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Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  3,629 ratings  ·  426 reviews
A blind musician with amazing talent is called upon to perform for the dead. Faceless creatures haunt an unwary traveler. A beautiful woman — the personification of winter at its cruelest — ruthlessly kills unsuspecting mortals. These and 17 other chilling supernatural tales — based on legends, myths, and beliefs of ancient Japan — represent the very best of Lafcadio Hearn ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published March 15th 2005 by Tuttle Publishing (first published 1904)
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Jan 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In his wonderfully informative and lengthy introduction Paul Murray states that "Kwaidan" translates as "Old Japanese ghost stories" (p.XX). Kwaidan is subtitled "Stories and Studies Of Strange Things".

Hearn was born in Greece in 1850 and spent his childhood in Dublin, while in America he was a crime reporter in Cincinnati where he remained until 1877 when he moved to New Orleans, moving to Japan in 1890.


xii - xxv - Introduction - by Paul Murray
001 - from "Glimpses Of Unfamiliar Japan"

In my country people say that fear has big eyes but in that case we can equally say that it has slanting ones as well . Kwaidan then is an interesting collection of Japan weird stories illustrated with drawings of ghosts, demons and other unusual creatures typical of Japan folklore and myth.

Written by Lafcadio Hearn, Japanese by choice and avocation, in times when eyes of the Japanese people were turned mainly to the West and the inhabitants of the land of the rising sun seemed to feel only co
Oct 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
In Japanese folklore, there is the belief that a disquieted spirit, one who has died still troubled by a deep resentment or anger toward those it considered immoral and malevolent ( such as enemies or murderers), will not let go of its attachment to the physical world, in a sense not having been extinguished or quelled by death; having taken such hostile feelings to the grave, will be unable to rest in peace, and therefore will re-emerge by supernatural means fueled with vengefulness.

Kwaidan or
"Buddhism finds in a dewdrop the symbol of that other microcosm which has been called the soul..."

This is a collection of weird stories taken, mostly, from old Japanese books. Lafcadio acknowledges that many of the stories may have a Chinese origin. Mind you, Lafcadio was a lecturer of English literature in the Imperial university of Tokyo (1896-1903) and a honorary member of the Japan society in London; and he lamented not reading Chinese.

My sensibility guided me especially to the las
Nandakishore Varma
I have started posting reviews again, at the request of my friends. If you like them, please take time to visit my blog also, where I talk about other things in addition to book reviews.

I first encountered Lafcadio Hearn in an Anthology of American stories, in a weird little story: The Boy Who Drew Cats. It was a creepy Japanese fairy tale about a boy whose artistic productions (which were solely of a feline persuasion) came to life and did away with a goblin rat. As a short story, it did no
Jun 25, 2017 marked it as to-read
I came across a manga based on Yuki Onna (the Snow Woman) that reminded me that I meant to read this, someday.

Oct 11, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is divided into 2 sections, the longer one called "Kwaidan," which means 'weird tales' (there are 17 of them) and a shorter section called "Insect-Studies," which is comprised of 3 different essays about butterflies, mosquitoes and ants. All the writings are from a Japanese perspective, though Hearn points out where the tradition is even older and likely comes from an earlier Chinese telling.

In the "Kwaidan" section I was reminded of other folklorists who've done the same kind of 'arc
Xia Xia
Rating of stories in progress:

The story of Mimi-Nashi-Hoichi - GOOD - 4 stars. Made me push Heike Monogatari up the TBR mountain.
Oshidori - Too Dramatic - 3 stars
The Story of O-Tei - Nice- 3 stars
Ubazakura - 2.5 stars
Of a Mirror and a Bell - 3.5
JIKININKI - 4.2 stars best one yet
MUJINA - Freaked the hell out of me - 4 stars
ROKURO-KUBI - ...... what.... the hell...

"Then, from behind a trunk, he caught sight of the heads,—all five of them,—flitting about, and chatting as they flitted. They were eat
Dec 06, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: dark-strange
Not what I expected. This collection came across more like the author telling me ABOUT weird tales than actual storytelling. As a result, it was really hard for me to get into any of them, save for the title story.
Nancy Oakes
A much more in-depth look at this book can be found here at my online reading journal; otherwise, here's a brief look.

