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A Cup of Salt Tears

3.51  ·  Rating details ·  363 Ratings  ·  66 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 sacrific ...more
Kindle Edition, 32 pages
Published August 27th 2014 by Tor Books
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Oct 25, 2014 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:
Nenia ✨ Queen of Literary Trash, Protector of Out-of-Print Gems, Khaleesi of Bodice Rippers, Mother of Smut, the Unrepentant, Breaker of Convention ✨ Campbell

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According to Japanese folklore, the kappa is a Japanese river goblin that drags people under the water to eat their organs and soul. The top of its head forms a shallow bowl that is constantly filled with water. Kappa can be defeated by tricking them into a deep bow, causing the water that is the source of their power to spill out. They can also be appeased by carving one's name into a cucumber (their favorite food) and tossing it into the
Aug 28, 2014 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.”

Jul 22, 2018 rated it liked it
“A woman in grief is a beautiful one,” it answers.
This felt something like a Japanese version of Mrs. Caliban. Short and tame but interesting.
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.
Jun 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-story
Beautiful short story about a woman in sadness and her choice to save her husband.
Makino's husband is dying, and she is grieving. One evening she meets a Kappa in the onsen, someone she may have met before.
This one made me want to read more by Isabel Yap - the writing was beautiful, with an attention to details that I love in short fiction. The ending was the best possible ending, and also sad. I love pain and I love stories about monsters, so of course this was perfect for me.
Also, I love the cover.
Karlyflower *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
Jan 04, 2017 rated it liked it
...That being said, A Cup of Salt Tears is a beautifully written tale. It is worth reading for the mythological content alone. Yap leaves the complex tangle of relationships and emotions a tangle though. While this story proved to be not quite as satisfying a read as I'd hoped for, I do think Yap is an author to keep an eye on.

Full Random Comments review
Beautifully written, and very atmospheric. I loved the vivid descriptions.
Mar 06, 2016 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
Oct 21, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: ebook, fantasy, short
An interesting, but contrived piece. Well-written but not much to commend the story itself.

It was okay.
Jun 29, 2016 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.
Aug 13, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: en-inglés
Así comienza este relato: "Someone once told Makino that women in grief are more beautiful. So I must be the most beautiful woman in the world right now..."

En mi opinión, le falta un poco de fuerza... Pero, dejando de un lado los pequeños detalles, me gustó la historia contada y la idea que la mueve. Realmente soy una adicta a estas narraciones tristes y que esconden algo que, al final, te sacan un suspiro.

"I could drain you," it says, hissing into her ear. "I could take you apart, if that wo
Jack Stark
Sep 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Well, this is bloody marvellous. A modern day fairy tale based on the Kappa creature of Japanese folklore. It's dark, and atmospheric with a wonderful exploration of love, loss, and manipulation. Om nom nom. Delish.
James Adams
Apr 21, 2017 rated it it was ok
Atmospheric and prettily written, but painfully slow. Strange to say about a short, but this could have been half the length without issue. Still, very pretty.
May 10, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, read-2018
Quiet, atmospheric story about a woman, her grief, and a kappa.

It was ok, but I loved the description.
Terence Blake
Jan 04, 2017 rated it really liked it

I am a little perplexed at what to make of the story, and it seems to be able to be read in two ways. The heroine Makino has been transformed by the end of the story but in a seemingly negative way. Makino, grieving at the potentially fatal illness of her husband, is courted by a kappa, a demon or dark trickster figure, who claims to have saved her from drowning when she was a little girl and to have fallen in with love her, but may in fact be after her soul. At the end, the
Aug 28, 2014 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.
Nov 11, 2015 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
May 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
Interesting and well written Japanese folklore themed free half hour read
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.
Jan 25, 2015 rated it it was ok
2.5 stars? I liked the cultural references though the story itself felt a little empty.
Jan 18, 2016 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.
Katie J Schwartz
“Your hips are pale like the moon, yet move like the curves of ink on parchment. Your eyes are broken and delicate and your hands are empty.” It drifts closer. “Your hair is hair I’ve kissed before; I do not forget the hair of women I love.”

Very atmospheric. I wish the ending had been a bit clearer.

A Cup of Salt Tears by Isabel Yap

Three Stars: Not bad, but not fantastic either. I'll still recommend it, if I think that person might like it more than me.
Jun 24, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fantasy
I guess the thing I didn't like about this story is that the main character acts in a very stereotypical way that would perhaps be appropriate for a samurai drama, but doesn't really fit with a modern day setting. To give a better idea of what this feels like, imagine a story about a modern American woman who is grieving her husband's illness, but she talks and acts like a character out of a 1950s western movie. That incongruence bothered me the whole time I was reading this story.
An engaging though somewhat creepy story that does a better job of capturing and evoking Japanese culture than many other stories I have read.

I can't help but feel that the back story between Makino and the Kawataro is a sort of darker, more adult variant of the back story of Chiharo and Haku in Spirited Away.
Sep 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
When you think of monster porn does 'delightful' and 'fragile' comes to mind? Okay, so this really isn't a monster porn, not even soft monster porn (what even is this?), more like a slightly erotic love story in which one of the lovers is a kappa.

But the important thing is that it's fantastic.
Read it at
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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.
“Kawataro,” she says, tears prickling at the corner of her eyes. “Kawataro, why did you save me?” “Kindness is always worth saving.” 1 likes
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