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Japanese Tales from Times Past: Stories of Fantasy and Folklore from the Konjaku Monogatari Shu

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This collection of translated tales is from the most famous work in all of Japanese classical literature—the Konjaku Monogatari Shu. This collection of traditional Japanese folklore is akin to the Canterbury Tales of Chaucer or Dante's Inferno—powerfully entertaining tales that reveal striking aspects of the cultural psychology, fantasy, and creativity of medieval Japan—tal This collection of translated tales is from the most famous work in all of Japanese classical literature—the Konjaku Monogatari Shu. This collection of traditional Japanese folklore is akin to the Canterbury Tales of Chaucer or Dante's Inferno—powerfully entertaining tales that reveal striking aspects of the cultural psychology, fantasy, and creativity of medieval Japan—tales that still resonate with modern Japanese readers today. The ninety stories in this book are filled with keen psychological insights, wry sarcasm, and scarcely veiled criticisms of the clergy, nobles, and peasants alike—suggesting that there are, among all classes and peoples, similar failings of pride, vanity, superstition and greed—as well as aspirations toward higher moral goals. This is the largest collection in English of the Konjaku Monogatari Shu tales ever published in one volume. It presents the low life and the high life, the humble and the devout, the profane flirting, farting and fornicating of everyday men and women, as well as their yearning for the wisdom, transcendence and compassion that are all part and parcel of our shared humanity. Stories Include: The Grave of Chopsticks Robbers Come to a Temple and Steal Its Bell The Woman Fish Peddler at the Guardhouse Fish are Turned into the Lotus Sutra A Dragon is Caught by a Tengu Goblin The Monk Tojo Predicts the Fall of Shujaku Gate Wasps Attack a Spider in Revenge


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This collection of translated tales is from the most famous work in all of Japanese classical literature—the Konjaku Monogatari Shu. This collection of traditional Japanese folklore is akin to the Canterbury Tales of Chaucer or Dante's Inferno—powerfully entertaining tales that reveal striking aspects of the cultural psychology, fantasy, and creativity of medieval Japan—tal This collection of translated tales is from the most famous work in all of Japanese classical literature—the Konjaku Monogatari Shu. This collection of traditional Japanese folklore is akin to the Canterbury Tales of Chaucer or Dante's Inferno—powerfully entertaining tales that reveal striking aspects of the cultural psychology, fantasy, and creativity of medieval Japan—tales that still resonate with modern Japanese readers today. The ninety stories in this book are filled with keen psychological insights, wry sarcasm, and scarcely veiled criticisms of the clergy, nobles, and peasants alike—suggesting that there are, among all classes and peoples, similar failings of pride, vanity, superstition and greed—as well as aspirations toward higher moral goals. This is the largest collection in English of the Konjaku Monogatari Shu tales ever published in one volume. It presents the low life and the high life, the humble and the devout, the profane flirting, farting and fornicating of everyday men and women, as well as their yearning for the wisdom, transcendence and compassion that are all part and parcel of our shared humanity. Stories Include: The Grave of Chopsticks Robbers Come to a Temple and Steal Its Bell The Woman Fish Peddler at the Guardhouse Fish are Turned into the Lotus Sutra A Dragon is Caught by a Tengu Goblin The Monk Tojo Predicts the Fall of Shujaku Gate Wasps Attack a Spider in Revenge

30 review for Japanese Tales from Times Past: Stories of Fantasy and Folklore from the Konjaku Monogatari Shu

  1. 5 out of 5

    Rosa

    Really interesting view of ancient Japan through its traditional tales. This was a birthday gift from my friends Sole and Joe, and it's been in my shelves for over two years, but recently I read a lovely story that takes place in ancient Japan, and that put me in the mood for more. So, I picked this one and wasn't dissapointed. After reading the prologue, I was really curious about if there was going to be any difference in the writting between the tales focused in Buddhist teachings and the sec Really interesting view of ancient Japan through its traditional tales. This was a birthday gift from my friends Sole and Joe, and it's been in my shelves for over two years, but recently I read a lovely story that takes place in ancient Japan, and that put me in the mood for more. So, I picked this one and wasn't dissapointed. After reading the prologue, I was really curious about if there was going to be any difference in the writting between the tales focused in Buddhist teachings and the secular ones, and there wasn't. I don't know if that's due to the translation that tried to give the tales an unity or not. I wish I could read them in its original, as painful as it has to be... I still have nightmares about reading Kaguya Hime in its original, which we also find here, in a resumed version, or maybe an older one. If you like Japan and its culture this is a must read, but it isn't an easy one, beware.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Guttersnipe Das

