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The Penguin Book of Japanese Short Stories
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The Penguin Book of Japanese Short Stories

4.23  ·  Rating details ·  376 ratings  ·  48 reviews
A major new anthology of great Japanese short stories introduced by Haruki Murakami

This fantastically varied and exciting collection celebrates the great Japanese short story collection, from its origins in the nineteenth century to the remarkable practitioners writing today. Curated by Jay Rubin (who has himself freshly translated several of the stories) and introduced b
Hardcover, 518 pages
Published September 11th 2018 by Penguin Classics
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Average rating 4.23  · 
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 ·  376 ratings  ·  48 reviews

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I spent a while with this collection and I think on the whole it's stronger than the sum of its parts. Apparently my average rating for these 34 stories was 3.35 stars, but it still feels like a 4-star collection to me, because it absolutely got its job done: introducing me to a number of authors whose work I'm interested in exploring further.

Curated by Jay Rubin and introduced by Murakami, this collection is arranged thematically rather than chronologically: there's a section on nat
L.S. Popovich
Sep 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Since I've read every word Haruki Murakami has published in English I felt obligated to read his introduction once it showed up in the preview on Amazon. People saying "Haruki Murakami is my favorite author" has now become a cliche. But cliches can sometimes be true.
His introduction was nice and long and juicy. My impression of the collection of stories was that they were chosen, as Mr. Rubin explains, for the casual reader. Maybe it's pretentious but I consider myself more than a casual r
Nabilah Firdaus
This is by far one of the most fulfilling and rewarding collection I’ve ever read in my entire life. Introduced by none other than Murakami, edited by Jay Rubin and, more importantly, I am introduced to new Japanese authors, spanning from classics to modern authors that I am not familiar with. What could possibly go wrong with this?

The stories ranged from the 1890s to the present day and grouped together in themes - Japan and The West, Loyal Warriors, Men and Women, Nature and Memory
Mar 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
A mixed bag of stories, I did discover some I loved and enjoyed very much and some others that were a bit odd, or quite odd in the case of one involving sugar.

Overall a nice collection and introduction to many authors I have yet to experience. That said there were a few stories that I had read previously.

A good collection and well worth the £3.50 I paid for it as a pre-order.
Aug 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel-the-world
This is a collection of both well known to me Japanese authors, as well as those I have not heard of before. I enjoyed this collection, with an introduction by a favorite author, Murakami. As always, I enjoyed some more than others.
Justyna Szumiec
It's a perfect way to start your adventure with Japanese literature. I really enjoyed it, though it is absolutely impossible to rate this book. Every short story has its own rating and this anthology wasn't created in order to become the best among its category. It is supposed to introduce you to many different authors. Great read.

Tanizaki Jun'ichiro - The Story of Tomoda and Matsunaga 4/5
-a really clever idea of showing how Japanese people were (and often still are) torn between their l
Oct 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book has taken me a while to read - not because it’s bad, but because I tend to read a few short stories between books. I can’t get into short story collections like a novel, I dip in and out of them over a period of time.
This is actually one of the best collections that I have read. It has a very high hit rate - most short story collections are, for me, more miss than hit, but this is definitely the other way round.
The stories vary from three pages to just over seventy. They
Oct 04, 2018 is currently reading it
Looking back at the books I have read recently has left me a little disappointed, so I thought "why not find something classic to pull me out of this funk?"... I just downloaded this collection to my iPad. If I cannot find something surprising here, the problem lies in me.
Bernie Gourley
Apr 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book contains 35 short stories by many of the most prominent Japanese writers (at least among authors whose works are translated into English,) including: Jun’ichiro Tanizaki, Natsume Soseki, Yukio Mishima, Banana Yoshimoto, Yoko Ogawa, Akutagawa Ryunosuke, and Haruki Murakami (who contributes the book’s Introduction as well as two stories.)

The stories are arranged into seven sections that are apropos for modern Japanese literature: “Japan and the West” (3 stories,) “Loyal Warri
Feb 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was quite a mixed bag - I loved some of the stories and there were some I couldn't take to at all. Overall I liked the contemporary stories more including some by my favorites like Murakami, Yoshimoto and Kawakami. But my absolute favorite story was Peaches - a really brilliant piece of meta fiction challenging the authenticity of memory and the stories we hold on to. Of the old school "I-Novel" style writing, I really enjoyed Tanizake's story. The Seppuku section was totally avoidable thou ...more
Jul 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
*Score: 9/10*


- A gold mine and treasure trove of new Japanese Authors to discover
- Serves as a great introduction to Japanese Literature, while also being a great pick for someone more well versed into Japanese Literature
- Even with few week stories, the ones that are great tend to dominate with higher page count, making the book greater than the sum of its parts
- Unique breakup of the book, as stories are put into different sections by theme (i.e. Natur
Feb 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This was great, a really good variety of stories in here. Definitely recommend. Also recommend skipping the preface, just get to the stories.
Oct 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
While this has taken me nearly a month to read, I have very much enjoyed it. And it's great the stories are both old (early 1900's) and new (as recent as 2012)

My favourite sections was 'Dread' the three stories in this sections , 'Hell Screen', 'Filling Up with Sugar' and 'Kudan' were fascinating stories. Loved them.

Other favourites include: 'Shoulder-Top Secretary', 'Patriotism' and 'Weather-Watching Hill' as well as 'The Smile of a Mountain Witch'

Stories tha
Prunus Incisa
May 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I loved everything about this, starting with Haruki Murakami's intro and ending with something as small as the stories' categorization.

