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Tales of Moonlight and Rain

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  1,510 ratings  ·  115 reviews
First published in 1776, the nine gothic tales in this collection are Japan's finest and most celebrated examples of the literature of the occult. They subtly merge the world of reason with the realm of the uncanny and exemplify the period's fascination with the strange and the grotesque. They were also the inspiration for Mizoguchi Kenji's brilliant 1953 film Ugetsu.

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Hardcover, 235 pages
Published December 1st 2006 by Columbia University Press (first published 1776)
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Average rating 3.86  · 
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Bill Kerwin
Dec 03, 2014 rated it really liked it

Perhaps this has happened to you too: touched by a new enthusiasm—for Iranian cinema, troubadour poetry, a new Olympic sport—you seek out a specialist for a little background. He smiles, and tells you that his specialty is so unique, its aesthetic pleasures so subtle, its cultural assumptions so complex, that its proper appreciation will require of you a life-long habit of dedication and study. After an hour of his monologue, drained of all enthusiasm, you finally tear yourself away, vowing
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Edward
Sep 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Acknowledgments
Introduction & Notes
Preface & Notes


Book One
Preface
--Shiramine
--The Chrysanthemum Vow

Book Two
Preface
--The Reed-Choked House
--The Carp of My Dreams

Book Three
Preface
--The Owl of the Three Jewels
--The Kibitsu Cauldron

Book Four
Preface
--A Serpent's Lust

Book Five
Preface
--The Blue Hood
--On Poverty and Wealth

Bibliography
Nancy Oakes
Jun 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
Anthony Chambers, who is a professor of Japanese literature and literary translation at Arizona State, has brought together these little tales of ghosts, spirits and other things in this slim little volume. The title "alludes to the belief that mysterious beings appear on cloudy, rainy nights and in mornings with the lingering moon;" it's a great book to read on a dark night when all is quiet -- rain is a definite plus -- and for someone like me who is very deep into history, it goes well beyond ...more
Nicole~
These were light short stories mixed with Japanese and Chinese myth: fundamentals I generally find enjoyable but, in this version, poorly presented in a disconnected flow by prefacing each tale with the origins of the myth, historical background and synopses.
Lindu Pindu
Jun 03, 2010 rated it really liked it
If you've seen Mizoguchi's Ugetsu then you know not to expect horror stories from this collection. But hey haven't you seen all those Asian horror flicks?, you'll ask. That's scary stuff! Yes, but the way they scare you is they get under your skin and then grow aliens in your brain. These are a bit more subtle. Symbolic, atmospheric and rooted in tradition, the stories won't give you nightmares if you read them before bedtime, just a twinge that there's a world out there beyond the touchable.
Jason
Jul 17, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2017
An interesting collection of old Japanese ghost/spirit stories. Each one has a lesson for you to learn, for example do not eat those that you love once they have died or you'll turn into a demon.

The stories are quite mixed, they were pretty gruesome at times, I'm sure when this was written they would have been terrifying but in this day an age they are tame.

The version I read had tonnes and tonnes of extra info about the characters, the setting, the plot and theories on what the story was about,
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Darcy Conroy
I enjoyed Akinari's Tales of Moonlight and Rain - eventually. Unfortunately, the translator's introduction is long and gives the impression that one simply will not possibly be able to understand or enjoy the tales unless one is a scholar of Japanese history and literature - if that's not bad enough, the intro also contains spoilers! This is a great shame because, while of course one will get more out of them if one has read the same texts as the author and has in mind the same history as ...more
Meghan Fidler
Ugetsu Monogatari 雨月物語 (Tales of Moonlight and Rain) is a collection of ghostly folktales from Edo Japan. It was first published in 1776, and was adapted from Chinese ghost stories. It became famous in the West through Kenji Mizoguchi's 1953 film by the same title, which focuses on a single narrative[from Aaji go yado (The House Amid the Thickets)] within the collection of 9 stories.

The are a number of stories which would terrify government officials of the period, and I suggest these for
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Mary
The introduction rambled and it seemed as if Chambers was trying to say that only his translation was the definitive one. He provided a thorough background to everything, although some might argue a little too much, as his intro was 50 page long.