    Japanese Tales from Times Past: Stories of Fantasy and Folklore from the Konjaku Monogatari Shu Translated by Naoshi Koriyama and Bruce Allen Tuttle Publishing, 2015 Here is a collection of 90 very short stories from the Konjaku Monogatari Shu, a 12th century collection that provides the kernels of the stories of Rashoman and Kaguya-hime and a ravishing glimpse at life in Japan a thousand years ago. As in the original volumes, the stories are grouped by theme: ill-fated love affairs, animals who re Japanese Tales from Times Past: Stories of Fantasy and Folklore from the Konjaku Monogatari Shu Translated by Naoshi Koriyama and Bruce Allen Tuttle Publishing, 2015 Here is a collection of 90 very short stories from the Konjaku Monogatari Shu, a 12th century collection that provides the kernels of the stories of Rashoman and Kaguya-hime and a ravishing glimpse at life in Japan a thousand years ago. As in the original volumes, the stories are grouped by theme: ill-fated love affairs, animals who return favors, people rescued by their reverence for the Lotus Sutra, mysterious transformations, or enchantment by foxes. For example, stories 77, 78 and 79 are about spurned wives who recover their husbands’ love through poetry, when the husband discovers that his ex-wife is actually more thoughtful, subtle, and appreciative than the wife he has now. (Warning: Do not try this at home.) To have 90 of these tales so beautifully translated is a victory for scholarship -- but what a shame it would be if this book remained only in the hands of scholars. For me, there is something so reassuring and nourishing about reading ancient stories -- whether from Sumeria, India, Iceland or Japan -- I feel like I’m receiving nutriments found nowhere else. The stories are erotic, mysterious, bewildering, and overwhelmingly human -- full of the same mistakes we’ve been making, reliably, for all of human history. My personal favorite is story #54, which seems like it’s going to be a totally typical story of a jealous husband killing the wrong man by accident. But then: “Just as he was raising his arm, a gleam of moonlight shone through a slit in the boards of the roof and he saw the long cords of a pair of formal trousers hanging from the wall. When he noticed them, suddenly he thought, ‘No man wearing such formal trousers would ever visit my wife. If I should harm the wrong person by mistake I’ll be damned.’ “ How delicious. Keep this book on your nightstand: its tiny elegant stories are the perfect companion for a sleepless night. As an ardent book fiend, I like to hop from one book to the next according to odd associations. Therefore, after reading this book, you might very well enjoy ‘The Sutra of the Wise and Foolish’, a collection of the past life stories of the Buddha published by the Tibetan Library of Works and Archives. Or you could explore some of the translators’ previous works: Naoshi Koriyama has published beautiful poetry in English for more than half a century and Bruce Allen’s translations of Ishimure Michiko (Lake of Heaven) display a profound ecological and shamanic understanding that is urgently necessary and totally unlike anything I’ve ever read. A most peculiar (and yet, I promise you, entirely natural) leap would be to the early 20th century tales of the Swiss madman genius Robert Walser. The stories recently collected in ‘Ghosts, Girlfriends and Other Stories’ are the same length as these stories and display an oddly similar understanding of human foibles. Despite the thousand year time difference, there’s a peculiar quirky tenderness that’s on the just same wavelength. Certainly Walser would have adored -- and could well have written -- a story with the sentence, “No man wearing such formal trousers would ever visit my wife.”