The book is divided into 7 chapters: Japan and the West, Loyal Warriors, Men and Women, Nature and Memory, Modern Life and Other Nonsense, Dread and, finally, Disasters, Natural and Man-made. I did short comments on the stories I liked the best.

1) The first chapter, Japan and the West, has the following stories:

The Story of Tomoda and Matsunaga
I loved it, despite not bei/>The
Shivani Maurya
Oct 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
While I was reading this book, I found myself wondering why I love Japanese literature to the extent I do. It is one of the most exclusive set of literature based on a culture that differs markedly from any other. Even though Japan has been one of the fast developing nations in the past century, one cannot draw parallels with the West. A nation that had closed itself off to the rest of the world, went through feudal wars for centuries, saw the birth of samurai class, emergence of shogunate and g ...more
Doug Lewars
Feb 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: miscellaneous
*** Possible Spoilers ***
The thing I liked best about the stories in this book was that some of them were so different from most short stories I've read that they caused me to stop and consider what I might do differently in my own writing. Not every one was interesting. Some were pages upon pages of description with next to no plot but there were a few that were fascinating and they made up for those that were a little dull. For example in the last story a mother is doing everything possi
Maira M. M.
Jul 19, 2019 rated it liked it
Although the stories are put in sections under a topic (such as Loyal Warriors, Disasasters, Natural and Man-made, the loose Nature and memory, etc.) it feels they were urged to fit those in order to create a sense or order. However, this is not a introduction to Japanese literature in a representative sense, but a collection of scattered short stories written by Japanese authors. As the introduction goes on saying "the works collected here are by ni means all universally recognized modern maste ...more
Jerry Pogan
Sep 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An absolutely sensational collection of short stories. It includes some of my favorite authors such as Mishima, Kawabata and Murakami but more importantly many authors I was unfamiliar with. I was a little disappointed that it didn't include one of my all-time favorites Kenzaburo Oe but that doesn't take anything away from just how good this book is. It opened a whole new field of authors that I can now read by giving a sample of the work they do. The translations were incredible and I felt that ...more
Aug 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is really great. I like the variety of themes and styles. Of course, there were stories I didn't care for much - there always are in anthologies of this breadth - but I enjoyed the majority of them, and was blown away by several. I had only read Murakami of the authors here, and this was a great introduction to the wider sphere of Japanese literature, encouraging me to check out several of the authors featured.
Mark Groenen
May 08, 2019 rated it liked it
This bundle is a mixed bag of great stories, not so great stories, and a big batch of stories I didn’t understand. I tried to, but something got lost in translation for me. I assume this is a cultural thing. Still, there’s plenty to love in this bundle and the introduction will help somewhat if you’re feeling lost. The themes they chose flr this bundle is also great. I would, however, only recommend this book to people who are interested in Japan and it’s literature - not the average reader.
Oct 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Obviously anthologies are hit or miss but this has some great stuff. Pretty much everything from the Disasters section is touching, as is "The Story of Tomada and Matsunaga," the first story/novella.
I read this slowly in chunks, which is why I enjoy short stories. And I picked up a lot of cool authors.
Vaughn Highfield
Jul 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Some absolutely excellent Japanese short stories presented with context around the time they were written and sorted into sensible bracketing. Recommend dipping in and out of it rather than trying to read your way through it all. Lots of notable names as well, but it's generally a mix of lesser-known Japanese authors alongside some more familiar to Western audiences.
Jul 20, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2000
Ending the book with ten short stories labeled Disasters, Natural and Man-Made seems like the worst editorial decision ever. I was dreading to finish the collection since opening the table of contents for the first time, thinking how I could survive ten stories of awful disasters in a row?!
I made it. And some of my favorite stories were on disasters.
Pyramids Ubiquitous
Oct 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was a very strong collection of stories. My only criticism is that there was a bit too much content regarding "Disasters, Natural and Man-Made;" they were mostly one-dimensional.

Favorite Stories: The Story of Tomoda and Matsunaga, Patriotism, Unforgettable People, The 1963/1982 Girl from Ipanema, Mr English, Hell Screen
Mar 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Great way to get acquainted with some Japanese authors that I previously was unfamiliar with. I enjoyed the information provided in the forward, etc. which describes the author and/or context of the story, and the varying length of stories from 80 to 5 pages.
Katelijne Sommen
Nov 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There are several supremely haunting short stories in this thematic collection. I like that they're from a lot of different time periods, yet not arranged chronologically. A good introduction to both classic and more contemporary Japanese authors.
Mar 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
It’s been a long journey of love and hate with this book. Not all tales were my favorite and took my ages to finish, stuck on the long ones. But overall it’s an amazing collection that brings really creative stories that show the power or Japanese literature.
Jul 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
If you want a decent spectrum of Japanese writers - everything from old (dead) to young, male and female, pro-West vs pro-Japan, WWII Japanese propaganda, realist to surrealist, etc etc etc - this is a great collection.
Feb 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This is a mind blowing compilation! I loved flipping back to the introduction by Haruki Murakami to get a feel and background of the story before starting on each. Gonna explore more of these authors soon! 📔
Nov 14, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: historical
A very mixed bag of short stories, some great, some okay and but many just so-so. If you want more details I suggest you read the detailed review by Gavin Leech.
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Jay Rubin is an American academic and translator. He is most notable for being one of the main translators into English of the works of the Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami. He has also written a guide to Japanese, Making Sense of Japanese, and a biographical literary analysis of Murakami.
“Sorrow never heals. We simply take comfort in the fact that our pain seems to fade.” 0 likes
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