- Paperback: 170 pages
- Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers (June 11, 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 144224822X
- ISBN-13: 978-1442248229
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #585,223 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Folk Legends from Tono: Japan's Spirits, Deities, and Phantastic Creatures
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The translation captures the tone of how Japanese tales are told beautifully, following in the tradition of Lafcadio Hearn. The tales aren't changed to suit an accepted Western narrative, which would detract from them. They are highly evocative, bringing to mind a vivid picture of the people, villages, and otherworldly beings, the Yokai, featured in the tales. . . .Folk Legends of Tono is enjoyable, and should be in the collection of any serious folklore aficionado. (Fortean Times)
Folk Legends from Tono takes the reader inside a land of superstition and pragmatism, farming and faith. The tales unravel in short vignettes, loosely grouped by myriad topics ranging from “Biology and Human Emotion” to “Survival on the Edge"… Although populated with fantastic creatures, the tales reveal many down-to-earth details about the values and priorities of rural life, and authentically illuminate a culture of the recent-past with simple but eloquent charm… You don’t have to be a yokai (mythical creature) fan to enjoy these tales of quiet humor and disquieting suspense; steep yourself in their simplicity and wisdom, and step into the ever-present past. (Japan Times)
Bound to please. . . . Read at a cafe or other brightly lit, crowded place so that you won’t be spirited away. (The Japan News)
For folklorists, especially those interested in Japanese culture, this book is a delight to read. (Journal of Folklore Research)
Ron Morse has breathed fresh life into this remarkable collection of folk legends compiled some eighty years ago. Now, by re-envisioning the sequencing of the tales and intertwining insightful annotations into the text, Morse has restored the original mystical charm of the tales. The result is an inspiring journey through a Japanese spirit world that readers can use as a mirror for reflecting upon their own cultural universe of imagination. Thus, Morse as an ‘interpreter of Japan’ follows in the footsteps of not only Yanagita Kunio and Sasaki Kizen but also those of William Griffis and Lafcadio Hearn in his love and amazing comprehension of Japanese folklore.
(Makino Yoko, Seijo University, Tokyo)
The short tales assembled here are chock-full of ghosts, mountain deities, trickster foxes, master thieves, hunters, shamans, and all sorts of strange occurrences. But even as they overflow with the mysteries of rural life in early-twentieth-century Japan, they also provide a window into the everyday experiences of real people living through times of rapid change in the harsh but rich environment of northeastern Japan. These folk narratives are a vital record of a particular place and time, and this impeccable translation will become a vital resource for scholars of Japanese history, folklore, rural life, and for anybody interested in good stories.
(Michael Dylan Foster, Indiana University)
At last, the world has complete access to these fascinating stories that have been passed down from generation to generation by the people of Tono. Morse is uniquely qualified to translate these stories because of his fine command of Japanese, his knowledge of Japanese folklore studies, and his personal familiarity with the Tono area. We need many more translations of this quality. (Minami Yaeko, granddaughter of Yanagita Kunio)
Dr. Morse has produced a beautiful book that captures the true spirit of Tono's traditional culture. The residents of Tono are very proud of their long tradition of folktale storytellers and equally proud of their local scholar Sasaki Kizen, who collected the tales in this book. We are delighted that readers outside of Japan can now enjoy these tales in English. (Honda Toshiaki, mayor of Tono City)
About the Author
Yanagita Kunio (1875–1962) was the founder of Japanese folklore studies. Sasaki Kizen (1886–1933) was a native of Tono and an avid collector of folk legends. Together they compiled and published The Legends of Tono in Japanese. Ronald A. Morse was Terasaki Professor of Japanese Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is currently a director of the Sangikyo Corporation.
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To answer that, we must travel back to remote northern Japan in the early 1900s, when a pair of young scholars named Yanagita Kunio and Sasaki Kizen set out to chronicle the region’s oral traditions.
Villagers spoke of shape-shifting foxes (Eevee, anyone?), mischievous water sprites, immortal mountain goblins, and more — timeless monsters that would feel right at home among their modern Pokemon cousins.
“Folk Legends from Tono: Japan’s Spirits, Deities, and Phantastic Creatures” features 299 of these fables, which undoubtedly entertained past generations but were above all meant to serve as cautionary tales of the harsh, unforgiving environment in which they lived.
Today, Yanagita is regarded as the father of Japanese folklore studies, while Sasaki is often referred to as the country’s Grimm. Ronald A. Morse has deftly translated their writings and arranged the tales into several intriguing categories, including “Souls Adrift Between Two Worlds,” “Survival on the Edge” and “Glimpses of Modern Monsters.” Fans of manga will appreciate the black-and-white illustrations sprinkled throughout the book.
And if you read between the lines, you might even discover an ancient Pokemon or two lurking in the literary shadows.
There they remained for almost a century, before they were rediscovered both in Japan and in the West. Ronald A. Morse, whose translation of the original 'Legends of Tono' had first put Yanagita on the map in the English speaking world, has taken up the challenge of not only translating the stories into English, but of finishing what Sasaki had started. He provides some much-needed structure by sorting the stories into eight thematic categories and re-ordering them so that they play off each other instead of dangling in thin air as they did in the original Japanese edition. The translation itself is rather loose, as Morse has made a conscious decision to go for readability rather then for linguistic accuracy. This is most obvious in the complete absence of notes and explanations that would help the reader understand the myriad of cultural and historical references that are required to make sense of the stories. Instead, Morse has managed to deftly weave this information directly into the main text without disturbing its flow. The result is an accessible and highly enjoyable collection of short stories and vignettes that paint a vivid picture of life in rural Japan and that is quite unlike anything else that is currently available in English.