  3. 4 out of 5

    P.H. Wilson

    Real rating 6/10 Fantasy in the loosest terms possible. Japanese culture abounds with mythology, fantasy and folklore that is beyond description. These tales are not them every story ends almost the same way. I shall list some of the titles to get the point across: A Monk of Dojoji Temple in Kii Province Brings Salvation to Two Snakes by Copying the Lotus Sutra. How a Man Copied the Lotus Sutra to Save a Dead Fox. Biwa no Otodo Copies the Lotus Sutra and Saves a Precept Master. A Shameless, Depraved M Real rating 6/10 Fantasy in the loosest terms possible. Japanese culture abounds with mythology, fantasy and folklore that is beyond description. These tales are not them every story ends almost the same way. I shall list some of the titles to get the point across: A Monk of Dojoji Temple in Kii Province Brings Salvation to Two Snakes by Copying the Lotus Sutra. How a Man Copied the Lotus Sutra to Save a Dead Fox. Biwa no Otodo Copies the Lotus Sutra and Saves a Precept Master. A Shameless, Depraved Monk Recites the Chapter on the Buddha's Life from the Lotus Sutra. Uujo, a Sutra-chanting Monk, Escapes a Snake's Attack by Chanting the Lotus Sutra. Enku, a Monk of the Tendai Sect Hears a Flying Hermit Chanting a Sutra. Fish are Turned into the Lotus Sutra I could continue listing off those titles, but I think you get the point. Most of the parables last roughly three pages and the structure primarily consists of slightly magical thing then go pray to Buddha or chant a sutra. So if you are the kind of person who enjoys reading very bland parables that all end in becoming or be a better Buddhist then this is the book for you. If you read all of the Christian parables and thought they were exhilarating this is the Buddhist version. As for fantasy and folklore, it feels lacking, though I will admit that after reading this book I started to realise why during the Sengoku period Oda Nobunaga lead a campaign against Buddhism. Which in turn brings it back to the point of if you are a scholar or history buff this book has some merit. For the average person, it bears little fruit.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    These tales are absolutely gorgeous! I wish that I had read these a long time ago. These tales are filled with the elegance found only in Asia. In comparing these to the Western fairytales I grew up with: Western tales usually take ordinary people, put them in extraordinary circumstances, and they end up with wealth and a life lesson. Eastern fairytales are quite different. They take ordinary people, put them in ordinary circumstances, and something unusual happens to which they attribute to the These tales are absolutely gorgeous! I wish that I had read these a long time ago. These tales are filled with the elegance found only in Asia. In comparing these to the Western fairytales I grew up with: Western tales usually take ordinary people, put them in extraordinary circumstances, and they end up with wealth and a life lesson. Eastern fairytales are quite different. They take ordinary people, put them in ordinary circumstances, and something unusual happens to which they attribute to the Buddha and his or her attempt to teach the person something. Thus the character becomes a more pious person than before. In short, Western fairytales deal with material wealth while Eastern fairytales deal with spiritual wealth. Very intriguing. You are doing yourself a disservice if you do not read this book.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jana Karenina

    Short, illuminating tales of Japanese surrealism. Perfect bedtime stories for grown-ups.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Bill Johnston

    I'd like to make it clear this is the edition translated by Koriyama & Allen, since several editions are currently lumped together on GR. This is a selection of 90 tales from the thousand or so in the Konjaku Monogatari compiled in the 12th century. The Konjaku is one the collections of medieval tales known as setsuwa. I have two other similar collections, with of course a fair amount of overlap. Tales of Times Now Past by Ury contains 62 tales from the Konjaku. Japanese Tales by Tyler contains 2 I'd like to make it clear this is the edition translated by Koriyama & Allen, since several editions are currently lumped together on GR. This is a selection of 90 tales from the thousand or so in the Konjaku Monogatari compiled in the 12th century. The Konjaku is one the collections of medieval tales known as setsuwa. I have two other similar collections, with of course a fair amount of overlap. Tales of Times Now Past by Ury contains 62 tales from the Konjaku. Japanese Tales by Tyler contains 220 setsuwa tales, 111 of them from the Konjaku. I think Koriyama & Allen's book is inferior to Tyler's in a number of ways. Their translations are stilted and unnatural, while he goes out of his way to make his amusing. Fully half of their book is taken up with Buddhist parables, whose repetitiveness gets tiring long before you get through them all, while he selects a wide variety of subject matter from all the collections. Tyler's only shortcoming is that he doesn't cite the official Konjaku tale number at the end of each story; it's a very minor quibble. If you want to pick up one of these, I recommend Tyler. If he turns you into an aficionado, you can get the others afterwards.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Rose

