Tales of Moonlight and Rain

First published in 1776, the nine gothic 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. They were also the inspiration for Mizoguchi Kenji’s brilliant 1953 film Ugetsu. 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. In "Shiramine," the vengeful ghost of the former emperor Sutoku reassumes the role of king; in "The Chrysanthemum Vow," a faithful revenant fulfills a promise; "The Kibitsu Cauldron" tells a tale of spirit possession; and in "The Carp of My Dreams," a man straddles the boundaries between human and animal and between the waking world and the world of dreams. The remaining stories feature demons, fiends, goblins, strange dreams, and other manifestations beyond all logic and common sense. The eerie beauty of this masterpiece owes to Akinari’s masterful combination of words and phrases from Japanese classics with creatures from Chinese and Japanese fiction and lore. Along with The Tale of Genji and The Tales of the Heike, Tales of Moonlight and Rain has become a timeless work of great significance. This new translation, by a noted translator and scholar, skillfully maintains the allure and complexity of Akinari’s original prose. (Amazon.com)
Year of Publication
paperback edition
Number of Pages
Columbia University Press
ISSN Number
ISBN-10: 0231139136
Average: 4 (1 vote)


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A Collection that Focuses on the Context

Field of Interest/Specialty: Japanese
Posted On: 11/26/2017

Tales of Moonlight and Rain collects nine stories of the supernatural from Japanese author Ueda Akinari. These stories range from out of body experiences, to restless spirits returning from the dead, and serve as an interesting illustration of the anxieties and beliefs of the Japanese during the Edo period.
What sets this collection of tales apart from others is the level of historical context that translator Anthony Chambers brings to each story. Each story is accompanied with a detailed explanation of the historical figures and places mentioned in the story, as well as other observations that contextualizes the events so the reader takes away a deeper understanding of life in pre-unified Japan, rather than just leaving the detective work up to us.
Because some of these stories touch on issues such as prostitution and homosexuality in Japan, the use of the entire book is better suited for classes of students who are ready for more mature subjects. However, individual stories that are school appropriate do exist within the collection, such as the story “The Reed-Choked House”. Furthermore, most stories are quick reads that clock in at under fifteen pages, which make these stories ideal for a companion read in a history class talking about life in pre-modern Japan, or in an English class comparing Japanese literature to the Western tradition. The reading level required for these stories is higher than you would expect for a collection of ghost tales, but would be accessible for high-level middle school students, as well as high school students.