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Japanese Psyche: Major Motifs in the Fairy Tales of Japan Paperback – April 13, 1998


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Product Details

  • Age Range: 3 and up
  • Paperback: 234 pages
  • Publisher: Spring (April 13, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0882143689
  • ISBN-13: 978-0882143682
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.3 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,457,712 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Written well. With a mystical swirl that makes for enchanting reading." -- The Book Reader

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Japanese

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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Zack Davisson HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 29, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Much of a culture's beliefs and character are expressed in its fairy tales. They are the stories everyone learns from childhood, and the motifs teach children society's moral code in easily understandable and enjoyable parables. We can all remember the legends, the handsome princes and beautiful princess, the monsters and heroes.

For most Westerners, Japan's fairy tales, called mukashibanashi or "Tales of Long Ago", are entirely perplexing. They don't end the way we think they should, the morals are not easy to understand, and the characters behave in a bizarre fashion. Often, the moral of the story seems to be "don't look in the box". In fact, "don't look in the box" is the first theme discussed in Hayao Kawai's "The Japanese Psyche: Major Motifs in the Fairy Tales from Japan".

All in all there are nine individual themes in Japanese fairy tales identified by Kawai. For each one, she discusses the ramifications of the theme, and presents several stories that exemplify the theme. The themes are along the lines of "The Laughter of an Oni" and "The Woman of Endurance", using exploring an archetypal and reoccurring character of myth.

She often compares them with Western fairy tales, especially the rarity of a Japanese fairy tale ending with a wedding, as so many Western tales do. It is also interesting how the majority of major characters in Japanese fairy tales are women, with men playing a smaller role. This is a great contrast to Japanese society itself, and is an interesting topic of discussion.

This is a serious academic study, including graphs and charts, and isn't really a good book if you just want to read some cool fairy tales. It is an excellent resource, however, for those looking to explore Japanese fairy tales on a deeper level. I am very happy that this book was translated.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Jeannine Hall Gailey on June 20, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This translation, introduced by poet Gary Snyder, offers fantastic insights into Japanese culture as informed by Japanese myth and fairy tale. Ferociously intelligent, Hayao Kawai discusses the impact of ancient religion and the female-centered nature of many Japanese tales - figures such as the disappearing woman, the changeling wife, and the self-sacrificing older sister - will intrigue anyone who has wished to understand the phenomenon of strong female-centric anime or Manga, for instance, in a culture that has often been described as opressively patriarchal by those outside looking in. Also includes several translated versions of hard-to-find Japanese fairy tales.
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6 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Brian H. on January 7, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is one of the very few works available in English that discusses the psychological meaning of Japanese fairy tales. In fact, there are very few works in Japanese that look at these stories from a Jungian standpoint.

All in all, I am hard pressed to find what many others have found so praiseworthy. Psychological insight is surprisingly lacking in this work. While Kawai-san (1928-2007) takes care to summarize (which for most tales is unnecessary as they are included in an appendix), and sometimes resummarize these tales, he never goes into depth regarding what particular elements within a tale might mean. What is the meaning of the symbol and why is it there? What does the presence of that symbol imply about the Japanese psyche? These are the questions one would naturally ask in a work of this type. Unfortunately, almost all of these questions remain unanswered. What Kawai-san does do is list variations, draw correspondences with other Japanese and Western tales, and include comments he found notable from other sources. Then he discusses another tale, and the process begins again: summary, correspondences, notable thoughts from the outside. At times I felt like a frustrated professor overseeing an intelligent but otherwise unpromising graduate student. Yes, Mr. Kawai, but do you have any insights of your own to offer?

This book has many problems. I will list three short ones here, hoping they will suffice. Page 21: "Modern people are so far detached from this kind of [folk] wisdom that something which is essentially needless, the interpretation of fairy tales, becomes necessary." This sentence displays a fundamental lack of understanding of how fairy tales function. They function via the unconscious.
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0 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Teusso on December 20, 2010
Format: Paperback
Perfect shipment and the product is what I was looking for.
The package was precise and above all awesome in the clear explanation of the conditions and final check.
Loved it.
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