Kwaidan: Ghost Stories and Strange Tales of Old Japan
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Kwaidan: Ghost Stories and Strange Tales of Old Japan

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3.94 of 5 stars 3.94  ·  rating details  ·  1,083 ratings  ·  97 reviews
A blind musician with amazing talent is called upon to perform for the dead. Faceless creatures haunt an unwary traveler. A beautiful woman — the personification of winter at its cruelest — ruthlessly kills unsuspecting mortals. These and 17 other chilling supernatural tales — based on legends, myths, and beliefs of ancient Japan — represent the very best of Lafcadio Hearn...more
Paperback, 176 pages
Published July 28th 2006 by Dover Publications (first published 1904)
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Nandakishore Varma
I have started posting reviews again, at the request of my friends. If you like them, please take time to visit my blog also, where I talk about other things in addition to book reviews.

I first encountered Lafcadio Hearn in an Anthology of American stories, in a weird little story: The Boy Who Drew Cats. It was a creepy Japanese fairy tale about a boy whose artistic productions (which were solely of a feline persuasion) came to life and did away with a goblin rat. As a short story, it did not p...more
Teresa
This book is divided into 2 sections, the longer one called "Kwaidan," which means 'weird tales' (there are 17 of them) and a shorter section called "Insect-Studies," which is comprised of 3 different essays about butterflies, mosquitoes and ants. All the writings are from a Japanese perspective, though Hearn points out where the tradition is even older and likely comes from an earlier Chinese telling.

In the "Kwaidan" section I was reminded of other folklorists who've done the same kind of 'arc...more
Erma Odrach
I recently joined the group "Friends of Lafcadio Hearn" here on GR's without knowing who he was. So I did my research. He was a British/Greek/American author, who moved to Japan in 1890, and was key in introducing Japanese culture to the West.

Kwaidan is a collction of 20 short, strange tales, taken from old Japanese books - a ghostly woman dressed in white appears before a young woodcutter and makes him promise never to tell, a mysterious face shows up in a cup of tea, a girl with no features h...more
Meghan Fidler
I truly admire Lafcadio Hearn. An international traveler and writer, his works on Japanese ghost stories not only captures the reader, but captures the idiolect inherent in Japanese stories... (allow me, reader, the creative license to describe genre, voice, and the content for the diversity which is Japan as an idiolect. I recognize that it is a bit odd, but I also like it as a descriptive maneuver, capturing the individual narrator within the practice and knowledge of a broad region, history,...more
Paul
Reading this collection of old Japanese ghost stories, you'd find it hard to believe that they were written by a person of Greek/Irish ancestry. His stories are written in a simple straight-forward style, and his knowledge of Japanese culture and customs are such that if his name wasn't on the cover you'd swear it was written by someone native to that country.

The stories themselves are well written and utterly bizarre. Disembodied, floating heads to tragic, spirit-possessed ducks are subjects co...more
Devlin Scott
Upon his arrival in Japan in 1890, Lafcadio Hearn found himself enamored with the culture, people, and stories of the country, and would make Japan his home until his death in 1904. His collections of stories published during this time became the most popular of Hearn's writings, and earned him veneration worldwide as not only a great translator of Japanese mythology, but as a sensational teller of strange and wonderfully macabre tales. "Kwaidan" is most commonly translated as weird or horror ta...more
Audrey
Kwaidan is a beautiful selection of Japanese ghost stories; some of them are horrifying, some of them are touching, and all of them provide an intricate look into the many subtleties that make up the Japanese culture. I am greatly enjoyed each and every story in this book, and each of them I enjoyed for different reasons. Some of the stories were translations of old Japanese texts wheras, for others, this book was the first place they were ever written. The author heard them while traveling thro...more
Pelin
These stories are quite unexpected, surely bizarre, but each of them somehow relates to our modern lives. It was a pure coincidence that I found this book in the mostly forgotten Japanese shelf of the bookstore, but I'm happy I bought it. Even if it is not so popular, I think it's a must read for anyone who is interested in Japanese history and culture.
Kitty
I went into this book thinking the stories would be creepy and morally twisted like The Grudge, One Missed Call, or The Human Centipede. What I got instead were very old "ghost" stories, with slightly creepy artwork. Getting over my disappointment, I found these stories to be quite enjoyable. They were all set in ancient Japan, when Samurai were a thing and the art work was 10x better than anything today (can you tell I really loved the paintings in this book?). A few of them even had happy endi...more
Luke
Lafcadio Hearn, born to Greek and Irish parents, eventually attained Japanese citizenship and took the name Koizumi Yakumo. His writings on Japan provided a window on a country that - at the time he was producing material - was still a land of mystery to foreign readers. And Kwaidan - a collection of "ghostly" tales - is perhaps his most well-known work.

