(also known as Koizumi Yakumo after gaining Japanese citizenship)
paperback, Dover (this edition pub. 2006), 159 p.
(#46 for 2007, R.I.P. II Challenge- #5)
A blind musician with amazing talent is called upon to perform for the dead. Faceless creatures haunt an unwary traveller. A beautiful woman – the personification of winter at its cruellest – ruthlessly kills unsuspecting mortals. These and seventeen other chilling supernatural tales – based on legends, myths, and beliefs or ancient Japan – represent the very best of Lafcadio Hearn’s literary style. They are also a culmination of his lifelong interest in the endlessly fascinating customs and tales of the country where he spent the last fourteen years of his life, translating into English the atmospheric stories he so avidly collected.As usual with any compilation of assorted stories I preferred some more than others but it was still fun to read all of these old folk tales. Most of them were new to me but I enjoyed finally reading Yuki Onna (Snow Woman) which I’d heard of before. One of my favourite stories was The Story of Aoyagi which actually slightly reminded me of an Ali Smith story. I wonder where she got her inspiration. ;)
While I thought the essay on butterflies was interesting, overall the three Insect Studies at the back seemed rather out of place alongside the spooky ghost stories, although they did provide a little glimpse into Hearn’s fascination with all things Japanese. All in all, it was certainly worth reading for the cultural knowledge.
My Rating: 3.5/5
You can read many of the stories in Kwaidan and others tales of Japanese folklore here.