Mysterious Creatures of Japanese Folklore
by Michael Dylan Foster
Those of you who know me know that I co-present a series of workshops looking at myths and legends around the world and how each changes depending on region (for those curious, it’s the “Silk Road and Beyond” workshops, looking at dragons, vampires, werewolves/shapeshifters, angels, demons, ghosts, bigfeet, and even faeries, with “The Seven Seas” entry looking at water myths and creatures). The challenge on occasion has been finding reliable sources of information that doesn’t dip into someone’s gaming lore or comics or some such, all of which are inspired by but doesn’t necessarily adhere to the traditional lore. Fortunately, between my co-presenter Jacquie Rogers and me, we managed to find clean sources.
And only after all those workshops we scrimped and scraped for data did I discover this work. Timing is everything, and I don’t got it! But just in case this can help you, I’ll tell you about Michael Dylan Foster’s book. According to his bio, Foster is an associate professor of East Asian folklore at Indiana University. So he’s got academic chops in the topic (and I am so jealous!). He observes that the Japanese tend to hold their myths and lore closer to their lives than other cultures do, part of their everyday lives, so that in itself shapes the culture.
Foster dives into detail about the differences between two similar examples of folklore, separated by regional differences; considering that Japan isn’t that big a country, it’s remarkable the variations you can suss out if you look, and Foster looks. If you find yourself forgetting the great variations of nature and culture, this book will give you a great big honking reminder. A fun read overall. Highly recommended!