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Myths and Legends of Japan

3.63  ·  Rating details ·  415 ratings  ·  32 reviews
The most popular myths and legends of Japanese culture are charmingly retold in English in this handsomely illustrated book. Here are myths of gods, heroes and warriors; legends of Buddha, and of the goddess Benten and the god Daikoku; tales of the sea and of Mount Fuji; accounts of superstitions and supernatural beings; observations on the spiritual properties of fans, fl ...more
Paperback, 480 pages
Published March 23rd 1992 by Dover Publications (first published June 1st 1912)
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3.63  · 
Rating details
 ·  415 ratings  ·  32 reviews

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While it contains many folktales, this book is a little frustrating for serious mythology research. The separation between stories is unclear, sometimes nonexistent, and the author's voice is clearly evident, with ironic touches and editorial flourishes throughout. While the organization of stories and anecdotes by theme can be useful, the other deficits of the volume more than make up for that positive.
Feb 04, 2018 rated it liked it
This was first published in 1913 by British authors and YOU CAN TELL. The narration really annoyed me at times. That being said, this was a pretty comprehensive volume of legends, myths, ghost stories, etc. it’s a good starting point for newbies like me.
Feb 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed to know more about another beautiful culture
J.Aleksandr Wootton
Nov 13, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: caveat-lector
Not so much a collection of translated Japanese myths and legends as an excuse to showcase Hadland's opinions of them. No tale is allowed to stand on its own; Hadland must choke all his retellings with commentary, attempted translations of timeless folkloric culture into the pop culture of his contemporary readers (this book was originally published in England, 1913), presumptuous direct statements about what the reader feels or is about to feel in response to the stories, and pseudo-academic as ...more
Andrew Nease
Jul 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Am I glad I read this book? Yes. Did I enjoy reading it? For the most part, yes: that's why it got four stars instead of three. But I don't know if I'd say I'd recommend it. It's pretty dated, for one thing: it was written by a British scholar sometime after the Russo-Japanese War and, though nowhere near as cringingly post-Victorian as something like that could have been (actually, I need to give this guy some credit for apparently trying to shatter some of his own day's stereotypes, and for cl ...more
Sep 06, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was alright for what i paid for it and i was kind of disappointed that it didnt have all the information that you usually find is country's mythology you expect alot more from it. I never said i didnt enjoy the story telling and thats what i was also looking for not a stagnant information where it sounded like the author just wanted to get the book out and be done with it I hate that in a book and sadly there are alot out there that are like that but I was happy that is book wasnt like ...more
Edgar Lorenzo Matos
Excelente recopilación de antiguos mitos y leyendas japoneses. Hace una panorámica bastante variada y tocando numerosos puntos. No se hace pesado de leer para nada al tiempo que te acerca al variado folklore japonés. Alabo especialmente la organización de los capítulos entorno a personajes y temáticas específicas como las leyendas sobre los zorros. Para los entusiastas de la cultura japonesa es todo un regalo.
Margaret Ball
Jun 22, 2017 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: People with some interest in Japanese folklore
The stilted language is a bit off-putting, but it's an interesting collection of Japanese folk tales, supernatural beings, and general beliefs. The original and somewhat quirky organization is charming if you're just reading for general interest, as I was, though it might be frustrating for someone taking a more scholarly approach.
Oct 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Para empezar diré que la edición de este libro me parece preciosa😍 Si te gusta la cultura japonesa lo recomiendo muchísimo, explica tanto leyendas como origenes de tradiciones, mitos y lo mejor de todo es que tiene ilustraciones magnificas para acompañar la lectura😊 Es el primer libro con una tematica así que me leo y ahora tengo claro que no sera el último!⭐ ...more
Nov 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Creo que le falta profundidad al libro referente a los mitos y leyendas de Japón. El libro fue escrito en el siglo XIX, el autor se acerca al tema es a través de otros escritores quienes han investigado y escrito sobre el tema.
Nicholas Bobbitt
Feb 05, 2018 rated it it was ok
The author's attempts to explain stories as they happen is frustrating.
Apr 20, 2018 rated it liked it
A mixed bag.
John Majerle
Aug 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
A nice collection of myths, folk tales, and ghost stories from old Japan.
Kristen Coffin
May 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
"All foxes possess supernatural powers to an almost limitless degree. They have the power of infinite vision; they hear everything and understand the secret thoughts of mankind generally, and in addition they possess the power of transformation and of transmutation."


An absolutely beautiful collection of Japanese mythology. Topics range from creation myths, stories of gods/goddesses, animal spirits, to tales of Mount Fuji. Each tale is unique and beautiful, and a wonderful in depth look into anot
Aug 25, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: folklore, uk, non-fiction
This was an interesting collection of diverse Japanese folk tales, legends, and mythology, including a variety of topics from animal stories to legends of Mount Fuji, as well as some discussions of how these stories relate to Japanese culture. However, the presentation of the legends is couched as much in the early twentieth century English attitudes of H. Hadland Davis as in Japan. As Davis, writing in 1913, expresses in his introduction regarding the rising world power, “we have learnt that he ...more
Yasiru (reviews will soon be removed and linked to blog)
What follows is my review from-

This may be somewhat dry for the general reader, what with the constant frugal narrative and the idiosyncratic structure, but Davis's efforts here are to be commended. By keeping to a simple, essential telling of each tale, this is made a dense account (though by the same token, not difficult) and rather more comprehensive than what had been available at the time.

