Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things” as Want to Read:
Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  2,955 ratings  ·  320 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)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Kwaidan, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Kwaidan

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
3.91  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,955 ratings  ·  320 reviews

More filters
Sort order
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
Owlseyes inside Notre Dame, it's so strange a 15-hour blaze and...30-minutes wait to call the firemen...and
"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 last chap
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 not
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
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
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
Dec 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Classic. The author is almost as enigmatic as his subject.
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
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
Aug 15, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Kwaidan will be a great travel guide to Japan once Cthulhu rises from the ocean and a universe of muting horrors is poured upon the world. Everything's a demon in these stories. Spoiler.

Lafcadio's a lot of fun, and his writing is clean and folky and ethereal, definitely a qualified style for retelling ancient fantasy tales. He's got a lot in common with Lord Dunsany, and that's a big compliment. My version had spectacular colorful illustrations on most pages, to make the whole thing seem like a
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
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.
Michael Adams
Sep 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Classic collection of Japanese ghost stories. Clever, eerie tales and weird scenarios. Highly recommended.
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: studies, stories, japan
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
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
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
Jun 29, 2019 rated it it was ok
There are some lovely descriptive passages in this series of stories, and lots of Japanese aphorisms and cultural notes, but most of the tales were just a bit too abrupt and opaque for my taste. The best thing about Lafcadio Hearn is that he isn’t like anyone else. But that’s not in itself always sufficient for virtue.
Sep 02, 2017 rated it liked it
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
I picked up this book because it was on sale at Barnes & Noble, and after reading it, I certainly understand why it was on the bargain racks.

I want to start by saying that the majority of these collected stories are really quite good, and illustrate some of the diversity of Japanese folklore--not all of them were frightening, but they were definitely interesting. Furthermore, there is some absolutely gorgeous artwork throughout this book...however, there are caveats to both of these points,
May 12, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: japan
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
Devlin Scott
Oct 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-companions
Upon his arrival in Japan in 1890, Lafcadio Hearn found himself enamored with the culture, people, and stories of the country, and would make Japan his home until his death in 1904. His collections of stories published during this time became the most popular of Hearn's writings, and earned him veneration worldwide as not only a great translator of Japanese mythology, but as a sensational teller of strange and wonderfully macabre tales. "Kwaidan" is most commonly translated as weird or horror ta ...more
Vasiliki Rayane
Oct 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I truly enjoyed this read for so many reasons. The book is comprised by two parts, Kwaidan and Insect Studies. The former is a collection of various folklore Japanese tales and stories,whilst the latter and smaller one are three essays on butterflies, mosquitoes and ants respectively.

The whole book is fun and easy to read, with the small stories of Kwaidan being easy to process.The atmosphere and vibe from most of them is eerie and ambient,yet it's intricate in a special way that gives the reade
Oct 08, 2017 rated it liked it
An excellent way to become acquainted with the narrative structure and detail prioritization that differentiates Eastern fairy/folk tales from Western ones. There is much to learn about Japanese culture as viewed through the lens of the empire's most loyal and sympathetic Western adoptee. Hearn's footnotes are just as illuminating at the stories. Especially appreciated the exploration of philosophical and biological evolution of man as compared to the effortlessly, altruistic communal-life of an ...more
I ended up having to dnf. I was taking ages to read these fairly small stories. Some were interesting! But others were dull, and a fair few had some bizarre endings. I would've probably kept going, because I do like Japanese folk/creepy/fantasy stories, but I saw that half the book was dedicated to essays about butterflies, ants and mosquito's. I can't be bothered, basically. My interest was wavering anyway and those essays just seem very off topic.
Jul 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
I found this really interesting. I’ve always been fascinated by Japanese stories and the way the spirit world blends together with the living world so seamlessly. Some of these stories were just okay, but a few were pretty creepy. My favorite part though was the Insect Studies, particularly the Mosquitos, which I found quite lovely and the Ants, which was pretty fascinating.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Into the Forest: Kwaidan discussion 15 18 Sep 03, 2019 11:34PM  
Kwaidan (the movie vs. the book) 1 30 Jul 09, 2009 04:11PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Japanese Gothic Tales
  • Japanese Ghosts and Demons: Art of the Supernatural
  • Tales of Moonlight and Rain
  • Japanese Tales of Mystery & Imagination
  • Japanese Tales
  • Blue Bamboo: Japanese Tales of Fantasy
  • The Paper Door and Other Stories
  • The Cape and Other Stories from the Japanese Ghetto
  • Seven Japanese Tales
  • Modern Japanese Stories: An Anthology
  • The Oxford Book of Japanese Short Stories
  • The Best Japanese Science Fiction Stories
  • Apparitions: Ghosts of Old Edo
  • Legends of Tono (Anniversary)
  • Yokai Attack!: The Japanese Monster Survival Guide
  • The Kojiki: Records of Ancient Matters
  • Summer, Fireworks, and My Corpse
  • Hell Screen
See similar books…
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
“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.” 4 likes
More quotes…