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Tales of Times Now Past: Sixty-Two Stories from a Medieval Japanese Collection (Michigan Classics in Japanese Studies) Paperback – August, 1993


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Product Details

  • Series: Michigan Classics in Japanese Studies (Book 9)
  • Paperback: 199 pages
  • Publisher: Univ of Michigan Center for (August 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0939512610
  • ISBN-13: 978-0939512614
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #802,699 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English, Japanese (translation) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Robert E. Morrell on June 30, 2005
Format: Paperback
The complete Konjaku Monogatari is indeed a "huge multi-volume text," as the last reviewer states; but the selection is certainly NOT "rather unorthodox." Professor Ury based her translations on the standard 5-volume text of the Nihon Koten Bungaku Taikei (NKBT) series, and her selections are carefully proportionate to the four main divisions into which the thirty-one "chapters" of stories are classified: "Tales of India," "Tales of China,""Tales of Buddhism in Japan," and "Secular Tales of Japan." It should be noted that the famous "Tale of Genji" in the same series also occupies 5 volumes. (A quick check by ruler shows the Konjaku to be the larger of the two!)

In her 5 + 25 page introduction Ury provides the reader with a concise but very detailed and well-informed analysis of the setsuwa genre, as well as the contents, sources, religious beliefs, and a select bibliography of important Western and Japanese works on the Konjaku. It could not have been better written. Ury's Tales has been the standard introduction in English to the Konjaku since it was first published in 1979, and will probably remain so for the foreseeable future.

[It seems very likely, based on the following note which came to my attention, that Yoshiko Kurata Dykstra, another prominent scholar of setsuwa, may already have published a COMPLETE translation of the Konjaku:

--- The Konjaku Tales: from a Medieval Japanese Collection. 5 vols. Intercultural Research Institute monograph series no. 17-18, 23, 25, 27. Osaka: Kansai University of Foreign Studies, 1986-. Complete translation: Indian Section, Part 1/Part 2; Chinese Section; Japanese Section, Part 1/Part 2. ---

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 1, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This book is a translated collection of old japanese, mostly buddist stories. The first part has buddist stores from india ,the second from china, the third from Japan, and the fourth part are secular tales from Japan. I would say that this is the Japanese version of "Aesops Fables" and captures your imagination to the very last page. The main focus is to remain pious and reflect upon the budda. The book's content is buddist teaching but put into a way that is interesting to read just for entertainment purposes. The misadventures of the various characters and their climb back from their trials is too captivating to let the book go. I would recommend this to people of all faiths and background knowledge of east asian philosophy. You won't know what you've missed untill you read this book.
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By E. Malin on July 15, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Entertaining, scary, and enlightening.
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10 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Tam Mori on August 25, 2000
Format: Paperback
I haven't taken the time yet to compare the translations to the Japanese versions,but going just on memory the translations appear to be pretty good.
Of course there are some things I would have translated differently. For example, in many cases the word "daija" (literally "big snake") should be translated into English as "dragon" (even though it's commonly used in modern Japanese for its literal meaning). But this is something that a translator probably wouldn't know unless they were a student of Japanese cryptozoology.
The Konjaku Monogatari is a huge multi-volume text. The first chapters involve Indian tales, the next few chapters involve Chinese tales, and the second half is devoted to Japanese tales. The really interesting thing about stories reported in the Japanese tales, is not that they were all supposedly "true stories", but rather the fact that they involved not only tales told by the aristocrasy or the clergy, but also tales told amongst the peasants.
(My favorite, volume 27, is devoted to ghost stories.)
It is of serious interest to anyone interested in ancient Japanese folkore and thought patterns.
It is difficult to find translations into Enlish, or even into Modern Japanese. For this reason alone, a true Japanophile should grab any translation they can get their hands on for the collector's value alone.
In regards to the story selection of this book, I must say it's rather unorthodox. Most translations of the Konjaku into English or Modern Japanese focus exclusively on the stories from Japan. The idea here is that people interested in Indian or Chinese stories would rather read them directly from Indian or Chinese sources.
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6 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 28, 2000
Format: Paperback
Tales of Times Now Past: Sixty-Two Stories From a Medieval Japanese Collection (Michigan Classics in Japanese Studies, No. 9) , by Marian Ury, was a very long and sometimes hard to follow book. Although the basic outline of all the stories was good, and the actual tales themselves were rather interesting, the process by which they were written gets confusing at times, and with how extremely long this book is, confusion should not be an issue. I personnaly found this book good for long trips and rainy days, and once you get past the sometimes strange wording, the whole magic of the myths seem to overcome. However, don't read for more than 2 hours at a time-- you'll get a headache.
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