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The Book of Yokai

Mysterious Creatures of Japanese Folklore
Narrated by: Tim Campbell
Length: 8 hrs and 40 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (34 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Monsters, ghosts, fantastic beings, and supernatural phenomena of all sorts haunt the folklore and popular culture of Japan. Broadly labeled yokai, these creatures come in infinite shapes and sizes, from tengu mountain goblins and kappa water spirits to shape-shifting foxes and long-tongued ceiling-lickers. Currently popular in anime, manga, film, and computer games, many yokai originated in local legends, folktales, and regional ghost stories.  

Drawing on years of research in Japan, Michael Dylan Foster unpacks the history and cultural context of yokai, tracing their roots, interpreting their meanings, and introducing people who have hunted them through the ages. In this delightful and accessible narrative, listeners will explore the roles played by these mysterious beings within Japanese culture and will also learn of their abundance and variety through detailed entries on more than 50 individual creatures. The Book of Yokai provides a lively excursion into Japanese folklore and its ever-expanding influence on global popular culture. It also invites listeners to examine how people create, transmit, and collect folklore, and how they make sense of the mysteries in the world around them. By exploring yokai as a concept, we can better understand broader processes of tradition, innovation, storytelling, and individual and communal creativity.

©2015 The Regents of the University of California (P)2018 Tantor

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Pt 2 was delightful (+no cringey pronunciations!!)

I think one's opinion on this entire book as a whole will be based on on how much you already know about Yokai before reading this book and/or what you want out of the listening experience.

Personally, I'm fascinated with Yokai and knew a fair amount about them, so I really wanted a book compiling different Yokai and the lore/tales associated with them.

I would say the 2nd part of this audiobook (The Yokai Codex) delivered on this. The author gives brief summaries of each Yokai, usually including what they're believed to look like, their behavior/purpose, and if they've been portrayed in any famous media (books/anime/video games/a LOT of Studio Ghibli/etc.). I really loved how the Yokai were separated into different categories of where they were known to occur (Wilds, Water, Countryside, Village & City), it really organized them and kind of installed a curiosity of how these Yokai might interact with one another!

The 1st part of the book (Yokai Culture) was much more focused on... something else? I would say if you've never been exposed to Yokai or Japanese culture in any shape or form, the first part of the book will really help you understand the cultural reasoning/merit behind Yokai. Most of this section is just the author talking about his experiences in researching this book, which (no offense intended to Foster because he did a GREAT job compiling and translating this rather isolated lore) was kind of boring and dry at times.
To be honest, I definitely would've skipped the 1st half of this book had I known the actual Yokai stories were in the 2nd half.



All in all, this book was a nice summary of Yokai! My only comments are
1) For one or two Yokai, I really wish there had been more in-depth information provided. Some had too brief of summaries to really understand their "character" or purpose within the world of Yokai. It also would've been interesting to hear about the relationships between different Yokai, in the same vein as Roman/Greek mythology (assuming there's any evidence of hypothetical interactions)
2) It would've been convenient if Audible had bookmarks within the audiobook to be able to locate each individual Yokai for future re-listening


P.S. Last note- The narrator did an AMAZING job, thank you SO MUCH for getting someone who could actually pronounce Japanese!! It saved the listener from 9 hours of cringe (& it even helped me realize a few puns/connections between yokai names and certain characters/product names because of the correct pronunciation!)

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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The world of Yokai

It’s a very interesting read on the world of Yokai not just the fantastic creators

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A fantastic, pun intended, read.

A must read for anyone interested in Japanese mythology or culture.

Find my full review here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3015381450

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Well researched and in depth

The yōkai are discussed in multiple aspects and perspectives from several sources. This outlook is very helpful and productive.

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    3 out of 5 stars

interesting to listen to, but the codex drags ...

I thought the first half, which talked about the studies of yokai and the way the impacted Japanese thought and society, was interesting. Some of the individual yokai descriptions in the codex may have dragged on longer than they needed to, but a listing like that wasn't really designed to be read out loud, I guess.

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Not about Japanese yokai stories

This book isn’t about any yokai stores at all. It’s about some guy going to places in Japan and thinking about yokai. That about sums this up.

2 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • R.Beech
  • 07-08-19

Comprehensive cultural analysis

Beautifully read and very understandable, this book has been a charming treat! It was very easy to pick up when I needed something to distract me and provides a great grounding in the culture behind Yokai. As an anthropology student I found it academically interesting, and I think that anyone could enjoy and learn from it!
It was recommended by the YouTube channel gaijin goombah media and I hope that more people pick it up as it deserves the attention!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful