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Tales of Old Japan: Folklore, Fairy Tales, Ghost Stories and Legends of the Samurai Paperback – March 24, 2005


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Tales of Old Japan: Folklore, Fairy Tales, Ghost Stories and Legends of the Samurai + Japanese Tales (Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library) + Handbook of Japanese Mythology (Handbooks of World Mythology)
Price for all three: $45.61

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Dover Publications (March 24, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0486440621
  • ISBN-13: 978-0486440620
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #39,620 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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An excellent addition to a library on world wide Folke Lore.
Krys Jeffrey-Wagner
The book includes the story of the 47 ronin, a must for students of Japanese Culture and martial artist, and stories, folktales and sermons prior to the 20th century.
Francesco Carbonari
That said, it is a product of its time and culture and is best read as such.
Jacob King

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Zack Davisson HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 2, 2009
Format: Paperback
"Tales of Old Japan" is a book with an interesting pedigree. From 1866-1870, Author A. B. Mitford was an attaché with the British Legion at Edo (Modern day Tokyo), and one of the first foreign diplomats to Japan. He served as a translator for the young Meiji Emperor, and became intimately familiar with the country and its language.

Upon his return to Britain, he became discouraged and disappointed by Western media reports of the Japanese people, portraying them as an uncouth people lacking in morals or character, with vicious men and wanton women. Mitford set out to correct that error by writing "Tales of Old Japan," showing through Japanese legends and fairly tales the moral heart of the country, what they admired, what they aspired to, and what they feared.

Because of this, "Tales of Old Japan" is much more than a collection of stories. Published in 1871, it is the first English-language book of its kind, and many famous Japanese tales, such as "Okiku and the Nine Plates," and "The Forty-Seven Ronin," appear here for the first time. Each tale was selected not only for its own interest, but to teach Western audiences about the soul of the Japanese people through their native fairy tales. After each story, Mitford writes about how the story is seen in Japan, what people admired about the heroes and despise about the villains.

These insights are what separate "Tales of Old Japan" from other books of this style. It is less academic than Myths and Legends of Japan and yet more than a collection of fairy tales like the massive Japanese Tales.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Alex R. Gochenour on May 18, 2011
Format: Paperback
"Tales of Japan" is fascinating for much more than what it reveals about Japanese culture. For one thing, there aren't many Japanese histories for sale on Amazon that were written around 1871.

This book is a collection of folk stories which are accompanied by explanations of cultural and historical context. It focuses more on historical figures such as the Iyeyasu family, the Hatamoto and legendary heroes. There is little mention of mythological creatures, and I was surprised to find nothing at all concerning tanuki or the Onamazu, the giant catfish that lives under Japan and causes earthquakes with its tail.

Most amusing was author A.B. Mittford's quaint Victorian diction and editorial discretion when translating Japanese concepts. His book includes three Japanese "sermons" from Buddhism, and refers to a Buddhist priest as "reverend." Characters drink "wine," not saké.

In fact, I loved this book precisely because the author resists the inane tendency that second-rate Japan writers indulge in today, which is to use Romanized Japanese words gratuitously. Unless you're a tea master, a teacup is just a teacup.

"Tales of Japan" is a must-have for Japan fans.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Jacob King on October 26, 2010
Format: Paperback
Mitford's book is a very comprehensive introduction to the mythology and culture of pre-Western engagement Japan. I was actually suprised by the level of detail and the sheer breadth of the work. Despite being written in the 19th century it is still easy to read and is suitable for a general audience. That said, it is a product of its time and culture and is best read as such.

I found myself being more interested in Mitford's descriptions of life in the European conclave and in his quite graphic and self aware account of the impact the Europeans were having on traditional Japanese life. Tales of Old Japan is a fascinating historical artifact - one lost culture refracted through another. Oh, and the stories were good too.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Francesco Carbonari on May 8, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I highly recommend this book to anybody that wants to learn about Japanese history. The book includes the story of the 47 ronin, a must for students of Japanese Culture and martial artist, and stories, folktales and sermons prior to the 20th century.
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10 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Derek Rivard on November 4, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is an excellent collections of stories and folk-lore from pre-modern Japan, and an excellent resource for those such as myself looking for an addition to a library to assist in building readings for a college-level course on Japanese culture and history. It has a wide diversity of sources and stories, and is generally well-edited and clearly presented. I would recommend it to anyone with even a passing interest in the land of the samurai, kabuki and no drama, the tea ceremony, shinto, and Soto and Rinzai Zen buddhist practice.

My only complaint, and it is not concerning the book itself or the author's respectable work, is this is yet another in a long line of books I have receieved since becoming an Amazon Prime member that, despite paying extra for the membership privileges, arrived in a damaged condition which is clearly the result of shoddy standards or training for Amazon packagers, and insufficient use of protective packaging. The cover had clearly been bent in several places and used to pick up the book, leaving significant enough creases that it does not sit flat when laid on a flat surface. When I paid shipping costs for any package less than $25.00, Amazon was excellent in guaranteeing the condition new books would arrive in would, in fact, be new. Now they have even made it difficult to directly contact them regarding a damaged book, insisting you return the work and they receive it before they even will consider simply sending you a replacement, let alone a refund. I've complained to Customer Service a number of times about this, but this has not solved the problems, which seem systemic and symptomatic of the bottom-line mentality of the company. Books like "Tales of Old Japan," with its particularly attractive cover, deserve better treatment than what Amazon provides.
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