I've been wanting to read a bit about japanese myths and legends, kamis and yokais, and the main reference I found was Handbook of Japanese Mythology, which seems quite complete. However, my understanding is that it has quite a "scholar" approach to the subject, and that reading it feels more like a lecture, which is fine but not quite like I'm looking for. Could you recommend books about japanese mythology that are more "narration oriented" ? Something that would read more like a storybook than like a textbook.

Thank you !

  • 1
    This is probably not helpful, but many Japanese prefectures publish their own anthologies of traditional local myths, often still available from Amazon.co.jp. They're unfortunately in Japanese.
    – Semaphore
    Commented Oct 30, 2017 at 3:33
  • Well maybe someday, as I'm also learning how to read japanese, but I'm not quite there yet ^^
    – LilianC
    Commented Oct 30, 2017 at 21:19
  • It's an older site (and maybe not as in depth as you'd like), but I use eos.kokugakuin.ac.jp/modules/xwords/…
    – Pleiades
    Commented Nov 1, 2017 at 14:43
  • There's also a video game for the PS2, PS3, PS4, and Wii called Ōkami that, while not entirely true to some versions of a wide variety myths, is still a pretty good intro to Japanese mythology and a fun, humorous one at that.
    – Pleiades
    Commented Nov 1, 2017 at 14:45
  • Oh I really loved Okami, that's actually what introduced me to japanese mythology and got me interested in it, that and the Persona series . I'll check out your link, although it's an encyclopedia it does seem to give pointers to lots of stories
    – LilianC
    Commented Nov 1, 2017 at 22:07

2 Answers 2


Not sure what you are looking for but you have:

  • Mitford's tale from old Japan. A book from 1870 (something like that) collected by an Englishman, Algernon Miltford, one of the very first European truly in love with Japanese culture. This book is full of fairly good stories. An example is the 47 ronins an incredibly popular story. There is a movie with Keanu Reeves and back in time there is a Japanese movie with Toshiro Mifune Chuushingura based on those events.
  • David's Myths and legends from Japan from 1910 (someting like that)
  • Foster's the book of Yokai an absolutely wonderful and highly recommended book by someone clearly knowing his stuff. Full of wonderful illustrations, kanjis (good if you are learning Japanese), old stuff and modern stuff. Highly recommended.
  • Isawaka's Ghosts and the Japanese A book trying to give you a view of Japanese ghosts which have nothing to do with European view. Asians see death differently than European and this book is a good introduction to understand those differences.
  • Shirane's The Demon at the Agi Bridge
  • Kunio's Folk legend at Tono
  • The Otogi zoshi on the internet, coupled with marvelous original illustrations, just the stories summarized, but still worth the deal for the marvelous illustrations

Most of those are either by Englishmen, collecting stories or translations from Japanese storybooks.

NB: provided I find time, I will add a small description of each books



I have often seen these kinds of antique Japanese fairy tale picture books, often written in English. The stories are fascinating, and they're nicely illustrated. And they seem readily available for purchase online. You might also try archive.org or some of the other free online libraries, as well. I have seen as many as a dozen different story books of this kind, in one place (don't remember where, though), so I suspect there must have been a lot of them published in and sold in the US in their day.

The Hasegawa Stories especially, was a series of quite a large variety of traditional fairy tales, legends, or myths. But there were others, as the Japanese publishers shrewdly marketed to the English-speaking audience of fans of Oriental culture.

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