I'm late to the Lafcadio Hearn party, having only read two stories in this collection before picking up this book -- "The Story of Mimi-Nashi-Hoichi" and "Yuki-Onna," which have long been personal favorites. There are seventeen actual "Kwaidan" in this book, and then a section by Hearn called "Insect Studies," three compositions that in their own right are definitely worth readin
In short, this is like reading somebody else tell a story that they had heard from somebody else. Sometimes the author captures what makes the story interesting, sometimes the story is out of place, or misses the tone and narrative suspense of the original.

The essays on ants and butterflies - with translated poetry! - were a pleasant surprise.
Erma Odrach
Feb 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
I recently joined the group "Friends of Lafcadio Hearn" here on GR's without knowing who he was. So I did my research. He was a British/Greek/American author, who moved to Japan in 1890, and was key in introducing Japanese culture to the West.

Kwaidan is a collction of 20 short, strange tales, taken from old Japanese books - a ghostly woman dressed in white appears before a young woodcutter and makes him promise never to tell, a mysterious face shows up in a cup of tea, a girl with no features h
Sep 11, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2019, books
Not the best compilation of Japanese tales I've read. I didn't like the author's voice much. Maybe I'll read it again in English to see if it improves. However, in here there's some wide known and interesting tales like Yuki-onna or Urashima Taro. ...more
Dec 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Classic. The author is almost as enigmatic as his subject.
Oct 22, 2010 rated it really liked it
Kwaidan is a beautiful selection of Japanese ghost stories; some of them are horrifying, some of them are touching, and all of them provide an intricate look into the many subtleties that make up the Japanese culture. I am greatly enjoyed each and every story in this book, and each of them I enjoyed for different reasons. Some of the stories were translations of old Japanese texts wheras, for others, this book was the first place they were ever written. The author heard them while traveling thro ...more
A good 90% of this book deals with Hearn's retelling of classic Japanese and some Chinese tales. Almost all revolve around death and the spirit world with priests roaming the countryside being forced to settle restless souls, or lost loves returning in spirit/animal form. There is an eerie but mystical feel to most of them with strength of will often triumphing over death and dismemberment. And then the last 10% of the book is "Insect Studies" whereby Hearn examines the role of butterflies, mosq ...more
May 12, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: japan, fiction
Fun ghost stories from 1905; mostly strange to me as a European because our "traditional" stories always have a moral, or some point, like "don't stray from the given path", "listen to your superiors" etc. pp. Japanese ghost stories rarely have a moral, the doom brought by ghosts or spirits befalls the good and the evil alike. Karma exists but it it's more useful for reincarnation - there is no all-encompassing "good" like in the Christian worldview.

The entire folklore of Japanese yokai is fasci
Oct 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a collection of traditional Japanese ghost stories, followed by three charming essays about butterflies, mosquitoes, and ants in Japanese culture. The famous film of the same name by Masaki Kobayashi actually uses stories from three different Lafcadio Hearn works, two of which are from Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things.

Kwaidan can easily be read in about three hours and is a good introduction to Hearn's other work about Japan. He became a Japanese citizen, married a Japanese
Nov 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: japanese-authors
These stories are quite unexpected, surely bizarre, but each of them somehow relates to our modern lives. It was a pure coincidence that I found this book in the mostly forgotten Japanese shelf of the bookstore, but I'm happy I bought it. Even if it is not so popular, I think it's a must read for anyone who is interested in Japanese history and culture. ...more
Horace Derwent
Apr 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
real fun for me