The stories varied a lot but most held to the key ideas of women shouldn't be allowed to feel jealousy or they could kill their husbands with their spirits, men needing to set the law (or "raise their wives"), and how one must heed all advice and
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James Adams
There was a lot of good stuff here, but I'll have to try a different translation and edition before confidently rating the actual work. However, I can rate this edition, which was disappointing.
The translation is decent on the whole, but is occasionally stiff and dry enough to slow your roll. Also, I am generally a fan of historical and critical notes on classics, but the notes here are awful. Dull is never a surprise in these pieces, but these seem to be kissing the work's behind, falling over
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Jenny (Reading Envy)
Mar 25, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jenny (Reading Envy) by: The World's Literature group
I ended up reading the Hamada translation of these tales, originally published by Columbia in 1972. After adding the introduction and understanding the complete mastery demonstrated in the creation of the original in Japanese, I'm not sure I could ever get the same experience in an English translation.

That said, I enjoyed the blend of folklore, religion, and the supernatural. The demon-snake-woman was the most memorable character, and the frequent use of buildings and people who could transform
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Eadweard
Even though all the stories were good and I really enjoyed the book, my favorite story is the one that Mizoguchi's Ugetsu is based off, how cliche of me.
Prakash Waka
Aug 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
If some writers have an artist mind, others are scholar in the heart and Ueda Akinari is one of them.

The stories of his Tales of Moonlight and Rain seek to avoid the zoku - the vulgar - in order to achieve the ga - the elegance- which is a success for the tales are thorougly refined in their prose and in their meaning.
Drawing from both chinese and japanese classical cultures in a remarkable harmony, the stories are full of buddhist outlook, of confucean philosophy - the references to Confucius
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Beth
A wonderful collection of strange and elegant stories from 18th century Japan. The title ("Ugetsu Monogatari," or "Rain-Moon Tales") alludes to the belief that mysterious beings appear on cloudy, rainy nights and in mornings with a lingering moon. These nine stories are based on earlier versions of Chinese tales. Ueda Akinari retold these stories in a Japanese setting.

The highlights for me were probably "The Chysanthemum Vow" and "The Reed-Choked House."

For a more detailed review, I think The
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Beth Asmaa
Nov 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Beth Asmaa by: Lindu Pindu
The introduction makes note that a different translator might arrange the nine stories in a different order. In Chambers's translation, "Shiramine"=White Peak comes first, set in autumn 1168 with the character Saigyō a Buddhist monk and Sutoku the ghost of New Retired Emperor. Reading the story, one comes across Buddhist beliefs and Confucian virtues as well as the Chinese zodiac.

"The Chrysanthemum Vow" involves the friendship between the Confucian scholar Samon and the samurai Sōemon. Evident
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Helen McClory
Dec 29, 2015 rated it liked it
While some of the stories in this slender collection are interesting, they are buttressed by essays that could have provided cultural context - but instead were dry and unengaging. A list of old place names would have been better served on a map.

The analysis of each story was pretty shallow - often explaining things that could be readily taken from the text (such as the time of year the stories were set), while ignoring cultural aspects that were harder to get, the most egregious of which was
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Aimen
Jul 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A very creepy set of stories that have a weird cultural insight to them. If you like strange tales that give a sense of Japanese background, then hey, maybe this is for you. I'll add more to this review once I have time, but I would recommend to anyone who likes a creepy tale.
Akemi G.
May 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Nine short ghost fantasies.

Perhaps it would help some readers to understand that the author had to be politically correct (by the standards of his days), at least superficially, for his books to be published in the feudal society. Therefore, the story that involves the former emperor had to be placed first--even though the second bromance story is probably the best. (Note that same sex relationships were nothing to be hidden.) Some stories sound sexist for the same reason. For instance, the
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Sixwing
Apr 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
These are stories that have endured the test of time, presented with plenty of fodder for the modern reader. If you're looking for some great translation notes on a well-known topic, this is your book. if you want a good romp through some prototypical Japanese and Chinese ghost stories, this is probably still your book.

