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.