Myths and legends are always so fun and interesting, and generally have a moral to them. They can be enjoyed by anyone of any age, and today we’re sharing Japanese Myths, Legends & Folktales with you, after just recently being published. This is a special bilingual English and Japanese edition, too!
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Tuttle Publishing kindly sent Tristan and Kallista a copy of Japanese Myths, Legends & Folktales to read and review. It was a beautiful way for us to start each morning together, reading from this book together before getting up and officially starting our day. Who says story time has to be at bedtime?!
The 12 Myths, Legends & Folktales Are:
- The Tongue-Cut Sparrow (Shitakiri Suzume)
- The Strong Boy (Kintaro)
- The Marriage of a Mouse (Nezumi No Yomeiri)
- The Fisherman and the Tortoise (Urashima Taro)
- The Luminous Princess (Kaguya Hime)
- The Peach Boy (Momotaro)
- The Kachi Kachi Mountain (Kachi Kachi Yama)
- The Old Men With Wens (Kobutori Jiisan)
- The Old Man Who Made Trees Blossom (Hanasaka Jijii)
- The One-Inch Boy (Issunboshi)
- The Lucky Cauldron (Bunbuku Chagama)
- The Monkey and Crab Fight (Sarukani Kassen)
Japanese Myths, Legends & Folktales is a beautiful, hard cover book that is a great addition to the bookshelf. I would have loved to have had this book with me when I was teaching in Japan so that my students and I could talk about the stories, the issues around them, the illustrations, and more.
Each page has English text above and then Japanese text below, so people of both languages can read it, helping to bridge that language divide. It can also help people who are learning the other language practice. It can help children (particular children whose first language is English) become used to seeing Japanese script so it become more familiar and not as daunting.
The stories are roughly 4-10 pages in length (with just a quarter to half page of English text), which make these stories a good length for most children. Not too long so that they lose interest, but short enough that they might want to hear more than one!
One theme that wound its way through the stories was that being greedy or deceitful would bring you bad luck, while being honest and kind, though perhaps not as exciting, often brought happiness and riches.
There are tricksters in some of the stories, and children often find these stories intriguing in their different forms around the world.
I was very happy to see Momotaro (The Peach Boy) included in this book, as I have been looking for a copy of this story to tell the children, as I still remember learning about it my first week in Japan, as it takes place in the town of my training. I even visited the legendary Onigashima cave while I was there, and I was afraid of the demons when the power went out while I was still inside alone!
Issunboshi (The One Inch Boy), is a story my children are already familiar with, but as this is a different version, they were able to compare and contrast it, and see how stories change depending on who is telling it.
I think my favourite story was Kobutori Jiisan (The Old Men With Wens). This story has a kind character, and an angry character, both with the same facial wen, but their outlooks were very different. One took life as it was, while the other was bitter. In the end, the kind man ended up losing his wen as well as gaining riches, while the bitter man’s troubles doubled. This is a good outlook on life.
Kallista’s favourite was Shitakiri Suzume (The Tongue-Cut Sparrow), “because you learn how to be kind and not be greedy”! Tristan was drawn to Issunboshi, The One Inch Boy, as he is also on the small side.
The illustrations in Japanese Myths, Legends & Folktales are found on every page. They are done in a water colour style and are calming and lovely. Even the ogres are angry without being too frightening for younger children.
Everyone has very much enjoyed this book, and we’ll return to the stories again at times for entertainment, as well as when a member of our family could use a gentle reminder of appropriate behaviour…sometimes using a folktale to present how actions have consequences can be better than a lecture!
If you’re interested in purchasing Japanese Myths, Legends & Folktales, it’s available through: