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Kadokawa Sophia Bunko Ugetsu Monogatari (Beginner’s Classics, Japanese Classics: Tales of Moonlight and Rain)


UEDA Akinari (author), SATO Yukiko (editor)


208 pages, paperback edition




December 21, 2017



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Ugetsu Monogatari

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This book is one in the series Beginner’s Classics, Japanese Classics and is intended for first-time readers of Ugetsu Monogatari (Tales of Moonlight and Rain).
Ugetsu Monogatari, first published in 1776, is a representative work comprising nine supernatural stories by Ueda Akinari, a writer of the mid-Edo period. Each story has a fascinating attraction that draws in the reader. “Shiramine” presents a conversation between the spirit of the former emperor Sutoku and the priest and poet, Saigyō. “Kikuka no chigiri” is about a blood brother pact of loyalty made between a scholar and a warrior. In “Asaji ga yado,” a long-separated husband and wife are reunited. A priest resurrected after death recounts the strange tale of his experience in “Muō no rigyo.” In “Buppōsō” a traveling parent and child spend a night on Mount Kōya where they have a strange experience. A wife betrayed by her husband becomes a vengeful spirit in “Kibitsu no kama.” In “Jasei no in” a young man is bewitched by a beautiful woman. A priest becomes a frightening devil following the death of a beloved youth in “Aozukin,” and finally, in “Hinpukuron,” a samurai enamored of wealth has a conversation with the spirit of gold.
The characters in each story are motivated by a strong passion or desire that at times leads them to a terrible end. These passions and desires are to be found in all of us, though to different degrees, which is why the reader is enthralled by the characters who live out their feelings unfettered. As the reader follows each story, questions are certain to arise: What does it mean to be human, what is it that we should value in life?
In this book each of the nine stories is summarized with quotes of particularly significant passages from the original text included in simplified modern Japanese, as appropriate. For those who are interested in Ugetsu Monogatari but who hesitate to tackle the entire book in its original form, this beginner’s introduction is recommended as a good starting point to enter the beautiful and terrifying world portrayed by the author. The reader can start with any one of the nine stories as each is self-contained and commentary has been added to facilitate understanding.
Ugetsu Monogatari is one of those books that can be savored over and over again. It is our hope that readers whose appetite has been whetted by this introduction will try reading the original from start to finish.


(Written by SATO Yukiko, Associate Professor, Graduate School of Humanities and Sociology / 2020)

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