Oxford Book of Japanese Short Stories

This collection of short stories, including many new translations, is the first to span the whole of Japan’s modern era from the end of the nineteenth century to the present day. Beginning with the first writings to assimilate and rework Western literary traditions, through the flourishing of the short story genre in the cosmopolitan atmosphere of the Taisho era, to the new breed of writers produced under the constraints of literary censorship, and the current writings reflecting the pitfalls and paradoxes of modern life, this anthology offers a stimulating survey of the development of the Japanese short story. Various indigenous traditions, in addition to those drawn from the West, recur throughout the stories: stories of the self, of the Water Trade (Tokyo’s nightlife of geishas and prostitutes), of social comment, love and obsession, legends and fairytales. This collection includes the work of two Nobel prize-winners: Kawabata and Oe, the talented women writers Hirabayashi, Euchi, Okamoto, and Hayashi, together with the acclaimed Tanizaki, Mishima, and Murakami. The introduction by Theodore Goossen gives insight into these exotic and enigmatic, sometimes disturbing stories, derived from the lyrical roots of Japanese literature with its distinctive stress on atmosphere and beauty. (Amazon.com)
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Average: 4 (1 vote)


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Japanese Short Stories Review

Field of Interest/Specialty: Japanese Language
Posted On: 05/18/2013

Steven Balsomico
Shaler Area High School
Japanese Language 1-4; AP Japanese
As the abstract indicates, this book provides a very broad collection of short stories throughout modern Japan. It touches on enough topics as to contain something to interest just about anyone. The stories vary in size, but they lean more towards the short, and so each story can be digested fairly quickly.
I would consider this book to be largely useful for high school and above, though some stories could be used for middle school. Most of the stories have fairly dense underlying themes, so to really get the impact of the book, it would be better to use it with older students.
As far as uses for the book, it would best be used in either a world literature or a cultural studies class, with some use as a primary resource in a history class. The excellent part of this particular collection of short stories is that the editor grouped the stories by time periods. As a result, it is easy to flip straight to a story that matches the time period your class is currently studying.
Another positive aspect of how this book is organized is the introduction written by Goossen. While I had studied Japanese history, I had little to no exposure to Japanese literature. Goossen’s introduction reads like a crash course in Japanese literature and short stories, mixed with some commentary about Japanese history. It would make a very good primer for advanced students, and an excellent resource for teachers too time constrained to read a massive amount about Japanese literature, but still have need to teach the material.
Beyond that, there is very little else I can say about using this book in the classroom. Topics in the book range from the supernatural to the mundane, to discussions on high society to a form of cock fighting. There is something in there for everyone, and if you are looking for a short story to match a time period in Japan, this book will give you what you need.