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Tales of Old Japan: Folklore, Fairy Tales, Ghost Stories and Legends of the Samurai

3.69  ·  Rating details ·  556 Ratings  ·  43 Reviews
The member of a distinguished British literary family, A. B. Mitford traveled widely with his parents as a youth and lived in various European countries. From 1866-70, he served as an attaché with the British legation at Edo (Tokyo) — one of the first foreign diplomats to do so. During his brief stay there, Mitford lived through a period of dramatic and tumultuous change i ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published March 24th 2005 by Dover Publications (first published 1871)
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Jul 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
A fascinating look at old Japan, written at the start of the Meiji era, by one of the earliest westerners to have lived there. Mitford collects whatever stories and fairy tales he can get his hands on and it's a real treat to read them. Stories of samurai, cursed swords, shape shifters, ghosts, and goblins light up the pages. For a lover of folklore they are a delight to read. These fantastic stories are accompanied by accounts of fact. Mitford documented sermons, marriage traditions and funeral ...more
Leni Iversen
Jul 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
A professor of Japanese at the foreign languages department of my old University mentioned that they have seen a change in the interests of their students. It used to be that people would study Japanese because of a fascination with Samurais and old Japanese culture, but increasingly the students are now interested in manga/anime and Japanese pop culture. My interest was never great enough to compel me to study Japanese, but I am squarely in the old-school Samurai camp.

For people like me, this
Il diplomatico inglese Algernon Freeman-Mitford ebbe la fortuna – e lo è anche per noi che possiamo leggere la sua testimonianza in presa diretta – di viaggiare in Giappone tra il 1866 e il 1869, durante il delicato momento di passaggio tra il Periodo Edo e il Periodo Meiji, quando il potere tornò finalmente all’Imperatore dopo secoli di dittatura degli shōgun.
In questo volume, pubblicato da Luni Editrice, sono raccolti fiabe, racconti, aneddoti folkloristici, tre sermoni, e persino una dettagli
Mar 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Il folklore giapponese è qualcosa di meraviglioso e la commistione continua tra uomo e natura dà quella marcia in più per rendere il tutto più interessante! ùwù
Ho adorato tutte le fiabe riportate in questa raccolta e ho trovato il racconto sul gatto vampiro fantastico!!
Mi metterò alla ricerca ulteriormente di testi su questo stile, perchè voglio assolutamente essere preparata a dovere per il viaggio in Giappone!
Aug 01, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
What is this mess Elex made? Apa-apaan buku ini? Oke, saya bingung harus bilang apa. Pertama kali lihat buku ini di toko buku, saya betul-betul bersemangat dan berencana untuk membelinya. Pembelian buku ini tertunda dan minggu lalu buku ini muncul di perpustakaan kampus saya. Saya batal membeli buku ini dan akhirnya minjam dari perpustakaan.

Baru selesai baca cerita pertama saya langsung bersyukur karena tidak membeli buku ini. Banyak sekali typo dan peletakan tanda baca yang aneh. Kalau cuma sat
Sep 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: on-japan
This is a wonderful book. Mitford was one of the very first westerners to go to Japan and learnt to speak and read Japanese. He was there at an extraordinary time - when the struggle between the shogunate and the shogun’s ancient enemies, the south western clans, was at its height. He was privileged to glimpse an extraordinary culture - for Japan had been closed to the west and to western influence for 250 years and had developed its own extraordinary and glittering culture. He also realised tha ...more
Charlotte R.S.
Mar 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Given the age of this work (1870s), it might be somewhat difficult at first to read. The style of the translation takes some getting used to, but at least that style is consistent throughout the book. Once you get the hang of it, the style fades to the background while the content comes to the fore. This book is well worth reading if you are at all interested in old Japanese culture, and how it compares to the modern, post-occupation culture. This book presents and clarifies some topics commonly ...more
Aug 28, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mine
decided not to finish this book, sorry. i cant bear reading this awful translated book. im sure the story would be interesting if it translated in a right way
Paul Cornelius
Nov 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: literature-asian
I have only just begun to look into Japanese literature and folk tales. Accordingly, I decided to start with two of the most important people to introduce Japanese culture into the West, Lafcadio Hearn and, A. B. Mitford. Lafcadio Hearn is much more "literary" than is Mitford. But Mitford does a superior job of providing context and historical discussion of the people, institutions. and belief systems incorporated into his stories. And, again, as with Hearn, you are getting a unique look at Japa ...more
Mark Schlechty
Aug 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The best books I have read lately

