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Publisher's Summary

Brought to you by Penguin.  

This Penguin Classic is performed by Eleanor Matsuura, known for AMC's The Walking Dead and Spooks. This definitive recording includes an Introduction by Paul Murray.  

In this collection of classic ghost stories from Japan, beautiful princesses turn out to be frogs, paintings come alive, deadly spectral brides haunt the living and a samurai delivers the baby of a Shinto goddess with mystical help. Here are all the phantoms and ghouls of Japanese folklore: 'rokuro-kubi', whose heads separate from their bodies at night; 'jikininki', or flesh-eating goblins; and terrifying faceless 'mujina' who haunt lonely neighbourhoods. Lafcadio Hearn, a master storyteller, drew on traditional Japanese folklore, infused with memories of his own haunted childhood in Ireland, to create these chilling tales. They are today regarded in Japan as classics in their own right.

Public Domain (P)2019 Penguin Audio

What listeners say about Japanese Ghost Stories

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  • CT
  • 01-20-21

Japanese pronunciation a problem

Lafcadio Hearn spent the last ten years of his life in Japan, at the turn of the 19th to 20th centuries. He made a life there, marrying a Japanese woman and having four children with her. He obtained Japanese citizenship, and wrote about Japanese culture, especially its traditional stories. He was not a scholar, and his extensive knowledge about Japan came from personal experience and what he learned from ordinary Japanese people. He adapted the tales he wrote, and offers some interesting insights into some lessons to be learned from the stories. These are interesting stories, and provide a view of Japanese culture as seen through the eyes of a sympathetic observer and talented teller of stories. His explanations of Japanese samurai ranks and of history ought not to be taken as strictly true; sometimes they are right, and sometimes they are not. One oddity is that he tries to render his conversations with Japanese people in English that mimics Japanese word order, in which the verb comes last, with adjustments only to make it intelligible to an English reader.

The narrator reads well, but her performance has one main flaw that may not bother an average reader without any knowledge of Japanese: she mispronounces Japanese words and names throughout, and I find myself automatically correcting her. These errors are not confined to Japanese names, but also the two French names mentioned in the introduction. Those are unimportant, as that is the only place they occur.

The Japanese mispronunciations are much more serious. As far as pronunciation goes, it is not a difficult language, because unlike English, it is very regular. Vowels retain their sound even in combination with other vowels. The “g” is always hard. In spite of her Japanese surname, Matsuura certainly has no knowledge of these basic rules, and I wish that, before taking on this job, she had bothered to, or been required to, learn basic Japanese pronunciation. Thus we have the temple name Amadera—short “e”—pronounced with a long “e”, although this pronunciation is not consistent throught. Also the era name Genroku (hard g, remember) rendered Jenroku.

Now, if I were listening to a book with similar problems, but with Greek words, I am quite sure that I wouldn’t notice. Therefore, if you haven’t a clue what Japanese is supposed to sound like, you might well give her performance at least four stars. But if you do know enough to notice, be prepared for frequent, not winces exactly, but maybe dissonances.

7 people found this helpful

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Finally on Audible!

I have a wishlist of books I want to see on Audible and this was one of them. I was so pleased to see this collection of stories available. The narrator does a fantastic job with pronunciations and has a very pleasant voice. I much appreciated the footnotes, as they explained Japanese words, terms, and ideals that may otherwise be unknown to the reader. It was like having a personal guide to Japanese culture/fairytales, which was a essentially what Lafcadio Hearn’s books were. I was very satisfied with this book!

5 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars

Disappointing...reading the book might have been more gratifying...but when you're losing your eyesight your options become limi

The narrator was a let down. I thought the recitation of the poems sounded inauthentic...having lived in Japan and have familiarity with the language I found the narrator's voice inauthentic. This might be a minor thing but I was expecting more. Having read Shadowings over 50 years ago I was so looking forward to this book.

3 people found this helpful

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Difficult to Follow

Interesting information. Probably enjoyed the background on the author the most as it could be easily followed. The rest of the book with footnotes interspersed mid text was a bit difficult.

2 people found this helpful

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Great collection of stories.

The narrator was very pleasing to listen to and the journey was very immersive, story to story. That immersion was broken a bit by difficulty or unfamiliarity pronouncing a large number of Japanese words. Or perhaps this was an intentional performance choice, seeing as the narrator's last name appears to be Japanese and that she may be perfectly familiar with the native pronunciations. If so, it was a poor stylistic choice in my opinion, as it cripples the audio book's appeal to Japanese language learners and may reinforce mispronounciation. This criticism aside, the overall listen was great!

1 person found this helpful

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Great writer great narrator

Forget lovecraft - honestly the depth that this man gets to is way way better and nuanced. Narrator delivers a superlative treatment. Ten stars.

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  • Aldris247
  • 11-08-19

Good book, awful script

The scripting jarringly throws titles and footnotes into the middle of speech: there's more to an audiobook than just reading everything on the page. Ms. Matsuura's voice performance is decent, but edits are needed when adapting from the book to audio.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Tony
  • 07-09-21

hard going

struggled to finish, felt like a lecture in Japanese, stories and narration were ok
needs retelling without the waffle

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  • Anonymous User
  • 07-03-21

Great

Beautiful stories, great narrative, purely lovely, dark and light, love this book! over and over