruous, inconclusive, and altogether magnificent. But if you can't laugh at fart jokes, you will not enjoy this book, and you may even
...more
Elisa
Jul 29, 2013 Elisa rated it liked it
This collection was very disappointing. The stories are very short (most are less than two pages) and in some cases are truncated versions of longer, well-known tales (such as "The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter", which like all stories appears under a different title made-up by Tyler).

The translation is really poor. There is none of the linguistic nuance or poetry one would expect from professional translation of a foreign tongue, just bland standard English. In some cases, Tyler blatantly uses Engl
...more
Kylie
Oct 29, 2014 Kylie rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Dimitris
Aug 23, 2016 Dimitris rated it liked it
I liked it.

Nice fairy tales and stories from Japan!

Ben
Aug 20, 2012 Ben rated it it was amazing
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 fo ...more
Michael
Oct 30, 2012 Michael rated it liked it
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 shoul ...more
Eric
Feb 11, 2013 Eric rated it really liked it
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 informat ...more
Brendan
Mar 18, 2015 Brendan rated it really liked it
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 any
...more
Valentina
Aug 20, 2014 Valentina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Commento del 10 aprile 2013

Il volume propone una selezione di 77 testi tratti dalle due principali raccolte di setsuwa – il Konjaku Monogatarishū (1120 - periodo Heian) e l’ Uji Shūi Monogatari (periodo Kamakura) –, ma anche dal Kokonchomonjū (dell’aristocratico Tachibana no Narisue, 1254), dall’ Hosshinshū (a carattere religioso, 1208 – 1216), dall’ Heike monogatari (capolavoro assoluto del genere gunki monogatari, redatto nel XIII secolo) e da molte raccolte “minori” compilate tra gli a
...more
Michael
Feb 08, 2016 Michael rated it really liked it
The tales in this book are not folktales or legends, but rather literary tales in the same mode as the above but written down in earlier time periods than most Japanese folktales seem to be set in. Some are exciting and flavorful, but others are sort of bland. Still, this book is well worth having. There are a lot of interesting stories, which show different aspects of historical Japan's way of looking at the world, both social and natural.
Yume Kitasei
Nov 12, 2014 Yume Kitasei rated it liked it
Shelves: 2014
An interesting collection of tales - they are well-written and the variety is interesting. I was surprised, though, that among the 200, I only recognized one (the old woman who rescues the sparrow). There are quite a number of common ones (common enough that a half-Japanese girl has heard of them) that are missing here - this is more of a survey than a compendium, despite the comprehensive size of the compilation.

What's interesting about reading this collection is how the story structure feels m
...more
Blow Pop
Aug 31, 2015 Blow Pop rated it did not like it
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 Ameri
...more
Nanci
Dec 23, 2014 Nanci rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
Majka Skowrońska
O ile tematyka bardzo ciekawa, o tyle jest to lektura dla najwytrwalszych. Bardzo krótkie opowiadania sprawiają, że po zakończeniu jednego, ciężko się skoncentrować na kolejnym. Wymęczył mnie również wstęp, który był bardzo potrzebny, ale jego obszerność przywoływała pytanie: nie dałoby się tego podzielić na krótsze fragmenty i wpleść gdzieś w treść?
Evelyn Eve
Jun 12, 2016 Evelyn Eve rated it liked it
As with most collections, I tend to read a little here and there over time, as there is no central plot to follow. I think of these books more like snacks than meals.

This book is a collection of myths gathered from Japan's history, from their traditional Shinto religion and eventual inclusion of Buddhism (which didn't happen until later in Japanese history). All in all, interesting, but goes to show how religious nuttiness is all over the world, be it East or West.