This book gives enough details to be interesting . It also goes into great detail on many subjects. I thoroughly enjoyed every part of this book. I especially like the children's literature that was included. I have new insights into Japanese culture that I didn't have before . I would recommend this book for anyone interested in anthropology , Japanese culture , or history .
Jessica Roberts
Jul 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ok, it was written in 1871.

Which makes the point of view of the author interesting. It is worth it for that alone. This is quite the mix: History, Legend, Tales, Custom, Religion. Not to mention a detailed description of the etiquette surrounding executions (ick!). The nice thing is the Author seems to actually LIKE his subject matter. Any Peer who chides his countrymen for the selfishness of failing to take their shoes off before entering a temple can't be all bad!
Oct 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A rather old-fashioned and peculiar set of stories with amazing background information provided. If you are not afraid of weird expressions, old words and (often strange) Japanese stories, you will love this book.
Farah Agha
Jul 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
all the stories and tales are about Samurais, culture of old Japan, bravery and loyalty.
Aug 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The tales themselves are entertaining, but the in depth descriptions of Japanese culture are especially riveting.
David Applegate
Jan 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

An interesting collection of tales spanning a wide variety of subjects that provide an insight into life in feudal Japan and the moral code.
Sep 18, 2016 rated it liked it
Though the topics were interesting, I found myself bored a lot, mostly from Mitford's commentary. Mitford was long-winded, and many of his explanations, though insightful at times, were very much an endless drone. If you didn't know, this was originally published in 1871, and the commentary makes this obvious.

The stories seem to be faithful translations of the actual myths, legends, fairy tales, etc. Sometimes a little too much is explained in the "preface" and "post script" for each chapter, bu
Mina Soare
Dec 28, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: social, anthology, asian, dnf
Since the book was written before the age of J.K. Rowling and teenage bestsellers I'll note that the slow pace and the almost objective style of writing on the proviso that most things sounded like this those days. The rating reflects this - it's good stuff, but I worked to finish this book.

Basically it's a collection of Japanese stories intertwined with the author's notes and observations from his journey(s?) in Japan. The style is 'almost' objective, because of the descriptions and interpretat
Jul 08, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 3rd-pov, it-s-crappy
Satu bintang tidak ditujukan kepada kisah-kisah dalam buku ini, melainkan pada TERJEMAHANNYA YANG SANGAT BURUK.

Anda tahu saya cerewet soal terjemahan. Namun, separah-parahnya hasil terjemahan yang selama ini saya baca, penerjemahnya selalu berhasil membuat ceritanya dapat dimengerti dari awal sampai akhir.

Tidak dengan buku ini.

Yang membuat saya amat meradang adalah: buku ini terbitan resmi dari Elex, yang setahu saya tidak pernah lalai dengan kontrol kualitas terjemahan mereka.

Apa yang terjadi
Jul 27, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really liked the book. Particularly the fact that there were a lot of things that I did know about ancient Japanese culture that I didn't know. As well as the old cultural tales that I found interesting and fascinating. I found it amazing how Japanese Samurais will revenge passionately their relatives and people that are close to them. The book was written well but somewhat in a very simple language. I think it could be more expressive with the language but still makes for a great read for any ...more
Mar 25, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm familiar with the majority of the stories covered, but what made this an interesting read was the authors notes and perspective on the stories. The translation isn't the best, but you get the jest of the body of work the author wanted to share.