Alternatives I think most will enjoy are Royall Tyler's Japane
Yasiru (reviews will soon be removed and linked to blog)
This may be somewhat dry for the general reader, what with the constant frugal narrative and the idiosyncratic structure, but Davis's efforts here are to be commended. By keeping to a simple, essential telling of each tale, this is made a dense account (though by the same token, not difficult) and rather more comprehensive than what had been available at the time.

Alternatives I think most will enjoy are Royall Tyler's Japanese Tales and A B Mitford's Tales of Old Japan: Folklore, Fairy Tales, Gh
Anja Fruelund
Aug 07, 2016 rated it liked it
A bit jumbled, but very interesting. The Japanese are apparently a very melodramatic, tragically romantic people and I never knew. Many of their stories end with lovers committing suicide or pining away, the most interesting of these ending as horrible and blood dripping ghost stories. Their mythical creatures are fantastic and very fascinating - and weird, but many of them unforgettable like the Winter goddess Yuki-onna.
I found the overbearing attitude of the author pretty annoying although I
Jason Marciak
May 17, 2014 rated it liked it
This book is charming in it's portrayal of Japanese legend and fairytale. It brings the reader into the worlds of Yone Noguchi and the likes of Yoshitsune and Benkei, while it demonstrates through storytelling facets of life typical to an old world and yet it reminds the western belief structures of something that seems purely fantasy. The book outlines a fascinating blend of the perception of fantasy and how it may blend or even support reality for many ages of Japan. The engravings are beautif ...more
Feb 05, 2016 rated it liked it
This is an interesting introduction to Japanese myth and legend; however, its weaknesses unfortunately outnumber its good points. Written in the 19th century, when the West was just getting its first glimpses of Japan, Davis' writing shows a lot of the common misunderstandings about Japanese culture. If one is looking simply for good stories, then this is as good a place to start as any; though the Victorian language is sometimes a bit off-putting. But if one is looking for accurate Japanese fol ...more
Jul 29, 2008 rated it liked it
I wanted to read a book about Japanese mythology when I realized that I didn't really understand most of the symbolism in the video game Okami. This was a good choice for a book on the subject for those who don't really know anything. Most of the legends are a decent length to not be overwhelming, however I ponder why some of them were included. A few were really nothing more than a paragraph so it was hard to find any significance and there were some that seemed so long you forgot what the poin ...more
Amy Ingoglia
Jan 06, 2011 rated it it was ok
This book is organized weird and it would bring up things that were explained in other chapters. It also really bothered me how some of the pictures were put in other chapters randomly. Why wouldn't you put them with the story they belong to? Also, the intro to most chapters just rambled on about random things that were irrelevant to chapters. Other than these basic flaws, the story were written in a clear manner and understandable to people of all ages but sometimes they ended abruptly.
Feb 22, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: asian
Sure, i've always loved myths and i have a keen interest in Japan, so this book is just right for me...should have been. I must admit, there were few quite fascinating stories, I've learned a thing or two from it, but mostly it was sort of misty and hard to follow piece of literature, the way how one story transformed to another was bit enigmatic and kept me from going it through smoothly. I did enjoy most of it, but somehow have expected more, than i actually got.
Jul 02, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I don't know what possessed me to buy this book. Clearly, I only bought it because I wanted to get a better understanding of Japanese mythology, but this book is so jumbled, patronizing the reader with every other sentence and explaining things in a terrible way that I just couldn't finish it. I want to erase every memory of this work from my mind.
Kathryn Pinzon
Nov 30, 2013 rated it liked it
This is a very tough read in English, I think the translations are a bit off from the japanese version of these tales. But if you do not read in Japanese, it'll give you a good overall view of some old folk tales.
Carla Peñarrubia belmonte
It changed my entire way of seeing nature and poetry, it was an absolute delight to read and I absolutely recommend it to anyone who wishes to discover a beautiful and complex culture, anyone who loves poetry, nature or mythology.
Jul 28, 2015 rated it did not like it
Tedious and patronizing.
William Schram
May 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
A fascinating compendium of Japanese Legends. Not much else to say really.
Kyle Bunkers
Mar 12, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mythology
Nice book of legends and myths of Japan. It is a bit dated, but the legends are nice to hear. Sometimes the stories are described rather than "told," but I still enjoyed them.
rated it it was amazing
Dec 16, 2007
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“Many clouds arise, On all sides a manifold fence, To receive within it the spouses, They form a manifold fence— Ah! that manifold fence!" Nihongi, trans. by W. G. Aston.” 0 likes
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