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The Penguin Book of Japanese Short Stories

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  1,065 ratings  ·  149 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 by
Hardcover, 518 pages
Published September 11th 2018 by Penguin Classics
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Average rating 4.19  · 
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 ·  1,065 ratings  ·  149 reviews

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L.S. Popovich
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 reader
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 natural and man
Katie Lumsden
Jan 29, 2021 rated it really liked it
Maybe 4.5. I thoroughly enjoyed this - a really standout, interesting anthology. There were a few stories that didn't quite land for me but the majority were amazing. My favourites were probably 'Peaches', 'The Tale of the House of Physics', 'Unforgettable People' and 'Factory Town'. ...more
Jan 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
It’s hard to review a book of short stories with 35 of them. And I must say a number of the authors of the short stories are acknowledged by many to be masters of the Japanese short story – the oldest story in the collection dating back to 1898. There were some stories I did not like but “different strokes for different folks.” With that I will say several things:

• For those people who like Haruki Murakami, he wrote the Introduction for this book, and it is a rather lengthy but excellent synopse
Katia N
Jul 24, 2020 rated it liked it
I think the editor of this anthology and I have quite different taste in short stories. That is why I’ve had a mixed experience reading this book. Many of these stories are more real than life which I do not really appreciate in short fiction. There are two high simply taken from the longer novels. Also I was not convinced by the thematic structure. Around 40% of the whole is appeared to be devoted to disasters. Out of those, the two long ones are more or less straight survivors accounts.

On the
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, Modern Lif
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.
May 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: japanophile, ebook
Most short story collections end up being boring because the editor can't escape the "I will take out the story I really love, because this story must be in, because it is [insert here] more important/historically significant/approved by literally criticism/more popular etc."

Rubin-sensei overcame the need to explain to anyone why he chose these stories by these authors and that is the secret to the collection's freshness and enjoyability.

Because I like them, *shrug*, could be the answer. I get
Mar 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, japanese, kindle
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.
Mélanie Maillot
A great introduction to Japanese literature. I am eager to read more!
My two favourite stories were 'The Story of Tomoda and Matsunaga' by Tanizaki Jun'ichirō and 'Hell Screen' by Akutagawa Ryūnosuke - both were creepy, even nightmarish, but perversely succulent and fascinating. I highly recommend
Jan 12, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: covers
I felt so excited reading this book. Whether or not I loved the story at hand, it is such a privilege to get to bask in the perspectives and imaginations of over a century’s worth of writers from the other side of the world…all in one handy, translated anthology. Much of this collection deals with tragic events and/or their repercussions, which sometimes made for exhausting reading set against the hellscape of 2020. But this focus also delivered my favorite story: Yūichi Seirai’s “Insects,” pub. ...more
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 Warriors” (2 stor
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 love&ha
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 are grouped
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. Nature, Modern Life, Disasters, etc...)
Marija S.
I will not rate this collection because it would be unfair to some and overly generous to other featured stories. I wish they had put a year of publishing with the story titles as I believe they have to be viewed within that contex too.

Some works are true classics but for some I really wonder how representative they are. Also, I really do not understand why they chose to include two stories by H. Murakami (who, incidentally, worked on preparing the collection).
Feb 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: five-star-books
One of the best anthologies I have ever read.

What little I have known of Japanese literature I have liked for a long time, but that was mainly limited to Kawabata and Akutagawa. This anthology has considerably broadened my insight into the diversity and range of the many excellent Japanese writers who have been writing fiction over the past century or so.

Many of the stories in this volume I regard as 'perfect' examples of the form.

I didn't read them in the order they are presented in the book an
Ben Smitthimedhin
Mar 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
I decided to pick up this anthology after realizing I knew next to nothing about Japanese literature even though I did my thesis on Shusaku Endo.

The Penguin Book of Japanese Short Stories is a thematic anthology of mostly modern Japanese short stories. Themes include "Japan and the West", "Loyal Warriors", "Men and Women", "Nature and Memory", "Modern Life and Other Nonsense", "Dread", and "Disasters, Natural and Man-made," which are all important themes in Japanese literature. A couple of the
Jan 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Fans of the Japanese literary fictions
I am genuinely blown over by this book. All 35 short stories in it are stellar. Every author featured in this anthology, both classical and contemporary, is/was magnificent. If anyone wants to get into the world of Japanese literary fiction, I'll recommend this book in a heartbeat. Among my most favourite titles are:
"Sanshirou, Chapter 1" by Natsume Souseki (I really must get into his bibliography soon.)
"A Bond of Two Lifetimes - Gleanings" by Enchi Fumiko (Ever since I knew of Tales of Spring R
Jan 02, 2021 rated it really liked it
took me quite some time to get into this book - some of the short stories felt extremely lengthy at times but i loved how the stories fell into categories and themes that aided the reader in their understanding of the stories.

would highly recommend this book as it features exemplary authors such as murakami, sōseki, tanizaki and yoshimoto.
Imran  Ahmed
Feb 19, 2021 rated it really liked it
The Penguin Book of Japanese Short Stories will be enjoyed by anyone with an interest in Japanese culture. A little peek into the Japanese mind.

I found the book heavy and had to take breaks while reading. In other words, many of the stories are impactful. They hit a note in my psyche making my mind wander.

There were several standouts, including Patriotism by Mishima Yukio and American Hijiki by Nosaka Akiyuki.

Patriotism is about a military officer and his wife during the tumultuous times prec
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, despi
Mar 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
An eclectic mix with no connection other than they were written by Japanese authors in the last 120 years. They are grouped together on the basis of their themes which are themselves quite wide ranging. Some are straightforward stories, whereas others read like fantasies perhaps with some hidden meaning. Japan's rich history of wars and natural disasters provided the backdrop for several of them. Likewise its unique culture.

One of the joys of a short story is that if it does not hold the intere
Richard Gray
Dec 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
After reading Donald Keene’s Modern Japanese Literature earlier in the year, it was a delight to find this century-spanning collection edited by Jay Rubin with a delightful introduction (and several short stories) by Murakami Haruki. Unlike Keene’s volume, this is not simply a series of fragments from longer works but an often newly translated collection of standalone short stories. They are best enjoyed at leisure, rather than trying to devour them all at once.

Rubin has attempted to collect 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
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 that will stay with me: 'UFO in Kushiro
rrrat ratt
Oct 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Great anthology, and the book itself is gorgeous.
I loved the book design, the paper, and the typography.

The selected short stories are very varied in style and historical periods, spanning from classics to lesser-known authors. I appreciate particularly the effort to include a fair amount of female writers to the selection.

The stories are divided by thematics, which is also a very nice touch, bringing a good rythm to the overall reading experience compared to, for example, and alphabetical or ch
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
Cat (cat-thecatlady)
Dec 31, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-i-own
this is a really good anthology. it does a great job in showing the diverse variety you can find in japanese literature. like all collections, though, there were stories I enjoyed more than others. but overall, I wouldn't say there are bad stories in this book. just some better than others. the introduction by Murakami is also really well done and a good companion to every story.

I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn about japanese literature and japan in general. or
Oct 04, 2018 marked it as to-read
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. ...more
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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.

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