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Japanese Fairy Tales

A dragon king, tongue-clipped sparrow, sake-drinking tortoise, vengeful rabbit, pitiful hare, flying paper crane, and luminous beings from the moon... A dreadful goblin hag, Rin Jin the Sea King, the Dragon Queen, the Peach Boy, the ogre of Rashomon, and so on and so forth. Oodles of imagination in this book of twenty-two fairy tales translated into English by Yei Theodora Ozaki. They aren't haunting or creepy-bizarre like Lafcadio Hearn's translations and retellings of old Japanese stories; they're rather fantastic fables and parables replete with rewards of treasures for good deeds done and awful punishments doled out to the mean-spirited and unfilial. They seem more for kids than adults, and yet the language is formal and old-fashioned and the tales lack the thrills young people these days are accustomed to in reading modern fiction. The book was released in 1908 (same collection came out in 1903 under the title The Japanese Fairy Book).

About some Ozakis: Yei Theodora Ozaki's father was one of the first Japanese to receive a Western education. He and Ozaki's mother divorced a few years after they married, and their three children remained in the mother's care. Ozaki moved to Japan as a teenager and lived with her father for a few years. Apparently she would occasionally receive letters intended for an Ozaki unrelated to her. This was the Japanese politician Yukio Ozaki, known as the "father of the Japanese Constitution." Interestingly, the two later married, presumably as a result of mistakenly getting each other's mail and having to sort out the matter via their own correspondence. Yukio Ozaki was locked up at times for his anti-war views and struggled for universal suffrage. He was also mayor of Tokyo when the city gave 3020 cherry tree saplings to Washington, D.C.

Yei Theodora Ozaki
Yei Theodora Ozaki


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