cover image The Snow Woman and Other Yokai Stories from Japan

The Snow Woman and Other Yokai Stories from Japan

Noboru Wada, trans. from the Japanese by William Scott Wilson. Tuttle, $15.99 trade paper (288p) ISBN 978-4-8053-1758-7

Drawing from the Japanese folklore volume Tales from Shinshu, manga writer Wada pulls together an enchanting compendium of short stories that offer fascinating glimpses into Japanese history, culture, and folk beliefs. Several are moralistic in tone, like “The Demons That Were Stuck in the Eye by Irises,” about a greedy man who, “when he came of the age to take a wife, often repeated, ‘For me, I need to find a woman who doesn’t eat, but works hard. Otherwise I won’t get married.’” He learns his folly before the story’s out. Other tales explore the origins of traditions: “The Kappa and the Dumplings” reveals why casting dumplings into a river will save future swimmers from drowning. Especially poignant is “The Woman Who Could Not Tell Her Name,” which explores the tragedy of a time when “women could not speak their names even though they were doing important work.” Wilson’s translation maintains the frank, fairy tale flatness of the originals, many of which were passed down through oral tradition. Though demons, ghosts, and other mythological monsters feature throughout, there’s no hint of horror here. Instead, these 79 brief glimpses into Japanese folk culture open a world of subtle strangeness. (Apr.)