Tales of Moonlight and Rain

The first time I heard of Ueda Akinari’s Tales of Moonlight and Rain was on Tanabata’s blog. I am intrigued by Japan and knowing next to nothing about it did not deter me from immersing myself in this book of dark mystery.

“First published in 1775, the nine tales in this collection are Japan’s finest and most celebrated examples of the literature of the occult. They subtly merge the world of reason with the realm of the uncanny and exemplify the period’s fascination with the strange and the grotesque…

The title Ugetsu monogatari(literally “rain-moon tales”)alludes to the belief that mysterious beings appear on cloudy, rainy nights and in mornings with a lingering moon…The stories feature demons, fiends, goblins, strange dreams and other manifestations beyond all logic and common sense.” (from the cover)

I am disappointed in my own lack of knowledge about the culture of Japan because I think that would deepen my understanding of each story. Still, I found them fascinating, almost reminding me of Twilight Zone episodes in the subtle twists of plot.

In one of the stories, a wife waits an impossibly long time for her husband’s return from looking for work in the city. When he comes home, years later, he finds her looking haggard and worn. We eventually come to understand that this is the ghost of his wife who refused to abandon their marriage.

Each story comes with a bajillion notes, footnotes, prefaces and observations most of which I must admit I skipped. Occasionally I would refer to them to fill in a gap between my western mind and the eastern one; they are helpful for us in a scholarly way.

But, I prefer to read for the sake of story, and these stories enrich my understanding of Japan as well as the eerie, unexplainable forces we all seem to sense especially around Halloween

Thank you, Tanabata, for exposing me to this wonderful old (but new to me) author.

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15 thoughts on “Tales of Moonlight and Rain

  1. Ooh, this one sounds excellent! I share your love of Japan and this one is definitely going on the wishlist. I had never heard of it! I just recently read a book called Toraware by Robert W. Norris and I thought about you while I read it. My reviews somewhere on my blog in the last week or so. It was an incredible book that was set in Japan. You'd like it, I think!Have you ever been to Japan?

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  2. Chris, I wish! (Except I don't like sushi.) I have a mad passion for origami, and the quiet elegance of Zen. I respect what I know of the Japanese culture with all my heart, and I think I would really feel at home in the peace they seem to establish within their environment. Maybe I'll go someday, but truthfully? I have to see Russia first.I'll look for your review on Toraware on your blog. And, weren't we going to read Mount Fuji at some point? I thought so, but I'm a little behind lately…

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  3. I love your origami stuff! I used to do a bunch of origami when I was younger. Megan does a bunch of neat Japanese art-type stuff. We've always said that our honeymoon will be in Osaka, but we'll see how that goes :p Not the cheapest trip in the world! What's Mount Fuji? lol…I have the worst memory and I have SO many books on the TBR list!

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  4. The name is enough to catch my eye (and the cover) and your review makes it sound irresistable. Wonder if I can find it somewhere…cjh

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  5. Chris, if you go to Osaka for you honeymoon I want to hear all about it. Well, most of it anyway. 🙂 The book I was referring to is The First Snow on Fuji by Yasunari Kawabata. It one the Nobel Prize for Literature, and I thought we'd both been interested in reading it. But, maybe not if it doesn't ring a bell to you. Wouldn't it be fun to host a Japan themed Challenge sometime? I think so…CJ, I'm glad you liked the review. I bought a copy on amazon.com for a very low price (I want to say 10.00 for a hardback copy.) It was one of the best books I read for this challenge. I'd have sent you mine, if I hadn't already given it to a dear friend with a penchant for all things Japanese. Sorry.

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  6. Ah yes, I remember First Snow on Fuji now! I would LOVE a Japan themed reading challenge! I've been thinking of that too, though I just don't have the time to host one. Everytime I visit Tanabata's site I see her button for her own personal Japan reading challenge and think of how cool it would be for a more widespread challenge. That would be incredible…Now if we could only find a really good host for it who could make cool origami things as prizes 😉 😉 😉

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  7. It sounds like a great find. I love the footnotes/endnotes myself, but when I rule the world, they're going to be exclusively footnotes. Hate flipping back & forth. Get the Dell back? I haven't been on the computer for a few days and it feels so odd.

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  8. Chris, okay seriously. I'm tossing around the idea of a Japan Challenge. There are so many great books one could read, from Pulitzer Prize winners like First Snow on Fiji, to children's books like Saduko and the 1,000 Cranes, to Memoirs of a Geisha. I would be more than glad to fold origami prizes…how about a set of 12 cranes for one's Christmas tree just to mention a prize off the top of my head? I need a good name. I need a button, which I think my husband can help me create. And, I need people who would be excited to participate~

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  9. I finally got a chance to come over and read your review. My father's computer is maddeningly slow! I'm so glad you enjoyed this book and your review is making me want to read it ASAP. Course it's not with me, it's at home, but you know what I mean. As for a Japan challenge, I'd obviously be interested. When I set myself the challenge at the beginning of the year I thought it would be too specific and didn't think anyone else would be interested. I'm planning to do it again next year because I want to continue reading JLit. But I've come to realize that I'm not terribly good at the year long challenges with a certain number of books to read. For myself I was planning to drop the book limit and just have a general challenge but doing it with others would certainly help motivate me to read more. I look forward to hearing more about what you have in mind.

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  10. Tanabata, I'm not so good at year long challenges either. I was thinking of making this small: three books by January 30 is what's rolling around in my head right now. Does that sound fair? Do-able? I'd love some feedback from you. I'm hoping to encite interest by posting on a different Japanese author every day in November, then starting the Challenge in December. Which would give us two monoths to complete three books. Thanks for like the photo; thanks for mentioning the book to me in the first place!

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