Kwaidan - the source for some of the stories featured in the film of the same name - is not a collection of ghost stories in the way that you'd...more
Naohiro Hotta
-Title Strange Tales from Kwaidan
-Time 10/24=30 minutes 10/25=30 minutes 10/26=30 minutes
-7 words Japan, strange, spirit, ghost, heaven, funeral, awful

-Discussion Question
1.According to a part of this story, a women came back this world to bring back her letter after she died.
What do you have a thing that you should take to heaven when you die?
Well, in my view, if I were to die, I could not go to the heaven without some pictures of my family. This is why I want my family to put the pictures int...more
Larsson
(Note: The copy I read belonged to my great-grandfather, and it's edition is not listed here.)

I am in the somewhat unusual position of having first been exposed to Lafcadio Hearn via his American newspaper work, and not his much more well-known work on Japan. I found those works to be at times sensationalistic, but certainly enjoyable, over a hundred years after their writing. With this reading behind me, I moved on to the next book by Hearn on the shelf.

And what an odd volume it was. A forward...more
Kate
The stories in Kwaidan are fascinating and worthwhile to read. In this edition, there are a number of typos and mistakes, but the beautiful illustrations make up for it.

For a man writing more than 100 years ago, Lafcadio Hearn approaches these stories with a respect and reverence that is refreshing and appreciated in modern times. There is none of the condescension that so often plagues and makes unreadable Western collections of non-Western folklore written during the heyday of European imperia...more
Isil
http://okudumdanoldu.blogspot.be/2012...

Şimdi ben bu Japon animelerine bayılıyorum ya.. Hani Spirited Away'ler, Princess Mononoke'ler.. Hepsinde aslında Japon kültüründeki ya da folkloründeki diyelim öğeler serpiştirilmiş. Kodamalar var mesela Mononoke'de, ağaç ruhları. Nehrin ruhu Haku var Spirited Away'de.. Bunlar aslında hep onların efsanelerinden mitolojilerinden çıkan şeyler.

Ben merak ettim, bu hikayeleri anlatan kitaplar bulayım istedim ve aslında tam da aradığım türde bir şey buldum. Bu İ...more
Fussfehler
The stories of the supernatural in this collection are, well, haunting. In this collection of ghost stories you will recognize universal themes of the supernatural: spirits from beyond the grave, love that transcends death, tortured spirits seeking rest, human spirits that animate the bodies of animals. Because these themes are universal, you will know how the story unfolds long before the end, but unless you are familiar with Japanese folklore, you will find the approach to be novel, and might...more
Matthew
Essentially a collection of short folk tales, I especially liked "The Story of Mimi-Nashi-Houichi" and "The Dream of Akinosuke". I don't know that I'd say the others were bad necessarily, just forgettable.

When Hearn writes in his own voice instead of acting as a translator, though, it gets a little troubling. Toward the end of the book is a treatise on the superior moral evolution of ants, with extensive quotations from Herbert Spencer. Hearn confesses to "worshipfully reverence [Spencer] as the...more
Jesse
I found this book after seeing its name in several places, and even watching the film (which is great, though only in four parts, and I don't think two of the stories in the movie were in the book...).

A cool collection of Japanese folk tales; some mysterious, some scary, and all on the farther side of magical.

Most of the stories were very short, but this doesn't hamper them as you don't need much to get to the point of a fairy tale.

I would recomend this to anyone intersted in Japanese culture o...more
Justin
I picked up this book because it was on sale at Barnes & Noble, and after reading it, I certainly understand why it was on the bargain racks.

I want to start by saying that the majority of these collected stories are really quite good, and illustrate some of the diversity of Japanese folklore--not all of them were frightening, but they were definitely interesting. Furthermore, there is some absolutely gorgeous artwork throughout this book...however, there are caveats to both of these points,...more
Philipp
Fun ghost stories from 1905; mostly strange to me as a European because our "traditional" stories always have a moral, or some point, like "don't stray from the given path", "listen to your superiors" etc. pp. Japanese ghost stories rarely have a moral, the doom brought by ghosts or spirits befalls the good and the evil alike. Karma exists but it it's more useful for reincarnation - there is no all-encompassing "good" like in the Christian worldview.

The entire folklore of Japanese yokai is fasci...more
Trevor
Originally collected and assembled in 1904, Lafcadio Hearn's anthology of Japanese ghost stories (hence the name "Kwaidan") is an interesting look into the beliefs and practices of historic Japan via the folklore presented. My particular edition, published by Fall River Press, contained not only the fantastical stories, but also beautiful artwork assembled from a variety of sources. Recommended for anybody who has an interest in Asian folklore and culture.
Erika
I had been wanting to read this book for years. I got interested in it because of a horror video game that is said to be based on these stories. Now that I finally got the book I devoured it. The stories are interesting and have an authentic ancient feeling to them, like they were being told to the reader by a Japanese person a century ago. The descriptions are beautiful, you can imagine the snow and the silk and the fluttering of butterflies. I quite enjoyed reading this and I'm interested in g...more
Beth
Jul 20, 2013 Beth marked it as maybe  ·  review of another edition
(not a book, but a dvd at plcmc...)
Wayne
Apr 12, 2013 Wayne rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Mixers of spooks a la Japanese
Recommended to Wayne by: the superb film of a couple of the tales

WORDS AND PICTURES:
Reading these Japanese ghostly/magical stories has made me reflect
on books without pictures, whether on the page or in the mind of the reader.