I enjoyed the final chapters (the Appendix A - An account of the Hara-Kiri, Appendix B - The Marriage Ceremony, and On The Birth and Bearing of Children) of the book the most. The detailed account of how to properly perform the seppuku/harakiri ceremon
Jan 19, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating book! I've discovered many facts I didn't know about ancient Japan and the life of Samurais. Particularly impressive how important family and revenge are for that nation. Surprising how Japanese culture survived when guided by revenge they kill so many people, friends etc. Moreover, the ritual of performing Harakiri ("to slice the abdomen") which is an act of suicide made into a day event with a large number of participants and observers. Truly interesting book. The only reason I gav ...more
I read this book for my second read of the History Book Club's Japan Challenge. I found the stories interesting and amusing. I was concerned the names would run together and that I wouldn't be able to keep the character's straight, but I didn't find that to be the case. This book was written over 150 years ago, which makes me doubt the accuracy of the translation and Freeman-Mitford's critique/explanation of each story. Still taken for what it was, I found it to be enjoyable.
Abraham Lewik
May 07, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: trivia
Did you know blind, bald shampoo-ers were the loansharks of certain era? Not only a font of Japanese trivia, the brief foot-notes reveal English attitudes from a time long past. A hundred year + book, a rather good read, mine had pressed flowers. At the end of the book a dozen pages on seppuku / hara-kiri, such as flag arrangements at the samurai's suicide, were a dull slog.
Aug 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
Fun stuff, nicely written by a Westerner in Japan shortly after its opening. Like the Icelandic sagas or Homer, it's a lucky break to have a culture recorded as it disappears, even if the recording is only possible during a time of transition and therefore stands as an impure example of the era it records.

Anyway, it's an easy read with short tales interspersed with cultural commentary.
Apr 06, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: asia
Rating ini bukan karena konten ceritanya, tapi karena masalah teknis bukunya. Terjemahannya parah, belum lagi soal typo. Satu dua kesalahan mungkin ga masalah, tp kalo kebanyakan jadinya bikin ganggu.

Males baca buku ini sampe habis. Kesalahannya bener-bener fatal.
Nov 27, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Immensely enjoyable 1870s collection of folk tales, heroic recounts, and ghost stories from Japan before the Meiji Restoration. Some stories are very fun, some almost heartbreaking. The tale of the grateful foxes, for instance, so moved me that I teared up. Lovely, short book.
Aug 27, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Cerita-ceritanya sih bagus, bagus banget malah. Tapi terjemahannya itu loh aduhai banget kacaunya, tidak terselamatkan. Apalagi masih ditambah typo yang super parah. Sayang banget, buku sebagus ini mestinya layak dapet penerbit yang lebih kompeten.
Hayley Shaver
Apr 24, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This a good book, found for free at this moment on It outlines the whys and hows of Japanese rites. It also lists gathered sermons, fairy tales, and stories of Japan. If you like fairy tales or Asian wisdom, this is the book for you.
Sofi Metskhvarishvili
well this book is educational it's not for fun reading , and you beed to be really interested in Japanese culture to read it. in the end the sermons were really hard to read for me. i think it is better to start with mythology if you are interested in this culture
Jan 15, 2013 rated it liked it
Very interesting, but you need to remember that this is all reported through the filter of the Victorian-era traveler, Mitford. I wonder what wasn't selected. This selection seems a bit heavy on honor and hara-kiri.
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  • Japanese Tales
  • Myths and Legends of Japan
  • In Ghostly Japan: Spooky Stories with the Folklore, Superstitions and Traditions of Old Japan
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  • Legends of the Samurai
  • Sources of Japanese Tradition (Volume I)
  • The Gossamer Years: The Diary of a Noblewoman of Heian Japan
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“The provision is very inferior to the cities of refuge which were set apart by Moses for the manslayer to flee to from the fury of the avenger. Such as it was, however, it existed, and it is remarkable that Confucius, when consulted on the subject, took no notice of it, but affirmed the duty of blood-revenge in the strongest and most unrestricted terms.” 0 likes
“Môshi has said, "There is the third finger. If a man's third or nameless finger be bent, so that he cannot straighten it, although his bent finger may cause him no pain, still if he hears of some one who can cure it, he will think nothing of undertaking a long journey from Shin to So 94 to consult him upon this deformed finger; for he knows it is to be hateful to have a finger unlike those of other men. But he cares not a jot if his heart be different to that of other men; and this is how men disregard the true order of things." Now” 0 likes
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