Excellent footnotes and cultural context all the way through.
Anthony
Jan 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This story collection is a classic that I plan to read at least one more time. The translation keeps the text flowing with a style that's simultaneously ancient and contemporary. Also, every tale contains realistic and fantastic elements, and leaves the reader with a handful of ideas to consider afterward. I'd recommend this book to anyone without hesitation.
Bbrown
Sep 02, 2017 rated it liked it
I found Tales of Moonlight and Rain because I had begun reading Lafcadio Hearn’s Kwaidan and been struck by how westernized the supernatural folktales were, which led me to seek out a more authentic collection of such Japanese tales. Tales of Moonlight and Rain is certainly more authentic than Kwaidan, as Chambers has put obvious effort into translating these stories so as to keep them as close to the original text as possible, but unfortunately a good deal of the entertainment value of these ...more
Taro
Apr 21, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of the movie Ugetsu
It might be a 20th (wait, we're in the 21st now aren't we?) century lens looking at these tales, but though they were mighty interesting tales, the climaxes felt too soon, the story too elaborated. I feel like maybe I was just expecting a twist ending to come last minute. Again, 21st century.
But they are richly interesting tales, if you are into eastern culture. Very strong references to Chinese literature and history, but really this is pretty much the equivalent of English literature evoking
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Michael Haase
Oct 11, 2018 rated it liked it
Although some of these stories have interesting and supernatural elements to them, they're, like much of classic Japanese writing, drowned in formal, long-winded prose, with many nods and direct references to Japanese history and literature, something which would fall upon deaf ears if the reader isn't already well acquainted to these things.

There are stories here which describe love and betrayal as well as encounters with evil spirits, while others are more like religious parables or sermons
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Christopher
Oct 03, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
Because of the stilted and formal style these 18th century tales are written in, I would say most of them are probably 2 star stories. That being said, the ones which are quite good, the first and second to last one (both involving rapacious ghost monsters of former humans to some degree) are strong enough to tick the average up.

What it is really most interesting at doing is showing the social attitudes towards both history and present by a writer in the middle of the Tokugawa era.
Florafox
Sep 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The preface was helpful in giving information that would have.been present in the cultural lexicon of contemporary readers of the work, it was, however, so dry that I thought I would never make it to the actual text. thankfully it turned out to be worth slogging through the academic mire. The stories themselves were beautiful, poignant and had the sense of timelessness that is the mark of great literature.
Krishna
Feb 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A collection of nine short tales of the supernatural by Ueda Akinari, a late 18th century Japanese writer, translated by Leon Zolbrod. Written in the then-new style of the "reading book," it was intended to be read in the study, rather than performed on stage like the "no" plays. Akinari used allusions to classical Chinese and Japanese works (chiefly Water Margin and Tales of Genji, but many others), and used place names connected to literature or history in order to evoke particular moods. The ...more
AJ Kerrigan
Aug 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Like some other reviewers say... skip the intro.

I enjoyed this book quite a bit, but it took a while before I warmed to it. It would have been a much better experience if I approached it differently.

Anthony Chambers provides layers of helpful context to this translation, by way of:

* Footnotes embedded in each story
* Per-story introductory sections
* A collection-wide introduction at the start of the book

Reading the book front to back and following all footnotes, you get all of that context up
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Nikos
Sep 06, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: gay-and-lesbian
These eerie stories are, for the most part, anticlimactic and not very powerful. At least by modern western standards.

Yet this unfamiliarity to readers like me (modern western ones) is the biggest part of their appeal: their typical japanese aesthetics, relying on a stably moderate narrative pace, literary allusions (undecipherable without the commentary), religious/philosophical/mystical orientation, and what I'd call by the clichéd term 'poetic atmosphere'; and their position centuries back
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Vanessa G.
Aug 09, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: japanese
Collection of short stories about ghosts, spirits and supernatural occurences by famous 18th century writer Ueda Akinari. The tales are largely based on Chinese and Japanese legends and may be hard to understand by those not well-versed in traditional Japanese culture and history. Yet the introduction and footnotes provide ample context and explanations, so it can be read and even enjoyed with little knowledge of Japan. Some tales were more interesting than others, but I did enjoy reading all of ...more
Tam G
2.5 stars.

This is dated, but as a translated book of Japanese Gothic tales from the 18th century it's very understandable that narrative styles have changed and the cultural influence is not as easy to follow for Westerners. I enjoyed it from a historic POV. The level of everyday detail the author brings to certain moments is fascinating and the woodcuts were fun. The morality of hard work and loyalty. Not as fun was the historical or philosophical info-dumps to prove the author's level of
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Ueda Akinari or Ueda Shūsei (上田 秋成) was a Japanese author, scholar and waka poet, and a prominent literary figure in 18th century Japan. He was an early writer in the yomihon genre and his two masterpieces, Ugetsu Monogatari ("Tales of Rain and the Moon") and Harusame Monogatari ("Tales of Spring Rain"), are central to the canon of Japanese literature.
“In friendship, bond not with a shallow man.” 21 likes
“The moon glows on the river, wind rustles the pines.
Long night clear evening--what are they for?”
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