Two extremes crossed my mind.

When I was in Year 6 of Primary School, part of our homework
was to illustrate the Battle of Trafalgar.
We had read a text without illustrations.
I had also read my older sister's Brooks Social Studies
which used illustrations of famous paintings.
I was the only student who drew flaming 18th Century galleons.
Al...more
Doug
I enjoyed these Japanese ghost tales. It's something of an academic work, so most of the tales don't make for a great story, but the imagery and prose, at times, are great. The following sections are examples of this - the first one, however, is a spoiler for the story, unfortunately.

From "The Story of Mimi-Nashi-Hïchi"

(view spoiler)...more
Carissa
I liked the simplicity of the ghost stories. I thought the weirdest one was where the guy is walking down the street and stops to help a weeping girl and when she turns around she has no facial features. It's only a smooth egg shape. He runs and tells this merchant further up the street who morphs his features to the egg shape. And that's the end. I can see where The Ring and The Grudge came from. I picked up the movie from the library and even though it had some cheesy effects, it was pretty fr...more
Greg Bates
A blind bard is forced to endlessly sing the eulogy of a battle to the spirits who died in it. A man is pursued by an egg-faced woman with no facial features. A man unwittingly marries the demon who cursed him and only discovers his mistake years later. These are a few of the Japanese supernatural tales in Kwaidan, written by OG Japanophile Lafcadio Hearn. I wasn't intending to read Kwaidan, it actually popped up as a random recommendation on an Amazon search. After reading the description (and...more
J
Lafcadio Hearn was pretty interesting: a European who decided to completely immerse himself in Japanese culture, even to the point of moving to Japan and taking a Japanese name. Whether earnest immigrant or exploitive Westerner (or, as is most likely, a little of both), Mr. Hearn clearly enjoyed the folklore of his new home, and as someone who's read a bit of Japanese folklore herself, I feel like he was able to do it justice in Kwaidan.

Hearn says that the tales in Kwaidan are either well-known...more
Jefferson
Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things (1904) is a fascinating book of Japanese folk tales, ghost stories, and general culture as translated and interpreted by Lafcadio Hearn. It consists of fifteen tales of the supernatural, two sketches of the ineffable, and three "Insect Studies." Hearn reveals through the stories an old Japan in which at any moment nature (trees, winter, ants, etc.) may appear human and in which fantastic beings (ghosts, goblins, demons, etc.) may appear. Hearn also...more
Stephen Brooke
I knew of this book from the gorgeous movie of the same name, based on some of the stories. Not that it has anything much to do with how good Hearn’s collection is, but I love the movie — it is in many ways a stylistic predecessor to the work of Zhang Yimou.

But, the book: it’s a short book, full of quite short tales (unless one has the illustrated version -- that's a somewhat larger volume). Folk lore best describes them — they are certainly not ‘horror’ stories in any modern sense. They more re...more
Daryl
Really interesting series of ghost stories. It's more fantasy than horror, really; some of the stories are scary, but more often than not they're just interesting. Quite a quick read, and it makes me want to read more Japanese ghost stories.

The orientalism of Hearn's time really shows through. The introduction in the version I read unproblematically described Hearn as being an 'interpreter' of Japanese culture, as if he could understand Japanese culture in its totality (and as if such a thing ex...more
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Kwaidan (the movie vs. the book) 1 20 Jul 09, 2009 04:11PM  
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35238
Lafcadio Hearn [aka Koizumi Yakumo] was born in Lefkas, Greece. He was a son of an army doctor Charles Hearn from Ireland and a Greek woman Rosa Cassimati. After making remarkable works in America as a journalist, he went to Japan in 1890 as a journey report writer of a magazine. But as soon as he arrived in Yokohama, he quit the job because of a dissatisfaction with the contract. After that, he m...more
More about Lafcadio Hearn...
In Ghostly Japan Kokoro: Hints and Echos of Japanese Inner Life Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan Oriental Ghost Stories Lafcadio Hearn's Japan: An Anthology of his Writings on the Country and Its People

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“also in the boom of the big bell there is a quaintness of tone which wakens feelings, so strangely far-away from all the nineteenth-century part of me, that the faint blind stirrings of them make me afraid, - deliciously afraid. never do I hear that billowing peal but I become aware of a striving and a fluttering in the abyssal part of my ghost, - a sensation as of memories struggling to reach the light beyond the obscurations of a million million deaths and births. I hope to remain within hearing of that bell... and, considering the possibility of being doomed to the state of a jiki-ketsu-geki, I want to have my chance of being reborn in some bamboo flower-cup, or mizutame, whence I might issue softly, singing my thin and pungent song, to bite some people that I know.” 7 likes
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