Seven Japanese Tales

Seven Japanese Tales represents aspects of Tanizaki’s prose art between 1910 and 1959. The four short stories have a strong concern with abnormal psychology. He tells of a tattoo artist who is obsessed with the desire to decorate the body of a supremely beautiful woman; a city man who is struck with terror when obliged to ride trolley cars. There is a study of the emotions of a schoolboy thief, and an account of a young man exhausted by months of passion for his mistress. The three longer tales, written in his maturity, tell the story of a famous blind woman who teaches the samisen and the koto, and of a pupil who becomes her lover. When she is disfigured by some unknown enemy, her lover blinds himself. There is an account of a young man’s erotic confusions between his dead mother, his stepmother and his wife. Finally, a blind man tells of the ambitions and stratagems, loves and cruelties during the feudal wars of sixteenth-century Japan.
Year of Publication
1996 (paperback)
Number of Pages
ISSN Number
Average: 4 (1 vote)


Please login to review this resource

A varied and fascinating view of Tanizaki's literary world

Field of Interest/Specialty: Japan
Posted On: 09/24/2009

It is odd that this book of seven stories, all by famed modern Japanese author Tanizaki, is called Seven Japanese tales, since the author is the same for all of them. Still, the stories are all set in Japan, and do reflect different aspects of society. The novella Portrait of Shunkin is one of the most perfect, and most twisted, pieces of literature I have ever read. Not recommended for younger readers, the story is about a cruel mistress and her servant-lover's devotion to her. One of the less well-known stories, titled in English "The Thief", however, is an excellent story for 7-12 graders, who are likely to identify with the young boys living in a dorm and finding that one of the them is the thief. Its fun to see when students actually catch on who the thief is, and to work with the narrative to find how it reveals the thief's identity. In a story that is rated "G", Tanizaki's "The Thief" is an excellent study in narrative manipulation that most students should find insightful as well as fun. With the exception of "The Thief," most of the other stories in this collection are also good, but not appropriate for secondary school readers.