to a chinese, the jap folklores are not so profound and mysterious to me, but now i don't think so
Sep 02, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: horror
This is an entertaining, easy to read collection of supernatural folktales, but to say that they are Japanese folktales doesn’t paint the complete picture: these are Japanese folktales as filtered through Lafcadio Hearn, whose western influence is felt throughout the collection. Indeed, Hearn explicitly injects a lot of himself into these tales, the story Hi-Mawari is almost entirely about an experience of his and touches upon Japan only briefly. In other tales Hearn discusses the circumstance i ...more
Ming Wei
This book is well written, easy to follow, the authors style is one that drags ths readers mind into the story, reminds me allot of the China Ghost Story movies, I did on occassion feel a bit spooky and a chill when I read the book, not really into ghost stories, but I gave this book a chance, and I have to say that it is readable, no real negatives, other than I am not really into ghost stories, hard to find any negatives, I think the book cover is attractive, for any person interested in ghost ...more
Meghan Fidler
Dec 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
I truly admire Lafcadio Hearn. An international traveler and writer, his works on Japanese ghost stories not only captures the reader, but captures the idiolect inherent in Japanese stories... (allow me, reader, the creative license to describe genre, voice, and the content for the diversity which is Japan as an idiolect. I recognize that it is a bit odd, but I also like it as a descriptive maneuver, capturing the individual narrator within the practice and knowledge of a broad region, history, ...more
Oct 30, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: japan, studies, stories
I think readers keen on anything Japanese should find reading Lafcadio Hearn’s 17-story Kwaidan (Weird Tales) and 3-insect studies a bit creepily enjoyable and relatively likeable. Taken from old Japanese books, most stories seem to be human being-friendly, that is, the godlike spirits are not ordinary horrible monsters. Moreover, the famous writer has revealed his interpretations/ideas in terms of the second and third kind of annoying insects, the first being quite harmless around a century ago ...more
Sep 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Patrick Lafcadio Hearn (1850-1904), also known as Koizumi Yakumo after gaining Japanese citizenship, was best known for his books about Japan. He was born in Greece and raised in England, and moved to Japan in 1890. Kwaidan is a book of Japanese ghost stories. The last three chapters are studies on Chinese and Japanese folklore about insects (butterflies, ants, and mosquitoes). Most of the tales are collected and translated from old Japanese texts. one of the stories -- Yuki-onna, or The Snow-Wo ...more
May 24, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Reading this collection of old Japanese ghost stories, you'd find it hard to believe that they were written by a person of Greek/Irish ancestry. His stories are written in a simple straight-forward style, and his knowledge of Japanese culture and customs are such that if his name wasn't on the cover you'd swear it was written by someone native to that country.

The stories themselves are well written and utterly bizarre. Disembodied, floating heads to tragic, spirit-possessed ducks are subjects co
Yigal Zur
Dec 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Hearn is a master writer and i love his strange and even sometime weird stories. it remind a lot gothic tales and this is as well a form of stories that existed long time in China and Japan. great tales.
Michael Adams
Sep 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Classic collection of Japanese ghost stories. Clever, eerie tales and weird scenarios. Highly recommended.
Oct 24, 2020 rated it liked it
liked the stories but the essay about ants came kinda out of left field
Jessica Alexander
Oct 21, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: spooky-booky
These stories remind me a little of the myths and legends I've heard locals tell of the Peruvian Amazon. I absolutely love tales of the uncanny and for me at least they are valuable not really because they are good stories or told well, but because people totally swear to their veracity.

Honestly, I was not digging these stories at first. Some of them, especially the first 5 or so, felt pretty unapproachable for someone like me who knows nothing about Japanese culture. But then either the stories
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Patrick Lafcadio Hearn (in Greek: Πατρίκιος Λευκάδιος Χερν, aka Koizumi Yakumo, in Japanese: 小泉八雲) was born in the island of Lefkas (aka Lefkada), Greece. He was a son of an army doctor Charles Hearn from Ireland and a Greek woman Rosa Cassimati (in Greek: Ρόζα Αντωνίου Κασιμάτη). After making remarkable works in America as a journalist, he went to Japan in 1890 as a journey report writer of a mag ...more

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“also in the boom of the big bell there is a quaintness of tone which wakens feelings, so strangely far-away from all the nineteenth-century part of me, that the faint blind stirrings of them make me afraid, - deliciously afraid. never do I hear that billowing peal but I become aware of a striving and a fluttering in the abyssal part of my ghost, - a sensation as of memories struggling to reach the light beyond the obscurations of a million million deaths and births. I hope to remain within hearing of that bell... and, considering the possibility of being doomed to the state of a jiki-ketsu-geki, I want to have my chance of being reborn in some bamboo flower-cup, or mizutame, whence I might issue softly, singing my thin and pungent song, to bite some people that I know.” 13 likes
“It is an atmosphere peculiar to the place; and, because of it, the sunshine in Horai is whiter than any other sunshine, - a milky light that never dazzles, - astonishingly clear, but very soft. This atmosphere is not of our human period: it is enormously old, - so old that I feel afraid when I try to think how old it is; - and it is not a mixture of nitrogen and oxygen. It is not made of air at all, but of ghost, - the substance of quintillions of quintillions of generations of souls blended into one immense translucency, - souls of people who thought in ways never resembling our ways.” 5 likes
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