    It wasn't what I originally thought it was--which was a compilation of tales. Instead, it is an introduction to the collection and shows how it fits into the overall pattern of Japanese literature. All I wanted to do was read the STORIES. Even if all that's left of the 31 volume collection is 22 volumes. *chuckles* Very boring read. A scholar I'm not. It wasn't what I originally thought it was--which was a compilation of tales. Instead, it is an introduction to the collection and shows how it fits into the overall pattern of Japanese literature. All I wanted to do was read the STORIES. Even if all that's left of the 31 volume collection is 22 volumes. *chuckles* Very boring read. A scholar I'm not.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Angela Randall

    Found this book on a list of 20 essential works of Japanese literature. Made this list in Goodreads here. Found this book on a list of 20 essential works of Japanese literature. Made this list in Goodreads here.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    In olden times, Japan was filled with wily individuals who could transform themselves into snakes and foxes, as well as a tremendous number of demons, devils, and sundry evil spirits. Believing in, and reciting, the Lotus Sutra with all your heart was of utmost importance. And Buddha regularly - almost unfailingly - swooped in to save those of pure heart, whatever their trouble might be. (And the trouble was usually snakes, foxes, or evil spirits/demons.) Or so this collection of fantasy and fol In olden times, Japan was filled with wily individuals who could transform themselves into snakes and foxes, as well as a tremendous number of demons, devils, and sundry evil spirits. Believing in, and reciting, the Lotus Sutra with all your heart was of utmost importance. And Buddha regularly - almost unfailingly - swooped in to save those of pure heart, whatever their trouble might be. (And the trouble was usually snakes, foxes, or evil spirits/demons.) Or so this collection of fantasy and folklore proclaims. Clearly, these stories, such as they have been handed down, are not meant to be taken literally. Most are moral lessons; a few are simply confusing. All speak to the Japanese virtues of honor and humility that so define the culture today. Most readers, frankly, will not be interested in Japanese Tales from Times Past. At best they are repetitive, a sort of Japanese Aesop's fables. At worst, they are mind bending puzzles, filled with too many monks to count. They are each Japanese to the core, though, from the virtues they proclaim to the word choice and cadence of the translation, courtesy of Naoshi Koriyama and Bruce Allen. This is a book for a niche, niche audience. It is exactly as the cover states, a collection of folkloric tales, and offers an unusual window into Japanese culture.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Paul Cornelius

    This is a quite readable collection of medieval Japanese parables. Most are filled with hints of magic. Many are charm-laden, while others provide graphic warnings against the dangers of lust, greed, selfishness, envy, and pride. They all follow a formulaic pattern, but none is tiresome or repetitive. Each maintains its own unique flavor and characterization. The relationship between humans and animals is often foregrounded, with the idea being advanced that both share a common bond and common f This is a quite readable collection of medieval Japanese parables. Most are filled with hints of magic. Many are charm-laden, while others provide graphic warnings against the dangers of lust, greed, selfishness, envy, and pride. They all follow a formulaic pattern, but none is tiresome or repetitive. Each maintains its own unique flavor and characterization. The relationship between humans and animals is often foregrounded, with the idea being advanced that both share a common bond and common fate. They are quite literally, in many instances, interchangeable. A fascinating look into ancient Japanese mores and values.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Daniel

    This was a useful resource but some of the translations were a little over Anglicised. For instance, multiple stories talk about demons without being clear whether they are talking about Tengu or Oni or other creatures.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Tatyana

    Short, fun stories to read.

  13. 5 out of 5

    mai

    the translator was ok. mostly used it for research

  14. 4 out of 5

    Kim Dong kyu

    asdasdas

  15. 4 out of 5

    Signe

  16. 5 out of 5

    K. M.

  17. 4 out of 5

    L.S. Popovich

  18. 5 out of 5

    Boo

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

  20. 5 out of 5

    Rachael Bradshaw

  21. 5 out of 5

    Corey P

  22. 4 out of 5

    Robin

  23. 5 out of 5

    Ola

  24. 5 out of 5

    Nina Habjan

  25. 4 out of 5

    Alan Déhu

  26. 5 out of 5

    Farhanah Atiqah

  27. 4 out of 5

    Cináed

  28. 5 out of 5

    Emily

  29. 4 out of 5

    Beom-Seok Kim

  30. 4 out of 5

    Erin

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