Some parts of this book were ex
...more
Tawny
Japanese tales/folklore are filled with monks, demons, gods, and foxes. The stories got to be a little repetitive, but were still interesting. Favorite lines:
1. "It's not the rules that really count, it's the person" (59).
2. "Hate has brought me an eternity of suffering. A grudge against someone else is just like a grudge against yourself" (138).
3. "A man values his life more than anything and he never forgets what he owes someone who's saved him" (140)!
4. "Kannon's vow to save suffering beings
...more
James Eckman
Nov 01, 2014 James Eckman rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
A collection of anecdotes, fairy tales and very short stories from early Japan. Some of them are extremely odd by modern standards, like the brief note about the noble who was about to ravage a maiden when she farted. Oh the disgrace! I might have to become a monk. Always interesting reading outside your normal cultural boundaries.
Ben
Sep 19, 2016 Ben rated it liked it
It's hard to argue with the content of this book, but I wasn't terribly impressed with the edition.
April-Jane Rowan
Nov 15, 2015 April-Jane Rowan rated it really liked it
This is a great collection of Japanese folk tales as it has a mixture of different themes and tones raging from amusing to melancholy. Nearly all are magical cautionary tales. They are all very readable despite the heavy traditional and detailed culture they focus on.
My only dislike is The translation of the Yokai names. In my opinion, 'fox' should have been 'kitsune' and badger should have been 'tanuki'. I find it strange that Tengu are referred to by their name but not the others?
Still this
...more
Tara
Jun 03, 2014 Tara rated it it was amazing
If you can get over the atrocious amount of typos in this book , it is a fantastic read. Most of the typos aren't that conspicious anyway.
Susan
Dec 16, 2011 Susan rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy, fiction
There are over 200 tales in this collection, and many of them are tiny. Taken alone, each one is fascinating. But with so many together, one right after the other, I began to tire of them and had to force myself to keep reading. By the time I was done, my head was full of gods and demons, monks and monkeys, badgers, snakes, and foxes. The introduction by the translator gives a thorough picture of the Japan of the period in which the tales were told, and how each of the characters figures into an ...more
Amanda Haas
Sep 06, 2016 Amanda Haas rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
Informative intro and a wide collection of tales ranging from thoughtful to hilarious.
Winter Sophia Rose
Dec 13, 2014 Winter Sophia Rose rated it it was amazing
Informative, Enchanting & Fascinating!
Orlaith
Aug 23, 2011 Orlaith rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting look at medieval Japan's folklore and religion.

The introduction gives a good background to the culture and the beliefs of the time and indicates how daily life was influenced by tradition, and how those traditions gave rise to these stories.

The stories themselves vary from haunting to relationships to monks seeking Enlightenment. I enjoyed reading them and seeing how these tales have a different aesthetic to Western stories.
Kate
Jul 04, 2012 Kate rated it did not like it
The introduction detailing the Japanese history and culture that these folk tales came from was well-written and informative. The tales themselves, on the other hand, were extremely repetitive and dully written. The tales are very short--some as much as a half page long--and are organized rather haphazardly by theme, which doesn't work particularly well as there is much overlap.
Maria
Aug 11, 2015 Maria rated it it was ok
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...
Jere
Aug 21, 2016 Jere rated it really liked it
Shelves: japan, short-stories
A solid collection of classic Edo-period short stories and a proper glimpse into classic Japan.
Variety is wide, although at some points the stories can feel a bit repetitive, as every second one seems to involve Sutras or monks somehow, which only goes to show how important role buddhist religion played at those times.
Dasha Slepenkina
May 06, 2016 Dasha Slepenkina rated it really liked it
3.5 / 5

Good exposure to Japanese folklore and themes. Can be a bit dry, but interesting overall.
Traycee
Nov 22, 2010 Traycee rated it really liked it
Great fairy-type tales from ancient Japan. Nice short tales that are great to read when you just have a few minutes to relax. I also like to read this book at work between phone calls. I can usually read one or two tales before being called back to reality by a complaining client.
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What are your favorite stories from this collection? 1 5 Jul 29, 2013 01:03AM  
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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 ...more
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