Inspired by the folklore tales and urban legends of Japan, and encouraged by his son’s early love for scary bedtime stories, Tokyo-based author Andi Brooks brings us Ghostly Tales of Japan, a collection of 30 original stories that are sure to make your heart pound in fear.
The collection is divided into two parts, “Tales of Olden Days” and “Tales of Modern Days.” The former is very much inspired by your traditional yokai tales like Kiyohime and take place in a distant time of traditional Japan. “A Friendly Competition,” for example, stars some of Japan’s most mischievous magical animals.
The latter is set in modern-day Japan and takes the familiar tropes from Olden Days but sets them in an even more familiar environment and with bits of humorous remarks that are sure to make any Tokyoite smile. (“His coworkers had told him that he was crazy to visit Kyoto in the middle of August,” don’t we all know better than to visit Kansai in the summer?) The tone of these stories, especially “A Night-time Drive Through a Forest” and “A Taxi Driver’s Tale,” is reminiscent of urban legends high school students might share on a school camping trip.
While the stories focus on the supernatural elements intruding on the daily routine of the various characters, each is sprinkled with historical and geographical references. If you’ve studied Japanese history or literature, or if you live in Tokyo in 2020, certain bits of this book will certainly make you smile. It is this eerie familiarity to something that’s so close to us that makes Brooks’ stories hit so close to the heart.
All things considered, Ghostly Tales of Japan is the perfect introduction to readers looking to get a taste of Japanese horror in literary form. This book was clearly written for and by somebody who has a true love for the classic Japanese horror genre with all its intricacies, subtleties and hints of cultural history.
Whether you’re introducing your children to spooky stories for the first time, or you’re looking to expand your repertoire, Ghost Tales of Japan is a short and sweet read. Brooks also took care to include some simple explanations of vocabulary for those who might not be familiar with the jargon. And if you are reading this book to your kids at bedtime, you have a quick dictionary at the flip of a few pages.
Ghostly Tales of Japan by Andi Brooks is available for purchase on Amazon Japan.