Tales of Moonlight and Rain

First published in 1776, the nine gothic tales in this collection are Japan’s finest and most celebrated examples of the literature of the occult. They subtly merge the world of reason with the realm of the uncanny and exemplify the period’s fascination with the strange and the grotesque… 

The title Ugetsu monogatari (literally “rain-moon tales”) alludes to the belief that mysterious beings appear on cloudy, rainy nights and in mornings with a lingering moon.
–Columbia University Press

Tales of Moonlight and Rain, by Ueda Akinari, is a great book to read on a dark and stormy night during Halloween week, or if you are just in the mood for ghost stories.

This book is a scholarly work, so each story comes after quite a bit of historical background and cultural explanations. I decided to read the stories first and then read the background information, which worked well for me.

Of the nine stories in the book, my favorites was “The Reed Choked House” which is the story of man who leaves his wife behind when he goes to the city in hopes of making lots of money. He tells her to wait for him, that he will return in the Fall. Circumstances prevent his return for seven years! When he finally does arrive home, he finds the house overgrown and choked in reeds and in decay. He is astonished to find his wife waiting for him there. However, by the light of morning, the sad truth is revealed.

This story was also combined with another in the book and made into the 1953 award-winning movie “Ugetsu,” which is a beautifully haunting classic film by director, Kenji Mizoguchi.

Read two other excellent reviews of this book written by Dolce Bellezza and by Moo.

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6 thoughts on “Tales of Moonlight and Rain

  1. Nymeth

    I really want to read this book! I think that the stories first and then the context approach would work well for me too. Lovely review, Robin!

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  2. Cath

    This sounds so interesting. I would never have thought of seeking out Japanese supernatural writing. That said, not long ago we watched a Japanese animated film called, Spirited Away, which was likewise rather spooky and likewise very good indeed. So perhaps I shouldn’t be so surprised. Excellent review, Robin.

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  3. Robin

    Thanks, Nymeth, I think you’d really enjoy these stories.

    Thanks, Cath, they were very interesting, and it was amazing to realize how long ago they were written. Just goes to show that “scary stories” are timeless.

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  4. Tamara

    Taken in by the Japanese reading challenge 2, I am in a different place now, one where I would be really interested in reading this one too. Sounds fascinating. if only there was more time! by the way, i love the idea of audio books so I can crochet too.

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  5. Callista

    I don’t know that this is a book I’d enjoy but you wrote a great review of it. It’s now linked from the Book to Movie Challenge Blog.

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  6. Robin

    Tamara, it’s so nice to work on handwork while listening to a good story! However, I have to turn the book off if I really need to concentrate on a pattern or something I need to seriously count with my knitting!

    Thanks, Callista.

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