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Tales of Old Japan

Lord Redesdale

Book Overview: 

Tales of Old Japan by Lord Redesdale is a collection of short stories focusing on Japanese life of the Edo period (1603 - 1868). It contains a number of classic Japanese stories, fairy tales, and other folklore; as well as Japanese sermons and non-fiction pieces on special ceremonies in Japanese life, such as marriage and harakiri, as observed by Lord Redesdale. The best know story of these is "The Forty-seven Ronins" a true account of samurai revenge as it happened at the beginning of 18th century Japan.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .d defended himself; but having received a severe wound in the first instance, he fainted away from loss of blood, and Matagorô slew him.

The mother of Matagorô, startled by the noise, came out; and when she saw what had been done, she was afraid, and said—"Passionate man! what have you done? You are a murderer; and now your life will be forfeit. What terrible deed is this!"

"I have killed him now, and there's nothing to be done. Come, mother, before the matter becomes known, let us fly together from this house."

"I will follow you; do you go and seek out my Lord Abé Shirogorô, a chief among the Hatamotos,16 who was my foster-child. You had better fly to him for protection, and remain in hiding."

So the old woman persuaded her son to make his escape, and sent him to the palace of Shirogorô.

Now it . . . Read More

Community Reviews

Since the book was written before the age of J.K. Rowling and teenage bestsellers I'll note that the slow pace and the almost objective style of writing on the proviso that most things sounded like this those days. The rating reflects this - it's good stuff, but I worked to finish this book.


I have only just begun to look into Japanese literature and folk tales. Accordingly, I decided to start with two of the most important people to introduce Japanese culture into the West, Lafcadio Hearn and, A. B. Mitford. Lafcadio Hearn is much more "literary" than is Mitford. But Mitford does a...more

Il folklore giapponese è qualcosa di meraviglioso e la commistione continua tra uomo e natura dà quella marcia in più per rendere il tutto più interessante! ùwù
Ho adorato tutte le fiabe riportate in questa raccolta e ho trovato il racconto sul gatto vampiro fantastico!!
Mi metterò alla ricerca ul...more

I really liked the book. Particularly the fact that there were a lot of things that I did know about ancient Japanese culture that I didn't know. As well as the old cultural tales that I found interesting and fascinating. I found it amazing how Japanese Samurais will revenge passionately their re...more

This is a wonderful book. Mitford was one of the very first westerners to go to Japan and learnt to speak and read Japanese. He was there at an extraordinary time - when the struggle between the shogunate and the shogun’s ancient enemies, the south western clans, was at its height. He was privile...more

A professor of Japanese at the foreign languages department of my old University mentioned that they have seen a change in the interests of their students. It used to be that people would study Japanese because of a fascination with Samurais and old Japanese culture, but increasingly the students...more

Given the age of this work (1870s), it might be somewhat difficult at first to read. The style of the translation takes some getting used to, but at least that style is consistent throughout the book. Once you get the hang of it, the style fades to the background while the content comes to the fo...more

Though the topics were interesting, I found myself bored a lot, mostly from Mitford's commentary. Mitford was long-winded, and many of his explanations, though insightful at times, were very much an endless drone. If you didn't know, this was originally published in 1871, and the commentary makes...more

A fascinating look at old Japan, written at the start of the Meiji era, by one of the earliest westerners to have lived there. Mitford collects whatever stories and fairy tales he can get his hands on and it's a real treat to read them. Stories of samurai, cursed swords, shape shifters, ghosts, a...more

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